Problem with Studio lighting using Nikon Built-In flash commander mode

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by ferdi_s, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. I just bought a studio flash for my own small studio. I tried it last night and this is what happened.
    I used the studio flash with two Nikon SB-900. The studio flash is my main light, one SB-900 is the hair light and another SB-900 is the background light. My camera is Nikon D90 and I set the built-in flash as a commander for the two SB-900s. The studio flash is triggered with built-in slave so I thought the built-in flash will trigger the studio flash at the same time it commands the SB-900s. All the pictures turned out to be underexposed no matter how I played with the power of the studio flash and the SB-900s. And the colors of the pictures are brownish/reddish. The studio flash is about 5600 K and I set my camera at 5600 K.
    I look at the seller website again, the review looks good and no one says anything about lack of power. So, I used my D300 and tried to trigger the flash with the sync cable and everything looks great with plenty of light from the flash. The color is also perfect. My white background is now white.
    So, I played again with my D90 by changing the built-in flash mode in M (manual) mode (not commander mode) and it worked. Plenty of light from the flash and the built-in slave works wonderfully. Color is also perfect. However, because the built-in flash is in M (manual) mode, it does not trigger the two SB-900s. So, I cannot have the hair and background lights.
    Would you please share your knowledge about what's happening? Why cannot I use the commander mode to trigger the studio flash? And why is it that when I change the built-in flash mode to Manual everything works? What setting should I use in my camera to be able to combine the studio flash and the SB-900s? For information, my camera setting is manual mode, shutter speed of 1/80 and aperture F/2.8.
    Thank you very much for your help.
  2. Without knowing what the studio unit is, I assume it is not compatible with the Nikon CLS system. So, it is probably firing early when you use Commander mode, and at the right time in Manual mode. The problem then is that the SB-900s must be set to SU-4 mode to act as dumb manual remotes.
  3. Easy problem to fix. No studio lights will work properly with CLS as you have configured it. In the mode you first set, the camera strobe is preflashing to communicate with the SB-900's and that is triggering the studio strobe before the actual exposure, so the studio light never contributes to the actual photo. Then with the camera flash on on manual, the studio flash works fine but the sb-900's don't receive a firing signal. To do what you want, you need to use manual settings on the camera and sb-900 flashes as well, and set the sb900's to also trigger in slave SU-4 mode (see instruction manual). Another approach is to use the cable to fire the studio flash and set up CLS however you like, as the studio unit will then ignore the pre-flashes.
    See David Hobby's for great insight on how to do what you are trying.
  4. Preflash from Nikon CLS is triggering optical trigger on the monolight. Can monolight be set to ignore first preflash?
    Kent in SD
  5. I'm not aware of any monolights that can be programmed that way, Kent, though I seem to recall reading about a third-party optical slave trigger (used for a hot-shoe flash) that could be trained how to do that.

    But it's really not necessary. Just put the pop-up in manual, and at a very low power (say, 1/128th) so that it can trigger the monolights and, put the speedlight in SU-4, as mentioned above. Works like a charm.
  6. Wow, thank you very much all for the responses. So, it's the pre flashes trigger the studio flash too early. That really explains the whole think.
    Kent, unfortunately the monolight cannot be set to ignore preflash. So, I think the SU-4 is the best solution or as Rick suggests the sync cable. But that means I have to use my D300 because D90 does not have the connection.
    Thanks much everyone.
  7. You can still use your D90, Ferdinand - just set the pop-up flash to [M]anual, and the SU-4-mode speedlights and the monolight will all play ball. If you dial the pop-up down to its lowest setting, it will contribute nothing of consequence to the exposure.

    You might also look into some inexpensive radio triggers - on in the hot shoe, and the slave hanging off of any one of your other lights. The rest can optically to slave to that one, and you avoid having any light coming directly from the camera position.

    Oh, and ... don't forget to turn off the anti-red-eye feature!
  8. You could also use a set of radio triggers on all the flashes. You'll still have to set them all manually, but then you can trigger them all together.
  9. Matt, is it because the anti-red-eye feature uses pre-flashes also? I will try it with manual flash set at the lowest power. I have to ignore my Sb-900s for now or ignore the studio flash until I get the radio trigger or the SU-4s.
    Rick, thanks for the link.
  10. Ferdi:
    Yes, anti-redeye also preflashes.
    And you don't have to wait on getting SU-4's - that is a built-in emulation feature in the nikon flashes. Look in the instruction manual for how to trigger the flash using it's own built-in slave trigger. You have everything you need to make full use of all your equipment right now.
  11. Really? That's great Rick. I will take a look at it right away. Thanks.
  12. I found it Rick. Section C-22. I think I will try it now. Thanks again.
  13. And that's another reason you buy SB-900's instead of SB-600's - because it has native SU-4 support. Cool, huh?
  14. Works like a charm Rick although I cannot change the power from my camera. But it will do it and I don't have to spend anything for the SU-4. Thanks much.
  15. Ferdinand, Firstly let me say the people who have already responded know far far more about flash than I do. It is not my chosen light source etc. but; On the rare pccasions I have used studio flash with Nikon digi (in this case a D70) I had a similar problem to yours. My best/easiest fix was to dig out a little block from years ago that pushes into a hot shoe. On the block is a pc sync socket. I plug one flash into that and slaves trigger all the others from the first flash not the camera.
  16. Thanks Jim. That will work also and that can be done by the SB-900 without the pc sync. I think now I need a light meter because the studio flash and the SB-900 have different power. I mean 1/16 in the studio flash may not be the same as 1/16 in SB-900. So, it will be difficult to rely on those numbers to set the light ratio.
  17. In fact, Ferdinand, you can be certain they will be at very different power levels. While you can use your eye and some trial-and-error to get it close for now, you'll certainly find a flash meter useful if you need to quickly set up in the future.
  18. I think so Matt.
  19. Just by way of information, this problem has been recognized by Elinchrom who have introduced slave systems in the BXRi and Ranger Quadra systems that can either be programmed to trigger after the pre-flash or 'learn' the number of pre-flashes and set themselves accordingly.
  20. As you already know, when you trip the shutter, the built-in flash fires a pre-flash (at which time, your studio flash fires while the shutter is still closed) so that the camera can determine a more accurate flash setting and then a second flash fires for the actual exposure (at this point, the studio flash is spent and the shutter is now open). Another work-a-round is to set your camera to manual pre-flash. For my D200, it is Custom Setting f4: Assign FUNC. Button (pg. 170), FV Lock (If built-in flash or optional CLS-compatible Speedlight is used, flash value locks when FUNC. button is pressed. Press again to cancel FV Lock.) Then, you can manually fire the pre-flash by pushing the FUNC. button. Wait for the studio flash to recycle and then trip the shutter for the real image. Yup, your studio flash will fire twice, once when the shutter is closed and then second time is when the shutter is open. One disclaimer: don't try this when you are doing high speed flash sync.
    This technique is quite helpful if I'm shooting "blinkers." Invariably the pre-flash will cause the person to blink and the real flash will get them with their eyes either closed or in the process of closing/opening. So, if I manually pre-flash them, wait a half second or so and then take the image, their eyes should be open.

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