DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash

Started Sep 3, 2013 | Questions
eldreams
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DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
Sep 3, 2013

I put my thread/question in the wrong area, so I’ve moved it. Here is my previous thread:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52074577

Quick Summary: Last year I knew nothing about DSLR’s in general and I cornered myself into starting off with the newly released Nikon D3200 Kit, which at the time I thought newest = greatest and the greater the MP the better…. which is not the case in this field. I would have been better off with an older body and better lens. Long story short, I’m just getting into flash photography and want to be able to do on/off camera flash.

Here’s what I have:

· Nikon D3200

· Kit Lens 18-55MM

· Own 35MM 1.8 Nikkor

· Can borrow an array of lenses (professional/prime).

Here is what I’m looking for:

· A Flash Unit- I’d like to do off camera flash AFP (HSS) outdoors in the sun (Need to go above 1/200’s) mostly for portraits.

· I can only afford the very bare minimum/basics – budget ~ 250$.

Here’s what I’ve narrowed down to:

· Camera: I’m thinking of trying to sell most of what I got to put towards Nikon D7000 (Used/Body only).

· Flash: Yongnuo YN568EX – Cheap/affordable and supports HSS.

· Diffusing Umbrella: Shoot-through – white (Brand unknown at this point)

· Umbrella Swivel: I’m sure I can find one of these on ebay.

· Trigger/Sync Kit – Do I need these, or can I use my camera built-in flash/commander features and still have off-camera AFP/HSS?

· Light Stand – Something that is compact, durable, though cheap (in price).

To conclude, can someone please help with a basic AFP/HSS or alternative setup to get portraits in the sun with one flash (not counting the built in camera flash)?

Please use basic terminology/explanations/links to products if possible (I’m still new).

Thank You,

ANSWER:
Klaus dk
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to eldreams, Sep 3, 2013

If you are going to work only outdoors in the sun, perhaps a scrim and a reflector is what you need?
What is the matter with your D3200 (... apart from not being a Canon:-))? Most people consider it a good camera AFAIK.

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eldreams
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to Klaus dk, Sep 3, 2013

Klaus dk wrote:

If you are going to work only outdoors in the sun, perhaps a scrim and a reflector is what you need?
What is the matter with your D3200 (... apart from not being a Canon:-))? Most people consider it a good camera AFAIK.

I'm mostly entry level hobbyist at this point - so I could be working inside, but for this shoot = senior pictures (luckily family) which they want outside on a bright day (I'm aiming for the morning/later afternoon). I thought about a scrim/reflector, which I'll still get to practice bouncing - though I don't have an assistant to hold (can you use a stand?). I might also be using a longer lens: 70-200 2.8, though I'm still experimenting - might go with a fixed prime lens.  I also have yet to purchase a flash - any recommendations?

Nikon D3200 is great, which I may have to settle with for now (this shoot), though it's missing some more of the features i'm looking for such as the shutter speed capability to 1/8000, commander mode, CLS Supported, among other small things such as 100% frame coverage and a lot more focus points (39 versus 11 on D3200). The reason why I'm aiming for HSS is specifically for the Bokeh background effect in the sun, so I need to have a large aperture (capable of opening up to 1.8-2.8).  I don't want the background to be blown out, nor do I want my subject to be dark.

Nikon D3200 was great because of the MP's and my lens budget...I was able to crop and still keep sharpness/crisp images. It's a small lightweight camera. I just need a tad bit more that I can grow a little in.

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ilta
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to eldreams, Sep 3, 2013

Generally if you buy super-cheap you're going to end up replacing it and just getting real equipment later.

That isn't to say you should get the MOST expensive thing, but recognize that you are pretty much just tossing money away. That might be ok for a hobbyist with a single project, but in the long run if you find you like doing photography, you'll be kicking yourself in a year.

Additionally, balancing white values between the sun and a speedlite flash is never fun, especially if you aren't already experienced with good editing software, and/or you are using a cheap flash that won't always put out a consistent color profile.

