Tutorial: Canon 580EX II Master Setting: Mystery Solved

Free online photography & image editing tutorials

Welcome to your free tutorials, I'll let you know by email any time I add a new one

If you like this, share it with your friends using the social buttons below.

View More

Canon 580EX II Master Setting: Mystery Solved

If you have trouble playing the video, pause it and let it buffer fully. More tips.

Share this video

Video Transcript

Hi, Phil Steele here. Welcome to another exciting episode of photography Q&A. Today we're going to talk about one of the greatest mysteries of flash photography, which is "How do you set the Canon 580EXII in master mode to control remote flashes?" Now you wouldn't think this would be rocket science but it's a little more confusing than it needs to be. And in a moment I'll show you some video clips and show you hands-on, exactly how it all looks.

But first I want to tell you why it's confusing.

The first reason it's confusing is the way Canon chose to use the buttons on the flash. Now you'd think if you're going to set the thing in master mode you might use the mode button for that. But no. Instead you use the zoom button and that's not very intuitive but that's how they did it. And not only do you use the zoom button but you have to know to hold it down for a couple of seconds to get into this master mode setting. So once you've figured that out, you're halfway there. You're at least into the setting.

Then the second confusion comes in with relation to the term "off." Now you think "off" is a pretty simple word but when you're talking about a flash with a whole bunch of different functions, the word "off" can have different meanings. For example, you're in there and you think, "Now do I want to turn this thing off as a light source so it's not putting out any light or am I turning off its master functionality so it is a light source but it's not controlling other flashes?" These things can get confusing, as you can imagine. So it'll all become clearer when I show you the video and as kind of a little bonus in there, you'll see how to set up the 430EX as a slave at the same time. So I'll show you those clips and then I'll come back.

We set the 580 in master mode. We push the zoom button and hold it down for a couple of seconds, until it starts blinking and you can see it's blinking "off," meaning it is not the master. You want to turn that to "on" by turning the wheel. And now you can see it says "master on" and when I push the set button in the center it locks that setting in and you can see it also now says that it's on channel one. We want to make sure all of our flashes are on the same channel.

So now we go to set up the 430 to be the slave. And that's actually pretty easy to do because there's just a physical switch on the 430 down here that says "slave." You just flip the switch over there and it's already in slave mode. And you can see it also says it's on channel one, which is what we want. It also says it's in slave group B, which is fine. We're not working with multiple groups today so we don't have to worry about that. Now it's configured so that the 430 is being driven by the 580, which we will put on the camera and they'll work together, talking to the camera to adjust the flash exposure as we shoot.

So there you have it. Now just to make sure that's perfectly clear, let me summarize the main point. The confusion mostly comes about the terms "on" and "off" once you're in the master setting mode. So the thing to keep in mind is this. Once you're in that mode and you've used the zoom button and you've held it down for a couple of seconds to get in there, the terms "on" and "off" at that point only apply to the wireless system as a whole. You're turning on or off this master unit as a master control unit--not as a light source.

If you want to know how to turn this flash on and off as a light source--whether it's controlling other flashes or not--that's a totally separate setting and if you want to know how to do that I cover that in my course on "Shooting Head Shots And Portraits On A Budget With Small Flashes" and in fact, the little excerpt that you just saw was taken from that course and one of the entire videos in that nine-video course is devoted to nothing but flash settings and I go through all of these things in great detail and much more things than you can imagine about configuring these flashes. And I go through photo shoots with live models and you can watch all that. So if you're interested in that sort of thing, feel free to check that out. In any case, I hope to see you in another Q&A session soon.