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What is OCF in Photography?

If you’re getting started as a photographer, perhaps you have seen photographers talking about OCF. And maybe you’re wondering, what is OCF in photography?

Off-Camera Flash

OCF stands for “Off-Camera Flash” – but what does that even mean? Well, quite simply, it means using any flash unit that is not connected to the camera.

Why would you want to get your flash off your camera?

Getting your flash off your camera gives you much greater flexibility in your lighting. Also, you can create BETTER lighting since you can move light sources into different positions.

straight on flash from camera
On camera flash – pointed straight at subject.

Photography is all about shaping the light on your subject. Being able to move the light off your camera gives you so many more options when it comes to how you light your photos.

off camera flash example
Off camera flash – 45 degrees of center.

What You Need to Get Started

To get started you will need your camera, at least one light (could be a speedlight or monolight strobe), a transmitter to trigger your flash to go off, and a receiver to pick up the signal from your trigger.

Most modern speedlights come with a built-in transceiver – both a transmitter and receiver. That means that they can either trigger other flash units or receive a signal from another transmitter.

Also, pretty much any new battery powered flash you buy these days is also going to have a built-in receiver. But, you’re probably going to need the proprietary transmitter to trigger your flash units.

What does that mean? Well, if you have Godox brand lights, you will need a Godox brand transmitter to trigger your lights. Profoto lights can only be triggered by a Profoto transmitter.

And so on and so on unless you’re using transceivers from companies like Pocket Wizard or Cactus Flash, which plug in or otherwise attach to your flash units and can be used to trigger them. These types of triggers/receivers generally have fewer capabilities than the proprietary transmitters.

Getting Your Lights Into Different Positions

Off camera flash is all about getting your lights into different positions and shaping the light around your subject. These are things that just would not be possible if you only had on camera flash.

Does that mean that on camera flash serves no purpose? Absolutely not. There are plenty of times that on camera flash is just more practical than an OCF set up. However, you should understand the benefits of off camera flash and how it can help you produce different images.

The images below were created with just two off camera speedlites. These pictures would not nearly have had the same impact with on camera flash.

off camera flash fashion portraits ocf photography

More Than Just a Trigger

With your transmitter, whether it be built in to your speedlight or a stand-alone transmitter, you can do more than just choose to sync all your flash units with your camera.

You get to control the power output of your flashes and you can group them together.

For example, if you are shooting a wedding, you may put two of your off camera flash units in Group A and another two in Group B.

You can adjust the power output of each group independently so that you can change your lighting setup right from your camera instead of having to go to each unit.

Want to Learn More About Off-Camera Flash (OCF) in Photography?

If you want to learn more, let me know! Head over to our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and send me a message or leave a comment. I will make videos describing OCF techniques if you are interested in learning more about off-camera flash (OCF).

You can click here to view a short tutorial I put together a while ago, but if there is a significant interest, I will definitely create more videos. I just want to be sure that it is something you want to watch.

Did You Find This Article Helpful?

If you’ve been wondering what OCF in photography is and this article helped you, feel free to browse our archives of photography tips and techniques. There are lots of useful tips in those articles!

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The Nerdy Photographer
The Nerdy Photographer

With more than a quarter century as a professional photographer, The Nerdy Photographer's goal is to spread knowledge and laughter throughout the photo industry. Please follow along on social media and subscribe to the podcast.

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