“Dude, what stuff should I get?” I get this question all the time. So in lieu of answering each request , I figured I’d just make a blog post about it.
When first diving into the ocean of Strobism, choosing the right gear to start with can be difficult. Even more daunting is the task of looking into the future and planning your upgrade/expansion path beyond your current budget. “Trial and error” is not a process you want to use when purchasing expensive photo gear, so here I offer you the complete wisdom from my experience in buying lighting equipment. Hopefully this will help you purchase the right items and in the right order so that the first items you buy will help you pay for the rest!
I bought my complete Alien Bees studio with the money I made from using two Nikon SB800’s and a couple of umbrellas – however if I could do it over again I would go with the Alien Bees first and skip the flashguns all together. The SB800’s are great starting strobes, and if you want to go with small portable flash guns like these first, I highly recommend this model. One of the must crucial (and annoying) parts of off camera lighting is triggering the strobes, and I had great success using the SB800’s optical triggering mode (SU-4). Using the SB800 in this mode you can manually adjust the power and trigger the strobe using your built-in on camera flash. I would advise against getting the cheaper SB600 because it doesn’t have an optical slave mode and is harder to use off camera if you don’t have an SB800 on camera to command it. The cheapest and best light modifier for a small strobe is a white shoot thru umbrella. You can get a 43” Westcott umbrella for like $20. If you look at my flickr stream, most of my early photos were taken with 1 SB800 shot into a 43” white umbrella as the main light, and 1 SB800 bare as rim light, both triggered optically by the D70’s built-in flash. Using this setup I made enough cash to buy (2) B800’s, a B1600, an ABR800 ring light, a vagabond power pack and several light modifiers.
But like I said, if I could do it all again I’d skip the SB800’s, and here’s why: read more »