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Using IR Filter on Pop-up Flash to Trigger External Flash

Invisible flash

December 18th, 2012

I have an external flash gun that I often use when shooting. Using it on the camera is alright, but when you start using it off camera, things really start to get interesting. To trigger the flash remotely, I simply use the built-in pop-up flash of the camera. Problem is, this often causes some unwanted light or shadows from the pop-up flash itself. The solution? An infrared filter. Hold it (or tape it?) in front of the built-in flash and it will filter out almost all visible light, but still trigger the external flash. Works great. Continue reading for some sample shots.

The subject with external flash placed on the side, triggered by the built-in flash. Note the (unwanted) shadows under the horns and ears. By lowering the flash exposure compensation it gets better, but doesn't quite go away completely.
The subject with external flash placed on the side, triggered by the built-in flash. Note the (unwanted) shadows under the horns and ears. By lowering the flash exposure compensation it gets better, but doesn't quite go away completely.
This time with an IR filter held in front of the built-in flash. No shadows are visible. However, since the fill light is removed, one side is darker than the other. You might want to try using a reflector or another flash gun to compensate for this. But it can also look quite cool!
This time with an IR filter held in front of the built-in flash. No shadows are visible. However, since the fill light is removed, one side is darker than the other. You might want to try using a reflector or another flash gun to compensate for this. But it can also look quite cool!
Shot using only the pop-up flash, as reference.
Shot using only the pop-up flash, as reference.
The infrared (IR) filter placed in front of the flash. I have still to find a good way to attach it; here it could fall off any second. Another way is to get the Nikon SG-31R, which is a clip-on IR filter for the flash.
The infrared (IR) filter placed in front of the flash. I have still to find a good way to attach it; here it could fall off any second. Another way is to get the Nikon SG-31R, which is a clip-on IR filter for the flash.

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Erik Moberg  2019