need a good flash for a wedding

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by JonD25, Nov 26, 2007.

  1. JonD25 macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2006
    I was hired to do my first wedding gig. Unfortunately, gear is limited since I'm still pretty new to this. I have a Canon Rebel XT, and I think I need a better flash than the one on the body. However, money is also limited. So, with that, can anyone suggest a good external flash in the $150 or less range that will work well with weddings and portraits? Or is $150 not even enough for it to be worth it? I may be able to go up. I just don't want to blow my entire paycheck from this gig on a single flash when I don't even use flash all that much.
  2. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Sigma EF-500 DG ($150) or EF-530 DG ($170) for E-TTL , or Sunpak 373 ($80) for non-TTL automatic flash. I have the Sigma's bigger brother, EF-500 DG Super, which is around $220.
  3. M@lew macrumors 68000


    Nov 18, 2006
    Melbourne, Australia
    The Canon 430ex and 580ex II work best if you really want your camera to "talk" to the flash.
  4. mpw Guest

    Jun 18, 2004
    I found this one;
    but for a wedding you'll probably be after something more formal, with a morning coat rather than plain mac. Do you know if the bridal party are in any particular colour or theme?
  5. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    You might want to make sure they want you using a flash. A lot of brides don't want the distraction - so you buy some good fast glass, and shoot natural light.

    The reception is a different matter though.
  6. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Can you also tell him where to get either of these for $150? If so, I'd sure like to pick up a couple. :p
  7. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    This sounds like you might want to rent a big flash so you can bounce it off the high ceilings found in most wedding type buildings. Maybe you could get away with a smaller flash, that you could use for other things later, if you scout out the locations(s) and find that the rooms involved are smallish and painted a light color. Practice a lot first. Beware of Bridezilla. You are brave.

    I got that little 400 flash for my D40 and find that the bounce feature is very useful for all sorts of indoor use and for outside fill. The exposure is really handled very well in auto mode. I presume that Canon has similar units.
  8. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    It's unfortunate that Canon does not produce the equivalent of Nikon's SB-400, a great flash. I was the `official' (yet unpaid) wedding photographer at a friend's wedding last week and it worked perfectly. I could have afforded the SB-600, but I can literally take the SB-400 everywhere. :)
  9. JonD25 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2006
    Awesome. Thanks. I'll look in to those. I think I remember hearing good things about Sigma for cheaper flashes.

    Like Cave Man said, it's a little bit out of my range. But I'll keep my eyes open for any good used deals maybe. It's not that I won't have that money available really, it's just that I'm not sure I want to spend that much on something I honestly don't use that much. Maybe it's because the flash on the Canon body sucks so much, I just am really turned off by it, or maybe it's just because I don't really know how to use one, I just never use flash. And $250 is a lot of money to spend on something I don't even use.

    Ha ha haaaaaaaaa....


    Yeah you're right. I did speak with the bride a bit (I'm good friends with the couple), and she said that the lighting might be kinda dim during the ceremony. However, I didn't ask her if flash during the ceremony would be distracting, but I imagine it would be! So I probably won't even use it during the actual ceremony. But there will be plenty of time before and after that I may need it. And believe me, if I had the money to get some really nice, fast glass, I would. All I have is the kit 18-55mm and a Canon 75-300mm, and I think 4.0 is the biggest aperture I can get on that.

    Unless there's one out there in the $150 range that you could suggest....
  10. JonD25 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2006
    Hmm, I'll look into renting too. I'll have to find a place that'll do it. I'm sure I can, though it might be a bit of a drive. How much does renting gear usually cost?

    As for Bridezilla, I think I don't have anything to worry about. She's a friend of mine first, second I was very clear to her about the fact that this is my first wedding, and also she is a very laid back person. I mean, if I completely effed it up, she might get angry, but I don't think she'd be the type to completely freak out at tiny little details that aren't perfect. But thanks for the heads up :)
  11. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Bouncing: the wedding I attended was in a church, no matter what kind of flash you use, it's not strong enough to illuminate the church. But the puny small flash was enough to illuminate the bride and the groom from about 5 m away.

    Be discrete. My friends appreciated that they didn't really notice that I was taking pictures. I was hiding behind and leaning at columns mainly to stabilize my camera. As where you are allowed to go (I was told during the ceremony that I was allowed to move freely! ;)).

    As for lenses, I think it might be prudent to rent something like a 2.8/70-200 zoom and/or 50/80 mm lenses. You will need the larger aperture.
  12. glennp macrumors member

    Aug 7, 2006
    Washington, DC
    The Vivitar 285HV and Sunpak 373 are good inexpensive automatic flashes (~ $90) that will put out a lot of light but are non E-TTL so they won't "talk" to your camera. You won't have the niceities of high speed sync, Infrared Autofocus Assist and such, but you do have a pretty darn good exposure system at a very low price.

    They are pretty similar flashes. On the Vivitar the head zooms but doesn't swivel. That may be a hinderance to your bounce flash photography, since it wouldn't allow you to be in portrait orientation and bounce off the ceiling without a bracket. The Sunpak 383 Super bounces AND swivels, but doesn't zoom.

