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What’s the hot shoe?

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by David Em
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A hot shoe is a mounting point at the top of a camera. It’s used to attach compatible devices with the camera, such as a flash unit.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Close-up of a camera's hot shoe.

What’s a hot shoe?

A hot shoe is a metal mounting point at the top of your camera. It’s used to connect external devices that are compatible with your camera by providing an electrical connection. Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras have a hot shoe, while compact cameras don’t.

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If you look at the top of your camera, you’ll see the hot shoe. It’s shaped like a squared-off “U”. When you use it, the device that you attach will slide right on.

How to use it

Using a hot shoe is straightforward because all you need is a compatible device. As long as the device can communicate with your camera with electronic messages, it’ll work.

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Most often, the hot shoe is used with an external flash unit or speedlight. You’ll slide the external flash onto the hot shoe, and it’ll have a wheel that you’ll turn to lock it into place. This ensures that accidents don’t occur that cause it to fall off.

After you install the speedlight, your camera won’t use the pop-up flash. Instead, it’ll use the external flash that you installed. The main benefit of using a speedlight is that it provides more power, which is needed in low-light situations.

Other devices that are commonly used with the hot shoe include shotgun microphones, GPS, or geotagging accessories. Different things can be attached, just make sure it’s compatible.

What’s a cold shoe?

A cold shoe is similar to a hot shoe. It’s designed to hold an off-camera flash unit. However, it doesn’t have any power. You can’t trigger a flash with a cold shoe, as its purpose is to hold devices. They’re mounting plates that are found on tripods, monopods, and light stands.

Conclusion

A hot shoe is an important part of your camera because it allows you to connect helpful devices. By understanding what it is and how it works, you can start using accessories like a speedlight for photos or a shotgun microphone for videos.

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Featured image courtesy of Canva.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

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