How to Use a Nikon Speedlight


The Nikon Creative Lighting System is a photography lighting product line which includes NIkon Speedlights. These on-camera flash units are versatile and include the Nikon SB-400, SB-600, SB-800 and the new SB-900. Each of these units functions in a similar fashion, working with the calculated information from the camera's meter in order to calculate the flash burst power and duration to make a correct exposure every time. Several of the Speedlights also offer the ability to be used remotely, triggered by another Speedlight or by the on-camera flash unit. Using the Nikon Speedlight gives the photographer a high level of versatility and creative freedom.

Step 1

Insert batteries into the flash. The battery compartment is located on the right hand side of the flash unit and is opened by sliding forward in the direction of the raised arrows. Insert batteries as shown on the decal.

Step 2

Power on the flash unit. For the SB-400, SB-600 and SB-800 models, this is done by pressing the "ON/OFF" button located on the back of the unit; for the SB-900, the power dial is located on the back of the unit and can be set to the "ON" position.

Step 3

Test the flash unit. Pointing the unit away from the eyes, press the red "FLASH" button located on the back of the unit. The unit will fire a short burst and then begin recharging until the red "READY" light is lit. SB-400 units do not have a test fire option.

Step 4

Turn off the flash unit and attach it to the camera using the hot shoe mount. Slide the flash's mount forward into the mount on the camera, and turn the lock on the flash unit to the locked position to secure the flash. If using the flash separate from the camera, attach it securely to a tripod or to the attached table stand. Make sure any slave flashes are in line with the camera so as to be able to read the pre-flash or infrared slave flash trigger emitted by the camera or master flash.

Step 5

Set any slave flashes being used off camera to slave mode. For the SB-600 and SB-800, hold the "ZOOM" and "-" buttons to enter the command menu. On the SB-600, select "ON" to turn on slave mode; on the SB-800, select "REMOTE." For the SB-900, simply turn the command dial to "Remote."

Step 6

Select your flash mode. Depending on the variation of flash, camera body and lens, different modes will be available. A variety of Through The Lens modes (TTI, i-TTL) will be available. These modes use the camera's meter to adjust the flash length and power to obtain a correct exposure. Manual mode allows the photographer to select the burst length and power. Exposure compensation can also be chosen, overriding the metered data to raise or lower flash output if necessary. To do this, select a mode and then press upward or downward on the center dial.

Step 7

Aim the flash head. SB-400 units may swivel upward, where each other unit also has the ability to swing left and right. Aiming the flash head at a wide, reflective surface will result in a more evenly lit photograph but will require more flash power as light will fall off exponentially. Examples of good bounce surfaces include a bounce card, ceilings, walls and reflectors.

Step 8

Fire a test flash, using the "FLASH" button or by taking a test exposure. The flash unit should go off, and any slave flashes should be synchronized.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not aim the flash directly at eyes!

Things You'll Need

  • Nikon Speedlight
  • Nikon camera with hot shoe flash mount
  • Tripod or flash stand (optional)


  • Nikon SB-400
  • Nikon SB-600
  • Nikon SB-800
Keywords: Camera, flash, Nikon, CLS

About this Author

Gwen Wark is a freelance writer working from London, Dublin, and New York. She has been a published writer since 1998 with works appearing in both university and local publications. Her current writing projects include SEO, web copy, print and advertising features. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in history from Rutgers University.

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