If you have read anything on this site before you have likely seen me profess that it’s not professional gear that creates great pictures, it’s professional skills that create great pictures. But creating great photographs does require some amount of hardware to light and capture an image, so here I’ll outline some of the basics and make a few recommendations to help you get started.
There isn’t really a one size fits all solution when it comes to selecting our equipment since much of the equation is based on unique factors to own personalities, philosophies, existing equipment, and budgets. For example, the equipment needed to trigger a flash remotely for a hobbyist may not hold up under the rigors of a working professional. What I hope to illustrate below are a few options that will help you get started with the basic gear you’ll need to capitalize on the wonderful world of flash photography. I also want to point out that although I do occasionally use studio grade equipment (read heavy, back breaking, inconvenient, and expensive) in some of my posts, I can certainly get the same results with inexpensive and capable speedlights.
Also note that you can interchange, mix and match the equipment you already have to avoid buying extra items you don’t really need. Be creative and resourceful, and remember, all of this junk is just a means to an end. Do not get caught up in the gear lust that is so prevalent among so many photo enthusiasts. Use what you have, buy what you must. Never allow yourself to think that if you just had INSERT SOME EXPENSIVE ITEM HERE you can get all the great images you want. Don’t believe the hype. Alright, I’ll get off of my soapbox now and mention one last item. If you use Canon or Nikon it’s usually pretty obvious which model to purchase, but if using an alternative manufacture like Fujifilm, Sony, etc, you need to pay attention to which models are compatible with your particular system. Check the comments and if you don’t see what works please ask over at our Facebook page.
The Bare Minimum
You need to get the flash off of the camera. Stop and read that again. If you take away one thing from this site it’s that. To get the flash off of the camera you need a flash and a way to trigger it. I know you can use a PC cord, but a great deal of cameras and flashes theses days no longer support the cords, and lucky for us, radio triggers are so cheap that it why would we even bother?
I’ve had great success with the Yongnuo speedlights and have sold off every Canon and Nikon unit I had (and paid way too much for). The Yongnuo flashes I’m recommending have plenty of power, lots of flexibility (power settings from 1 to 1/128th in 1 or 1/3 stops), and support optical and radio triggering. And they’re cheap!