…Or at least what I have done to get where I am

So when I started dabbling with lighting in my photography (other than the sun) I went with the portable strobist approach using small speedlights and setting them up on stands with umbrellas etc. Going with this approach is nice because your equipment is small and portable, and if you go with the remote option ala Pocket Wizard as I did you don’t have wires running everywhere and with Pocket Wizards, your flashes are pretty much guaranteed to go off every-time the shutter is released. With my strobist gear I can easily just throw it all into a bag and take off for the weekend. This allows me to almost always have extra lighting accessable if needed.

I love my strobist setup but there are a few things you have to overcome and or decide upon.

  • Cost: it is true that in doing the speedlight strobist approach you can cut cost drastically by what you buy. But one thing I’ve noticed especially with photography gear is “you get what you pay for”.
    • Pocket Wizards are expensive… Depending on how many lights you want to fire you need one Pocket Wizard for each flash plus one for your camera. Each Pocket Wizard is 170 bucks, so to fire off only one flash you need two Pocket Wizards which is 340 bucks. I’ve got three of them and wish I had more. So I could have gotten a cheaper remote setup. But who wants a system that sometimes just doesn’t work? It is a lot of money but in the long run it is worth it if you are planing on using them a lot.
    • There are a lot of different small strobe flashes to choose from. What’s the best for your money? In my opinion going all manual is the way to go for shooting images as well as with flashes. In the long run this will give you better results, you will learn more and you will become a better photographer.
    • Parts, Parts and more Parts! You need a lot of gadgets and things to do this and that. It does get expensive buying all the gadgets and, well you don’t have to have them but that’s partly what makes it so fun to me, being able to experiment with different tools.

Ok, so how can I be a wise shopper and save money?

  • Buy used: Craigslist and Ebay. Flashes are a good place to start shopping cheap. You can get pretty decent flashes for pretty cheap. Especially if you are going manual. That’s where a lot of extra costs come in are the ones that are auto. Compare spending 500 dollars to 100. Now multiply those numbers a couple times if you want more that one flash. Go ahead and buy the older flashes from the film days too. They usually work just fine. Be warned though, putting some of the older flashes on your hot shoe on your camera could possibly fry your camera. BUT, if you are shooting flashing remotely as I do it will not matter because they never actually are connected to the camera. The safest thing to do however is to look into the flash you are interested in and see what people have to say about it and whether it is safe to connect to your particular camera. I personally use a canon 40D camera and presently have two canon 540 EZ flashes. They safely will work on my hot-shoe and I only paid 100 to 150 bucks apiece. The 540 EZ is basically the same flash as the 580 EX that is the top of the line canon flash today but is an older flash not made for digital so you can’t use any auto flash settings with them.
  • Should I Buy camera’s and lens used? I keep my eye on them a lot and don’t see to many great deals. Good digital cameras and lens seem to hold their value. In this case if you aren’t going to get a very good deal I would probably just buy your lens and camera’s new. You also don’t know exactly what you are getting. The holds true as well to buying flashes too, but I would rather risk spending 100 to 150 dollars on a used flash but not 500 + on a lens or camera. I did however buy my camera used, because I knew the guy personally and know that he treats his equipment like his children (as he should!)

Next I will be talking studio lighting… It sounds like a big step but it’s not all the bad. In fact it’s terrific!

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