Commander mode with remote SB900 in bright daylight

Dec 15, 2009
Hi all,

Sometimes I find myself shooting portraits/people stuff outdoors in bright daylight. I would like to position the person in a shady spot to avoid dark shadows on his face, and then use Commander mode on my D300s to fire off the SB900 remotely for fill.

Sometimes, using this setup, the SB900 doesn't fire. I'll have my assistant/wife holding the flash to my right or left and I think (but I don't know) it might be too bright outside for the SB900 to see the pre-flash, and it doesn't fire. One thing I tried last weekend was to twist the body of the SB900 so that the front/red sensor part was directly facing my D300s's pop-up flash, while the SB900 flash was facing the subject, so it would always see the preflash and always fire. It worked nicely, always saw the camera's preflash, and always flashed.

Here's my question: if I understand correctly, when using TTL the SB900 uses the pre-flash to see how strongly to flash. If I twist the SB900 base/sensor toward the preflash and away from the subject, am I effectively screwing up the SB900's measurement since it is "looking" right at the preflash now instead of at the subject?

TLDR: I don't want to use a TTL sync cord if I can avoid it but my SB900 doesn't always fire remotely in bright daylight.
Nov 14, 2005
Winter Haven, florida
Yes, bright light can interfere with the communication between the d300 and the sb900.
The sb900 light sensor is the small circular area next to the battery compartment- NOT the front/red sensor part. The front red sensor is primarily the AF-assist illuminator. So, you want to twist the body of the 900 so the small sensor on the side of the battery compartment is facing the camera. This will maximize your chances of success. Occasionally in bright light it still will not work. To overcome that- if you have to, one of the wireless triggers like pocketwizards or radiopoppers are useful- they work in any light.
Twisting the body of the flash will in no way change the exposure. The preflash from the camera is used for communication between camera and flash- it is NOT used to determine exposure. Exposure is through the lens- TTL (assuming you are using TTL.) So twist the body, and shoot away. You will need to experiment to learn how TTL works- especially if you are using the sb900 for fill only outside, and not the key light.
Last edited by a moderator:
Jun 8, 2010
I do the exact same as you and my wife is my assistant. Keep an eye on how she is holding the flash. My wife sometimes gets tired and will switch hand positions. When she does she will inadvertently cover that small sensor with her hand and the flash won't fire.

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