“What do I need for flash photography?” is a popular question in the beginner’s section of many flash photography forums, which seems reasonable. Looking at it this is a bit of an open ended question and as such invites a multitude of different responses. Some “must have flash photography equipment lists” I have seen in response to this question have been very elaborate and totally over the top, and at the other end of the spectrum I have seen responses that are totally minimalist and full of gaps.
Having “dabbled” in flash photography for several years I thought I would use the “what do I need for flash photography?” question as a subject for a blog post. So here it is, here’s what I consider a basic flash photography kit which I have based on my own personal experience……..
A Speed light
Even though your camera may have its own internal pop up flash an external speed light is essential if you want to get serious about your flash photography. The camera’s pop up flash is low powered, uncontrollable and of a fixed direction which makes it pretty useless.
The speed lights I use for my flash photography comprise Godox Ving speed lights and, in my opinion, they are great units that show you don’t need to spend a fortune on a speed light to get one that is worth having.
Quick review of the Godox Ving
All things considered the Godox Ving is an exceptional speed light and one that is well worth buying. The Godox Ving is a powerful flash that will kick out a lot of light when it’s needed however when you only need a slight kiss of light to lift the shadows you can dial the flash power right down and reign it in as necessary. With the Godox Ving you have total control over the intensity of the light and in several increments.
Even though the Godox Ving is packed full of features, including full manual, HSS and TTL modes, it is simple to operate and user friendly. All the buttons and controls are in logical places and you don’t have to go delving deep in to the internal menus to change the key settings either. Using the Godox Ving is a quick and simple affair.
The build quality of the Godox Ving speed lights is very good, and whilst they are not built to the same specification as the top branded speed lights they are strong and sturdy. I have owned my Godox Ving speed lights for three years now, and over that time I have given them a lot of abuse but and they still work as good today as the day I first got them. Yep, I can personally vouch for the durability of the Godox Ving speed lights and I am very impressed in this respect.
All things considered the Godox Ving should cost several times more than it actually does, and I am stunned it is so cheap. To put it in to perspective I managed to buy four Godox Ving speed lights for less than the cost of one Canon 600EX, and considerably less too.
Flash triggers increases the scope of what you can do with your flash and opens up a whole new world of flash photography opportunities. Flash triggers allow you to take your speed light off camera which allows for creative, moody and atmospheric ways to light the subject.
There are situations when taking the speed light off camera is the only wat to get the shot, and with some flash triggers you can take advantage of these situations. Flash triggers are a great bit of flash kit and something all photographers should have in their bag.
The flash triggers I use are Yongnuo 622s and I have to say they are an excellent bit of kit.
Quick review of the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers
The Yongnuo 622 flash triggers have been around for a few years now, and whilst this may make them old technology the fact they have stood the test of time clearly demonstrates they work and don’t need fixing.
I have to admit that the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers feel a little cheap and nasty, and that they won’t last very long but if you look after them and treat them with a bit of respect (like you should do with all photography equipment) they will provide years of trouble free service. I have owned my Yongnuo 622 flash triggers for several years now and they are still going strong, work as they should and don’t suffer from misfires. There’s no denying that the top end flash triggers like the Pocket Wizards are more robust, but then the Pocket Wizards are also several times more expensive.
The Yongnuo 622 flash triggers are basic, have no bells and whistles are simple to use. Simply turn them on, set the channel, seat the speed light and they’re good to go. Now then you can’t get more basic than that! I have found my Yongnuo 622 flash triggers very reliable and fire the speed light when I want them to and at no other times.
Yongnuo 622 flash triggers work with all speed lights so it doesn’t matter whether you use a Canon speed light, a Nikon speed light, a Metz speed light or any other brand you can use Yongnuo flash triggers. Using these flash triggers also allows you to mix and match your flash equipment so you can use any camera/speed light combination.
The Yongnuo 622 flash triggers are cheap as chips and several times cheaper than many other brands of flash trigger out there. Despite the exceptionally low cost these flash triggers work exceptionally well and they are top value for money too.
