First off camera flash setup...

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by duncanapple, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. duncanapple macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008
    Hi all -

    As a follow up to my flash question a few days ago, I am now buying some accessories for my new 580EXII flash unit.

    My first question is opinions on my gear I am thinking of buying (use would be for portraits, mostly indoor, some outdoor) - I figured an inexpensive stand, a 33 inch shoot through umbrella, and the hotshoe adapter/umbrella holder. See links - any tips? ie does the stand look decent, do I want a shoot through vs reflective umbrella, etc?

    My second question is on the cord. I am going to do Pocket Wizards later, but for cost reasons and wanting to get going immediately, I am going to use a cord for now. I do want to retain TTL though, so from what I have read I need to use the type that hooks onto the hotshoe correct? The (is it called) "PC" sync port will not retain TTL right? If not, then my question becomes where can I find a long/cheap TTL cord? Most seem to only be a couple feet long and pretty expensive? Ideally I would have at least 10-15 feet, and I was hoping this wasn't going to be more that $20-30 tops but I may be way off base. Also, if using the hotshoe type cord, is the hotshoe stand adapter the correct type?

    Thanks in advance for the help! Sorry for the 20 questions!
  2. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    I like the convertible Photoflex; you get a shoot-through and reflective umbrella in one.

    You can pay a LOT for a light stand, just as you can pay a lot for a tripod. In my experience, the rule is the same; you get a lot more stability in a more expensive light stand, but whether you need the added stability is another question. The one you've linked to is fine, but it's only 6' tall; I'd prefer a 10' tall stand like this one, which will be much more versatile.

    The bracket is fine.

    As for off-camera cables, Flash Zebra make them for MUCH less than the Canon OC-E3.

    24 feet -
    16 feet -
    3 feet -

    The 16 or 24 foot solutions will give you adequate reach and allow you to retain ETTL. That said, I would advise you to begin to learn about manual flash; ETTL is wonderful, and I use it quite a bit (especially with my new FlexTT5/MiniTT1 setup), but when you've got a static scene, manual flash can provide more consistent flash exposure control.
  3. duncanapple thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008
    Thanks a lot for the links and advice - I like the idea of the convertible umbrella and it really isn't too much more. Also glad to see the longer cord... Though I am surprised on the prices for all the off camera flash solutions, be it wired or wireless. Seems there isn't much competition in that space?

    Thanks again!
  4. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    a shoot-through umbrella will yield more diffuse light, but costs more power than a reflective umbrella. you might as well get a convertible one so you have both options while you decide which you'll actually use.

    I suggest you get a ~45" umbrella. you can always make a big umbrella "smaller" by adjusting the zoom setting or distance from the flash to the umbrella, but not the other way around.

    for lightstands, pay attention to the footprint if it's listed. wider is better. you shouldn't need to spend a whole lot on it, though - a flash isn't that heavy, and if you use it outdoors with an umbrella or softbox, you'll likely be putting sandbags or other weights on it anyway.

    you will also need an umbrella swivel, which you can also get off of flashzebra.

    as for's expensive to keep ETTL. if you go manual, wired setups are very cheap. if you don't need to keep HSS, ETTL isn't that important.
  5. firestarter macrumors 603


    Dec 31, 2002
    Green and pleasant land
    I recommend the Manfrotto Nano stand. I have a couple of these, and they're a great trade-off between stability, extended size and folded size. They're small and light enough to put in a backpack - which is very useful.

    Don't get a real budget stand. They're a pain in the ass to use, and a false economy that someone with a 5DII and 35f1.4 shouldn't be considering.

    What are you planning to use as a fill light? You really need some light to fill shadows on the face, and the cheapest way to do this is to use a reflector.

    Personally, I think the minimum lighting kit is one flash with an umbrella, two light stands, a collapsible reflector and a reflector holder:

    I also don't think you need TTL for off camera lighting. You get much more stable results by using manual settings - and it's really easy to dial in manual power on the 580. I would just use a simple sync cord if I were you - most Canons have sync outputs (or you can get a simple hotshoe adaptor) and the 580II has a sync input.

    Take a look at the Elinchrom skyport system instead of pocket wizards. I have a few sets of these, and they've been really reliable (and half the price):
  6. duncanapple thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008

    I have read about reflectors - I planned on using them but didn't mention them b/c i know they can be as simple as posterboard... I may buy one from B&H however. Fortunately most of this stuff isn't that expensive.

    I will also consider the better stand. I don't think I need anything super expensive - I can understand a high quality camera tripod - 1 mm of movement can mess up a photo. But if my light moves a fraction, I can't imagine the impact is as huge? On the other hand I don't want to see my $400 flash crash to the ground, nor rebuy a stand every year or two.

    Lastly, you guys have me thinking about the ETTL thing. Long term I am getting PWs, so spending a lot on the cable pains me (can you tell I hate to rebuy things?). What do I need to do manual flash? How do you know what power setting to put it on? Is this a trial an error thing until you get the exposure you are looking for? I realize I just asked a question that probably entirely relies on an "it depends" sorta answer that would take pages of explanation... but I guess I am asking if I need light meters or other equipment? I am a complete noob at this as you may have guessed. I plan to do my homework but I want to have what I need to play around/practice as I learn...

