Taking the plunge...

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by schuylercat, Mar 11, 2008.

  1. schuylercat

    schuylercat TPF Noob!

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    I will be purchasing a kit from Adorama which includes two 580ex II flashes and an ST-E2 infrared remote. I watched a wedding shooter use this rig, and after reviewing his shots I was stunned at what he could do with such a simple kit. Of course, this kid was really, really talented, too. I'll be working with him on 2 to 3 weddings before I do my shoot up in Red Deer, Alberta this June, to be his free helper and learn at the feet of the master.

    Now: after I do this wedding I will be seeking more, and attempt to convert myself into a pro again. Wedding work sounds tough and challenging, but there it is. My question, however, isn't about weddings. It's about portraits.

    A pair of 580's and a remote will set me back $1,000. I've spent a good amount of time on Strobist reading every article I could, and while a lot of portable shoots described included speedlites and reflectors, does anyone here exclusively shoot with them? Stands are stands, clamps are clamps, reflctors and softboxes and umbrellas are what they are...but the meat in the lighting sandwich seems to be the strobes themselves.

    Alien Bees are described as "affordable", but I can't afford even one, much less a simple three-light setup.

    Feedback is encouraged...
     
  2. JIP

    JIP No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you read some of the recommendations on Strobist he does not say that you need the most recent flashes for his setups. While he may use SB-28's for his setups he suggests used SB-24's or even Vivitar's. If you look here http://www.mpex.com/page.htm?PG=Strobist Kits they have Strobist kits that include umbrellas, light stands, all the small gear that is recommended and, a flash and pocket wizards for just over $600 so you see you can do it affordably.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I know quite a few photographers (working pros) who use 580s wirelessly for weddings & portraits etc.

    I'd say that 90% of them use radio triggers, rather than Canon's IR system. Most of them use Pocket Wizards. The problem with Canon's IR system is that when you are outdoors (especially in the sun) the signal isn't all that reliable and you need line of site. Indoors it's better because it will bounce off of many surfaces.
    The Radio signals are much more reliable and don't need line of sight, even outdoors. Pocket wizards have a range of 1600 feet, or something like that.
    Of course, the big difference between the two ways of doing it...is that with Canon IR, you have E-TTL metering just like if the flash was on the camera. You can control the power of the remote flashes, from the Master and you can set up, up to three groups and adjust the ratio of one group to another. Some people don't like that because it's still reliant on Canon's flash metering...which can be hard to judge or predict.

    With Radio slaves, the flash control is manual...so you have to have an understanding of how to meter for flash or at least how to get the results you want. The benefit of that, is that manual flash is very reliable and consistent...once you get it down, you shouldn't have any surprises. (Most strobist stuff is manual flash).

    Now, with all that said...have you heard about Radio Poppers? It's a new product (not even for sale yet). What it does is piggyback the Canon IR system with a radio signal. So you can get the advantages of a radio signal but keep the advantages of E-TTL metering and high speed sync etc.

    The 580EX itself...is a pretty good unit. They are well made and quite powerful. If you are going to use radio triggers...then you could probably get cheaper flash units and be just as happy...but then you never have the option of using E-TTL, on or off camera.

    I read about some tests that people have done (real gear heads) and a 580EX can actually come close to the output of a B800 light (with standard reflector). However, the 580EX has the advantage of it's lens which has fresnel lens elements. Once you put an umbrella or softbox on both lights...a B800 is much more powerful.
     
  4. schuylercat

    schuylercat TPF Noob!

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    ...and I have been eyeing two of those "starving student" kits for a kickoff setup, if I can't find my old lighting stuff (2 old halogen hot lights with barn doors, easily enough to heat a small auditorum...but stands, umbrellas and clamps in there too).

    I was wondering if there's anyone out there who shoots portraits and weddings solely with dedicated flashes like this, without larger strobes, as their common business model. While these 580's are obviously overkill for a n00b like me, one day they won't be, and they'll serve their purpose ongoing.
     
  5. schuylercat

    schuylercat TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, Mike - good stuff, and very surprising to read the 580 could light near as well as a SB800. Pocket Wizards are in my shopping cart for purchase down the road (we'll see what E-TTL radio poppers can do, maybe). The ST-E2 is the shorter pole in the financial tent here: same price as a single Pocket Wizard, and it will be a useful tool for me at times. What I really wanted were two big, bright flash units with E-TTL, and the kit saves me some money.

    For the event I'm studying for, we will be outdoors in the evening doing the group shots, with lighting fairly close to the transmitter (the photographer I will be assisting did this at my nephew's wedding - worked like a charm, and I will get to practice a lot before I try it), and all other shots will be indoors, including a small ceremony in a small chapel.

    I heard what you're saying about using the camera's metering - I have spent a lot of time experiementing with it, like I did with my old film cameras, to get a feel for what it was looking at and how it was exposing it. Predictability seems to be a major issue, with spot metering tests I have done varying my shutter from 125th to 500th on the same spot - I may have breathed or something. Center weighted is the way to go, but a white dress and a black tux will honk up the mix. My plan is to shoot a few bracketed tests, review the outcomes, and set the camera to full manual from there...and possibly still bracket a third or two.

    I have to remember (read: force myself) NOT to be dependent upon the systemic automation of the 40D, transmitter, and flashes. I relied heavily upon my old 540EZ's automation to light what few portraits I shot (racing team photos, principal head shots), and they were really, really boring - lazy work, and I'd expect more for my money were I the customer. Experience. That's the ticket.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You are on the right track...practice is the key.

    I'm not certain...but I believe that flash metering is always center weighted (the main metering mode is for ambient). Although, there may be a custom function that you can change.
    For the most part, I've found E-TTL II to be 'good enough' most of the time...but I'm always aware that I might have to tweak the FEC and shoot again.

    I always shoot in Manual when using flash. The flash metering is still automatic and I use FEC to tweak the flash exposure.

    Typical bracketing (changing shutter speed or aperture) won't change your flash exposure when using E-TTL.
     
  7. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You will find that there are some FEW people that use continuous lighting, but they are in the extreme minority. There are no real advantages to using continuous over flash... but MANY advantages to using flash over continuous.

    If you want to get a head start into learing a lot of nice things about lighting, visit:
    http://strobist.blogspot.com

    I think this site was near made for your situation.
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I think he's way ahead of you there :er:....but good suggestion none the less, tons of great info there.
     

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