If you’re not aware, TTL flash is essentially auto mode for your flash, and off camera TTL flash just means that the camera can control the flash wirelessly.
While manual flash is exactly what it sounds like. You manually control the flash output. The only communication between the camera and the flash is when the camera sends the signal to fire, and off camera manual flash, means you can send that firing signal wirelessly
This is the principal difference between the two types of off camera flash systems.
You’re either controlling the flash power yourself, or you’re allowing the camera to do it for you.
So which is better? It’s simple.
Manual flash is better.
Think about it for a minute. How much time have you spent learning how your camera works and how to shoot in manual mode so that you can insure the photos look the way you want them to look?
So if we want to control our cameras manually to insure we get the results we want, then why on earth would you want the camera to choose your flash settings for you?
If you want your photos to look exactly the way you want them to look, then you’re going to want to have full control over your flash.
With off camera TTL flash, you just don’t get that.
With TTL, every single time you take a photo, the camera re-evaluates the scene and sends new instructions to the flash, setting a new power level for the flash to fire at for that photo.
So you might be shooting off camera flash TTL, and, and everything’s going great, and something changes. Maybe it’s a camera setting, maybe you move the flash a little bit, or maybe your subject moves, and then all of a sudden, for what seems like no reason, the flash is way too bright or dark because that small change you made completely changed the camera’s reading of the scene.
And now you’ve got to fight with your camera to get your flash back where you want it, but because you’re using TTL, you don’t actually know where it was in the first place, so now you’re guessing.
With off camera manual flash, there’s no chance of that happening because the only time the flash power will change is when you decide to change it, and that consistency is, in my opinion, priceless.
The other problem with TTL is that the camera and flash are stupid. The meter inside the camera makes the decisions that set the flash power in TTL, and it doesn’t understand complicated lighting situations.
Think of the times you’ve tried to take a photo of a snow and the snow was all grey, or you tried to take a photo of someone with light behind them and they were radically underexposed, or the background was super over exposed.
If you put your light anywhere other than a “standard” position in front of your subject, you run the risk of the camera setting the power of that light way off compared to what you actually want it to be because the camera just doesn’t understand what’s going on.
Whereas if you’re shooting off camera flash manually, you put that light where you want it, you set the power where you want it, because you know what you want the photo to look like and how to make that happen.
So if manual flash is better, then what is TTL flash good for?
It’s actually very good for variable situation photography, run and gun type stuff like weddings and events.
For just about everything else, off camera manual flash is the way to go.
I used to be scared of my flash, and I understand how intimidating flash photography can be, but a flash is just a tool. Once you understand how that tool works you’ll be using your flash to create photos that used to seem impossible.
If you want to master your flash and take those amazing photos, check out my Understanding Flash Photography Video Course.