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Budget Off-camera Flash Photography

Off-camera flash photography is a simple technique that involves using speedlites off camera rather than the traditional method of firing a speedlite via a camera’s hotshoe.  Budget Off-camera flash photography is now even possible due to growing technology and the availability of cheap Chinese wireless speedlites.

Contrary to what people believe, Off-camera flash photography is actually one of the most effective and widely practiced form of flash photography. In the this article, we shall see how to get right into off-camera flash photography even on a skinny budget.

Budget Off-camera Flash Photography: What you really need

In order to jump into off-camera flash photography, there are a couple of items you need, but do not worry, they are inexpensive and can be found everywhere.

A speedlite:

Now this is the most important piece of item you may need for your budget off-camera flash photography adventure. Get an affordable wireless speedlite like the Godox TT520 II (has inbuilt wireless radio triggering) which is N12 000 (approx. 43 dollars). My sincere advice: get a speedlite with wireless radio triggering capability.

Flash softbox: 

This item is also important due to its ability to disperse light, thereby making it soft, which is exactly what we want. There are different sizes of soft box but since we want to do things on a budget, we are going to stick with 50cm x 50cm or 60cm x 60cm. This costs N6000 to N7000 (approx. 23 dollars).

A reflective umbrella or a shoot through umbrella can also be used in place of a softbox diffuser.

Shoot through umbrella

You can decide to forgo a softbox but but you will end up with harsh and unflattering lighting. Something like this is.

Harsh light from bare bulb flash

Off-camera flash. No softbox or diffusion. Notice how harsh and strong the light is on the model’s face

Everything you need to know about your camera’s lens

Flash bracket:

This piece ofequipment allows the speedlite to be mounted (inserted into the softbox). You can get an L-type or S-type bracket. With any of these aforementioned brackets, you can mount the diffuser (plus the attached speedlite) on a flash stand.

The flash bracket is very important, you just cannot do without it. Just look at it as a mechanical assistant that grabs hold of your flash for you whilst you are meddling with your ISO and shutter speed.

Wireless Speedlite Radio Triggers/Receiver 

Budget Off-camera Flash Photography remote wireless trigger on

 

Remember I said to get a speedlite with inbuilt wireless radio receiver? Now if you did, then you wouldn’t need a dedicated wireless radio receiver (but you sure do need a transmitter). Wireless radio triggers and receivers are also important items on the list of our budget off-camera flash photography items list.

A wireless radio trigger is a piece of device mounted on the hotshoe of a camera which transmits signals to a receiver which is mounted on the bottom of a speedlite (no need for a receiver if your flash has inbuilt wireless receiver). With this set up, the speedlite goes off once the shutter bottom is pressed. The trigger sends a radio signal to the the receiver once the trigger is pressed and then the speedlite goes BOOM! This is the the most effective and the most convenient way to trigger a speedlite off camera. You can get a transmitter plus two receivers for N5000 (approx 17dollars).

Remember, you need a receiver (will be mounted on the bottom of the speedlite) if your flash lacks inbuilt wireless radio receiver.

Optical Flash Trigger:  No wireless radio trigger thingy? No problem! Now this is even a cheaper alternative for the whole wireless radio triggering thing, although not as effective as wireless radio triggers.

In order to use this method, you need to set your speedlite to S2 slave mode, then pop up your camera’s inbuilt flash. Now, make sure the speedlite’s sensor is placed in the direction of your camera’s pop up flash. This will cause the speedlite to go off once it sees the beam of light from your pop up camera. Interesting stuff right?

This method works very well in studio environment where there are no confusing lighting. Outdoors, it performs poorly and even worst once there is a generous amount of distance between the camera and the speedlite.

ABC of photography

Flash Stand: If you are going to be doing a lot of studio work, then you can’t do without this equipment. If outdoor photo shoot is your thing and you have an assistant, then trust me, you do not need this. The flash stand is an equipment that you mount your flash bracket, speedlite and softbox diffuser on. This equipment costs about N7000 (approx. 21 dollars).

Conclusion

With this simple budget off-camera flash photography set up, you can’t help but to churn out amazing results after amazing results. The whole essence of this set up is to control shadow and over power the harsh sunlight with our very own little powerful set up.

Budget Off-camera flash no diffuser used

All we need to do is place this set up some distance away from the subject we want to photograph, adjust our camera and the speedlite’s flash power and blast away!

For HSS and other important speedlite terminology, READ THIS

Read this article for a better understanding of speedlites

 

 

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