How to Get Started In Strobism

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davidc
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How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby davidc » Fri 01 Mar 2013, 15:56

edit: After the session we had at the club I was going to rewrite this as a new post but after reviewing it the majority of the info is still correct so I'm just tweaking it and making sure the links are updated. Any questions either PM me, grab me at the club or email david_candlish@hotmail.com

I've also, temporarily, made it sticky so it's easy for people to see. In a few weeks time I'll unsticky it.

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Based on some recent comments about flash equipment I thought I'd do a quick intro to the gear I've bought recently to let me start learning this fascinating aspect of photography. Although I won't go into lighting theory and technique per se, this is an intro to the gear mostly, I'm more than happy to discuss particular setups either on the forum or at the club.

Terminology
What is strobism? In the USA a flashgun is commonly known as a strobe and strobism is the term now used almost ubiquitously to describe the use of small, portable flash equipment to provide lighting in photos - as opposed to the less portable studio equipment - and getting it off camera to allow you to be truly creative. It offers the ability to take your photo studio almost anywhere and mix natural and artificial light to get the picture you want.

http://www.strobist.com is a great resource site for it and there corresponding flickr group is full of inspiration and how to guides. One of the ideas behind the "strobist movement" is sharing details of how you set the shot up so others can learn (which you'll see on my 365 images sometimes).

Here is the strobist group on flickr - http://www.flickr.com/groups/strobist/

edit: the folks at work had a read of this and one of the suggestions was a summary before I go into a bit more detail. Here's the total cost for the kit I have right now assuming a one flash setup -

Flash - £50 - these ones here are the ones I used at the club, model Yongnuo 560-II, but they are slowly going out of production in favour of the Yongnuo 560-IIIs here
Triggers - £25 - get them from Amazon here
Softbox - £25 (I'd choose softbox over umbrella for light quality, umbrellas are quicker to set up) get it here
Umbrella - £5 these ones here are an absolute bargain
Stand x2 - £20 get these ones here
Flash holders - £20 - there are lots of different types, all do fundamentally the same thing. I got these here

Gels - £10 - used mainly to balance out colour casts, I got these here

Total - £155 approx

Now if you replace the above with the top of the range "pro-sumer" kit -

Flash - £400
Triggers - £300
Softbox - £120
Umbrella - £80
Stand x2 - £70
Flash holders - £60
Gels - £10
Total - £1040

So quite a saving going with the 3rd party equipment.

Gear
Flash
The obvious place to start :)
You can use pretty much any flashgun you want, ranging from old, venerable models from film days to new ones, official branded versions to 3rd party ones. Though attaching an old flash direct to your camera is not recommended normally (it pumps more current through the camera hotshoe and can damage it), because with this technique you are not mounting the flash on camera it doesn't really matter. Though the official Canon/Nikon ones have fancy features like TTL metering I've personally found this is not needed at all. You need a flash gun where you can manually specify all the settings and nothing more - TTL is an option you can pay for but do not need. You may have quality control concerns about 3rd party flash guns but hopefully I can alleviate that.

    - I have three 3rd party flash guns and both work perfectly and have not failed yet
    - They are very, very cheap so even if the lifespan is considerably lower than that of the official ones you would need 5 or more to fail before you were running "at a loss".
    - Amazon has a good returns policy so if they die early you can return them.

The ones I use and can recommend are the Yongnuo brand and you can find them on Amazon (link above)

I have the less powerful YN-460 as well and it's a perfectly fine flash but the zoom feature and extra power of the YN-560II is worth a few pounds more in my opinion. Start with one, learn it then get more!

So we have our flash. Next up are....

Triggers
Because our flash(es) are off camera we need a way to trigger them in synch with the shutter. In the olden days people used cables which as well as being a trip hazard would often take more time to setup/put away and added to the cost & complexity of a shot. These days it's all wireless and as with the flashes you can spend hundreds on nifty radio transceivers or far, far less on cheaper infrared transmitter/receiver sets. As you can guess I went with the latter :) Top of the line "Pocket Wizard" models are lovely but at £130 each - and you need one per camera and per flash - the cost is exhorbitant.

I'd bought a different set with one transmitter and two receivers and one receiver failed after a couple of months. Still, I can buy 20 receivers for the price of one "pro" transceiver so even if you get the odd batch that fails they are cheap to replace and MUCH cheaper than the pro versions.

You clip the transmitter into your camera hotshoe and the receiver onto the base of the the flashgun and away you go!

Now technically this is all you need to get started but there are other simple pieces of kit you can buy to make life easier and modify the flash effect so I'll dip into those too.

Flash/lamp stand
A cheap, stable and reliable stand to mount your flash one - £10. I have two and I intend to buy 3 or 4 more as they are so useful!

Umbrella
This is one of the most common means of softening and modifying your light. Shoot through or reflective options add versatility.

Softbox
Second most important investment for me after the flash and triggers, this has the effect of making your light source bigger and softer so it's more natural. The bigger the better really but I started with a 24" one and plan to get a more expensive collapsable 40"+ one soon.

Light stand clamp
aka a "cold shoe" you use this to attach the flash to the stand. It has a handy hole to feed your umbrella pole through too. I have a handful of them.

Gels
These are used to alter the colour of the light from your flashes and are used for either artistic effect or so your flash light can match the colour of ambient light and avoid awkward white balance problems in the photo.

