Using FV Lock for Flash Photography

Posted June 8th, 2009 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography  |  Permalink

Ever had people or pets blink when you take flash photographs of them? The Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) uses pulses of light to communicate to the remote flashes in your lighting arrangement. These pulses of light are sent out before the shutter opens, so if the subject has fast reflexes, they will often blink from the pre-flashes and your photographs will suffer from a terrible condition called “Preflash blinkosis”. The solution to Preflash blinkosis is to use the FV Lock function on your camera.


Here's a photo of someone blinking from the pre-flashes in the Nikon CLS. One solution to fix the problem is to use your camera's FV Lock function.

Here's a photo of someone blinking from the pre-flashes in the Nikon CLS. One solution to fix the problem is to use your camera's FV Lock function.



Before I get to the details, here’s an email I received a couple days ago from a reader of my recent book on the Nikon CLS.

Hi Mike.  I just bought your excellent book on “The Nikon Creative Lighting System” and have a question which I hope you can answer for me.  I use a D700 and D3, and 4 SB-800 strobes. In trying to photograph dogs, I have run into a “blinking eye” problem. Finally I figured it out:  the preflashes cause the blinking

Question: can I disable the preflash and use this set-up as the old time “TTL” metering?  Or if I hold the shutter at 1/2, will the preflash fire and not fire the main flash?  Then perhaps the dogs will reopen their eyes. 

Any help or ideas would be most appreciated. Thanks, Morton, Arizona, USA.


The answer to Morton’s question is to use the FV Lock function built into your Nikon dSLR. Everyone needs to know that using Nikon flashes in TTL or TTL BL or even Manual will always result in pre flashes if you are operating in the Nikon CLS. What I mean is that if you have an SB-800 Commander (or a camera’s pop-up Commander like the D90, D300, D700) communicating with the remote flashes in channels/groups, then the preflashes are used to communicate between Commander/Remotes and can’t be turned off.

However, there is a great workaround solution that is called FV Lock. You can program one of your camera’s buttons to activate the FV Lock function so that when you press the button, it causes all the flashes in the system to do the preflash at that moment. Then, the camera remembers the Flash Value (FV) and allows you to take the real shot without the preflashes. I do this when photographing pets or kids with fast reflexes who are prone to blinking. 

To program the FV-Lock capability into your camera, you’ll need to go to your Custom Settings Menu (the pencil icon) and find the FV Lock menu item. On some Nikon models like the D70/D80/D90 you can program the AE-L/AF-L button to activate FV Lock. On other Nikon models like the D300/D700/D3/D90, you can program the Func button or the AE-L/AF-L button to activate FV Lock. 


Here's where the Func button is located on the Nikon D300.

Here's where the Func button is located on the Nikon D300.


This is the AE-L/AF-L button on the Nikon D80.

This is the AE-L/AF-L button on the Nikon D80.

Most photographers don’t ever have a need to use FV Lock, but I find that pet photographers run into this issue more often than people photographers. 



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