Your best bet in this situation is indeed a 5-in-1 reflector, a stand, and an arm to hold the reflector. A sandbag isn't a bad idea if you live in a windy area, but you can also just use a backpack or a water jug if you want to cut a few corners.

You can get respectable equipment in your budget (check out Cowboy Studio) that will last you for a reasonable time, and if and when you are ready to move on to a quality flash (either a monolight or a good speedlite), you'll have the stand already, and a reflector is always a good tool to have on hand.

ADDITIONALLY, with a speedlight you'll need to fire the flash to see the effect it has on the picture, and you'll need to run over to it and dial it down if the sun ducks behind a cloud. A reflector (a) adjusts as the sun goes behind a cloud, since it's just pointing a percentage of the light at your model, and (b) serves as a "modeling" light. No guesswork! Just point it at the model and look to see if she's well lit, too bright, etc.

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ilta
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to ilta, Sep 3, 2013

For instance:

http://www.cowboystudio.com/product_p/8051-5in1reflector-h2258.htm

The larger the better, generally speaking, but if you're only doing head-and-shoulders you can get away with a smaller reflector.

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eldreams
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to ilta, Sep 3, 2013

ilta wrote:

For instance:

http://www.cowboystudio.com/product_p/8051-5in1reflector-h2258.htm

The larger the better, generally speaking, but if you're only doing head-and-shoulders you can get away with a smaller reflector.

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www.isaiahtpd.info

Thanks for the information, i'll take this into consideration. Also this site looks fairly decent in pricing - thanks! Any recommendation on flash/speedlight? I've been looking into Yongnuo specifically Yongnuo YN568EX or 568EXII (If there is one for Nikon), so far every review/youtube video I've seen is giving it good reviews for its price.  I treat my equipment with a lot of care, and as long as I use the right batteries etc I think I can get this flash to last me some time - what do you think?

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ilta
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to eldreams, Sep 3, 2013

eldreams wrote:

ilta wrote:

For instance:

http://www.cowboystudio.com/product_p/8051-5in1reflector-h2258.htm

The larger the better, generally speaking, but if you're only doing head-and-shoulders you can get away with a smaller reflector.

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www.isaiahtpd.info

Thanks for the information, i'll take this into consideration. Also this site looks fairly decent in pricing - thanks! Any recommendation on flash/speedlight? I've been looking into Yongnuo specifically Yongnuo YN568EX or 568EXII (If there is one for Nikon), so far every review/youtube video I've seen is giving it good reviews for its price. I treat my equipment with a lot of care, and as long as I use the right batteries etc I think I can get this flash to last me some time - what do you think?

It's not so much that cheap equipment will fall apart or break very quickly (though that is a concern), it's more that it's generally of low quality in terms of results or features. In other words, even if something doesn't fall apart you'll get frustrated with its limitations and want to replace it. Better to skip the step where you waste $100+ on something you hate after 6 months and replace after 12.

For instance, if you use a Canon flash with a Canon lens on a Canon body, there are all kinds of neat ways that the various parts talk to one another and communicate important things like zoom, exposure, focus info, etc. The whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. I honestly don't know from Nikon equipment but I'd be very, very surprised if they didn't have a similar system.

The principal concern for off-brand camera flashes (aside from durability, which is true for an off-brand anything) would be color consistency and recycle time. The "good review for its price" is meaningless if it doesn't ultimately produce images that are consistently exposed, or you have to wait around all day while it recharges. And I'd be suspicious of trusting just anyone with a YouTube account -- not because they are necessarily shills, but because they might just not be experienced enough to ask the right questions.

I mean, if you are dead set on cheap flashes then get them! Maybe it'll work out -- certainly there are plenty of ways to cut corners in this field, and there is no shortage of people who will tell you to buy expensive gear you don't really need. But for something as integral to a good kit as a flash unit  I'd really only trust the top-named brands: Canon, Nikon, Minolta, MAYBE Tamron, if they even make flashes.

