Off camera flash gives lighting freedom allowing for creative shots and it is something all photographers should at least dabble in at some point. There was a time when using the flash off camera was costly and required expensive photography equipment, however times have changed and you can now take you flash off camera without needing to spend a fortune. You will of course have to spend some money to take your flash off camera but the investment isn’t that great, and if you do decide that off camera flash photography isn’t for you there is the option of trading in the equipment or selling it on an auction site or something and recoup (most) of your money.
The most expensive part of an off camera flash photography set up is the flash or speed light itself. The top end speed lights (like the Canon 600EX and the Nikon SB900 for example) cost loads of money, however there are budget speed lights (like the Godox V860 and the Yongnuo 565) that do everything the top end speed lights do but at a fraction of the price. The majority of my speed light set up comprises of four Godox V860 speed lights (check out my review here) and the total cost of these was still less than the cost of a single Canon 600EX. In fact, I managed to buy four Godox V860 speed lights, four Yongnuo YN622 flash triggers and one Yongnuo TX and still spent less than I would have done on one Canon 600EX.
The budget speed lights from the Chinese companies are exceptionally good, and whilst the build quality of these may not be as tough as the top end speed lights (which is to be expected) they are still robust and well-constructed speed lights that are more than up to the job.
If you don’t want to splash out on a Godox or Yongnuo speed light there is a cheaper alternative and that is to buy a manual only speed light. There are plenty of super cheap manual speed lights available on Amazon and eBay, however I would avoid these like the plague. These speed lights are cheap but also nasty, and they won’t last five minutes. Check out some of the user reviews on these speed lights and you will find common problems include misfiring, low power, terrible battery life and also terminal failure. These super cheap speed lights are a total waste of money, and if you buy one of these you will end up replacing it (with something decent you should have bought in the first case) in a short space of time.
Rather than buying a super cheap speed light I would suggest buying a used film camera manual flash speed light, which will cost around the same price – if not a little less. Speed lights like the Canon 430EZ or 580EZ are tough, durable, powerful and you can pick them up for little money. Don’t believe me? Take a look on eBay using the search box below and see just how little money you need to part with to buy one.
You will have to set the flash exposure of these speed lights yourself, but with a bit of time and practice it’ll come second nature. These manual speed lights are perfect where the flash to subject distance remains constant but next to useless when dealing with subjects that are moving around. If the subject is moving around, i.e. the flash to subject distance frequently changes you need a speed light with TTL mode otherwise you are going to miss the shot. In these circumstances the Godox or Yongnuo speed lights are ideal.