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Digital Photography 101 - Learn how to set up a pocket wizard system in this easy to follow step by step tutorial.
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You are watching Digital Photography One on One, where we answer your questions. Here is your host, Mark Wallace.
Welcome back to another episode of digital photography one on one. In this episode, I am going to answer two questions, the first is how do I setup a Pocket Wizard system and the second is it possible to mix different brands of lighting in the same setup. For example can I mix a white lighting and a Novatron and a pro-photo all in the same setup and have them fire at the same time. Well, the answer to the second question is absolutely yes and it is very easy to do. But to understand how to do that, at first let me tell you how to setup the Pocket Wizard System.
Now the Pocket Wizard is basically a digital version of a sync cable so when you setup your camera with a flash unit, normally what you will do is you will take this long sync cable and you plug one end of it into your flash or your generator and in the second is you plug it into your flash itself and then when you take a picture, everything fires.
Now that is not so bad except for when you want a meter, you have to unplug from your camera and then you plug it into your light meter and there is a little setup there that allow you to plug in there and then you meter the light, then now you want to take the picture and you go back and forth. And so that gets to be sort of a bummer and it is sort of a bummer to have this cable and sort of strung across the studio because you can trip over it, it is not just that much fun.
So what I prefer to do and a lot of photographers prefer to do is to get rid of the same cable and use a wireless system. Now, there are a lot of different companies that make wireless setups of that, but the company that I prefer and I use in my studio is called the Pocket Wizard Company and they make these little things called the Pocket Wizard Plus Systems.
Now how this work is you have to have one that is the transmitter and one that is the receiver and the transmitter goes on your camera and the receiver goes on the light itself so that they can communicate through each other.
Now, there are a couple of different flavors of these things. The older one which is what I have is called the Pocket Wizard Plus. Now with the Pocket Wizard Plus, you have to buy a transmitter and that is all it can do, it is a transmitter and then you buy a receiver and that is all it does is it receives. It does not really bother me that much because I have got the pro photo systems and then the higher end systems, it is really cool because they have the receivers built right in. So that is why in my videos, a lot of people were confused because they saw this thing on top of my camera, they did not know what it was. It is the transmitter and the receiver, this is a little antenna that goes the Pro Photo System and it can communicate.
I am going to show you a different system now, one that we use on something like a Novatron or White Lightning system and that is using these Pocket Wizard Plus II setups. Now the Pocket Wizard Plus II is what I would buy if I was going to buy something today. They did not have when I bought mine. And it is really cool because they transmit and receive and you can sort of mix and match them.
So let me show you how to set them up. We are going to use this White Lightning X1600 which is a pretty common light. And a lot of people have written in and said “hey I want to use White Lightning’s with Pocket Wizards, is it possible?” Yes, let me shoe you how to do it.
So first we want to take one of these Pocket Wizards and set the channel. There is four channels on this Pocket Wizards. I am going to choose channel one, just because this is the lowest channel. It does not really matter. And then on the receiver, I will also set that on channel one. Now, these are talking on the same channel and they can talk and hear each other.
Now, you might want us to use a different channel if you are, let us say next to a radio station, television station or an airport where you have a lot of radio interference. Channel one might not work and so channel two might work just fine for you. Or, if you are shooting in a studio where you have a lot of different photographers, you might have one photographer on one channel and a different photographer in a different channel, in that way one shoot would not mess up the other shoot.
For our intended purpose, we are just going to put them both on channel one. So the transmitter, what you do is you take this transmitter, grab your camera, make sure that the Pocket Wizard is actually turned on and then there is a little switch here that says local, both or remote. What that allows you to do is the Pocket Wizard can control multiple things, it can control a local flash, so if I had a bracket with the flash, I can control that flash or I could only control the remote flash like my White Lightning or if I wanted to do both at the same time, I would set it on both.
