Triggering studio flash with Speedlite

the day the battery ran out…

The last weekend I was shooting at a new location that looks to be a fantastic place. I’d gone with the plan to use my Elinchrom studio lights as there was mains power available if you take long extension cables. I had a plan to shoot with longer lenses and long throw light modifiers – the Elinchrom Maxispot to be precise. The picture above is just to show the set-up.

My studio lights don’t have built in triggers but I use an inexpensive 3rd party option. On Sunday the low cost radio triggers failed to stand up to the distance due to a dying battery, and one that I didn’t have a spare for. However I also had my Canon Speedlites with me for some other shots at the location.

As you can see in the shot up at the top the location is a big greenhouse, about 8,000 square foot of greenhouse. Yes I could drive my car in to it. But I digress.

Speedlite 600EX-RT + ST-E3-RT to the rescue

Triggering studio flash with Speedlites Since the Elinchrom has a slave cell on the back I knew that I could trigger it if it would get a pulse of flash light. So with a couple of manfrotto grip items I rigged up the Speedlite 600EX-RT on the lightstand behind the Elinchrom light.

One 035 super clamp, an 042 extension arm and the 026 umbrella swivel were fitted to the light stand, allowing the Speedlite to aim right at the slave cell. Let’s not forget it was bright and sunny and I’m working in a greenhouse. To ensure reliability I pulled the bounce card out on the flash to shade the slave cell from the sunlight.

Lastly I set the ST-E3-RT transmitter on my camera to manual mode and dialed in the lowest 1/128th power level.

On reflection and re-assembling the setup for the photo above I realised I had probably created one of the most expensive ways of triggering studio lights, however it was the way that was directly to hand that would work.

Fortunately this setup let me use one of the side benefits of the radio controlled Speedlite, no pre-flashes. The flash would happily trigger regardless of where I went in the greenhouse. For size comparison, the greenhouse is about twice as long as the distance from the model to the entrance where the car is. In my tests last year I got around 100m range from the Canon radio flashes in open space.

Keep an eye on the blog as pictures from the shoot will be coming soon…



About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag