Nikon Flash Modeling Function

Built-in flashes of advanced amateur and professional Nikon cameras, as well as external Nikon Speedlights SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900SB-910 and the SB-R200 have an interesting feature called 'Modeling Flash'.

Please note that Nikon Speedlight Crumbs SB-400 and SB-300 as well as built-in frog flashes amateur Nikon cameras This function is not supported.

Nikon Flash Modeling Function

Function of modeling backlight on Nikon flashes. The function is not used directly for shooting, because there are no examples in the photographs of the function as such.

The essence of the function is very simple - when using it, the flash works in strobe mode 1.5-2 seconds with a high frequency of light pulses, thus creating a backlight effect. This backlight is called 'modeling light' because it allows you to see the cut-off of a future photograph.

The function works only to view the lighting of the composition and the future picture and is not used during shooting.

Also, the function is used for checking the depth of field in poor lighting. If the 'Modeling flash' function is enabled in the camera menu, then, after pressing the depth-of-field pre-check button (or any other button programmed for this function), the aperture will be closed to the preset value, and the flash (whether built-in or external with this mode of operation) will create a simulation backlight. For checking depth of field with closed apertures, this method is quite useful.

Mode selection menu

Mode selection menu for the tester button

On external flashes, it is usually possible to set the function of the modeling backlight to the tester button (red test operation button). If the tester button is left in normal mode, then external flash it will still work in simulated flash mode when you click on the depth of field button (of course, if this function is enabled on the camera).

The most interesting thing is that the modeling backlight is also available when using remote control of external flashes through Nikon CLS... The master flash unit fires the slave flash units in modeling flash mode. This is a very funny moment when you can remotely turn several flashes into 'spotlights' at once and see how the shadows have formed :).


Modeling lighting is a very simple and sometimes very useful feature.

Thank you for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 20, on the topic: Modeling backlight function on Nikon flashes

  • Sergey A

    I have an SB-700. After reading the article, I ran after the flash. Scrolled through the entire menu - there is no such item. Now the question is: I haven't found this or does the SB-700 not have this mode?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Section of the instruction E-29. The function works when you click on the depth of field scan button, but setting the button for the tester probably will not work.

      • Sergey A

        Thanks. E-29 has already read. I have a Nikon D5100. So, try this mode will not work.

        • Tandemk

          Yes, the tester button is not programmable in the SB-700.
          For myself, I removed (D7000) generally this function from the carcass button, tk. when working with external flashes without synchronizers, when intercepting the camera, I very often hit the button, then I literally "puff on my forehead" myself.

  • Jury

    Kind time of the day, I constantly monitor your news, please tell me if there is such a function on the KENON 430 EX flashes. Thanks. Sincerely.

    • Novel

      Page 21 of the Canon Speedlite 430EX II Manual - C.Fn-02 Custom Function
      The 430th first version does not have such a function (

      • Ivan

        Roman, the first version of the 430EX has such a function. Called “Modeling flash” p. 28.

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    Those times ... I would have known before that I have such opportunities ... Thank you)))

  • Oleg

    Viewing the depth of field in the viewfinder is generally uninformative in itself, since the image on the matrix is ​​different

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    The class, thank you very much, did not know about the sb700!

  • Pastor

    A very interesting feature, sometimes it helps to determine the illumination. But much more often, personally, I stupidly take a picture, look at the already obtained picture and change the settings and focus. Of course, in some cases, my approach is impossible, but in my practice, for now, this is the easiest way to check how the flashes shine. Moreover, in studio conditions I use the simplest studio flashes, which do not have such a function.

  • Sergei

    A function necessary when shooting on film and useless on digital - more information, and even with magnification and without strobe flicker, can be obtained on the camera screen after a test shot.

  • Arthur

    Not a very useful feature…. for me it is better that the flash does not make unnecessary puffs, but saves batteries ... I have sb-910 even in i-TTL I try not to shoot, so that the flash doesn’t hawk the batteries again and doesn’t get warm for nothing. IMHO

  • Dmitry K

    And here is the question. Why does the picture appear better when using the flash even when shooting at a high ISO? Let's say I'm shooting a person's house and ISO 800 is enough for the correct exposure of the frame. then the same scene with the same aperture and ISO, but with flash, the frame comes out better. And it's not about the correctness of the light - the light is also normal in terms of “artistry” without a flash, just without a flash the noise seems more intrusive and the picture is more “friable”. why so? and so it seems that with the flash there is less color noise, i.e. there is grain, but it is gray and not so annoying

    • David Pisnoy

      Dmitry, with the same ISO values, the less noise, the more light hits the matrix.

      • Dmitry K

        whereas how do people talk about working ISO? in the afternoon on the street 800 it is very working in d3100-it is possible to shoot with a tightened aperture for a short shutter speed. And in the room 800 is the limit. I never held expensive cameras in my hands. In general, is it realistic to shoot normal frames in a darkened room without a flash? And starting from which cameras is it possible? Or let's say, there are such cameras on the crop?

        • Madness scif

          the crop will always have more noise. for example nikon d7000-d7100 on ISO 2000 give a pretty good picture. but if you want a truly high-quality picture, save up money for a full frame of nikon d600-610, d700, d800, nikon d3s-d4-d4s. I do not advise you to take the last 4 cameras for amateur photography (if you are the ultimate in Lexus in a bullshit ride)

    • Madness scif

      about flash and noises ... noises are very fond of appearing in shadows, darkened mid-tones, in the far corners of the room to where the flash did not reach. when using a flash, you knock out all of the above and because of this, the picture seems less noisy.

      • Dmitry K

        Thank you, I imagined something like that

  • Alexander Fomin

    Arkady, good afternoon!

    Please tell me. If you use the SB-910 as the master, and the SB-700 as the slave on the D5200, will the modeling light work on the SB-700 when you press the tester button on the SB-910 with the modeling light on? Or is this only possible with two SB-910s?

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