    The Vivitar is a bit of a legend on Strobist:
  13. JonD25 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2006
    I found a place that will rent me a Canon 550EX for $15 a day and a bunch of different lenses. A 50mm F1.4 USM is $20 a day (but with a whopping $4000 deposit!) or a 70-200mm F2.8 L for $40 a day. If I rented all of that, that's $75 a day.... and I might need it for two days, which would put me at my $150.

    Do you guys think this would be worth it? I should probably tell you that the $150 is coming from this actual job, and I'm only getting paid $300 total (well, unless I find it to be a bit more work with the post processing, but since we're good friends, they know I won't try and cheat them). So, I'm sure I'd get some awesome photos with this gear, but only $150 to show for it. Would I be better off buying a flash and trying to make do with the lenses I have so at least I have a flash and $150 to show? I'm really tempted to rent though, because I want to use all that sweet gear.
  14. avincent52 macrumors regular

    Nov 6, 2007
    Whatever kind of flash you end up with, here's what you need to buy with it.
    A Stofen Omni bounce.

    Attach the Stofen to a flash with a tilting head at a 45 degree angle and you get beautiful soft balanced coverage that will cover a wide angle lens from corner to corner if need be.

    I know, it's like $20 for a silly little plastic thing but it was by far the best money I ever spent on camera gear. The chief shooter at a newspaper turned me on to it and with this and a Vivitar 283 using a relatively slow shutter speed he was able to get amazing natural coverage in the worst possible settings. (This was back in the film days, so you'll have to dial in the settings for your camera.)

    The problem with bouncing off a celiling is that every ceiling is different, some aren't white, some are too high. The stofen takes the old bounce-off-an-index card trick to another level.

    They even have one for a pop up flash, but it's hard to know if you'll get enough juice. Might be worth it for the $ though.

  15. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    I originally proposed a big flash, but here is maybe a better idea.

    Do you really want to lug around a bunch of lenses and actually change them in a fast-paced wedding scenario? You have to take one off, find a place to put it down, get the next lens, put it on, do something with the first lens...

    Will even big, fast expensive lenses be big and fast and expensive enough to actually take photos of moving people in a dim environment? You will have wide-open lenses and no depth of field. Plan on a lot of photos where only a slice of the subject is in focus. Hope it is the right slice. Hard to do.

    Check out a good wide-to-medium zoom with image stabilization. My experience is with the pretty cheap Nikon VR 55-200 (not the 18-200). I am surprised at how very good the results are in dim light. That would mean renting only one lens and no flash (or does Canon do this in the body, rather than in the lens? Then you would need to rent the camera instead). You might find this so good that you will want to save up for one.

    Anyway, perhaps you could try one right in the store as they usually have dim light and people moving about. See if this will work for you.
  16. JonD25 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2006
    Wow, the difference with and without is pretty drastic. I'll look into that. Thanks!

    True. I looked at the web site of the place I was thinking of renting from, and they also have a Canon 75-300mm IS USM for $25 a day. It's basically the same 75-300mm lens I already own, but it's the IS version, which is the Canon equivalent to what you experienced with the Nikon (IS standing for image stabilization). Supposedly you can get a full 2 f-stops faster handheld than without it.

    Decisions decisions! Now I don't know what I want to do at all.
  17. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    I think Chuck Gardner has instructions on his site on how to make a great bounce/diffuser out of craft foam for a few bucks. You might want to investigate that.
  18. seany916 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2006
    Southern California
    Agree with vincent about the Sto-Fen, but our results aren't nearly as dramatic. About the same as a curled index card in my opinion, but slightly more diffused.

    Just don't get suckered into buying a "Fong Dong". Some people swear by them, but they look ridiculous and distract from the actual subjects (bride/groom).

    If using a tele of any kind indoors...
    tripod or mono. Definitely.
  19. JonD25 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2006
    So, I've been thinking about this for a while. Here's what I'm thinking...

    Buy: 50mm f/1.8 lens

    Rent/borrow: 580EX II Flash

    Sure, it doesn't cover every possible base I might need... but still being semi-amateur, there's no way I can expect to do much better. The 50mm f/1.8 will cover low light conditions with no flash and any creative shots I might come up with that would benefit from a smaller DOP, but sacrifice zooming. I'll still have the kit 18-55mm and the 75-300mm for my zooming needs. Also, this way I'll be able to have something to show for the money I spend that I'll actually use a lot, whereas renting all my gear I have nothing but photos to show for it, and buying a flash I might not actually use all that much.

    Thoughts? Better ideas?
  20. canonwire macrumors member


    Jun 25, 2007
    North Carolina
    I'd recommend it, if you want great photos. f/4 is not really sufficient IMO for an indoor venue but get to that place and start snapping and get an idea of it and how you might handle it. Remember, at f/4 you have to have longer shutter speeds, longer shutter speeds means motion blur either from your hand shake or from subject motion so you're walking a tricky line here...or you can dial up the ISO but you'll get some grain.

    Good luck. I'd definately opt for renting a lens and a flash over buying a flash - you even admitted you don't do much work with flash. why buy?

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