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Wafin
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to ilta, Sep 3, 2013

I wanted to chime in on my yongnuo 568 ex II flash with yn22c triggers.  Probably the best combination you can use for cheap and I do shoot on a canon body.

My one complaint with the 568 is that it is a lot slower to recharge than my 600ex-rt flash.  Overheats in about 40 shots at full power where my 600 is still going.

There is a limit to the zoom feature to about 105mm so if you wanted a more focused flash you'll have to bring it in closer.

No place for an external battery pack to speed up the recharge time.

Also consider when doing outdoor sunlight photography you should really be looking at 2 or 3 flash untis to over power the sun if need be.

With the flash triggers I can control the flash from the canon menus but I can't speak for Nikon bodies.

If you don't take back to back shots with the flash at full power you will be fine...but like other people have said, you'll end up upgrading to the better stuff eventually.  $200 now or an extra $200 in a month or so when you realize there are features on the Nikon flashes that you want.

Good luck!

Matthew

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eldreams
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to Wafin, Sep 3, 2013

Wafin wrote:

I wanted to chime in on my yongnuo 568 ex II flash with yn22c triggers. Probably the best combination you can use for cheap and I do shoot on a canon body.

My one complaint with the 568 is that it is a lot slower to recharge than my 600ex-rt flash. Overheats in about 40 shots at full power where my 600 is still going.

There is a limit to the zoom feature to about 105mm so if you wanted a more focused flash you'll have to bring it in closer.

No place for an external battery pack to speed up the recharge time.

Also consider when doing outdoor sunlight photography you should really be looking at 2 or 3 flash untis to over power the sun if need be.

With the flash triggers I can control the flash from the canon menus but I can't speak for Nikon bodies.

If you don't take back to back shots with the flash at full power you will be fine...but like other people have said, you'll end up upgrading to the better stuff eventually. $200 now or an extra $200 in a month or so when you realize there are features on the Nikon flashes that you want.

Good luck!

Matthew

I really appreciate you taking the time to chime in!  At this time, I'm still new and on a strict budget - I wish I could buy 2 flashes now that would be ultimate, but unfortunately this is not an option unless I can find 2 under 250.  My thought was to buy the 568EX get what I can out of it, and eventually (maybe next year) buy a Nikon/better flash and use the 568EX as my 2nd flash.  I won't be taking back to back shots or speed-shooting, and my client in this case is family so I'm not worried about taking time to figure all this out (composition/lighting/etc).  I think after these portraits and maybe next year I'll be in a better position budget-wise.  I'm also ok with manually setting the flash settings if need-be.

Hmmm...

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Wafin
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to eldreams, Sep 3, 2013

eldreams wrote:

Wafin wrote:

I wanted to chime in on my yongnuo 568 ex II flash with yn22c triggers. Probably the best combination you can use for cheap and I do shoot on a canon body.

My one complaint with the 568 is that it is a lot slower to recharge than my 600ex-rt flash. Overheats in about 40 shots at full power where my 600 is still going.

There is a limit to the zoom feature to about 105mm so if you wanted a more focused flash you'll have to bring it in closer.

No place for an external battery pack to speed up the recharge time.

Also consider when doing outdoor sunlight photography you should really be looking at 2 or 3 flash untis to over power the sun if need be.

With the flash triggers I can control the flash from the canon menus but I can't speak for Nikon bodies.

If you don't take back to back shots with the flash at full power you will be fine...but like other people have said, you'll end up upgrading to the better stuff eventually. $200 now or an extra $200 in a month or so when you realize there are features on the Nikon flashes that you want.

Good luck!

