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Basic Flash equipment
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:27 am    Post subject: Basic Flash equipment Reply with quote

First forget that built in flash unit on your camera. It is a waste of time and useless for anything. Its a gimmick and selling point for the real amateur photographer who is only interested in snapshots

Here is my list of the minimum basic equipment essentials to use flash well and get pro results.

2 manual flash units. Power should always be the first requirement when buying a flash unit. You can always cut the power down but you can never add to it. If you want to take flash pictures using balanced light, good lighting set ups and most essential getting the light off your camera you need power. With power you can bounce your light off reflectors, use fill flash outdoors in sunlight or even throw a bit of light into the corner of that dark church.
Two units? Ok you can get away with one to start with but with a minimum of two you are giving yourself the chance to do real lighting.
Extension flash leads. You will always want to use off camera flash for that you need an extension lead or two. Have a three or four metre one and another really long 10 metre one.
Slave Units. The little photo cells which attach to a flash gun. The easiest and quickest ones to use are the sort that go onto the flash hot shoe. Always buy two. Even if you only have one extra flash gun. one always gets lost.
Clamps. The easiest, cheapest, most versatile way of setting up off camera flash is to use big clamps that you can buy from any DIY store. Drill a hole at the end of one handle and fit a tripod size bolt (1/4inch) and then a little ball and socket head. Attach the flash unit with a shoe to tripod adaptor. Clamps fit in your bag and there is always somewhere convenient to fix them to. Its a bit more practical than walking around with a lighting stand.
Diffusers. A diffuser can serve two purposes. It can diffuse, soften and spread your light and it can also be used to control the power output of a flash unit. Use white nylon type material. The more you fold it the less light passes through. Also included with Diffusers are.
Reflectors. They can already be found in most shooting situations. White walls, white furniture, tablecloths or an old press trick the white shirt of the guy next to you. For extra versatility carry your own reflector. This can be one of the Lasolite folding ones or just suitable white material. I have few Gold Emergency blankets which make great reflectors. They are huge and can be pinned to a wall to make a whole wall of light. For more control you should also have some non reflecting material (Black non reflectors) these stop unwanted light getting onto your picture. For example you may be shooting through a diffuser which is in front of the camera. You would then want to stop the light bouncing back towards the camera.
Snoot. A Snot is just something to direct your light. Make snoots with pieces of black card to fit around you flash head. Light can then be concentrated to where you want it. Do a few experiments by pointing the flash at a light coloured wall and examining the effect of length of Snoot and distance.
For fixing reflectors etc here and there carry a few small clamps.
Gels. A gel is a it of coloured plastic that is used to change a lights colour temperature. If you shoot indoors with the rooms artificial light you need to balance the daylight output of your flash unit. If you dont you will get colour casts which even Photoshop cant remove. To balance flash to tungsten bulbs you need an orange gel. Balancing to fluorescent tubes isnt so easy. A green gel often does the trick but fluorescents change their colour temperature as they cycle. Get gels from theatre supply shops. Camera shops dont seem to be interested in selling them. I get mine from the local Art Collage where they teach how to do it properly.

All the above should fit into a very small bag and with that you virtually have your basic studio. Add a third flash when you are ready and there isnt much you cant do.
Practice light set ups with the digital camera and you will soon get the hang of it.

If you think the idea of bits of material, cardboard and clamps sounds a bit rougth. Think about it. The professional commercial photographer has to use well made equipment that costs a lot of money, not because it does the job better, but because he has to show to his clients he is a professional who uses the best. He often has to have an assistant to carry the stuff about and fix it up but this is all part of the show and what his client is paying for. I know many of them just wish they could clamp the old gun up there bounce it off the wall and get the photo but the client has to see all the equipment he is helping to pay for!

As far as I am concerned it is pretty well imposable to do macro without flash
This was a single Vivitar 283 flash set up with clamp off camera and set to f8 auto. Lens was the Tamron Sp 35-80 with a small extention tube.

Last edited by Rob Leslie on Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:07 pm; edited 1 time in total

PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your presentation, Rob.
I would call this at least "semi-professional"!

My flash equipment sounds like this:

- Cullmann D-4500 C (E-TTL flash gun for my Canon EOS)
- Carena MDC 400-2 (manual and auto flash gun, compatible to Nikon, Ricoh, Minolta, Leica, Pentax, Canon, Fuji and X-hot shoes)
- Hama remote flash trigger (to control the Carena flash gun as a second flash unit)
- home made soft bouncer (to fit the Cullmann 4500)
- Walimex 70x120 cm oval reflector (with exchangeable covers: silver, gold, black, white, soft)

That's about it. And I have to admit, even this is more than I often use...


PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That looks like a good start. Just add a clamp and an orange gel ASAP

We might not always us it. My very basics are a Vivitar 283, stoffen diffuser, clamp and extn lead. One of my 283 units is permanently fixed to a good clamp which is the usual spring loaded affair but also has a nice screw (Vice like) tightening grip.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, a clamp makes sense. It is not easy to shoot and at the same tome hold the reflector. Wink

I forgot to agree to you about the built-in flash.

Before I got my Cullmann flash gun, I had though that the built-in flash would be enough.
But after I got the Culllmann, I have never used the built-in flash again!
(Well, maybe just in a kind of emergency...)