Reader Question: How do I get started with Off Camera Flash (OCF)

Recently a reader of the blog sent me a question. He wanted to know what I recommend to get started with getting the flash off of the camera. Are you asking yourself the same question? Read on to learn more!

Here is the reader’s question:

I have a question you can help me with.  As you know I am on a budget and need to get some off camera flash.  I am looking for most likely one flash on a stand/modifier and soft box.

One thing for certain is I want to have the part that goes on my camera hot shoe to trigger the flash.

I do know I want a stand that has a shock absorber in it.

Ideally what size and brand do I want for a soft box?

For all 3 areas (flash, softbox, and stand) I will offer a good, better, and best for readers that are thinking about ordering there first off camera flash.

Ok, so this is a multi part question. Let’s start with the flash.

If I were starting over again I would look for a flash system that offers 3 things.

  1. Scalable. As you can see above, the user is just starting out and wants to have a single flash. Looking back I would look at a system that is easily scalable to more flashes or other technology like strobes.
  2. Simple. Starting out I tried to understand TTL and HSS and all of the other acronyms that come with lighting and I was quickly overwhelmed. I turned all of that stuff off and went all manual. Slowly I learned different technologies and added them to my repertoire. So if I was starting over I would find a flash that has these technologies but not use them right away.
  3. Affordable. There is definitely a difference between cheap and affordable. When you are looking at off camera flashes I can tell you that you get what you pay for. If I was starting again I would not spend the hundreds of $’s on name brand hardware especially something like a speedlight that has the potential to fall off of a stand.

Drumroll please……

I would choose the Godox system for the 3 reasons mentioned above as well as the ability to have rechargeable batteries and the ability to re-program the firmware to be able to be used on any system (Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Fuji, and Olympus)

 

Flash + Trigger:

All of the flashes I mention below are in the Godox line of products. It is worth noting as you are shopping you need to purchase the correct version of the light for your camera.

Option A

The first option uses the “master” mode on the flash to control the power and trigger the other light. This is a great start for most people as you have 2 high powered lights to start with and you have full ttl, hss, and radio triggering all built in.

Flash: Godox V860II x 2

Cost: $400 for 2 flashes (Using 1 as a trigger and 1 as a slave)

Option B:

This is a more traditional trigger and flash system utilizing the V860ii flash and the X1T trigger. This system allows you to have full TTL, HSS as well as radio triggering.

Trigger: X1T

Flash: V860II 

Total Cost: $249

Option C:

This option is the same as above except you dont have access to TTL. This is an all manual flash that you control the power from the trigger.

Trigger: X1T

Flash: V850ii (No TTL)

Cost $195 in the kit

You can find all 3 kits here: https://kit.com/tjhouston 

 

Stand:

When it comes to stands I feel you need to determine what is important to you. I own and use all 3 stands below for different reasons. If I know it is gonna be windy I bring a long a Cstand because they are sturdy. If I know I will be walking a lot and I don’t want to have to carry a lot of weight I bring a long the nano stand and if I need a general purpose stand that I can use for everything I go for the promaster.

You can find all of these stands here:

https://kit.com/tjhouston/off-camera-flash-lighting-stands 

Option A:

If I were to start again I would invest in a Cstand. Some think they are large but they actually fold down to a manageable size. These stands are the most sturdy stand you can get and they are also the ones that are used in large productions and on movie sets.

Cost: $139

Option B:

Promaster LS-2 Light Stand. I have used these stands for several years. From rivers to back alleys these stands really “Stand Up” and take a beating. Sorry I couldn’t help myself 🙂

Cost: $39.95

Option C:

If someone is looking for a compact light stand to hold their flash I would suggest the Manfrotto Nano Stands. These stands are ultra compact and fold down smaller than your tripod. They don’t hold a lot of weight but will hold the bare necessities if needed.

Cost: $57.00

 

Softbox:

Much like stands, softboxes are definitely a specialized tool based on how you want to control the light. The 3 that I list here are all 3 that I use in my kit and all create beautifully shaped light.

Option A:

My very first modifier I purchased was a Westcott Rapid box about 5 years ago and it still works great. Westcott makes well built products that stand the test of time.

Westcott Rapid Box

Cost: $169

Option B:

These foldable softboxes make for great little light shapers that fold down flat. This is great for travel as you can pack them super small and they can fit into your carryon!

Foldable Softbox w/ Bracket

Cost: $46.99

Option C:

I keep one of these umbrellas in all of my vehicles because I know I can create great lighting super easy. The brolly umbrella gives you nice diffused light in a small package.

Fotodiox Brolly Umbrella

Cost: $21.85

No matter what combination that you choose from above, I promise you will not be dissapointed. If you have a specific need and would like suggestions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at tj at tjhouston.com!

Here are the 3 kits that I put together for you in rank of Good, Better, and Best.

TJ Houston

TJ Houston the Vice President of Managed services at Epiphany Management Group. TJ leads professional development in all areas of technology and loves developing ways to make teachers, students, and staff's lives easier with the use of technology. TJ also loves photography and his portfolio can be found at http://www.tjshots.com. All of the views on this site are his own.