4 Portrait Lighting Tips with Three Canon 580ex Flashes

The Canon 580ex allows the photographer to use more than one flash to configure and achieve a diverse range of lighting effects. These effects are of high importance when it comes to portrait photography because they help produce more realistic photographs of the subject as compared to a single flash. Here are tips to be employed while using three Canon 580ex flashes to shoot a portrait.

1. Understand the Master and Slaves Concept

The 580EX flash unit by Canon and its associated flash controller can potentially control an unlimited number of secondary or slave flash units (either directly or wirelessly connected). The flash unit attached to the camera is the master unit while others are called slaves. If the 580ex is being used with a 420EX flash, then the 420ex can act as a slave only. This is an important tip to keep in mind while using them together.

The wireless communication between Master and slave units is done via a high-speed code pulse that is shot out to all slaves in the vicinity of the master unit.

2. Enable Different Communication Channels

You can use the 580ex flash’s multiple channels to enable different communication channels. This is an essential tip to consider while working in the vicinity of other photographers. This will prevent accidental firing of each other’s slaves units.

3. Select the Right Flashes

You can use the grouping options on each channel. This enables you to group slave flash units and then fire them. This tip comes in handy if you need each group to fire at a different power level. All flashes in a group, however, cannot fire at different power levels.

Also you need to understand that the usage of the 580ex as the master flash gives you a much greater degree of control over the arrangement than using the ST-E2. Do not use the ST-E2 as a flash; rather use it only as a flash controller. The 580ex can control groups A, B and C, while the ST-E2 can only control groups A and B. This tip is important because you get ratio options like Off, A:B, and A:B:C. This means that you can select the flashes that fire.

Another important point worth mentioning is that while using flash ratios between groups, the camera and the degree of flash exposure compensation settings decide the overall power levels. The power is simply divided for each group based on the ratios that you would have selected.

4. Use Flash Extenders

An important tip regarding the usage of multiple flashes is the usage of one or more flash extenders with multiple flash mounts. These offer good control and flexibility over the lighting effects. This is important because the lighting sources are already pretty close to the subject and hence need much finer control.

Using the tips above you will be able to use three or more 580ex flashes with one camera and control multiple slaves at the same time.