How to Control External Speedlites Wirelessly on Your Canon EOS 7D Mark II

By Doug Sahlin

The EOS 7D Mark II built-in flash can turn you into a real control freak. You can control the output of the flash. With a few menu commands, you can turn the built-in flash into a control freak. The built-in flash acts as the master, and any Canon EX Speedlite capable of functioning as a slave can be fired in conjunction with it. Just think of the possibilities with multiple flash units illuminating a scene.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You can even set up a portable studio with a couple Canon Speedlites and your EOS 7D Mark II.

If you have one or more Canon Speedlites or you want to know more about flash photography with Canon Speedlites, pick up a copy of Canon Speedlite System Digital Field Guide by Michael Corsentino. If you purchase that book, you can disregard the ST-E2 wireless transmitter because with a few menu commands, you can get your EOS 7D MARK II’s built-in flash to act as a wireless transmitter.

The first type of wireless shooting enables you to fire one or more external Speedlites that are controlled by the built-in flash unit. The built-in flash unit fires a beam to trigger the external flash unit and also adds illumination to the exposure. With this option, you can control the ratio of the built-in flash to the off-camera flash units.

In other words, you determine whether the on-camera flash fires at full power and the off-camera flash fires at half power, and so on. You can also make the off-camera flash units more powerful than the built-in flash unit. To control one or more external Speedlites with the built-in flash:

  1. Position one or more Canon Speedlites that can operate as a slave unit.

    Canon Speedlites come with a small stand that can be screwed into a light stand. The positioning depends on where you want to add light to a scene. Some standard lighting patterns are used by portrait and fashion photographers.

  2. Switch the external Speedlite(s) to slave mode and then set the channel that the slave will receive instructions from the camera’s built-in flash.

    On many Canon Speedlites, you use a switch to have the unit operate as a slave. Refer to your Speedlite manual for more instructions. Make sure the external flash unit(s) sensor (the red plastic rectangle on the front of the unit) faces the camera. You can swivel the Speedlite head so that the flash is aimed at your subject and the sensor faces the camera.

  3. Press the Flash button.

    The built-in flash pops up, and you’re now ready to take a picture illuminated by one external Speedlite that’s controlled by the camera’s built-in flash.

  4. Press the Menu button.

    The menu displays.

  5. Use the Quick Control button to navigate to the Shoot tab and then use the multi-controller button to navigate to the Shoot1 menu.

  6. Rotate the Quick Control dial to highlight Flash Control and then press the Set button.

    The flash options display on your LCD monitor.

  7. Rotate the Quick Control dial to highlight Built-In Flash Settings and then press Set.


    The settings for the built-in flash display.

  8. Accept the default Flash mode option of ETTL-II, rotate the Quick Con­trol dial to highlight Wireless Func, and then press Set.

    The Wireless Func. options for your built-in flash display.

  9. Rotate the Quick Control dial to select the third option and press Set.

    The third option is when you use multiple external Speedlites. If you’re only using a single external Speedlite, choose the first option after Disable. You can also control one or more external Speedlites without the onboard flash firing if you choose the second option after Disable. After choosing an option Channel options become available.


  10. Rotate the Quick Control dial to highlight Channel and then press Set.

    The Channel options display.

  11. Rotate the Quick Control dial to select the desired channel (1-4) and then press Set.

    Make sure you select the same channel as that to which you set your external Speedlite. After you press Set, the camera is set to communicate with an external Speedlite on the same channel.

  12. Rotate the Quick Control dial to highlight the Firing Group option and then press Set.

    The Firing Group options display on the camera LCD monitor.


  13. Rotate the Quick Control dial to highlight All and the built-in flash, and then press Set.

    The LCD monitor displays the selected options. Note that you can also dial in exposure compensation for the built-in flash and the external Speedlites.


  14. Press the Info button to fire a test flash.

    If you’ve set up everything correctly, the built-in flash and your external Speedlites fires.

    If the external flash doesn’t fire, make sure the sensor (the red dome on the front of the flash) can see the signal from the camera flash. If not, swivel the flash head so that it’s pointing toward your subject, and the red dome is facing the camera.

  15. Take the picture.

    When you press the shutter button, the built-in flash and the external Speedlite(s) fires.

The previous set of steps fire all flash units at once at the same power. The flash strength is automatically set to ensure a properly exposed image.

To clear all wireless flash settings, return to the Flash Control menu, highlight Built-in Flash Func. Settings, and then press the Menu button.