I enjoy shooting with small flashes because it's just easier to travel with and set up. I can practically pull a three piece lighting kit out of a backpack. The problem you'll run into with small flashes is trying to diffuse it with light modifiers. Softboxes are a popular choice for portrait and beauty photographers, but normally you need to decide on the proper speedring - Broncolor, Elinchrom, Bowens, Calumet, Alien Bees? The list goes on and on. The Westcott Apollo Orb octagon softbox (above) is perfect for portable flashes (speedlites), but can also be used with larger studio strobes without speedring adapters. The umbrella-like design sets up quick and is easier for Photographers who travel and need to shoot on location. A slit in the bottom of the softbox allows the stand to be placed through the center covering the entire flash unit. Unfortunately besides being too big at 43" inches, the $130 dollar softbox is also out of stock.
Searching around for the equivalent, I happened upon one company making a smaller (similar) design at about 32" and obviously only runs for one quarter of the Apollo price. Needless to say, i'm already all over it and ordered myself a few pieces. (light stand and flash bracket not included). Remember that once you have your flashes tucked away, in order to fire them off, you'll need at least a good cheap set of wireless triggers like the Yongnuo RF-603s (found here). There are also rectangular versions of this speedlite softbox, that also opens up just as easy as an umbrella.
If you're a bit late on this article, the new Yongnuo 565EX flash can be triggered by a Canon remote. So questions came up whether the Yongnuo YN-565EX Flash will work with the Radio Popper PX wireless triggers. Indeed it does and i've run some tests. There's no reason it shouldn't because the Radio Popper PX system takes the Canon infrared, does some magic, and then sends the very basic infrared back into the flash. The problem you'll run into is the standard RP shoe mount is not aligned. Never fear as a bit of Velcro will do just fine lining up the infrared ports.
Some of you might be wondering why you would need the Radio Popper system? Well let's start out by saying if you don't shoot in High Speed Sync, then you probably don't need it. You could do just fine with the RF603 triggers and switching the flash to manual mode. Instead of relying on Canon's infrared signals (which requires line of sight and gets pretty spotty outdoors), you could get more consistent results with a true wireless system. The only other benefit to using the Radio Poppers is if you want to control flash compensation straight from the camera (instead of walking up to the flash), or if you are managing power ratios and groups of flashes. If you're a bit new, my suggestion is to just go with the RF603 setup and learn how to work the flash manually. You'll actually gain a good understanding of flash.
The Yongnuo YN-565EX ETTL Flash for Canon and Nikon is so far very nice. Yongnuo has really stepped up their game with this new YN565EX, providing a solid build that feels very similar to the Canon 580EX II which is the top notch in Canon gear. Many other features only available in Canon's top flashes are also included in the YN-565EX such as PC sync and External Power port option. For an on camera flash with Canon DSLRs, it works transparently for the average consumer. In ETTL mode, communication with the camera are recognized including Zoom Distance, Aperture, and Flash compensation. Note: This flash does not have an HSS option.
When used off camera, the flash can be set to Slave mode and triggered from a variety of Canon Master or Nikon Commander type triggers. Although you can fire the flash remotely, I need to do more testing to see if ETTL is still working wirelessly. I noticed the flash was not picking up my flash compensation, zoom, or aperture. It seems to have defaulted to a more manual mode but still fired as a slave. Maybe i'm missing something in the settings? Since this YN-565EX can be triggered through a Canon Master, this should (ideally) work to be triggered from the 'built in' wireless triggers from the Canon 7D and Canon 60D cameras (turn on Flash trigger in menu). I think the T3i may also have this option. In any case, the many features, build quality, and price makes this a perfect flash for on camera use, and for experienced flash photographers the manual modes 'off camera' work excellent too. You can find them online via eBay (click here).
Thanks to Eugene for filling me in on this one. Yongnuo's latest YN5656EX / YN-565EX flash is showing some face internationally. Support for Canon's ETTL, this latest flash really targets the Canon 580EX II so closely that it can actually be triggered by a Canon Master (even Nikon commander). It's also compatible to be triggered by the Canon ST-E2. Even the LCD menu looks somewhat Canon'ish. If you're familiar with the Canon 580EX II (currently Canon's top of the line), the YN-565EX mimics many of the same features, but lands in at half the price. These are the features and the kind of flash that everyone has been waiting for from Yongnuo, and far exceeds what the YN560 was. We'll start to see more of these tricklin' in the next few weeks along with some reviews. Found online (click here).
Jonathan writes in and shares his Yongnuo RF-603 unboxing with a quick demo. The RF-603 is an upgrade from the previous RF-602 model. A single RF-603 can act both as a transmitter and receiver, as to where the 602 were actual separate units. This is definitely more convenient and also changes the required batteries to only AAAs (easily found at any store).
