Why TTL is Joe McNally's Default Flash System Over Radio

Here is a 13 minute video of Joe McNally testing out the range and application of the built-in and SB-900 flashes. If your knee jerk reaction to TTL is that it's too limited and too problematic watching this demonstration by Joe may just have you giving TTL transmission use a second look.

"Adorama Photography TV Presents Photo on the Go with Joe McNally. Join Joe in Hong Kong as he explains how to test the line of sight with a built-in camera flash and a SB-900 flash. Watch as he tests the strength of the built in flash to get the line of sight TTR transmission, and then uses his SB-900 as a commander in order to "talk" to the flash on his subject.
It is important to use a TTR transmission when taking photographs of a subject that has a large depth of field. By using this technique, you can stack the background lighting and color in close to your subject in order to achieve the photo you need. The TTR transmission will make it easier for you to capture your subject from a distance."

via [ISO1200]

Kenn Tam's picture

Been holding this damn camera in my hand since 1991.
Toronto / New York City

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Thanks again Kenin

I use the Nikon SU-800 commander (which uses IR signal) at our studio. It's 100% reliable, and the IR signal packs enough punch to bounce off the walls (thus not requiring direct line-of-sight). But take it outdoors in full sun, and you're gonna wish you had a Pocket Wizard with you. Same goes for optical TTL that Joe is showing here. What's important to note is that Joe is working at night. Nevermind daylight with full sun.

Frankly, Nikon's CLS system (in outdoor environments) has proven too unreliable for me. I missed too many shots because of minor obstacles, or because I used a different angle which caused the Speedlights miss the trigger. To get the best range with Nikon's CLS, your Speedlight's optical receiver needs to be pointed as directly at the Commander at possible. And this, unfortunately, restricts your placement (and creative options) severely. Also, if your speedlights are placed at right angle to you, well, there you go again, misfires.

Agreed. I can't even recall how many times TTL has failed on me for so many random reasons. Also, you nailed it on the fact that TTL works well under dimmer light. When it's relatively bright out, it's a disaster.

The reason this works in this video is because he's shooting at night and not being affected by the IR interference created by the sun. Try this at night and you will get similar results, but it's useless during daylight hours unfortunately. I sure hope Nikon comes out with built in radio triggering like Canon has, that would be awesome combined with Nikon's superior metering and flash performance.

The new Canon system has changed how I shoot wedding receptions on a fundamental level. Canon's line of site was always atrocious, and I'm not going to say a word against the great gear Nikon puts out. I've always preferred to just shoot everything manually, including light output, and that's more of a confession than anything (I can really only think in terms of numbers and ambient light, trying to guess where a shade of something is going to fall on the light scale of a meter is just not my strong point). But the flexibility of radio in one unified, compact system with fast, easy controls has been a dream come true.

Very much in agreement with you, gmarley. I'd love to just control my lights manually from the camera position without running back and forth (which I do) or breaking the bank.

I'm guessing you mean CLS instead of TTL.

So of all the places in Hong Kong, McNally decides to shoot next to a massage parlor. Maybe he wanted the video to have a happy ending. (Rimshot) Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I'm here all night. Try the surf and turf it's wonderful.