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What Is the Hot Shoe? (and How Can You Use It)

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A hot shoe is a great feature that lets you use other devices alongside your camera. It will allow the device to communicate with your camera, ensuring great photos every time.
Read below for all the information you need on what a hot shoe is and how it works.
A photographer holding a Canon DSLR - what is the hot shoe in photography?
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What Is a Hot Shoe?

A hot shoe is a connector on a digital or analog camera. It is used to connect a variety of devices that communicate with the camera. If the hot shoe has a metal contact, the device can then ‘talk’ to the camera.
You will usually find the hot shoe on the highest point of the camera when held upright. For Canon and Nikon DSLRs, it is located above the pop-up flash, and directly in the center.
An external flash, such as the Canon Speedlite, is just one device you can use. The hot shoe holds the external flash unit in place and allows TTL (through the lens) shooting.
This in-built feature gives you the flexibility and chance to use other devices. It keeps them out of your hands, leaving you free to capture better images.
An external flash with an arrow pointing the the hot shoe connection

Using a Hot Shoe

A hot shoe is easy to use. When looking at it, you’ll notice a metal ‘n’ shape, with a metal dot in the middle. Above this plate there are two metal brackets.
Your device needs a connector plate on its undercarriage. This would be a square or slightly rectangular shape, which fits into the hot shoe’s bracket.
If the device is able to communicate with your camera, there will be a few spikes right in the middle of the plate. These send and receive electronic messages between both devices.
The connecting plate under your device slides into the hot shoe. There will be a tightening system, either a wheel or level that fixes the flash etc to your camera.
This stops it from falling out when the camera moves.
Flashes are the most used item with the hot shoe, but there are other possibilities. There are GPS units and electronic viewfinders.
Other devices are able to sit in the hot shoe, yet don’t communicate with the camera.
using your camera hot shoe

What Is a Cold Shoe?

A cold shoe is a hot shoe, except it doesn’t allow the device to communicate with the camera. Items placed here usually connect to the camera using a wire or two.
Examples of these are external microphones, small cameras such as Go Pros, and other devices aimed at helping you capture better images. A good example of these would be the MIOPS Smart Trigger.
A cold shoe holds your device and keeps it close to the camera’s gravitational center. This means your camera won’t pitch to one side, allowing you to hold it straight when capturing.
There are items you can buy, allowing two or more devices to be used at the same time. The 3 Triple Cold Shoe Mount allows three devices used at the same time. These could be lights, microphones, flashes or even Go Pros.

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