I recently got a Nikon SB-700, and after spending some time trying (and failing) to take some high-key b/w portraits, I am quickly realizing that I need to significantly modify the light, because bounced lighting isn't really giving me the control I need.

I would prefer not to spend more than $100, so I would guess that umbrellas are the way to go. I am looking at kits like this: http://www.amazon.com/CowboyStudio-Photography-Continuous-Day-Light-Fluorescent/dp/B001G4DDE4/

My questions are:

  1. Am I heading in the right direction?
  2. Does it make sense to mix continuous light with flash like this to achieve high-key portraits?
  3. How do I use a flash with the umbrella? More gear?

Thank you!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Take a look at ebay.com/itm/… \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2011 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have Nikon camera d3100 with a sd700 flash I just brought a e-z softbox lighting for photo will this work for doing party inside the nite clubs \$\endgroup\$
    – user7650
    Dec 14, 2011 at 19:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carlosbanks -- You should post this as a separate question. This is give all the experts a chance to answer your question. \$\endgroup\$
    – anon
    Dec 18, 2011 at 5:16

3 Answers 3


You're heading in the right direction!

There is a whole website/blog that talks about using small portable lighting gear for everyday use and getting the most out of simple elements. The "Strobist" site has many resources for what kind of kit to get and how to use it.

Here's the deep link for the basic kit that they say you'd do well to get for the starting shots: Strobist: Lighting 101: An Ideal Beginner's Lighting Kit.

For my purposes, I started with some off camera triggers (optical triggers are fine, too), two flashes, two stands, one umbrella, and some gels. The rest of the diffusers, reflectors, and snoots/grids came from cobbled together bits from around the house. I use foam craft paper to act as larger bounce cards and flags.

For the rest of your questions about mixing continuous lighting with strobes, you just need to understand how light works with blending the short impulse with ambient light. This balance can be learned by trial and error as well as through some exercises. In the end, it's all about ISO, F stop, shutter speed. Each one controls the way that light comes into the camera and how the camera responds to it. In short, it does make sense to mix, so long as you know the color balance of your lighting and can control it. To that point, be prepared to gel your flash to match the color of your ambient light.

What I'd also suggest is getting together with other local photogs to practice settings and borrow gear. That will teach a lot about what effects modifiers may have and how to best use them. I've started going to a local meetup group and have learned tons in just a short while.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the in-depth answer. Regarding the umbrella stands, what do you recommend I use to put the flash on the stand? \$\endgroup\$
    – anon
    Oct 21, 2011 at 2:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I picked up this shoe mount adapter to hold my flash and umbrella: bhphotovideo.com/c/… The advantage that this has over others is that it has some "teeth" in the swivel so that it can hold a heavy-ish weight with no slipping. The shoe is nice in that there is no stop so it's easy to put the flash on no matter the orientation. For studio flash, you'll want to find something that has the right mount for your unit. Still, look for something with the gripping teeth on the swivel. \$\endgroup\$
    – smigol
    Oct 21, 2011 at 15:07

You can do a lot with just a single umbrella and maybe a reflector or two.

I'm surprised at the price of that kit. I have two umbrellas which costed about $30 each, and two stands, $40 and $80 because the second one is better quality and taller, not including the two umbrella flash mounts which were around $25 each. That's excluding flashes, strobes or continuous lights. I guess the problem with those lights that they're not very powerful when you're trying to achieve power for ISO 100 or 200 portraits at F/8.

If you want cheap, manual speedlites, I wouldn't go past the Yongnuo YN-560 for decent power and flexibility. They're similar to the Canon 580EX II in shape, size and power and cost no more than $80. I often trigger them optically. And you could easily trigger it via the flash from the SB-700.

  • \$\begingroup\$ On a low budget reflectors are a great option +1 for suggesting them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul Round
    Oct 20, 2011 at 8:24

Am I heading in the right direction?


Does it make sense to mix continuous light with flash like this to achieve high-key portraits?

Yes, once you understand how to balance flash against the ambient and to gel your flash to match the ambient.

How do I use a flash with the umbrella? More gear?

Yup. To use a flash off-camera on a stand with an umbrella, you'll probably want the following gear:

  • Radio triggers (current recommendation du jour would be the Godox X1, but this changes every few months, as trigger tech turnover is fast and furious. The Flash Havoc blog is a great resource on the latest/greatest stuff). Because you need some way to fire the flash off the camera. The transmitter on the camera hotshoe acts as a master for the receiver on the flash's foot (or cabled to the flash's sync port).
  • A light stand
  • An umbrella swivel (aka adapter). This is the key piece of equipment. It is the bit in the middle that holds everything together. It goes over the stud on the end of the light stand; has a cold shoe to hold the flash/trigger; and a hole for the umbrella shaft.
  • The umbrella (or softbox, or beauty dish, or brollybox, or octa, or strip box, or ...)

See the Strobist's Lighting 101 on a basic setup and quick start to using it.


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