These are also Wireless Camera Shutter Remotes to fire your camera while on a tripod (best for sharper images). As you can see from the end of the video, Jonathan sets up the RF-603 to trigger both his camera's shutter while simultaneously firing off the strobe. Not only can they fire off strobes through a sync cable, but they also have a built in hot shoe for firing off Speedlite Flashes, which allows you to mix all different types of strobes in one setting. [Thanks Jonathan] You can find these inexpensive flash triggers following the link (click here).
Sweet little setup by Vimeo member kaydawgy shows a triple flash bracket with Yongnuo Speedlites and Yongnuo RF602 wireless flash triggers. As mentioned in the video, instead of using a single flash at full power, you can use several flashes at low power. This will give you faster recycle times and a broad light source for softer light. This also helps to keep your flashes from overheating too quickly. That large 60" shoot through umbrella also enhances to create the large soft diffused light for portraits. The triple flash bracket can be found (click here).
Triple Flash Bracket
The Yongnuo RF602 wireless triggers work great for firing flashes off camera, so if you're in a dark venue (i.e. wedding reception), many photographers will spread flashes around the room. Clamp them to the ceiling, throw them in the corners, or use them as backlighting to silouhette subjects on the dance floor (cliche I know). The RF602 triggers also come with a cable to fire off mini plugs and 1/4 plug studio strobes, and an optional cable (purchased seperately) turns them into a remote shutter. These handy little wireless triggers can be found (click here).
One thing you need to be aware of with this setup, is that these Yongnuo triggers don't communicate ETTL and can't support HSS (high speed sync) with the Flashes. You'll be working with the flashes on full manual mode. The triggers can only sync to about 1/200ths shutter speed. Important Note: So, if you're at 1/200ths and F/4 to blur out your backgrounds on a bright day, you'll be very much overexposed. To shoot with a shallow depth of field, grab yourself an ND filter. If you don't have the ND Filter to cut out the bright sun, you can still use 1/200ths shutter speed and close down your aperture to say F/16 (no more blurry backgrounds). If you happed to be working at an indoor studio type setting, you should be fine at that shutter speed. You can find a variety of different Yongnuo flash models (click here). [Thanks kaydawgy]
Planning on shooting some off camera flash photos? Here's a decent kit to diffuse that lighting for portraits or product photography. If you hate setting up and breaking down softboxes (like I do), then these umbrella/softbox hybrid light modifiers work great. Often referred to as Brolly Boxes, the shoot through diffusers pack up small, set up quick, and provide nice soft even lighting on your subject. Yes, you could do the same shooting through a normal umbrella, but if you don't block the light being reflected backwards, you'll get quite a different look than how softboxes perform. Two Brolly Boxes, two Stands, two Flash Brackets, and a bag completes the kit.
Here's a clever free standing Monopod that might be useful for more than just camera support. In the image they show a free standing DSLR with a long telephoto lens which is quite a bit of weight. Packs down to about 20 inches, much smaller and lighter than your basic light stand and with a mini ball head attached, it could also serve to hold a microphone, a portable audio recorder, or LED video light in place. Maximum height is approximately 4' 6".
Should be able to hold a portable Photo Flash when working on portraits or Macro photography, or maybe just throw a small camera off to the side for Time Lapsing an event while you run around shooting. I guess something like this would also work as an extra stabilizer towards the end of your Camera Slider. The Monopod works as a usual monopod, but if you need it in free standing mode, it has three legs that extend to a fairly stable tripod stand (unlike the small feet on the Manfrotto's). If you're in the market for a Monopod, this might be pretty a cool dual, triple, or quadruple purpose stand.
The 352 LED Ring light has a certain effect on how it throws light around a subject, so my buddy Dave decided to test it with a Photo Shoot. I removed the ugly bracket and just used a Friction Power Arm. With the Power arm, it can be mounted onto a light stand or to a camera hot shoe and also allows it to be positioned in many ways.
The Ring light really needed to be dimmed, it's just too bright at full power, so there's still plenty of power not shown in the video. The 14.4V DIY battery pack I made lasted for hours, and I could have used the Ryobi batteries too. The rim light to separate the subject was the cheap 500 LED (dimmable knob type) Light panel hung from a beam. To add the halo, there's a Nikon speedlite snooted off to the side. To do this, you can also use these HoneyComb Grids.
All images of the model were shot with Continuous light, even the Canon 7D video used only the light from the 352 Ring light (and 500 LED from the back). The 352 LED Ring light is definitely a great tool and with the battery pack makes it much more usable, pretty cool stuff.