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01/08/2012 03:32:14 PM · #1
With my equipment upgrades I have also decided to expand a little bit on flash and lighting. Up to this point I have used a Canon Speedlite 430EX for those situations where natural lighting is not adequate. I shot it off the camera hot shoe and would bounce of the ceiling. I never really used eTTL because it was easier to get the right effect by setting it manually. I always got better results manually. I was starting to find that I was getting pretty limited in certain situations where I wished I could off-camera. I have since sold my 430EX and have rebuilt my setup from scratch. I have a budget of around $400-$500 (I know, fairly meager for lighting). I know there's a lot of different options out there and was wanting everyone's advice. If you need more specifics just ask.

Things I am looking for:
-Portability
-Wireless
-Flexibility

Do not need:
Canon Brand Necessarily
eTTL

Thanks everyone. I do mostly outdoor portraiture with occasional non-studio indoor shooting. I was originally thinking of 580 EXII, but then I'm limited to just on the shoe really and will have much the same limitations as I did before and it's expensive.

I keep imagining using these...

Message edited by author 2012-01-08 15:55:01.
01/08/2012 04:43:46 PM · #2
Speaking from experience, I find using the umbrellas outdoors is a challenge due to fact that the wind can play havoc on your setup. I've had stands blow over and sometimes they'll spin and aim another direction if they're not tightened down all the way. Occasionally I still use an umbrella outdoors, but it's usually on a pole and held by an assistant (aka anybody without a job to do) :)

Anyway, if I had a recommendation, it would be to start with a single strobe like the Canon 580EX, a Gary Fong Lightsphere (Amazon Link), and a reflector (Amazon Link).

I've used the Lightsphere a ton and I find it very useful indoors and out. Remember that the key to softlighting is making the light source appear as large as possible in relation to your subject. So, with a Lightsphere, you have to get the light as close to your subject as possible (without being in the picture of course). If you have an assistant, they can hold the reflector and bounce some of that light back to fill in the shadows on the other side.

I don't know the Canon gear very well, but I am presuming you can remotely fire the 580EX from your camera without having to buy any additional equipment. If not, I like the Paul C Buff triggers On Camera Transmitter (link) and On flash receiver

Edit: You could also pick up an older Nikon SB-24 on the cheap from ebay. It's a great old flash and would work great with the Paul C Buff triggers (you would just need a PC Sync cord (also cheap).

I hope that helps Cheers!

Message edited by author 2012-01-08 17:00:04.
01/08/2012 05:07:08 PM · #3
Thanks. I guess I do enough indoor non-studio that the umbrellas would be super helpful. There have been some tricky indoor lightings where they would have been ideal (vaulted or low-ceiling). The umbrellas wouldn't be necessary for most of my outdoor natural light settings, but there have been a few occasions where if I had them handy it would be nice. My wife comes on about 50% of my shoots and acts as an assistant.
01/08/2012 05:58:56 PM · #4
MPEX

I'd go to MPEX and build a set out of their systems for Strobist.
01/08/2012 06:12:27 PM · #5
Originally posted by MattO:

MPEX

I'd go to MPEX and build a set out of their systems for Strobist.


Now that's a cool website. Thanks for the link.

What are the wireless sync options out there? What are peoples' thoughts on 3rd party flashes such as this? I usually only setup my flash manually anyways.
01/08/2012 10:38:28 PM · #6
Originally posted by MattO:

MPEX

I'd go to MPEX and build a set out of their systems for Strobist.


Yup. Get some LP160's. You can trigger them in a ton of ways. If you want to go quality radio triggers on the cheap, get some Cybersyncs. You'll really likely only need one transmitter and one receiver, because the LP160 does have an optical trigger.
Also, the LumoPro compact lightstands are great and can be stuffed into the water bottle holder of most backpacks (they're that small, something like 18 inches folded.)Light stand

If you're just going for simple umbrellas, a 43 inch Westcott reversible would do you well. You can shoot through or reflect with them, plus you can take off the black cover partially. Works well, super cheap. Durability isn't awesome, but all umbrellas are fragile. Catches wind like you wouldn't believe, so be careful!
Beyond that, there are lots of other modifiers for you to check out. Just peruse Mpex or Strobist for tons and tons of ideas. If you have any more questions, we had a short lived Strobist thread floating around on here, plus users respond pretty quickly to lighting questions.
01/08/2012 11:48:14 PM · #7
Originally posted by spiritualspatula:

Originally posted by MattO:

MPEX

I'd go to MPEX and build a set out of their systems for Strobist.


