Beginner's request: Gear for off-camera flash...

HipShotHipShot Posts: 514Member
I'm ready to begin learning off-camera flash technique. Portraits at remote sites. I'm overwhelmed by all the gear choices.

When I purchase gear, I want equipment that I won't "grow out of", but rather build around.

I assume I should start with a good off-camera flash unit, proper wireless transmitter and receiver, light stand, and softbox. Battery pack?

I've been looking at Alienbees. They seem well-thought-of. A few have said the Einstein is less prone to color shifting. I've also looked at Phottix.

I currently shoot a Nikon D3S and a Nikon D600. I have an SB600.

Looking forward to this endeavor. I'm much obliged for your input.

(If I missed this info in a discussion search I did, feel free to delete this post, moderators. Thanks.)


  • sportsport Posts: 120Member
    First decide if you want to go speedlights or strobes. I started out using a SB600 (first wired and then wireless). When I jumped to strobes, I decided on Alienbees. They work well for me. Einstein's would have been better but I couldn't afford them.

    As far as wireless is concerned, I use pocketwizard and really like it. Everything works together: SU800 as commander, strobes (alienbees or SB600's), and Sekonic light meter. There are lots of good options so read as much as you can find.

    I recommend looking at strobist for starting out you off camera journey. Lots of great information. Also look at Joe McNally and Mike Hagen for information. Finally, here is a link to the strobist page on Nikon CLS vs PocketWizard:

    Good luck!
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 388Member
    I use pocket wizards, Sekonic light meter, Elinchrom Quadra RX and RX2400 along with two SB 600 and SB 910. I started with the SB and a couple of umbrellas for them and worked my way up to the Elinchrom Quadra RX for portable work and the RX2400 when I need a lot of light and really big light modifiers. But without spending time with the SB and the umbrellas I would have never gained sufficient experience to work with the bigger gear with the advanced light modifiers.

    Start small and learn much you will, lighting Jedi.

    Denver Shooter
  • HipShotHipShot Posts: 514Member
    Thank you for replying, @sport. @DenverShooter.

    I like the idea of combining the SU-800 with radio triggering. This system looks attractive:
  • sportsport Posts: 120Member
    I have that same setup. The SU-800 works great and it's nice for me if I bounce between different cameras. The lighting setup always works the same. Before you jump into the PocketWizard setup, you should just use the built in wireless that comes built in to the D600 and the SB-600 to get familiar with CLS. You have to understand that anyways as the wireless just changes how the communication is done. Read "The Nikon Creative Lighting System" by Mike Hagan for the best info on using CLS. It is a complicated tool but also very powerful.
  • HipShotHipShot Posts: 514Member
    Will do, @sport .

    What's a good brand of sturdy, "hopefully-only-buy-once" light stand brand. And softbox brand?
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 388Member
    I have been quite happy with the Manfrotto 1004BAC stands that I have.

    Denver Shooter
  • HipShotHipShot Posts: 514Member
    Those look sturdy and clever, @DenverShooter . The article about the flash receiver mentioned those brass spigots, which these have.
  • sportsport Posts: 120Member
    I like Manfrotto for light stands also. B&H or Adorama have a section in Lighting for mounting hardware. Amazon usually has good deals as well.

    Since we are getting into this deeper, here are some other things I carry in my light bag:

    - Tether Tools Rock Solid Mini-ProClamps - I use these with the Vello below for clamping a cold shoe mount to anything round
    - Vello CS-20 - Its a plastic cold shoe mount. Use this for mounting speedlights or PocketWizard transceivers.
    - Harbor Freight mini clamps - Cheap and nice for quickly clamping stuff down like cords or backgrounds
    - Velcro cable ties - great for keeping cords managed
  • HipShotHipShot Posts: 514Member

    I read that a sand bag for your light stand is good to have on breezy days.

    I like Harbor Freight for non-critical stuff!
  • HipShotHipShot Posts: 514Member
    Totally overwhelmed by info on handheld light meters. Would like to buy just one that will serve me for a long time. Doesn’t have to radio control the flash for me, but want to be able to use it in studio and in the field for portraiture. What do you use / recommend?
  • Capt_SpauldingCapt_Spaulding Posts: 588Member
    I'm slowly getting into the lighting game myself. I took the strobist plunge. Based on David Hobby's recommendation I picked up a Lumapro 180, one of their 8' light stands and an inexpensive 42" combo umbrella. Added a photix non ttl transmitter receiver set. Played with this for a while, recreating some of the shots Hobby laid out on the website and decided it was fun.

    I've since picked up a couple of Godox TT685 speedlights, a 10' air cushioned LP lightstand, another 43" umbrella, and a softside case big enough to carry most of this stuff. So far I'm triggering the slave strobes optically. It's more than a little windy here, so I'll be investing in some sandbags sooner rather than later. Truth be told, the wind will still wreak havoc so I'm working on, bribing, begging, my wife to play the role of assistant. We'll see where that goes. So far, I'm using the SSWAG (semi scientific wild ass guess) method of determining lighting ratios.

    Have to say though, it's a lot of fun.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,427Moderator
    I've used the Sekonic L-308S ( )
    with good results, it's a good basic light meter.
    Always learning.
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