Should I buy a flash next?

TheCameraLady

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My gear so far:
Nikon D5100/kit lens
50mm 1.8 lens
43'' 5 in 1 reflector
Tripod
Memory Cards
3 Clamp lights

After this spring break I should have $250 after shoots. What should I buy next? I am leaning toward a flash but I kinda want to get softboxes for my clamplights because I am not crafty enough (more like scared my house will catch on fire) to make diy ones. I could get 1 flash with a softbox or umbrella with a cheap stand or 2 stands and 2 softboxes.

If I do get a flash, What is the best I could get under $250? I know nothing about them whatsoever. I don't know if I should go to Nikon or an offbrand for cheaper? I don't know the differences or anything.
 

cynicaster

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As with any gear, you really have to ask yourself what your personal needs are to do the types of photography you want to do. Me, I got through my first winter and summer in DSLR with no external flash, but as soon as the weather started getting cold again I sprung for a speedlight so I could take pictures indoors through the winter without having to rely on enormous windows and stratospheric ISO. I’m not a huge fan of winter weather and I hate the results from the pop-up flash so much that I wouldn’t use it to take a picture of a refrigerator for a classified ad, let alone friends and family. I knew my camera would collect dust all winter unless I found a reliable means of taking pictures indoors. No regrets—my 580EX-II has been so much fun to own.

Thing is though, one of my favorite things to do is to walk around and take candid/casual pictures at parties, family get togethers, and the like. Of course, these are pictures more about capturing moments than technical brilliance. If you want to do studio style work primarily, it sounds like you already have lighting for that. Flashes are pricey, so just make sure you have a use for one.

Lastly, I’d recommend you shop on eBay. I got a pair of speelights from there—the aforementioned 580EX-II and a 430EX. Both were (and still are) in mint condition and perfect working order, and the combined price was less than what I would have paid for just the 580EX-II brand new.
 

Big Mike

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What do you shoot? If it's people (or anything that moves) you will probably (certainly) want to ditch the 'clamp lights'...assuming that you mean lamps that have a typical light bulb in them.

The problem with lamps, is that because they are a constant light source, you are reliant on your shutter speed...and if it's not fast enough, you get blurry photos. And it takes A LOT of light in order to get a good exposure, without resorting to slow shutter speeds, high ISO or really large apertures. If a lamp did have enough power, it would probably put out a lot of heat as well, which isn't good.

A flash, on the other hand, uses a very short burst of light which means that your shutter speed isn't as important for getting sharp photos. A flash will, in most cases, give you better (sharper) photos of people etc. But of course, you need to know how to use it.

A typical flash for you would be something like the SB700 or SB900 (or whatever the current models are). I don't think that even the cheaper one is less than $250.
You could go with cheaper 'off-brand' flash units, but they likely won't be of the same quality, or they may not have full compatibility with your camera, which may or may not be an issue for you.
If you just want to put a flash on a light stand, to use as an off-camera flash. Then practically any flash brand/model will do, but you'll need a way to trigger it.

Check these out Midwest Photo Exchange Strobist® Kits - STROBIST®
 

pixmedic

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you can find used SB700's in the $250 range if you hunt around. (thats what we use)
they are great flashes, and act as a commander if you get other flashes later. (and your body doesnt already have CLS)
otherwise, ive seen SB600's $150-$200 fairly often, and is also a good flash, but it doesnt have commander mode.
 
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TheCameraLady

TheCameraLady

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I shoot portraits and I can't bring my clamps on location. I've had my camera since July. I think I am going to go for 1 Yonguo YN560 ii with a wireless trigger for now and then buy a second one in a few weeks.
 

hirejn

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You have a respectable kit there. I caution beginners about spending money on wireless triggers or cheap equipment. If you're not buying PocketWizards, you might as well just go with the built-in IR. You'll be surprised at how much range you can get from Speedlights. Joe McNally is a Speedlight champion and he continually tests the limits of what they can do. He's used the built-in IR through windows and diffusers with multiple-light setups. He's tested the range of the built-in Speedlight commander on Nikon to about 75 feet in bright sun. If you don't believe it, go out with a Speedlight and try it yourself before you buy a trigger. You'll be shooting wirelessly and saving a lot of money. Yes, Joe uses radios also, as do many pros including myself, but don't get into an equipment frenzy. Equipment addiction is one of the biggest enemies of growth as a photographer. Equipment is only as good as your skill.

For most portraits you won't need more than two lights running on IR. Often one light and a reflector are enough. Rick Sammon once said if you think you need two lights, use one. If you think you need three lights, use one. The best flash for you will be a Nikon Speedlight. The SB-700 is nice but it doesn't accept an external battery pack, so you're limited to four batteries at a time. Off-brand flashes are typically lower powered and will have trouble competing with diffusers and modifiers, and they just aren't as good as the Nikons.
 

KrisztinaK

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I would suggest a flash as well. Then spend some time learning how to use it properly.
I use mine all the time. It helps me to not only get the shots I want when there is not enough light but also to create better quality light than what is often available in my home.
 

Dominantly

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You talkin like Home Depot sliver clamp lights?
You need a strobe in your life, I would look for a refurbished or used SB-700 for your next purchase. It will make a world of difference!
 

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