Yup. Get some LP160's. You can trigger them in a ton of ways. If you want to go quality radio triggers on the cheap, get some Cybersyncs. You'll really likely only need one transmitter and one receiver, because the LP160 does have an optical trigger.
Also, the LumoPro compact lightstands are great and can be stuffed into the water bottle holder of most backpacks (they're that small, something like 18 inches folded.)Light stand

If you're just going for simple umbrellas, a 43 inch Westcott reversible would do you well. You can shoot through or reflect with them, plus you can take off the black cover partially. Works well, super cheap. Durability isn't awesome, but all umbrellas are fragile. Catches wind like you wouldn't believe, so be careful!
Beyond that, there are lots of other modifiers for you to check out. Just peruse Mpex or Strobist for tons and tons of ideas. If you have any more questions, we had a short lived Strobist thread floating around on here, plus users respond pretty quickly to lighting questions.


Thanks. I have been a little intimidated by strobes and lighting. I feel I could gain a lot. I've reached a point where I just need to dive in head first.
01/09/2012 12:06:08 AM · #8
Oh my goodness, thanks Derek! The cybersyncs are exactly what I had in mind and at the right price to boot! I can just get a simple setup with some 3rd party flashes just to get the job done, I don't need anything fancy for off-camera I've realized. Perfect!
01/09/2012 02:47:19 PM · #9
While I did say you can get by with one receiver, consider adding more. Depending upon how you set things up, you may or may not be able to use optical triggering. When it works, it works great, but when it doesn't work great... you'll rip your hair out. It's effectiveness decreases in bright light, for instance. Work with it and see its limitations, and add another receiver as you're able to. They aren't too bad to add on one by one if you consider the price, but the shipping (at least to me) from Paul C. Buff is minimum $10, so it bumps the price up a bit. Their customer service is top notch, btw.

ETA: I assume you know this, but getting third party means you can't use hypersync/high speed sync at all. It's got limited uses anyway, but it does have its moments.

Message edited by author 2012-01-09 14:48:24.
01/09/2012 11:32:43 PM · #10
I've been building up my lighting toys on a very low budget. I also started with a 430EX and I still use it. I've since added some Vivatar 285 and a 283. The Vivitar flashes sell between $35 and $65. They are also available new at B&H for about $100. I have Cowboy Studio remote triggers for all three. The triggers offer no frills but get the job done. Price for the triggers is $25 for a transmitter and receiver combo and $16 for additional receivers. Everything is manual. I've also been scanning Craigslist for stands and umbrellas. I usually find them for $20 each. I've collected 7 stands and 3 umbrellas. The areas were I see a need for improvement is recycle time and a bit more range on tuning the flash duration. I figure I can get some good practice from all these items and then sell and upgrade as time and budget permits.
05/30/2012 05:34:11 PM · #11
Ok, so I'm still playing around with the whole off-camera flash setups and still have not purchased any triggers yet, but intend on the cowboy studio ones. I'm looking for recommendations on cheap stands/umbrella setups that get the job done. I'm trying to sell my 580EX flash and go the Yongnuo route as I only shoot manually anyways.

Any good recommendations on stands/umbrella sets? Thanks guys.
05/30/2012 05:54:50 PM · #12
I have the stand and umbrella set you linked to in your first post. The umbrellas are on the small side and flimsy, but then again they are dirt cheap so you pay for what you get. Overall I'm happy with them for the price. I would not want to try to use them outside unless you have some sandbags for the light stands.

For strobes I have a 580EX II, Nikon SB-26 and a Vivitar 285. If I was to do it over again I would get all SB-26's. They are cheap on ebay and have a lot of manual control. The Vivitar is a little cheaper, but it will only go down to 1/16th power which can be very limiting. The SB-26 will also optically trigger in case you're short one trigger. The 580EX II also has a lot of manual control, but it goes into hibernation after a min or two which gets VERY annoying. After any adjustments I end up having to walk over an press the 580EX II's test fire button to wake it up.

ETA: Just found out that custom function 1 will turn off the auto sleep. Sweet!

Message edited by author 2012-05-30 18:01:07.
05/30/2012 05:58:42 PM · #13
I just went through the process you are going through...

These stands are not too bad. Would not recommend them for outside use or with a softbox as they are fairly light. The umbrella swivel is acceptable although I will eventually upgrade it and the umbrellas are a bit on the small side, 33".

I chose these triggers over the cowboy studio ones for two reasons. One they have better range and two you can use them as a remote release. Each unit can act as either a trigger or receiver.

These stands are much better than the the first set I listed although not as compact. They are pretty heavy duty and I would not hesitate to buy another set if and when I need them.

05/30/2012 06:03:28 PM · #14
Originally posted by MagicTrix:

I just went through the process you are going through...

These stands are not too bad. Would not recommend them for outside use or with a softbox as they are fairly light. The umbrella swivel is acceptable although I will eventually upgrade it and the umbrellas are a bit on the small side, 33".

I chose these triggers over the cowboy studio ones for two reasons. One they have better range and two you can use them as a remote release. Each unit can act as either a trigger or receiver.