Matthew

I really appreciate you taking the time to chime in! At this time, I'm still new and on a strict budget - I wish I could buy 2 flashes now that would be ultimate, but unfortunately this is not an option unless I can find 2 under 250. My thought was to buy the 568EX get what I can out of it, and eventually (maybe next year) buy a Nikon/better flash and use the 568EX as my 2nd flash. I won't be taking back to back shots or speed-shooting, and my client in this case is family so I'm not worried about taking time to figure all this out (composition/lighting/etc). I think after these portraits and maybe next year I'll be in a better position budget-wise. I'm also ok with manually setting the flash settings if need-be.

Hmmm...

It is always a good thing to pace yourself.  In my case I was doing the same until people wanted me to take more and more shots for them.  Renting the extra flashes for the photoshoots was an option but having to rent them 2-3 times a year got pretty expensive.  I think I should've charged more.

I'd recommend starting slowly to learn the in and outs but you'll find that you will learn a ton just by getting out and practicing and then coming back here to ask questions or check on youtube for your answers.  If possible, join a group of friends and borrow their lights if they are willing to do that if that would allow you to save up money.

Now if I could just figure out that inverse square law of light. 

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Sailor Blue
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to eldreams, Sep 4, 2013

KISS

Seriously, keep it simple and you won't have as many problems. Any new piece of equipment takes time to learn to use well. The more you try to pile in at once the harder it is to learn.

You have a pretty good camera now so I wouldn't recommend buying a new camera until you get some other equipment and start running into limits of your current camera.

$250 is a pretty limited budget and I don't see you getting all you think you want for that price. In fact, the one thing not in your budget just might be the most important thing to get once you get a good flash, and that is a good flash meter.

My suggestion is that you start with three things; a set of reflectors, a flash, and a friend to hold the reflector.  Get reflectors in the 40" range since they are big enough for a waist up portrait.

Try to take the photos in the hour before sunset and the hour after sunset. The light is slightly better in the first half hour of that time period, best through the next hour (the golden hour), then deteriorates the last half hour.

You can add flash as needed but you should be aware that the light changes quickly during this time period.  You need a set of CTO gels for the golden hour.  I only use fractional CTO gels since going to a full CTO gel makes peoples skin pumpkin colored.

With a friend to hold the reflectors (one of which should be translucent white so it can also be used a a scrim) you can shoot in the terrible lighting of mid-day and make some great photos during the golden hour.

The simple way to use the flash is to bounce it off a silver or white reflector your friend is holding. If you can get it off-camera then even better. You can use the off-camera flash as is or by bouncing it.

A set of YN-622s will get the flash off-camera and keep HHS capability but you can control an off-camera with the D3200 built-in flash so save them for a future purchase.

I mentioned a flash meter. Anytime you want to make life easy as a photographer when shooting with ambient light, and especially with mixed ambient and flash, then use a good incident light/flash meter. I recommend the Sekonic meters since they will give you a % flash reading with mixed lighting. The L-358 and the new L-479 are what I recommend unless you are doing a lot of scenics where a spot meter is very useful.

These tutorials are based on using a Sekonic meter but there is a lot of info on how to do mixed ambient and flash portraiture.

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part 1 — Portraiture Using Available Light

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part 2 — Better Environmental Portraiture

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Blending Flash & Ambient Light for Beautiful Outdoor Portraits

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part 3 — Studio Portrait Lighting

The second leg of portraiture is posing. This is a great tutorial on posing for portraits.

Sekonic - Frank Dispensa - Classical Posing and Portrait Lighting

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eldreams
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to Sailor Blue, Sep 4, 2013

Sailor Blue wrote:

KISS

Seriously, keep it simple and you won't have as many problems. Any new piece of equipment takes time to learn to use well. The more you try to pile in at once the harder it is to learn.

You have a pretty good camera now so I wouldn't recommend buying a new camera until you get some other equipment and start running into limits of your current camera.

$250 is a pretty limited budget and I don't see you getting all you think you want for that price. In fact, the one thing not in your budget just might be the most important thing to get once you get a good flash, and that is a good flash meter.

