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  1. #1
    janeqb's Avatar
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    Default Whatís the ideal set-up for off-camera flash - on a low budget?

    Hi everyone,

    Iím trying to put together my first studio and would love some advice! After much consideration, Iíve chosen to replace my Nikon SB-24 flash with either the SB-800 or SB-900 instead of buying monolights for studio. That will come later when I can afford it! It only makes sense to replace my flash!!

    A little about me and my plansÖ I use a Nikon D90. I want to start doing more portraiture work (babies, families, seniors) and possibly weddings etc. I have a bat mitzvah and a group of women to photograph outdoors, scheduled in the spring. My first paying shoots! I have done several weddings for friends and family as gifts and now want to go professionally (just as a second photographer for now). My set-up will be on the small side, since there is little space in my home. I want it to be portable and easy to transport. I have a 32Ē round 5-in-1 reflector.

    What would be the ideal set-up with a manual flash and either one of the flashes mentioned above for what I want to do? Will this combo work okay for starting out? Should I focus on only one flash for now? Iím so confused when researching the SB-800 vs SB-900. I hear raves about both. I feel Iíd need the power of the SB-900 more, but understand itís a bit more complicated to understand (newbie here) and very cumbersome due to its size. People seem very happy with the SB-800! What would work best for my needs?

    Also, Iím confused between purchasing a softbox or an umbrella and what size? Is it a personal preference bet. a softbox and unbrella? If so, I just can't decide!

    Thanks so much for taking the time! I hope that someone can give me some insight. I know very little about lighting and am researching as much as I can right now! I will also read strobist: Lighting 101 as soon as I can. I've been told it will explain things very well. Thanks again.

    jane

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    I think going "strobist" is the best choice on a budget, and I don't know of any setup that is easier to transport.

    Instead of replacing your SB-24, why not just add the SB-800 to it? That way, you'll have a two light setup with a reflector. You can do quite a bit with that gear.

    From my experience, which is still relatively limited compared to others', I have not noticed any big difference in the quality of light between a softbox and umbrella; they both produce wonderfully soft light. Currently, I use umbrellas for my lights, but I would like to eventually get a softbox. If you're on a budget, umbrellas would be your best bet; they are (generally) cheaper than softboxes.

    I hope this helps.
    Last edited by natek313; 01-13-2010 at 04:56 PM.
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    Thanks so much! I was hoping to use both. I meant replacing my SB-24, as replacing my flash unit that I use with my camera when out and about. I was hoping to keep it and use it with the new flash when doing studio work. Thanks! That answered that question.

    I've seen studios that use a softbox AND an umbrella. Would this work well, or stick with two of the same thing?

    Thanks for your help!

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    Why get rid of the SB-24, and why get the SB-800 or SB-900? Either of those lights is going to cost you ~$450. For that price you could get a pair of the Alien Bees studio lights: AlienBees: Illuminating the Galaxy with Professional Photographic Lighting Equipment. (or just get one and have a lot left over for modifiers). If the power is what you're after, then the AB's are the way to go. If portability is what you're after then I'd consider getting another or the old Nikon flash or a third party manual flash. You're money will go a lot further towards modifiers, stands, remote triggers, or even additional flashes.

    Oh, and I generally prefer the quality of light from a big softbox over an umbrella, but that's really a matter of taste.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dakwegmo View Post
    Why get rid of the SB-24, and why get the SB-800 or SB-900? Either of those lights is going to cost you ~$450. For that price you could get a pair of the Alien Bees studio lights: AlienBees: Illuminating the Galaxy with Professional Photographic Lighting Equipment. (or just get one and have a lot left over for modifiers). If the power is what you're after, then the AB's are the way to go. If portability is what you're after then I'd consider getting another or the old Nikon flash or a third party manual flash. You're money will go a lot further towards modifiers, stands, remote triggers, or even additional flashes.

    Oh, and I generally prefer the quality of light from a big softbox over an umbrella, but that's really a matter of taste.
    Hi, I'm sorry. I should have worded it better. As I said above, I'd replace the SB-24 with a newer speedlight for regular shooting when a flash is needed. Ultimately, I need a new flash. Mine shorts out from time to time and I can only use it in manual on my D90. It's 20 years old. Time for a new flash anyway, so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone.

