I've also, temporarily, made it sticky so it's easy for people to see. In a few weeks time I'll unsticky it.
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.
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.
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....
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.
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!
This is one of the most common means of softening and modifying your light. Shoot through or reflective options add versatility.
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.
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!