12-27-2007, 10:47 AM
No, not like that.
I've recently started getting into using off camera lighting and learning about lighting in general. It's really stepped my game up 100%.
I started off with a strobist kit from Midwest Photo Exchange, after reading up on the strobist blog. For as little as $215, you can pick up a flash, light stand, umbrella, wireless triggers, and other goodies like light gels, DIY snoot kit, etc...
The knowledge is mostly free. The Strobist Blog has been the biggest inspiration in learning about lighting.
I also picked up Light Science and Magic, Third ed. at a local photography store for a bit cheaper than the list price. This is a book that describes the theory behind lighting certain scenes and objects and how to go about correcting problems you may have. It's not a guide on what setting you need for your camera and flash and how far away to place your lights. The authors' goal is to make it so you can do this on your own without having to memorize their diagrams and light setups.
Jumping back to the hardware; there's several different choices you have to make that will influence price, reliability, and which combination of gear you're going to be purchasing. The first thing to consider for off camera lighting is how you want to trigger your flash.
You can go cheap and purchase a sync cord, which runs from your camera to your flash. The up side is reliability and cost. It should work every single time and not cost an arm and a leg. The down side is flexibility and range. Being tethered to your flash and only having a short range will not allow you to get certain shots and may have you tripping over your own cables if you're clumsy like me.
The cheapest wireless options are the "e-bay" triggers. The most popular are the Gadget Infinity, Cactus V2S wireless trigger system. Most of these can be had for about $30 a set. They come with one transmitter and one receiver. The down side of these are reliability, range, and possibly the batter depending on what brand you choose. Most will misfire. This is a fact and not opinion. They won't do it 100% of the time, but radio interference and being in a busy part of a city as opposed to away from a lot of interference can influence how many misfires occur. The stock range on these is about 100 ft., if I remember correctly and the battery on the Cactus triggers are a CR2. These can be expensive. They go for about $10 a piece at your local store, but can be had for less than $2.50 each if bought on line.
The one thing about the e-bay triggers are that you can mod them fairly easily and for $30, if you happen to break one, it’s no big deal. There’s two mods that a lot of people are doing to their Cactus triggers. The first is an antenna mod. It consist of opening the case of the transmitter and soldering a 433mhz antenna to the board, then drilling a hole and running it through the top of the case. This mod has been shown to increase reliability and range on the triggers. The second mod consist of soldering connections in the receiver for an external battery pack that takes AA batteries. This helps alleviate the cost of batteries for the triggers.
The next set of triggers are the Skyports, made by Elinchrom. These are more expensive than the E-Bay triggers, running about $180-$190 a set. The transmitter and receivers are fairly small and by all reports, are very reliable an have a fairly long range. I have not used these, but everyone I know who has, really likes them. The transmitter that sits on the camera’s hot shoe has an internal rechargeable battery, like an iPod. The down side to this is that if you forget to charge your battery and get stuck at a shoot with no electrical outlets, then you’re SOL. The battery is supposed to last a long time though, so as long as you don’t forget, you’re golden. The other down side of the Skyports is that they currently will not work with the Vivitar 285HV, the flash sold in the MPEX Strobist kits. Elinchrom has already stated that they’re working on an updated version that should be out shortly that will work with the Vivitar flash.
The last set of triggers that I’m going to talk about are the Pocket Wizards. They’re considered the best out there by most people. They have exemplary reliability and a range of up to 1600’ in perfect conditions (which we know, conditions are never perfect). The down side? $180-$190 for one transceiver, meaning about $360-$380 for a set. The up side? These devices are transceivers. They transmit and receive. You can use the same unit that you used on your camera to trigger a flash. They can also trigger your camera. They’re solidly constructed and so far have proven to be one of the best purchases I’ve made for my photo kit. If you’re serious about photography and have the money, don’t hesitate to buy these. If you don’t want to spend the money or don’t know how serious you are about learning about off camera lighting, then the other options listed above are perfectly fine.
Now I’m going to discuss the next important part of putting together a kit for off camera lighting; the flash.
There’s really two main types of flashes to consider, a fully manual flash, or a flash with TTL capabilities. Keep in mind, that in most circumstances, once a flash is removed from a camera and fired via a radio trigger, that the flash loses all TTL capability. Regardless of which way you go, you want to make sure that your flash can operate in full manual mode. Having a TTL flash that will not operate manually will not let you use it with radio triggers.
The pluses of TTL flashes are that they can be used on camera. If you ever need a flash to just shoot with, you can pop it on your hot shoe and you’re good to go. Something like the Canon 580 EX II or the Nikon SB-800 will let you use it as a normal on camera speed light or as a manually triggered off camera flash. The down side to the TTL flashes are that they’re normally more expensive. You also have to make sure that the flash has a way to be triggered by your triggers. The Cactus triggers work via hot shoe so will work with most flashes, while the Skyports and PW’s use a cable. A flash like the Canon 430EX does not have a sync port, so would require a miniphone to hot shoe cable to work.
The next type of flash is the full manual flashes. These are flashes that operate manually and do not have TTL control. They’re usually a lot cheaper, with most running under $100 for one. The down side to these flashes is that once you put them on your cameras hot shoe, you still have to manually set the power and focal length on the flash and they won’t interact with your camera like a typical TTL flash. If you’re planning on really getting into off camera lighting though, these flashes are a good buy, as most the time they’ll be spending off camera and connected to a radio trigger, which means even a TTL flash would be operated manually.
That’s it for now. I’ll probably get around to adding more later, but my fingers are tired…
The Strobist Blog
Midwest Photoexchange Strobist info/kits
Light Science and Magic 3rd Ed.
- maker of the Cactus V2S wireless triggers.
- maker of the skyport wireless triggers.