So for simplicity’s sake, I am going to leave that switch on both, that is the most common setting and make sure that you are sort of fail safe. So I have turned it on, I am on channel one, I have my little remote local thing set to both and I put it on my hot shoe, that is all there is to do really. Now, once you have that setup in the future, just setup your camera, you just sort of turn it on and put it on your camera. It is pretty simple.
Now, let us talk about how to attach the other Pocket Wizard which is the receiver to the White Lightning setup. Now this white lightning has, in the back, it has a receptacle where you would put a sync cable. Now this is going to take the place of the sync cable and so this little cord right here, it is a few inches long, it comes with the Pocket Wizard and what it does is one end of that goes into your White Lightning or Novatron or whatever system that you have, it goes right where the sync cable would go. The other end of that goes into the top of the Pocket Wizard. There is a little plug that says flash, you plug it into that and then they have this little hanger here, so you can hang it off of your system.
And then now, all I have to do I am going to put this, so you can see it. If I hit the test button on the Pocket Wizard, you will notice that the flash fires. So, my Pocket Wizard is plugged into my flash, the other Pocket Wizard is on the hot shoe of my camera and now if I take a picture, it automatically makes that White Lightning fire. I hit the test button. You can see that it fires.
So now, we have taken that sync cable out and we are all set to go. Now the cool thing is, this also applies to your Sekonic light meter. So the Sekonic brand light meters have Pocket Wizards that you can buy that go right inside and so instead of using a cable, I can put this on the wireless mode, set it to the same channel, push the button and now you notice that I am triggering this light with my light meter and so—it does not matter, I can shoot with the camera or the light meter, either one will work just fine and I do not have any cables involved.
Now, how do I get this White Lightning to fire all this other stuff? Well on most camera equipment—I am sorry. On most lighting equipment, on the lights themselves, they have a little thing that is called a slave sensor and what that does is it senses other strobes, so if a light flashes, it sees that and it will tell itself to fire as well. So what you can do is, I am going to set this up over here on this Novatron system and I am using the Novatron for a very specific reason and the reason for that is this is an older system and it does not have a slave sensor on it. So, I am going to use this system master and then the White Lightning and Pro Photo will automatically see that this strobe is fired and they will also fire as well. On the Pro Photo, the slave is right here on the pack, on the white lightning the slave sensor is on the back.
So here is what I am going to do. I am going to take this which is the sync cable for the Novatron and I am going to use a little adaptor. Also that you can buy this from Pocket Wizard and I will plug the sync cable in, and now I am plugging the sync cable into the flash receptacle here on the Pocket Wizard and now all three are fired. So, I am controlling, instead of a camera, the sync cable is going into this Pocket Wizard and that flash is there.
So now when I take my camera and take a picture, notice, hands free, it is firing all three systems. It is very, very simple. Now if I did not have a Pocket Wizard, I can still do this. Instead of just plugging my sync cable into the Pocket Wizard, I could take my sync cable here and I would plug it straight into my camera and notice when I take the picture, the other systems automatically fire. And most systems are built that way, they have a slave sensor built right in, so you can mix and match a White Lightning and a Pro Photo and a Novatron, it does not matter. They all work great together and that is good news because if you are buying a beginner setup like Novatron for a couple hundred bucks and later on you think “oh gosh! I might get a White Lightning system or a Pro Photo system in the future.” You do not have to worry about throwing away equipment. You can always use those together in the future. It is a very, very nice feature.
All right, well that is how you setup a Pocket Wizard system. There is some other material that we have that will show you some more details and features about the Pocket Wizard setups. Those are all on the bonus material section at studiolighting.net. Also at studiolighting.net, I posted some information about Sekonic light meters and which meters have the built in PocketWizard and sort of the fun stuff that you can do with the Sekonics, so check that out.
All right, keep writing those questions. We will see you next time right here on Digital Photography One on One.
This episode is brought to you by snapfactory.com and studiolighting.net. For more information about our workshops, visit snapfactory.com.