    I've been looking a great deal at those AlienBees!! My decision was made because I need a new flash, pretty much. I see your point, and I struggled with this for a while until I decided to buy a new flash over the AlienBees. Hopefully, one day, I'll have enough money and I'll be able to do it the other way.

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    If you need another speedlight, though, why not get another SB-24 or even an SB-600? You said you're on a budget, so why dump all of that extra money into Nikon's high end flash? For my money, the difference between the SB-900 and the SB-600 isn't worth the difference in price.
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    Quote Originally Posted by janeqb View Post
    I've seen studios that use a softbox AND an umbrella. Would this work well, or stick with two of the same thing?
    Yes, that will work just fine. The last shoot I was at, the photographer was using a softbox along with two umbrellas, and he was getting nice light. I know you only have two lights, but there is still nothing stopping you from using both the umbrella and softbox concurrently.
    Last edited by natek313; 01-13-2010 at 08:55 PM.
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    If you liked the performance of your sb24 back in the day, then the sb-600 will be perfect. If you found the sb-24 wasn't powerful enough then maybe the sb-900. The difference is price is a bit over double ($220 to $460). For the 200+ dollardifference you'd have your sb-600 for "normal" flash duty and enough $$ left over for a radio triggers, a light stand, shoe mount clamp, umbrella, extra batteries...

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    I'm with Neil van Niekirk. If you want a flash for on-camera use, getting the top-of-the-line is going to pay off. I have a 430EX and a 580EX, and it's no contest which one is more useful for me in any bounce situation--the 580EX hands-down, because of the added power and 360° swivel. I've used the 430EX on-camera and been caught short. And the additional features an SB-900 will give you--something as simple as SU-4 mode--can make a huge difference in terms of usability.

    A lot of folks don't get the 360° swivel thing. But if you're using the flash on-camera to bounce, swivel and tilt are how you choose the direction of your light--you basically aim the flashhead at a bounce surface where you would have put the softbox if you had one. Having only 270° swivel removes 25% of your options right off the bat. If you want the light to come from behind your right shoulder, how are you going to get that? What if the only wall you have to bounce off is on your right? If you portrait shoot by flipping the camera counter-clockwise (and you aren't using a flash bracket), how the hell are you going to position the light at all? On a stand, this is no big deal, most of your directional decisions are done with the umbrella swivel and stand orientation. But on-camera you're stuck with what the flashhead can do. Only the SB-900 in the Nikon speedlight lineup does the 360° swivel. The SB-800 has to have its neck wrung, and that could possibly destroy the flash.

    Back to the OP's question: chances are good that what you want for a budget Strobist setup is two stands, two umbrellas & umbrella swivels, and cheap radio triggers like the Cactus V4 or Yong Nuo RF-602s: a 1Tx/2Rx set. Then figure out what light modifiers you want and whether you want to try DIYing them or purchasing them.

    For on-camera, I recommend reading van Niekirk's articles on his black foamie thing.
    I shoot with a Canon 5DmkII, 50D, and S90, and Pansonic GX-7. flickr stream and equipment list

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    Quote Originally Posted by zona5101 View Post
    If you liked the performance of your sb24 back in the day, then the sb-600 will be perfect. If you found the sb-24 wasn't powerful enough then maybe the sb-900. The difference is price is a bit over double ($220 to $460). For the 200+ dollardifference you'd have your sb-600 for "normal" flash duty and enough $$ left over for a radio triggers, a light stand, shoe mount clamp, umbrella, extra batteries...
    Look at the guide numbers between flashes.. The sb-24 is actually a quite powerful flash from what I have been reading... The SB24- SB28 are close to the same power..


    Nikon sb-24 at 100iso in m
    24mm GN=30
    28mm GN=32
    35mm GN=36
    50mm GN=42
    70mm GN=47
    85mm GN=50

    Nikon SB-600 at 100iso in m
    14 mm GN 11
    24mm GN 20
    35mm GN 22
    85mm GN 30.5
    Cameras: Canon 60D, Canon 20D, 35mm Nikon FM2n
    Canon EF lens used : 50mm f1.8, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.5, 75-300mm f/4.5-5, 85mm f/1.8
    Tamron Lens: 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF)
    Strobist: Canon 580EX II , "Vivitar DF400MZ, Nikon SB-24, LP-160, YN568EX"
    http://flickr.com/photos/bhursey | http://brianhurseyphotography.com

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