I'm a student photographer (primarily landscape with some portrait experience) looking to get into more serious portrait work; and, more specifically, off camera flash. Hoping this is the right place for this question - it may be too specific, but I'm already a member of this forum, so I thought I'd try here before going elsewhere.

I've been into photography for a few years now and am proficient in using my camera (Canon 6D, for what it's worth), and I have some experience in setting up various basic lighting patterns for portrait work.

However, though I know what I'm doing in photography and with on-camera flash, I don't really have a clue as to how best to easily and cheaply get into using off-camera flash. I have one Canon speedlite (a 430 ex II), and, since I'm just starting out (and on a budget - about $500) with OCF, I'm looking to use it and possibly another speedlite in a more portable setup that I can use on-location. I'm getting ready to purchase a 35mm f2 IS, and then eventually a 70-200 f4, non-IS (so my timeline for the lighting equipment is over the next 5-6 months, but I'm trying to determine now what I need).

I have two questions.

Because the 6D doesn't have built-in wireless transmission, I need an external transmitter/receiver. I was looking at the Vello FreeWave dual flash and shutter trigger (I've needed a dedicated shutter release for my landscape work so figured I'd go dual featured). Then, obviously, I need a light stand, and I'm looking at a simple softbox setup (LumiQuest Promax Softbox III). I was wondering if it, at 8x9", would be large enough for more than just headshots, and if not, what's another good softbox size that would work for me for decent full-body shots, but still be good for headshots? Along that vein, given that I'm just using a speedlite, I was concerned about purchasing a softbox that would be so large as to render my flash useless, i.e., not provide enough output power.

Second question: in addition to the aforementioned softbox setup, I'm thinking of getting one more speedlight and an umbrella for versatility.

Would I be best off getting a prefab (and probably overpriced) kit, or would I be better off building my own kit through B&H? My concern for this route was that I'm unsure which flash to get (because of the need for transmitters with the 6D), and by extension, what umbrella, etc., to get. My 430 ex II doesn't have master control ability per se, but I was looking to get a second reasonably priced, decent flash unit that would fire off of it as a slave once it was triggered (therefore eliminating the need for multiple receivers).

Bottom line is that I'm new to off-camera flash, am on a budget, and am trying to assemble a system that's as simple to use as possible. Any advice you can give on whether or not I'm not on the right track, or completely off base, and any other suggestions you can provide, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


If you're really on a tight budget you could do a lot worse than to pick up a cheap off-camera extension cable from a popular auction site, they're dirt-cheap and a good place to start in the world of strobism.

Otherwise, if you want to go wireless you have a number of options. Definitely go for wireless rather than infrared, wireless has better range, isn't affected by ambient light and doesn't require line-of-sight. I personally rate the PocketWizard transceivers, they come with software offering very comprehensive setup options so you can tailor them to your specific camera and needs. They're not cheap but they are very good. If you're happy to experiment with manual flash settings and aren't bothered about niceties such as automatic exposure via wireless E-TTL, start out with some cheap, basic triggers/receivers, also available on a popular auction site.

Again, keeping things cheap, look out for used Speedlite 550EX flashes, you can buy a used pair for the price of a new 430EXII. Having multiple flashes definitely opens up your creative options. The 550s may be old but they pack a punch and have some cool features such as strobe mode.

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