How to Use Scott Hargis Flash Triggering For Canon Flashes

October 22nd, 2010

Jamie Flournoy, a San Francisco Bay area Realtor, who purchased Scott Hargis’s Lighting Interiors eBook asked me this morning if she could use her Canon 580EX II with Pocket Wizards like Scott describes in the Figure 2.5 diagram (on pg 18 – click the image to the right for a larger view) that shows how he uses a pair of Pocket Wizards to fire one flash which intern fire a bunch of optical slaves flashes (SB-80s).

This is a great question and the answer is different for the Canon 580EXII than all other Canon flashes. The Canon 580EXII has a PC sync plug (unlike all other Canon flashes) so the answer to Jamie’s question is YES, the Canon 580EXII will work as the flash that is connected to the Pocket Wizard in Scott’s diagram.

But wait! What if you have an older Canon 580EX or any other Canon flash (which doesn’t have a PC sync plug)? In that case the answer is NO, you have to have some extra gadgets. There are a couple of different alternatives:

  1. Get an hot shoe to PC sync cord adapter that allows you to connect a PC sync cord from the PocketWizard PLUS II that Scott shows in his diagram to the flash through the hot shoe.
  2. The other approach would be to purchase a Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 for the flash end instead of the PocketWizard PLUS II. Be ware though, the FlexTT5 only works with Canon flashes whereas the PLUSII works with any flash that has a PC sync plug.

Another related question, which no one has asked yet, but I can see coming is, “what if you have several older Canon EX flashes in your bag that you’d like to be able to use with Scott’s technique and get the Canon flashes to trigger optically”. You can do that too. Here’s what you need:

  1. A little optical slave unit and
  2. A hot shoe to PC sync plug adapter,

There you go, everything you need to use those older Canon flashes with Scott’s flash triggering technique. Thanks Jamie for raising this question. I’m sure others will have this issue too.

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8 Responses to “How to Use Scott Hargis Flash Triggering For Canon Flashes”

  • Larry, just wanted to mention that I use a combination of infared and slave.  I shoot with a Canon 40D and I use my Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 on camera and either my 580EXII and/or my 430EX off-camera with a variety of Nikon optical slave flashes. I mention this so that if there are viewers that already have a Speedlite Transmitter or are weighing the cost of a transmitter over Pocket Wizards that this is a very viable solution. I will always have a flash that is line of site so that is either the 580 or the 430, then the others work of that. The PW’s and the transmitter both have their advantages and disadvantages. Because I already owned the two flashes, using the transmitter allows me to use both of them where if I did not use the transmitter and used the PW’s I would have to have a pocket wizard for each Canon flash or a way to convert one with an optical accessory.

    Keep in mind that if an optical flash is close to a window that optical flashes may not work sometimes.  You may have to rotate the flash so the optical sensor is facing away from the window.  The constant stream of light from the window will not trigger the flash, still it can be bright enough so the optical flash will not see another flash when it goes off.  


  • I use two Canon 550 EX and two 580 EXII flashes with the Cactus V4 triggers.
    These radio triggers are very reliable, and CHEAP!!! No need to worry about PC sync plugs.
    Just mount your flash onto the hot shoe of the Cactus V4 receiver, and you are ready to go.
    If you already have Canon flashes, in my opinion, this is a great solution.

  • What about the Nikon SB-80DX? Does that unit work the same as the Nikon SB-80?

  • Ryan, I’m not aware of any functional difference between the two.

  • Hi mate,

    I have a SB900, SB80DX & SB600 & 2 Pocket Wizards. Should i have all flashes in Manual mode in order for the flashes to work optically? Will Use 1 PW on my Camera and the second PW on the SB900. Will this work?
    Much appreciated


  • @Mate- Yes, on PW on camera hot shoe, one PW connected to one of the flashes with PC cord, all flashes on manual. Camera on manual.

  • Mars, the SB600 doesn’t have an optical slave, doesn’t have a PC port, and so won’t work with your proposed system. Also, they’re fragile as hell. I’d advise dumping that one and getting a second SB80.

  • The Phottix Strobe 4in1 is wireless transmitter to trigger up to 4 channels. The receiver can be used not only for the flash but also for the camera.

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