Many photographers will go to events where photography is promoted and studio strobes are commonly used for lighting. At times, even professionals will participate in general meetups to network with local photographers, models, and others who will frequently provide important contacts.
There are certainly many triggers on the market from manufacturers including Pocketwizard, Paul C. Buff, Phottix, as well as other well known brands. In general, signals from one manufacturer 'should' not interfere with signals from another manufacturer's units. But what happens when you press the shutter button and the strobe does not fire, resulting in a radically underexposed or totally black image?
Think about a couple things:
- How fresh are your batteries? Remember that even if you have only shot with the batteries once of twice, voltage drops over time even with batteries sitting in your camera bag. What type of batteries are you using? Purchasing 1000 no-name batteries in a plain brown wrapper may not be the best investment. The power setting on the strobe will also affect how long a battery may last. It's not a bad idea to periodically check the voltage in your battery supply, and when they start to get weak toss them. One last note, most batteries WILL leak if left in a device for long enough. Don't risk ruining an expensive piece of equipment.
- Are several people at the event using the same style transmitter on the same channel? Try picking an unusual channel like channel 6 or 7. One hint that people may be on the same channel may be that your strobe is firing when you are not taking pictures (there are other reasons, for this of course).
- Are people close to you on the same channel and pushing the shutter at the same time (or close) to what you may be shooting? This is like two people talking at the same time- signal collisions may cause mis-fires.
- Strobes need to re-charge their capacitors after being fired. If you are pressing your shutter button more frequently than once per second, the strobe may not have had time to recharge. The higher the power setting on the strobe, the longer the recharge time.
- Is the optical slave turned on? In this case, it really does not matter which manufacture of transmitter you or another may be using, if the optical slave is turned on the strobe will likely fire in response to another strobe in the area. Keep in mind that your strobe may be firing from a REFLECTION off a wall from another strobe. This will affect recharge time and possibly prevent your strobe from firing at the moment you want it to. If you do not need the optical slave, turn it off (or cover it).
- What condition is the trigger in? If you are borrowing it, it could have been dropped or abused in some way. There are several inexpensive triggers on the market for the casual photographer such as this time Strobe trigger .
It can be frustrating missing that one great shot, but perhaps with a little planning it may not happen too often!
Bob Barford is a published photographer out of Southern PA.