Monday, March 16, 2015

Triggering a Camera and a Flash Simultaneously with the Yongnuo RF603

When Mohammad posted his review of the YN-560TX, there was a question from one of our readers about whether you can trigger a camera and a flash at the same time with the Yongnuo RF603.  The question has been asked on DPReview previously  .This capability can be useful for sports (to capture multiple angles of the same shot), or architecture / real estate, for example.  I have tried several combinations of Yongnuo triggers and flashes without success, until finally I got a combination that did work.  It was so simple that I was kicking myself for not having thought of it previously.

with one speedlight
I have the following Yongnuo triggers and flashes:
  • RF-603 for Nikon - 2 units (reviewed here)
  • RF-603II for Nikon
  • YN-560III (reviewed here)
  • YN-560IV (review forthcoming)
A Brief Note About the RF-603II
The RF-603II is similar to the RF-603 except that the power switch has been improved.  First, the power switch was moved to the side, instead of being on top of the trigger, where it was often blocked by a flash.  Second, the RF-603II adds mode selection.  The RF603 relied on an autoswitch to switch between a transceiver or transmitter.  The RF-603's autoswitch was problematic because if the RF-603 is mounted on a camera not designed for it, then the RF-603 will not automatically switch to transmitter mode.  This can be an issue for users who switch brands (like me!).  The RF-603II solves this problem by allowing the user to switch to either TRX (transceiver, capable of receiving or transmitting) or TX (transmitter only), instead of the RF-603's autoswitching. 

The Objective
I wanted to do a composite flash painting shot (where you have a big scene and light up parts one at a time then combine several shots). Ideally, I wanted to have a camera on tripod while walking around with a flash, popping the flash while triggering the camera at the same time.  I tried several combinations to do this:

Combination 1:
RF603 to a6000 +
RF603 to flash +
RF603II to trigger both.
Result: If the RF603II is on TRX mode, it triggers cam. If TX mode it triggers flash. It doesnt trigger both. 

Combination 2:
RF603II (TRX mode) to a6000 +
RF603 to flash +
RF603 to trigger both
Result: triggers the camera but not the flash.

Combination 3:
RF603 to a6000 +
YN560IV (TX mode), press test button to trigger 
Result: Doesn't trigger camera

Combination 4:
RF603II (TRX mode) to a6000 +
YN560IV (TX mode), press test button to trigger 
Result: Doesn't trigger camera

Finally, after pondering the issue, it occurred to me that instead of trying to trigger the camera and flash with one transmitter, I could trigger the camera, then have the camera trigger the flash!  Doh!

Triggering the camera can be done any number of ways, including a pair of RF603 transceivers.  I just have to make sure they are using a different radio channel from the channel that I was going to use for the flash.  So I connected an RF603 via remote cable to the a6000.  I had another RF603 that would be in my hand to trigger the shutter.

Next, for my flash transmitter, I mounted an RF603II (in TX mode) to the a6000's hotshoe.  [Note: My RF603 units were made for Nikon, therefore if I mounted it on the a6000, it would not trigger a remote flash.  Instead, I had to use my RF603II and manually switch it to TX mode.]  I set my YN-560III to RX mode, on the same radio channel as the RF603II.

I set the a6000 on a tripod.  I held an RF603 (acting as remote shutter) in one hand.  The YN560III was sometimes handheld or sometimes placed in the scene while I moved out of the way.  I adjusted the manual flash power and the zoom level on the 560III as needed.  After pointing or positioning the flash, I would activate the shutter.  The camera would take the shot while also triggering the remote flash.  I would then point or move to the next position.  I lit different parts of the scene that way, with the exception of the twilight sky, which was of course ambient light.  Here are a couple of the individual shots:

In Lightroom, I adjusted the color temperature and exposure of each of the individual shots.  I then used the LR Enfuse plugin to combine the individual shots into one image.  Here is the shot again:

The house actually doesn't have any outdoor lights.  I just simulated outdoor lights by putting the flash beside the plants.  By lighting the house one part at a time, I was able to light the entire house (including interiors) with just one speedlight, and it only took me less than 7 minutes to take all the shots.  By the way, for this shot, the lens I used was the 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens, which I will be reviewing.