Off-Camera Flash for Street Photography

Are you a natural light photographer? I was, but recent events changed the game. Past attempts at using flash for Street Photography have led to mixed results. However, I have finally got a rig together that’s helping me capture some strong images. This is the start of a journey where I will be pushing my photography into new areas, and operating outside of my comfort zone. I am excited to be sharing this with you and hope this will inspire a few Street Photographers to give flash photography a try!

Priest/ KR Market, Bangalore, India

Why use a flash?

I love natural light, I think we all do. However, it has limitations. Here are some of the reason for adding flash to your photography toolkit:

  • Flash can help achieve better results during the day. Shooting time is not restricted to early mornings and evenings.
  • Many of my photos require selectively lightening parts of the image, particularly round the eyes. Flash helps these features pop.
  • A love for ‘natural light’ can really equate to a ‘fear of learning flash’.
  • Flash provides more control over lighting conditions.
  • Flash makes colour POP

The Gear

I decided to buy into the Godox lighting system. Godox have a good reputation amongst Sony users. Sure, the Sony system is apparently great, but it also costs significantly more.

The flash unit I purchased was the TT585s. This is a relatively small flash, though much more obtrusive than a built-in unit. It is generally powerful enough for Street Photography, although it still struggled when shooting towards the sun. The flash unit has been coupled with the X2T controller, which is a newer version of the X1T. For those who are lost, this means I can take a photo and the flash will fire without it being connected to the camera. Magic!

The Set Up

Getting this system to work was relatively painless. The remote trigger can operate multiple flash units and you have to get the channels aligned. Once again, a few people came to the rescue via the Sony A7iii Facebook group. After some frustration I realised that when you are triggering a remote flash it becomes a ‘slave’ and not a ‘master’. This was not to be the only part of my learning curve with this new gear…

The Experience

Using off-camera flash requires a fixed lens, as you do not have a spare hand to operate a zoom, for me this meant leaving my newly acquired Tamron 28-75 lens at home and mounting a Sony 50mm 1:8. Lacking a spare hand turned out to be one of the downfalls of shooting street with off camera flash, and I soon realised why some pro’s wear the ridiculous looking jackets with 100’s of over-sized pockets.

The second issue was I still didn’t completely know what I was doing. I had set the flash to TTL (Through The Lens), which meant the metering was calculated for me. In TTL mode it was easy to change the flash output from -3 to +3 stops, so I could control how bright the flash flashed. Using the built in diffuser further helped get a look I was happy with. Lastly, one set of batteries was not enough, and next time I will make sure to carry spares.


Results and Final Thoughts

The results hopefully speak for themselves. I’m still getting to grasp with the new gear, but the Godox system is quite intuitive and I have grown in confidence. At some point I can see myself putting the flash back on the camera and using my 28-75 zoom lens, which is something Martin Parr is working on, so it can’t be too crazy an idea!

That’s all for today folks. Keep Clicking.


4 Comments on “Off-Camera Flash for Street Photography

  1. I’d be interested to know what reaction you get from people when you fire a flash in their face Chris. Or maybe you ask first so it’s not a surprise?


  2. I had a flash that fitted a Nikon D80 and struggled with it because I couldn’t grasp its use effectively. Its challenging that’s for sure.

    I also noticed several street photographers such as Bruce Gilden (Magnum Street Photographers Course) use a hand held off camera flash.

    Look forward to seeing what you create with the flash system.


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