When considering photographic lighting solutions there are many options available on the market. From relatively inexpensive continuous lighting set-ups to professional level high power strobes. Now when first making a move into lit portraiture and editorial photography, you may not be keen to fork out over a thousand on a ProFoto single light with modifiers. Equally the inexpensive continuous lighting options may not deliver the power or results you desire. There are some entry level strobe options available from manufacturers such as Bowens. However, if you want to shoot anything away from the convenience of mains electricity with these type of setups, the ‘power pack’ is both inescapable and expensive.
Yongnuo manufacture inexpensive, relatively high powered flashguns with wireless radio triggers built in. They’re light weight, easy to transport and can produce some brilliant results in the right conditions. These flashguns coupled with lighting stands (or even a support such as a GorillaPod) and cheap eBay bought modifiers such as pop-up soft boxes are a great place to start when exploring photographic lighting on a budget. There are plenty of options when it comes to cheap lighting modifiers that are compatible with flashguns, from soft boxes and umbrellas to the slightly more expensive beauty dish. There is also the ease and convenience when adding additional lights to your set up. Simply ensure the added flash is set to the same channel as the radio trigger (situated in the camera hot shoe) and the existing flashes and shoot away.
Now obviously there is a reason not everyone has opted for this much smaller, lighter, cheaper lighting solution and ditched their multi-thousand pound setups. There are of course limitations of a flashgun based options, power. To state the obvious slightly, these small units that run off AA batteries certainly cannot compete with mains operated strobes when it comes to power. But how much power do you realistically need? If you plan to shoot inside buildings etc, where there is a high level of control over ambient light, then flashgun setups are brilliant. However, if you are planning to light multiple subjects in bright sunlit conditions you may struggle to get results with the power available. Having said this, if you are in the same bright conditions but only shooting one or maybe two subjects you can produce some great results due to being able to keep the light source closer to the subject. Something which is not achievable when photographing multiple subjects with one flash. If not being able to light multiple subjects in bright ambient conditions is a deal breaker for you there are still some additional add-ons at your disposal. Some soft boxes for example are able to be fitted with multiple flashguns at one time, with the addition of a bracket (again all available on eBay.) There are also rechargeable power packs available for Yongnuo flashguns that are a fraction of the price of their AC powered counterparts. Although these packs will not increase the power outage of an individual light it will rapidly decrease flash recycle time and mean you can shoot more freely and quickly without having to wait for the flash to recycle between shots.
Personally with this type of lighting I rarely opt to shoot in ambient conditions that are too bright. Not that it can’t be done, but in my opinion when ambient light is able to be controlled a little more, the effect of the lighting is far more apparent and dynamic. For about £200 you can get yourself 2 x Yongnuo 560 III flashguns 1 x Yongnuo 603C 2 x eBay bought pop-up 60cm soft boxes and 2 x lightweight lighting stands. For an additional £70 you can get yourself a 30cm beauty dish with grid and diffuser.
In my future articles I will explain some simple lighting arrangements for portraiture and editorial photography using this type of low cost setup. As well as an article on how these flashes can be used in your sports photography.