Full Equipment List for Michelle Turner's Off-Camera Flash class.
There are THREE things that you'll need for this class and three additional items that you'll find useful. However, if you really want to just figure out how off camera flash works and do so at a lower price point, you can absolutely get away with the first three and then add the other three items when you fall in love with OCF. :)
1) A camera. MUST HAVE. I'm guessing you can all check this off the list. :)
2) A flash. MUST HAVE. Many of you probably have a flash already. If you don't, you can rent one or purchase one. You'll want a flash that has manual mode (TTL is optional), and if you ever plan to use it ON CAMERA as well, you'll want a flash that is compatible with your camera.
3) A trigger/receiver set. MUST HAVE. I recommend two sets-- one is an inexpensive set and one is a mid-range set. The inexpensive trigger/receiver is wonderful because it is a great learning trigger and is a wonderful way to find out whether off camera flash is right for you without spending a ton of money.
*Yongnuo RF-603 II or RF-605, available from Amazon and B&H. FIRST, You'll see that there Nikon version and a Canon version. Please make sure that you get the right one for your camera. SECOND, this is an inexpensive trigger set (really, really cheap) and quality control is not the best...occasionally on of my students will get a dud. Keep your receipts. These are usually sold in sets of two, but just make sure that your box will contain two since you will need one attached to your camera and one attached to your flash off camera.
*Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver V6, available from B&H (and others). This is a mid-range trigger/receiver set. DO YOU SHOOT MULTIPLE SYSTEMS (for example, Canon AND Nikon, or Nikon AND Fuji, or are you still undecided)? If so, this is a great trigger set for you since it works with a variety of systems. You'll either a) need two of them, or b) need the V6 plus a Cactus RF60 flash. They talk to each other already.
There are more expensive speedlight-compatible brands that you can go with, but these are the two brands that I recommend because students have had GREAT success with them. These are also the two trigger sets that I can give you detailed information on operating-- there are hundreds of combinations that you can go with, and I can give you step by step instructions with these two systems. If you decide to go another route, then make sure you keep you instruction manual so that you know how to set them up with your specific camera/flash.
You will need a trigger/receiver unless you have the Canon 600 flashes (two of them or one and the compatible Canon trigger) that can communicate wirelessly via radio with one another. (The Nikon SB-5000 should also be able to do this, but it has some compatibility issues, so please check to see if your camera/flash are compatible when it comes to the radio functions before you decide that you don't need a trigger/receiver.) But what if your camera can trigger your flash? Some cameras can do this-- they can trigger a flash remotely! You can actually start out this way, but you'll eventually want to get a trigger / receiver set. Why? Most of these work on line of sight (and not with radio), so it means that you will be seriously limiting the number of spots you can put your flash (and therefore, the type of light you can create). I recommend that if your flash works/triggers optically (that would be every flash except the Canon 600 and the Nikon 5000 IF your camera is compatible) that you get a trigger/receiver. Remember that you can buy a set of the Yongnuos in the realm of $30 and you'll find this will save you a lot of headaches down the road if you aren't relying on an optical trigger. Seriously. Optical triggers are a bummer and you will be disappointed.
4) A light stand. RECOMMENDED, but not necessary if you just want to learn how it works. You can go cheap or you can go expensive here. A more expensive light stand will generally be heavier and more durable overall. It will also be less portable. If you work solo and you won't be bringing your light stand on planes, then it might be a good idea to invest in a heavier light stand because it will be more sturdy and won't come crashing down on you in a bit of wind. But only you know your budget and how much you'd like to invest here-- you can also get a cheaper light stand and plan to be careful/secure it/get someone to help you hold it. I generally use a middle of the road light stand for my domestic jobs because I still need to carry them on location and I usually work solo-- they aren't parked in a studio. I use a less expensive/lighter light stand for my international work (so I can carry it on the plan), but I use tape, bungees, or a person to help me secure it so it doesn't fall over with my light. If you are working with adults, you'll want your light stand to be 5-6' or taller. There are three brands that I use, but there are a ton of brands out there that you can consider:
*Impact Light Stands, available from B&H. These are good, inexpensive light stands. They aren't the most durable light stands I've ever owned, but they are a good option for the budget-conscious.
*Manfrotto Light Stands, available almost everywhere. This brand goes from inexpensive to expensive-- it depends on height and weight of the light stand.
*Westcott Light Stands, available almost everywhere. Ditto what I said for Manfrotto.
5) An umbrella bracket. RECOMMENDED, but not necessary if you just want to learn how it works. This is what is going to attach the modifier (the umbrella) and the flash to the light stand. There are several good brands out there, but I've had a good experience with:
*Impact (like the Impact Umbrella Bracket with Adjustable Shoe), available from B&H.
*Westcott (like the Westcott Adjustable Shoe Mount Umbrella Bracket), available almost everywhere.
6) An umbrella (modifier). RECOMMENDED, but not necessary if you just want to learn how it works. There are a lot of good modifiers out there. I generally recommend that you start with an umbrella if you are just learning OCF because it's a really useful, multipurpose modifier. Most of you will find the translucent (almost known as a shoot through) umbrella to be the best place to start. This is the umbrella that is completely white. However, if you work inside most of the time then you will probably want to start with the reflective umbrella-- this is the umbrella that is black on the outside and white or silver on the inside. As with the other pieces, you have a lot of options here. There are some umbrellas that have a removable cover, allowing them to be used as both types of umbrella (reflective and shoot through). Size? You'll have to weigh out price with portability. I use a 33" umbrella the most because I like the portability (and because most of the time I'm working with only 1-5 subjects), but you can ALWAYS go bigger. Bigger modifiers will help you achieve softer light, so if portability/price isn't a huge issue for you, then something in the 40" range is nice. Something in the 50" range is great, but it's very big-- I wouldn't recommend this one unless you have a lighting assistant or unless you work inside most of the time. I recommend:
*Profoto umbrellas-- the small, shallow translucent umbrella is my favorite!
KITS Are you starting from scratch? Then you might go with a kit! If you want to buy a kit, then you have a few options:
IF YOU WANT TO BUY #2 and #3 as a set, then you might consider the Cactus RF60 (flash) with the Cactus V6 (trigger). They can communicate with each other, so you only need one V6-- it can talk directly to the RF60. Sometimes you can buy these as a set from B&H or Amazon. If that's not in stock, you can buy them separately. You won't be able to use TTL, though (I never use TTL, so I'm okay with this-- I use the Cactus set a lot).
IF YOU WANT TO BUY #4, 5, and 6 as a set, then there are some inexpensive kits out there. The Westcott 43" Collapsible Umbrella Flash Kit with Stand is an inexpensive option to consider. It's not the most durable option out there, but it's a good learning kit and if you decide to upgrade in the future, this whole set could make a nice backup. You can purchase this entire set from B&H for around $70.