One last thing... batteries. You will need LOTS and I recommend the Ansmann 2850mAh AA batteries and their AAA ones, rechargeable. You will be best with 8 AA batteries per flash and 4 AAA batteries per flash trigger so you have spares. This is MUCH MUCH cheaper than buying non-rechargeable and Ansmann are far, far better than all other brands yet the same price. Duracell are OK but get Ansmann.

Ansmann batteries here

Off the top of my head, that's all you need for gear to begin and also allow some moderate experimentation. Any questions don't hesitate to ask!
Last edited by Peter Boughton on Sun 09 Nov 2014, 17:46, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: removed sticky now dedicated forum exists
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby davidc » Mon 04 Mar 2013, 10:05

Actually after discussing with friends and reading more online, some old flash guns (Vivitar was a brand name mentioned) they CAN break your remote triggers. So I advise doing some research before hooking them up.
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby Paul Heester » Mon 04 Mar 2013, 13:58

Excellent post David. Thanks for taking time to explain it all. Im actually waiting on my order for the same wireless triggers on your link so glad someone else I know has already tried them out. I only have one flash at the moment - the Canon 430EX. Im interested to see how effective my reflector is in bouncing light back for some macro shots Im planning. If not happy then a second flash like the Yongnuo will need to be bought, then umbrellas, then stands...addicitve this habit we have ;)
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby davidc » Mon 04 Mar 2013, 15:16

Reflectors can be very good indeed - I have a 4 in 1 50" one - but find I need a buddy to hold the reflector while I take the shot. Great for portraits.

I made my own macro reflector by sellotaping tinfoil to a spare piece of mountboard, works well too and more poseable than my giant portrait reflector.
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby Mike Farley » Tue 05 Mar 2013, 09:11

Hi Dave

Thanks for a very useful and, for me, timely post. One of my objectives with my 365 project is to get into new areas of photography, so I have started looking at the equipment I will need for this type of work. I was at Focus yesterday and looking at the equipment there. Even with the special show deals which were on offer, prices were still much higher than those on Amazon. I nearly bought a softbox for my flash, until I realised that the Lumiquest 12" square one I had in mind was £43! I'll probably start out with a set of wireless triggers and a softbox as I am keen to try out the edge lighting technique which you documented a while back.

The Vivitar 283 flashgun often crops up in queries about its compatibility with modern cameras. They are quite old now, but seem to have had a tank like build quality and many are still going strong. The early ones have an extremely high trigger voltage in excess of 250 volts, whereas around 12 volts is the norm these days. Apparently later ones had the lower trigger voltage and are safe to use, and some cameras can cope with the higher voltage. That probably explains why some people are using them without encountering problems. This is a link to a thread on the AP website forum which discusses the matter.

http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/fo ... on-digital

Worse than frying a cheap remote trigger would be to attach an incompatible flashgun to a camera, with the potential risk of instantly rendering the latter into a doorstop. It is possible to get adapters to lower the voltage, provided you remember to use them, but why take a chance when the Yongnuo models are so inexpensive?
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Mike Farley
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby Mike Farley » Thu 02 May 2013, 12:58

The softbox which you mention in your original post, although I have found something similar from the same manufacturer, albeit at a higher price. Does it look to be suitable for use with a flash gun and compare favourably to what you are using?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/NEEWER-Portable ... roduct_top
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Mike Farley
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davidc
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby davidc » Thu 02 May 2013, 14:42

That's exactly the one I have and was out of stock at the time of writing so I picked the next, in stock, size up :)

If you aren't planning to buy one within the next week I can bring mine to the club next week and show you?
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby Mike Farley » Thu 02 May 2013, 15:09

davidc wrote:That's exactly the one I have and was out of stock at the time of writing so I picked the next, in stock, size up :)

If you aren't planning to buy one within the next week I can bring mine to the club next week and show you?


Thanks. Could you bring it along tonight if you are still planning on attending my Lightroom event? I was hoping to buy before next week. I would also be interested in seeing a light stand clamp.
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby davidc » Thu 02 May 2013, 15:20

Argh I'm not going to be able to - we have a "townhall" meeting scheduled for 6pm and it's not likely to finish for a good few hours, then there are the "networking drinks" afterwards.

I was wondering about going to your words at some stage over the weekend though (not 100% sure when yet, will depend on my wife's study schedule) and I can bring up some bits and pieces if you like? Anything else you're interested in?

Sorry about that, it totally slipped my mind - this townhall is likely to give an update on whether or not my technology unit is staying in London or being "rightshored" to our tech unit in India so it's quite important I go :(
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Re: How to Get Started In Strobism

Postby Mike Farley » Thu 02 May 2013, 16:04

davidc wrote:I was wondering about going to your words at some stage over the weekend though (not 100% sure when yet, will depend on my wife's study schedule) and I can bring up some bits and pieces if you like? Anything else you're interested in?


If you are thinking about popping over to take a gander at the woods, Monday is the the only day which is good for me. I'll happily show you around and point out the best spots which I have found.

davidc wrote:Sorry about that, it totally slipped my mind - this townhall is likely to give an update on whether or not my technology unit is staying in London or being "rightshored" to our tech unit in India so it's quite important I go :(


I also think it is vital that you go to India. :mrgreen:

Or is that not what you meant? ;)

Seriously, I understand your reasons and I hope that everything works out tonight as you would wish.
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Mike Farley
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