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Budget One Flash Photography Studio Setup

Updated on February 10, 2013
"Taken on a Sony a200, lit by a lamp and a flashgun fired wirelessly."
"Taken on a Sony a200, lit by a lamp and a flashgun fired wirelessly." | Source

A D-SLR, a speedlight and a few accessories can go a long way in increasing your creative possibilities. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get great looking shots within or without an actual studio.

What do you need?

D-SLR: An entry level D-SLR is good enough. You may find that with certain entry levels, such as the Rebels up to at least the Canon T3i doesn’t have an inbuilt remote system for firing flashguns. Nonetheless, there are ways to get around this.

Speedlight: A flashgun that can operate in TTL mode is great. It’s ideal to use the same model speedlight like that of your camera. But even if that’s not the case, you can just make sure that the speedlight of your choice can work with your camera and also in TTL mode.

Mini Softbox: Softboxes make the direct light from a speedlight softer. It diffuses it somewhat so that your photographs will look more natural, and if you may, make your subjects more flattering.

TTL Flash Sync Cable/Off Shoe Flash Sync Cable - or - Transmitter/Receiver: When you’re using you flash off-camera, you may need an additional accessory. If your camera has an inbuilt remote connection to the speedlight, then you may not need these. However, the transmitter/receiver duo is the best to use. Alternatively, you could work with a long flash sync cable. The cord can get in the way, but if you're dealing with making headshots and close-up potraits, it should be fine.

Light Stand/Tripod: You could hold the flashgun or ask your assistant to hold it for you. But it may be more convenient to attach the flashgun to a light stand. If you don’t have a light stand, you can use an alternative -- a tripod, or even a self standing monopod. Light stands are still better than all alternatives, because with a light stand you’ll be able to raise the flashgun to great heights so that light can disperse downwards which resembles natural light.

Off Camera Flash Techniques

Use your flashgun off camera to increase your creativity. Either use a flash sync cable/cord, hot shoe sync cord or wireless receiver/transmitter. The cheapest way to use your flashgun off camera is to use a cable/cord. You could hold the camera with your right hand while you hold the flashgun with the left hand. Raise, lower and change the angle of the flashgun as you want so as to create different effects.

Use a Light Stand or Tripod

If you’re using a transmitter/receiver, or if you use a long enough off shoe sync cord, then you can use the flashgun on a light stand or tripod. This way you won’t need an assistant, and you can use both hands to hold the camera. The transmitter/receiver is better to use, because you’ll be free to move about while the flash exposure on the subject remains the same. This creates awesome possibilities. You can add a diffuser, softbox or even an umbrella to the stationary flashgun.

One Flash Studio Setup

If you are using a small studio, you may add to your setup a reflector at the opposite side to the flashgun. There are 5 basic setups for a one flash studio, which Mark Wallace from Adorama expertly demonstrates and clearly explains.

Wireless Triggers -- transmitters, receiver

CowboyStudio NPT-04 4 Channel Wireless Trigger for External Speelights with 1 Trigger and 2 Receivers (NPT-04+extra receiver)
CowboyStudio NPT-04 4 Channel Wireless Trigger for External Speelights with 1 Trigger and 2 Receivers (NPT-04+extra receiver)

Inexpensive alternative to pocket wizards. Use them to fire your flash simultaneously and wirelessly with your shutter release.


Small Studio Flash Tips

Practice Using Flashgun Off Camera

If you’re used to the popup flash of a camera, then it may be time to graduate and use a more powerful and sophisticated flashgun or speedlight. There are operational differences among brands, but the principles of lighting and setup are the same. Practice one flash photography indoors, outdoors or in a small studio when you can. You will start to see drastic changes in your work -- much to your pleasure.


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