The light emitted by speed lights and external flashes can be a little harsh and unflattering, therefore light modifiers are essential to soften the light to create more balanced and pleasing flash photos. If you tap the phrase “light modifiers” in to a search engine you will be confronted with thousands of hits comprising hundreds of different solutions. The range of light modifiers is vast, and choosing the most suitable can be a real headache.
Over the years I have bought several different light modifiers, some of which have been excellent and very useful and some of which were a total waste of money. The light modifiers I currently use are basic and comprise a mini speed light mounted soft box when I use the speed light on the camera’s hot shoe (at events, corporate functions and parties). I use shoot through brollies when I am inside and a large soft box for outside shots. Other than these I don’t use any other light modifiers.
If you want to use your speed light off camera a light stand is essential. When choosing a light stand I recommend choosing the sturdiest one you can find, even if your speed light doesn’t require it. Once you start adding large soft boxes and brollies a sturdy light stand is required to ensure your flash equipment doesn’t end up on the floor!
A weighty light stand is particularly important when shooting outside, so if you intend to use your speed light off camera in the big outdoors you need a light stand that will cope. Even if you only intend shooting indoors I would still recommend a heavy light stand as lighter ones are very easy to knock over, and if you shoot portraits of kids and/or animals the chances of a “topple” is and quite substantially.
One thing I have learned about light modifiers is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on them, and I learned this the hard way. In the past I have spent (scratch that – wasted) loads of money on expensive light modifiers from manufacturers claiming their product is the “must have” and will “result in the most pleasing photos”. I now use, and find I get the best results with, my shoot through brollies (which were dirt cheap), my soft box (which is a budget brand and not a top end brand, such as a Westcott) and my mini soft box (which is again a generic un-branded and cheap product).
In my experience the above is all you need to get decent flash photos, and you can do it all at a reasonable price too.
CLASS - Mid-range/ GUIDE NUMBER (35mm @ ISO 100 in metres) – 31m/RECYCLE TIME (FULL POWER IN SECONDS) – 3 seconds/ MANUAL POWER SETTINGS – 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 and 1/64/ TTL MODE - Yes/ STROBOSCOPIC MODE - No/ HSS MODE - Yes/ FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION - -3EV to +3EV/ OPTICAL SLAVE - No/ OTHER TRIGGER – Wireless TTL slave/ SWIVEL FLASH HEAD - -180 degrees to +90 degrees/ FLASH HEAD TILT – 0 to +90 degrees/ MANUAL ZOOM HEAD - (14) 24 - 105/ AUTO ZOOM HEAD - (14) 24 - 105/ BOUNCE CARD - No/ LCD DISPAY - Yes/ BATTERIES REQUIRED – 4AA/ APPROX PRICE ($USD/£GBP) - $320 / £220
CLASS – Mid-range/ GUIDE NUMBER (35mm @ ISO 100 in metres) – 27m/ RECYCLE TIME (FULL POWER IN SECONDS) – 3 seconds/ MANUAL POWER SETTINGS - 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/64 (1/16 and 1/32 N/A)/ TTL MODE - Yes/ STROBOSCOPIC MODE - No/ HSS MODE – No/ FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION - No/ OPTICAL SLAVE - No/ OTHER TRIGGER – Wireless TTL slave/ SWIVEL FLASH HEAD - -180 degrees to + 120 degrees/ FLASH HEAD TILT – 0 to +90 degrees/ MANUAL ZOOM HEAD - No/ AUTO ZOOM HEAD – (12) 24 - 105/ BOUNCE CARD - Yes/ LCD DISPAY - No/ BATTERIES REQUIRED – 4AA/ APPROX PRICE ($USD/£GBP) - $220 / £140
