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I obtained a second hand JTL Versalight J160 for a bargain price. It is supposed to be an 160 watt output unit. The problem is that the power regulator knob is not working in my unit and I'm stuck in a single power setting (I believe it is full power).

So the question is, how a fixed power flash unit can be put to good use for good photography results? What is the correct technique to use them?

My main concern is that being fixed power, I can't easily combine it with other flashes I have. At the moment I own a pair of Calumet Genesis 200 in good working order and a pair of not so powerful generic (Bower) flashguns.

The second concern is that, assuming I use this as a main/single source, being it fixed leaves me no choice but to change ISO and/or Aperture in my camera and that may simply not suit my creative needs for particular shots. (I know I can also change distance from source to subject, but that is impractical in some circumstances and may not suit particular creative needs)

What inspires me to ask this question is that I have seen some kind of flash slaves that look like a weird light bulb, they would have a regular lamp base so you can screw them in any socket. They would also have a photocell or a sync port but have no means of adjusting power, but if this is a commercial product, there must be a technique for using them effectively, since you can even find lamp holders that have umbrella support and fit a typical stand. Here I post example photos:

Flash bulb slave example Flash bulb slave example 2

Notes: If I don't manage to find a technique for this, my plan is to adapt some kind of mechanical diaphragm or ND-like filters to stop down the light output, but that's not the point...

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    Back when those light-socket slave units were just about the only affordable AC-powered flashes on the market, there were accessory filter domes for them (CTO, FL and ND). ("Affordable" is relative; I remember them being in the $100/ea range 35 years ago.) – user2719 Mar 1 '14 at 6:12
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I think ND-like filters are actually exactly the point. You can buy neutral-density gels like Rosco's 2-stop ND lighting filter very cheaply (like, $7 for a big square, with free shipping). They're meant to go over windows, but they'd be easy to adapt for these lights.

That's not as easy as turning down a dial, but still a very low-cost and simple way to adjust the output of a light source you can't control in another way.

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You can control the power of the flash by moving it closer to, or further away from, the subject.

  • This is a straight answer! :o) – Rafael Nov 20 '15 at 4:41
  • I must be clear that this is really what people do. My old skool studio flashes only have two power settings (three if you count "off"). Moving the flash from 1ft to 8ft is a three stop change. – Neil P Nov 20 '15 at 14:18
  • It was already mentioned in the original question that the distance from source to subject is a way of regulating light. The aim of the question is to learn aditional techniques. – Jahaziel Nov 21 '15 at 12:20
  • I missed that due to the verbosity of the question. – Neil P Nov 21 '15 at 14:52

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