    Thanks again -
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Just get a cheap PC sync cord. You don't want TTL in a studio because you want to take a test exposue and adjust from there and TTL will be constant and you'll go nuts. This is actually good news as it means you canuse much less expensive equipment and actually get better result.

    Manual flash is easy. Set f-stop to guide number over flash to subject distance. But you will never know the guide number of an improvided bounce flash so just take a test exposure and then look at the histogram display on the back of the camera. It will tell you how many stops adjustment you need. Only have to do this once per set up. Or you can "cheat" and buy a hand held flash meter these make it dead easy to set up multiple flashes and get the ratios right. You measure each one in turn. But the histogram display is a very good meter.

    As for the type of defuser, you will soon enough want "all of the above". So you may as well get the lowest price one first. Aim the flash backwards at a large white foam core board and use the board as a bounce. It you have an old projection screen that is even better. The photoflex softboxes are good. I think umbrellas are to uneven and directiononal.
  8. Serge88 macrumors member


    May 5, 2008
    If you have a 580EX, just get a speedlite ST-E2 and go wireless and keep ETTL.

  9. duncanapple thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008
    Okay, so I ordered my gear - I went with the Manfrotto 9 foot stand, the impact umbrella holder/hotshoe adapter, and a shoot through/convertible 45' umbrella. I also ordered the 16 foot pc sync cord from flashzebra.

    Since I will be in manual flash, someone help me out.... how do I know how to set the power of the flash? ChrisA, I only sort of followed your last post. I assume I set an aperture I want (say f/9) and the fastest shutter I can my camera can sync to with the flash (either 200 or 250) and ISO 100, and then just chimp away at the flash power until I get the desired effect?

    Semi unrelated, shutter speed combined with flash are still a mystery to me - I guess when you use flash you are mostly just setting a shutter speed based on the effect you want (blurred vs frozen motion) and not ness the exposure (how light/dark picture is) since the flash is determining that? Not sure if I explained what I mean very well...
  10. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    If you set you shutter speed to the sync speed you will be using the most flash power and need to go to the flash to turn down the light if you want darker (assuming ISO is already at minimum). Personally I normally setup for proper exposure at 125 so I can go a stop either way with shutter speed to adjust the light (or change aperture).

    The 530 has a guide number of 190. Assuming a direct flash at a distance of 12', if you want f/9, you want quarter power (190/12 gives you ~f/16, you want f/9 (~two stops lower), so reduce the light output by two stops).

    If you bounce the flash into an umbrella you will likely drop about 1 to 2 stop2, so you would need half to full power with an umbrella in this situation.

    Things are also complicated by the zooming head, but this should get you close. Use the histogram to fix things from there.

    As for shutter speed vs flash, you can use shutter speed to blur the image, or you can use it to adjust the exposure without having to fiddle with the flash all the time (for instance if the subject backs away from the flash, a little longer shutter speed will brighten up the exposure again). Also, as you are shooting with a speedlight, longer shutter speeds will require less flash power and allow the flash to recycle faster (this applies with strobes too, but they normally have so much more power and a much shorter recycle time so it's not as big a deal).

    Hope this helps (and I hope I got it right).

    Good luck.
  11. mtbdudex macrumors 68000


    Aug 28, 2007
    SE Michigan
    I've been looking at off camera cord.
    Are you aware of anybody bought 24' cord, and modified the cord via male/female plugs (cut the stock cord, re-fit with plugs via solder) so you'd have say a 5' cord for hand held off camera shooting and then a 24' cord for longer off camera flash? (plug in the extra length cord you cut to make a 5' cord) Would save from buying 2 cords. I'm a DIY person so hoping others have done this.
  12. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    I can't remember how many wires are in the TTL cord, but I think it is 5 or 6. For plugs you would probably be looking at Lemo or XLR5 (neither of which are very cheap and lemo is small so soldering the plugs is a b!tch). You would probably be looking at ~$25 for the plugs, plus your time to put it together.

    If my flash is more than 3' away from my camera, the chances are I am trying to do something where TTL will fail miserably (tricky lighting where I want to make the decisions, not have the camera constantly fiddling with the light output).
  13. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    with a manual flash, f-stop controls flash exposure and shutter speed controls ambient exposure.

    there is much information you can read here

    this page has guide numbers for the 580ex at different zoom settings. you can use it to estimate the power you need. light modifiers can take off 1 or more stops of power (~1 stop with a silver umbrella, 2+ with a shoot-through...), so correct your estimates accordingly. the best thing to do is buy a light meter.
  14. Bunsen macrumors member

    May 1, 2007
    Orlando FL
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Strobist blog yet. They have a great series of articles about the fundamentals of off camera lighting theory, techniques, and equipment. It definitely helped me go from being tethered to my 580ex with a TTL cord, to shooting with 3 wireless flashes on manual. It's not too difficult, you just need to understand how everything works together.
  15. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    Here is a site that contains guide numbers for the 580EX (mkI and mkII are the same) and the 430EXII, at different ISOs, zoom settings, with various gels and diffusers, and used alone or in combination.

    You can download the guy's spreadsheet here.

    Print it off, stick it in your camera bag, and use it when you need it.
  16. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    I just had to post this link in here for you to look at. This photographer posts incredibly nice images of models at the forum below (his name is Kent Robertson). If you want to see some amazing use of light, look at the photos he posts at the Glamor and Nude Forum (by the way, it's a very tasteful forum with enough rules to keep it so). Look for the name Kent Robertson:

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