My thoughts on CLS and proprietary forms of lighting.

Apr 15, 2008
Orange, CA
I've noticed a lot of people getting mixed up with the technical and problems inherent to this form of proprietary lighting. There are questions from people trying to understand this system so they can improve their own photography and learn a new arena. I am in this category myself and spent a lot of time like most of you trying to figure it out and to find are strobes, or flash units better for me? Am I trying to use too many groups? What's with the pre-flash shadow when I thought I turned it off? What's the barcode for on my flash gels?

I'm still learning off camera lighting myself but I think I've nailed down the proprietary CLS lighting. And in my own opinion, all that time and energy to test, and trying to figure it out. I still prefer off-camera, manual strobes/flashes, fired using non-proprietary means (wireless, wired). All that time and my result was finding, I dont' need CLS.

This recent strobist movement, where CLS can also fall into, really favors the idea of "Simple is better". People are using older digital slr's (d50 for me) to take advantage of a high speed synch camera, and older pre-dslr flashes. These materials are much cheaper and most have connections to use as wired/wireless remotes.

I know there are uses for CLS and I do still use it if possible. But manual flashes with radio wireless/wired triggers are another arena.

I never have to worry about a flash firing.

I never have to worry about the position of bright objects in my frame for fear the camera might dial down a flash.

I know everytime how much light is going to come from a flash.

We don't even need light meters for manual flashes. Take a shot, look at your screen, and change the light levels to whatever works! After a while, you'll only need to take 1 or 2 shots to figure out the light levels you'll need.

I'm probably going to get shot for this. Forget this CLS mumbo jumbo.

Words of emphasis - I am no pro, just words from someone that has spent some trying to figure out what works.
Oct 7, 2008
Littleton, Colorado
CLS is not without its flaws but it does take a lot of the guess work out of it for you. You position the lights, and shoot. So far i am really happy with CLS. eventually ill end up finding out where it falls short and will have to decide then weather or not to invest in PW.

Starting off with multiple off camera flash triggered by PW would probably be somewhat daunting and will normally take more time to setup with test shots, adjustments, reshoot, adjust, etc, but i would imagine it would provide more consistant results once you get it dialed in.
Sep 4, 2007
Fairfax, VA
You won't get shot by me.

I'm a fan of Joe McNally. I learned CLS first with my Nikon speedlights then got into manual when I bought my Alien Bees B400. There is utility for both methods and depends on the photographer's needs and budget.
Jun 9, 2006
Rural Virginia
I use both. In my small studio I go manual with my White Lightning monolights and meter using my flashmeter. When shooting wedding formals I use CLS. I don't have to worry about electrical power and I don't have to make the subjects wait while I adjust the lights. Horses for courses.
Apr 3, 2006
I like the flash meter too. We might use the histogram for one, or even two lights, but three or four lights need the meter, and a little more thought and setup.

I use TTL for one flash on camera, where I am moving into new situations or the subject is moving. A little flash compensation helps, but as point&shoot flash, TTL is very handy.

But multiple lights implies a setup, and any "careful" setup is a situation for manual flash and a more studied setup. Manual lights and a flash meter do that job best. Seems like day and night to me. FV Lock eliminates some of the problems of TTL, but nevertheless, that still returns back to trying to eyeball every light instead of just measuring and setting it how we know it should be. Seems better to just bypass the automation doing unknown things.

There are of course still some quick point&shoot situations where multiple TTL is fastest and adequate for the purpose... Like those when one quick shot will do the job. But for more elaborate work, a bit of thinking goes a long way.
Nov 22, 2008
Sydney, Oz
Forget this CLS mumbo jumbo.
all well and good to link the benefits of radio triggers and the ability to get consistent results. now...try using those methods you pointed out when the subject is moving around or when you have to get the shot in a damn hurry and cant setup and adjust. or when you have your strobes set up out of reach, like on a high stand, in a tree, on a ceiling rafter etc. or multiple units where i have to run around to each unit to make adjustments. with cls i can adjust power straight from the camera, with radio triggers i have to get the strobe back down to make adjustments. with cls i can get the shot there or therabouts in a hurry if the situation demands. with cls i can rely on it to adjust in microseconds to a moving target...

each situation calls for different techniques and, sometimes, different tools. one is not "better" than the other. they each have their advantages and each have their issues.

i use both cybersyncs and cls and i LOVE cls to bits. i'd buy radiopoppers which are cls compatible in a heartbeat if they werent so darn expensive.

flash meters ? damn me...havent used them since film. thank God they are a thing of the past.

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