One of the most common hang-ups I hear among new-to-flash users is, “I have no idea what to buy”. Just as there is an over-abundance of brands and models of cameras, the same holds true for flashes. It can be extremely overwhelming. Most people have no idea where to even begin. Let me make this easy for you. To get started with off-camera flash (OCF), you really only need 4 basic items.
#1 – A Flash
Let’s start here with the most basic piece of equipment. A flash. You just need ONE flash – preferably a smaller-sized one that can be used ON or OFF of your camera. If you shoot with Canon, you could go with one of the Canon Speedlights. Nikon also makes its own brand of Speedlite. Godox and Neewer are two other popular brands that make small flash units that can be mounted on the hot-shoe of your camera. Don’t overthink it and don’t overspend. You can purchase one of these small flash units for under $180. Just make sure it’s compatible with your brand and model of camera.
The reason I recommend starting with a small flash is that you just need to get comfortable using flash. You need to learn how the flash and camera work together. The easiest way to do this is by popping that flash onto your camera and practicing. Before you ever try to use if OFF of your camera, learn with it first ON your camera.
#2 – An Umbrella
I recommend that you purchase a modifier to use with your flash. A basic white umbrella is a good place to start. Umbrellas are inexpensive and very easy to use. They provide a large spread of light and soft shadows. I have a 64″ White PLM umbrella. It is under $50. Just make sure that you get an adapter if need be. Most small flash units do not come with an adapter, and you will need this to put your flash and umbrella on a light stand together. Click here for an example of an umbrella holder light stand adapter for a Canon Speedlight.
#3 – A Trigger
Even though it’s important to practice and learn using your flash ON your camera, you will – at some point – want to be able to take that flash unit OFF of your camera. To do that, you will need what many photographers refer to as a “trigger”. This is basically a remote that goes into the hot shoe on your camera, which allows your camera to communicate with your flash, so that it can be fired when it’s not on top of your camera.
Again – depending on what flash unit you purchase – you will just need to search for a remote trigger that is compatible with your particular flash and camera. Godox sells a set for various camera brands, that includes the flash unit and the remote trigger, all for under $250. You can find that by clicking here.
#4 – A Light Stand
This is an easy one. You will need a simple light stand so that when you do take your flash off of your camera, you’ll have somewhere to put it. Light stands are inexpensive and you most likely don’t need a large one. Mine is a 10-foot light stand from Cowboy Studio, which I found on Amazon. I’ve never raised it higher than 5 or 6 feet. Click here for a 6-foot light stand on Amazon that is under $35.
As you can see, you do not need a ton of fancy, expensive equipment to get started with OCF. You just need a few basic items. Once you get comfortable with using flash, you can then continue to add to your inventory as needed. Don’t overthink it! Don’t be concerned at this point about how your light looks. Just start practicing so that you can learn how your camera and flash work together. I’ll be here offering support any time you need it!