These stands are much better than the the first set I listed although not as compact. They are pretty heavy duty and I would not hesitate to buy another set if and when I need them.


Hmm, I like the look of those transceivers as the can be used for both transmitting and receiving, pretty nifty, I may seriously consider those...
05/30/2012 08:40:39 PM · #15
same here as you. just got into the strobist route.

i got a single stand and umbrella, not sure of the brand as i bought it at my camera shop last minute to shoot a challenge. i got a single 6ft stand and umbrella. i went with a 36" black covered bounce as it was suggested to me here and at the store that shoot through can leave lines on the subject from the umbrella spokes, however the strobist site recommends shoot through. i cant say if it better or not.

they do make outdoor stands with spiked feet that weren't too expensive, i think adorama sold them. if you are using it outdoors i would suggest them.

i have to flashes one YN460II and one YN460. the 460II recycles faster but both have about the same power. i trigger it with a single cowboy studio radio trigger and the second through the IR of the first. so far it has done me well. i would like to add a second larger umbrella and a third flash to light my backgrounds. right now i use one with the umbrella as a main and the second is either for the background or set to low power for fill.

also i just found out today my 60D will fire the YN 560 flash through its wireless system, not sure about your 5D, you may want to look into it.

also i just came across this today:

Nikon SB28 and SB28DX

Message edited by author 2012-05-30 20:43:51.
05/30/2012 10:40:42 PM · #16
Originally posted by mike_311:

same here as you. just got into the strobist route.

i got a single stand and umbrella, not sure of the brand as i bought it at my camera shop last minute to shoot a challenge. i got a single 6ft stand and umbrella. i went with a 36" black covered bounce as it was suggested to me here and at the store that shoot through can leave lines on the subject from the umbrella spokes, however the strobist site recommends shoot through. i cant say if it better or not.

they do make outdoor stands with spiked feet that weren't too expensive, i think adorama sold them. if you are using it outdoors i would suggest them.

i have to flashes one YN460II and one YN460. the 460II recycles faster but both have about the same power. i trigger it with a single cowboy studio radio trigger and the second through the IR of the first. so far it has done me well. i would like to add a second larger umbrella and a third flash to light my backgrounds. right now i use one with the umbrella as a main and the second is either for the background or set to low power for fill.

also i just found out today my 60D will fire the YN 560 flash through its wireless system, not sure about your 5D, you may want to look into it.

also i just came across this today:

Nikon SB28 and SB28DX


I bolded several things I'll reference here-
All umbrellas, shoot through or bounce, will give the effect that was mentioned, but it's not as huge as you'd think. You'll only see it in catchlights. All sources have different shaped/looking catchlights. Here is a link that shows a variety catchlights. Strobist likes shootthrough because of how close to your subject you can get them, which makes the light very soft and with pleasing fall off. Bounce umbrellas can't get as close due to the shaft.

Lumopro compact is pretty cheap and works decently and has the stakes, which work OKAY... but if you're able to stake, I recommend some tent stakes and paracord along with some Nite Ize figure 9's to guy it out. It's fast, light, and cheap, and infinitely more sturdy than the leg stakes. I like the compact, but it's not as stable as my Manfrotto, which is bigger and heavier and cost more, so it's a tossup. I use Photek mounts on them most often, which are small, cheap, and sturdy.

The 5D series has no onboard flash so it cannot utilize the optical slave wireless capabilities, unfortunately.

The SB28's are great if you can get them reasonably. I have one and like it, it's built well, good power, zoom, great adjustability. It does not have slave capabilities, but beyond that, great piece of gear.

It won't allow me to access that thread without logging in, so I can't see what else it mentions as I'm not a member there.

Message edited by author 2012-05-30 22:48:35.
05/31/2012 06:19:47 AM · #17
as usual Derek, thanks for the info. umbrellas are cheap, maybe I'll pick up a shoot through and see how it works out.
05/31/2012 07:25:27 AM · #18
If you aren't looking for a particularly huge umbrella, the westcott 43 convertibles are great and offer you both options. They are big enough to use for single person portraits if you keep them close, but more than one person and you're pushing them a bit size-wise.
The nice thing about these is that you can use the black cover or remove it and turn it into a shootthrough. Also, you can partially detach the black cover so it's a partial shoot through/only reflects for part of it. These are what I mean. They are about as durable as a light small umbrella would be expected to be. Careful not to crimp the shaft. They've gone up a bit in cost since I got mine...
They do make a 60 inch version, as well, but I've not used them.

There are also about 10 billion other umbrellas to choose from out there, and I'm not sure the differences will be huge at the lower price points.
05/31/2012 08:15:23 AM · #19
Originally posted by spiritualspatula:

Careful not to crimp the shaft.


One tip I have picked up to help with that is push a wooden dowel or pencil into the shaft, prevents crimping with almost no increase in weight.
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