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I have a Canon Rebel T2i With a Kit lens and a 50mm 1.8 prime with me. I want to get started with strobes. Now the thing is, I don't have any idea about all the stuffs I'd be needing like the remotes, the light stands, the flashes etc..

So can anybody recommend which way to go for the essential things that I'll be needing for a set up?

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See also How can I get started with a first flash gun? for a question more focused on "I already have something; how do I learn to use it?" – mattdm Mar 11 at 21:25

5 Answers 5

You, my friend, are in amazing luck, because there is a really awesome website dedicated to strobes (more specifically off-camera lighting).

I highly, highly recommend checking out

The Lighting 101 series is a great beginner guide to getting started with strobes.

To better answer your question here, it would help to know your budget.

Personally, I highly recommend (and use) Sigma 500 series flashes for Canon if you are under budget constraints. If you are brand loyal, and have the cash, the Canon 580 EX2 is a great flash head--doing everything the Sigma's can, but adding much sturdier build.

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Can't add anything to that. Book some time off and work your way through the archives on Strobist. – Matt Grum Oct 7 '10 at 23:16
The Strobist blog is the place to start, no question. – John Cavan Oct 8 '10 at 1:01
Thanks for the recco. I've been following that blog lately (however it seems kinda cluttered and hard to navigate... lol). I tried exploring a bit about strobes on flickr. I was actually confused on which flashes to buy and which remote receivers to invest upon. Everything seem to have it's own pros and cons. – Rish Oct 8 '10 at 17:31
It is a bit cluttered. Start with the Lighting 101 series. And go through it a couple more times. There is a great youtube vid linked that explains terminology, that I think is really worth adding to your favorites. – Alan Oct 8 '10 at 18:21

I started using strobes about a year ago.

I have 2 Vivitar 285s, 2 cheap "cactus" remotes, 2 cheap stands and 2 cheap shoot-through umbrellas. (all available from Amazon).

It came to under GBP 200.

I've been very happy with this setup, and I think I've done some nice work with it an example is here.

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I'm by no mean an expert, but I just bought my first strobes a few months ago. I got a kit from Elinkrom : the D-Lite 4. The kit comes with 2 strobes, 2 stands, 2 softboxes, a remote trigger, a PC cable and a DVD with a short tutorial to get you started. This is all you need to start. The kit was about 900CHF (about 930USD). I find it a good value for my money.

There are probably many other ofers similar to this one, but I think that to get a kit is a good idea.

The only problem I have with those strobes is that I have a very small room as a studio, and they are too powerful. I have to dial them down to the minimum and shoot at my minimum aperture (f16 / ISO 200). (It might also be that I dont really know how to use them yet).

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I would strongly recommend using a larger space as that will give you much more control over your lighting. With a confined space you can't control the light bouncing back off every wall and surface so you'll never get deep shadows for example, and you light will always be soft, which might not be what you want. – Matt Grum Oct 8 '10 at 10:10
I quite agree with you, but I have the budget to buy strobes, not to build a new house ... – Guillaume Oct 8 '10 at 11:18

I just went to Paul C. Buff's website, bought me a couple of Alien Bees B800's and they have absolutely changed my life. I am getting phenomenal results with them.

One tip: get at least one fairly large softbox. I bought mine from Paul Buff's site and they are very sturdy. I got a 47" octabox and a 10"x36" strip box with a grid. If you can't make someone look good with a 47" octabox and a strobe or two, then they should just go live in a cave.

***Also, I don't have enough reputation to comment on the above post about the Dlite 4 kit being too strong for a small space, so I'm putting it here. Why not try stopping down your lens by getting a neutral density filter? Those filters would allow you to shoot more wide open with the same light in a small room. Just be careful how strong of an ND filter you get.

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If you're just getting started, I'd recommend a few things before buying any gear.

  1. Be absolutely and completely confident and comfortable shooting in M mode. You will need a good solid knowledge of the exposure triangle, because flash is going to make you rearrange how you think about exposure in general. Ambient is controlled by iso, aperture, and shutter speed. Flash is controlled by iso, aperture, flash power, and flash-to-subject distance. And you're going to be balancing the flash against the ambient. If you can't do a simple M-mode exposure and swap stops among the settings, you're really going to have a hard time when you add flash.

  2. Know how to use an on-camera speedlight (hotshoe flash) for bouncing. I know. I know. You've looked at the Strobist and everybody's telling you the bare minimum is a key/rim/fill setup, and you're dying to shoot something so it looks like a magazine spread. But on-camera flash is far more convenient, only requires purchasing a flash, and teaches you the basics of flash power, subject distance, light direction and diffusion (as well as gelling to match the ambient). The ease and simplicity of using on-camera are useful to know. Think of TTL as the aperture-priority mode of the flash. Skipping over it is having one less tool in your belt, and increases the chunk of information you're going to have to swallow to learn how to light. To me, learning to bounce an on-camera flash breaks down the lighting knowledge for a zero-level beginner into something manageable, rather than trying to do a four-light seamless white background shoot as your first try at lighting. Start small, start slow. Go visit Neil van Niekerk's Tangents if you've never bounced or flagged a flash. On-camera flash takes only a small amount of time at all to master and helps ease you into a lot of the light-think basics you'll need for studio lighting.

  3. When you go off camera, start with ONE light. Go ahead and buy two or three if you feel you have to, but start learning with only one. It's like lenses or cameras. When you start out, learning everything you can possibly do with a new lens or camera is a lot easier if you use it exclusively for a while. If you buy three at a time, and you're constantly swapping between them, it takes a lot longer. Narrowing your focus and constant practice are going to make the learning go a lot faster.

A lot of us would also recommend starting with one speedlight, and then seeing if you need a studio strobes or maybe something in between, like a barebulb flash. Your power/light requirements often come down to your usage and needs. Like a compact camera vs. a mirrorless vs. a dSLR kit--which one is going to be right for you is going to depend upon your budget, preferences to hauling weight, and what you want to shoot. The speedlight has the versatility to be used both on and off camera, is the smallest, lightest, and most accessible gear (and the easiest to research and shop for) with the most features, so it can be a good starting point. The main problem is it's the least powerful kind of strobe, and a lot of knowing how to use one effectively is knowing how to preserve the power.

As for basic gear, you'll need a stand so you can position the light where you want without holding it up in your hand :). And you'll probably want an umbrella or softbox as a modifier to soften the light. You'll need a swivel so that you can attach the light and the modifier to the stand. As for radio triggers, recommend you do a lot of research and make sure your resources are up to date. I tend to recommend looking at the Flash Havoc blog's gear guides, and then double-checking against their latest articles. Because this area is rapidly evolving, and there's new stuff arriving on the scene every day. E.g., the Phottix Indra. As you can see by the spread of recommendations listed here, everybody's got different budgets, different needs, and different preferences, and they're all going to tell you what works for them. You are not them. Do the research. There's no way to shortcut the homework here. Find out what's going to fit you best.

See also:

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