The Metz 44 is available for Canon cameras from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
The Metz 44 is available for Nikon cameras from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
SIGMA 610 EF
CLASS – Mid-range/ GUIDE NUMBER (35mm @ ISO 100 in metres) – 39m / RECYCLE TIME (FULL POWER IN SECONDS) – 3 seconds/ MANUAL POWER SETTINGS - /1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32,1/64 and 1/128 /TTL MODE - Yes/ STROBOSCOPIC MODE - Yes/ HSS MODE - No/ FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION - -5EV - +5EV/ OPTICAL SLAVE – Yes. 2 modes. / OTHER TRIGGER – Wireless TTL slave mode/ SWIVEL FLASH HEAD - -180 degrees to +90 degrees/ FLASH HEAD TILT - -7 degrees to +90 degrees/ MANUAL ZOOM HEAD - (18) 24 - 105/ AUTO ZOOM HEAD - (18) 24 - 105/ BOUNCE CARD - Yes/ LCD DISPAY - Yes/ BATTERIES REQUIRED – 4AA/ APPROX PRICE ($USD/£GBP) - $80 / £70
CLASS – Mid-range/ GUIDE NUMBER (35mm @ ISO 100 in metres) – 36m / RECYCLE TIME (FULL POWER IN SECONDS) – 7 seconds/ MANUAL POWER SETTINGS - /1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32,1/64 and 1/128 TTL MODE - Yes/ STROBOSCOPIC MODE - Yes/ HSS MODE - Yes/ FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION - -3EV - +1EV/ OPTICAL SLAVE – Yes/ OTHER TRIGGER – Wireless TTL slave mode/ SWIVEL FLASH HEAD - -180 degrees to +90 degrees/ FLASH HEAD TILT - -7 degrees to +90 degrees/ MANUAL ZOOM HEAD – (17) 24 - 105/ AUTO ZOOM HEAD – (17) 24 - 105/ BOUNCE CARD - Yes/ LCD DISPAY - Yes/ BATTERIES REQUIRED – 4AA/APPROX PRICE ($USD/£GBP) - $255 / £140
Smaller flashes for mirrorless or CSC cameras
Guide number (35mm @ ISO 100) – 27m / Focal length coverage – 24mm – 105mm / Recycling time – 0.1 – 4 secs/ ETTL - Yes / EV compensation on flash - +/- 2EV / Slave - Yes / Vertical tilt – 0 – 90 degrees/ Horizontal tilt – 0 – 180 degrees/ Dimensions – 100mm x 50mm x 50mm/ Approx price $USD/£GBP - $230/£155/ Power – 4xAA batteries
The Nissin i40 is available for Canon cameras fromAdorama,Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
The Nissin i40 is available for Nikon cameras from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
Metz 26 (full review here)
GUIDE NUMBER (35MM @ ISO 100) – 36M/ FOCAL LENGTH COVERAGE – 24MM – 105MM/ RECYCLING TIME – 0.1 – 2.2 SECS/ ETTL - YES/ EV COMPENSATION ON FLASH - +/- 3EV/ SLAVE - YES/ VERTICAL TILT – 0 – 90 DEGREES/ HORIZONTAL TILT – 0 – 90 DEGREES/ DIMENSIONS – 140MM X 62MM X 38MM/ APPROX PRICE $USD/£GBP - $85/£70/ POWER – 2XAA BATTERIES
The Godox TT350 is available for Canon cameras from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
The Godox TT350 is available for Nikon cameras from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
Canon 270EX (full review here)
Guide number (35mm @ ISO 100) – 26m/ Focal length coverage – 24mm – 85mm/ Recycling time – 0.3 – 8 secs/ ETTL - Yes/ EV compensation on flash - +/- 3EV/ Slave - Yes/ Vertical tilt – 0 – 890 degrees/ Horizontal tilt - None/ Dimensions – 63mm x 85mm x 85mm/ Approx price $USD/£GBP - $140/£75/ Power – 2xAAA batteries
GUIDE NUMBER (35MM @ ISO 100) – 27M/ FOCAL LENGTH COVERAGE – 28MM – 50MM/ RECYCLING TIME – 0.1 – 4 SECS/ ETTL - YES/ EV COMPENSATION ON FLASH - NO/ SLAVE - YES/ VERTICAL TILT – 0 – 90 DEGREES/ HORIZONTAL TILT - NO/ DIMENSIONS – 77MM X 66MM X 65MM/ APPROX PRICE $USD/£GBP - $170/£180/ POWER – 2XAA BATTERIES
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