My suggestion is that you start with three things; a set of reflectors, a flash, and a friend to hold the reflector. Get reflectors in the 40" range since they are big enough for a waist up portrait.

Try to take the photos in the hour before sunset and the hour after sunset. The light is slightly better in the first half hour of that time period, best through the next hour (the golden hour), then deteriorates the last half hour.

You can add flash as needed but you should be aware that the light changes quickly during this time period. You need a set of CTO gels for the golden hour. I only use fractional CTO gels since going to a full CTO gel makes peoples skin pumpkin colored.

With a friend to hold the reflectors (one of which should be translucent white so it can also be used a a scrim) you can shoot in the terrible lighting of mid-day and make some great photos during the golden hour.

The simple way to use the flash is to bounce it off a silver or white reflector your friend is holding. If you can get it off-camera then even better. You can use the off-camera flash as is or by bouncing it.

A set of YN-622s will get the flash off-camera and keep HHS capability but you can control an off-camera with the D3200 built-in flash so save them for a future purchase.

I mentioned a flash meter. Anytime you want to make life easy as a photographer when shooting with ambient light, and especially with mixed ambient and flash, then use a good incident light/flash meter. I recommend the Sekonic meters since they will give you a % flash reading with mixed lighting. The L-358 and the new L-479 are what I recommend unless you are doing a lot of scenics where a spot meter is very useful.

These tutorials are based on using a Sekonic meter but there is a lot of info on how to do mixed ambient and flash portraiture.

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part 1 — Portraiture Using Available Light

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part 2 — Better Environmental Portraiture

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Blending Flash & Ambient Light for Beautiful Outdoor Portraits

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part 3 — Studio Portrait Lighting

The second leg of portraiture is posing. This is a great tutorial on posing for portraits.

Sekonic - Frank Dispensa - Classical Posing and Portrait Lighting

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Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.

Perfect response! I believe I'm thinking way too much into this due to my lack of experience.

I think I'm going to start off simple with

  • Yongnuo YN568EX Flash for Nikon 169.99usd
  • 5 in 1 Reflector Kit 35.00usd
  • Either a long sync cord ~20$ or Yongnuo YN622N i-TTL pair of triggers for $80.99

At most I think this is around 286.00.  Flash meter is too expensive right now. I'll use shade/angles/bounce/rim lighting to accomplish what I can for now and at the same time learn until I know what I NEED not WANT for next year.  What do you guys think about this?

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KCook
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to eldreams, Sep 4, 2013

Sync cord makes sense only for a flash attached to the camera via a bracket, or a fixed in cement studio setup (such as yearbook headshots).  Otherwise RF triggers are a whole lot better.

Kelly

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Duncan C
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HSS = major drop in guide number
In reply to eldreams, Sep 4, 2013

You loose ~ a couple of stops as soon as HSS activates, and then the flash power goes down from there as shutterspeed increases.

HSS runs out of steam fast when you try to compete with the sun.

Direct sunlight is a bear no matter what you do. I agree with the others that a scrim/reflector is a better way to go. OR shoot in open shade.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: DSLR Newbie Guidance - First Flash
In reply to eldreams, Sep 5, 2013

eldreams wrote:

Sailor Blue wrote:

KISS

<snip>

Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.

Perfect response! I believe I'm thinking way too much into this due to my lack of experience.

I think I'm going to start off simple with

  • Yongnuo YN568EX Flash for Nikon 169.99usd
  • 5 in 1 Reflector Kit 35.00usd
  • Either a long sync cord ~20$ or Yongnuo YN622N i-TTL pair of triggers for $80.99

At most I think this is around 286.00. Flash meter is too expensive right now. I'll use shade/angles/bounce/rim lighting to accomplish what I can for now and at the same time learn until I know what I NEED not WANT for next year. What do you guys think about this?

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Sync cords are a huge tripping hazard, and if someone trips over a cord the result can be that your camera gets ripped out of your hands.  The results aren't pretty.  Go with RF triggers.

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