Getting Into Studio Flash on a Budget – Part 1

I have shot professionally with studio flash from many manufacturers with many different diffusers.  There is a vast array of choices out there and you can spend an awful lot of money.  However, there are a wide range of cheaper options on the market that can get you very professional results at a fraction of the cost of a full studio set up.

Studio style lighting and flash is a fascinating area of photography, it’s all about shaping and controlling the light, if you want to learn more about it I can’t recommend Zack Arias and his One Light course highly enough.

Lights and Stands

Right, let’s get into what you will need, firstly you need a flash.  In the Fuji X universe there’s no better choice than the Godox TT685F  You will also need a method of firing the flash when it’s off the camera and on a stand.  The obvious choice is the Godox Xpro-F although the X1T-F  will do too.  The Xpro-F and X1T-F will allow you to adjust the flash settings on the TT685F from your camera – much easier than fiddling about with the flash once it’s mounted on the light stand.

You’ll also need some sort of holder for your flash, personally I like to use an adapter that provides a Bowens S compatible mount, that way all your accessories will fit and if/when you upgrade your flash system Bowens is about as close to a standard as you will find.   These adapters work really well with the Godox flash, I have three of them.  They also (usually) leave the body of the flash outside the softbox, which makes adjusting the settings on the flash itself much easier than if you have to dismantle the softbox to get at it.

In my experience light stands tend to be much of a muchness, sure you can spend a lot of money on bouncy air damped stuff, but I would suggest you really don’t need it at this stage. make sure they have reasonable reviews and you’ll be good to go.  I would strongly recommend sticking a sandbag in your shopping cart at the same time, light stands are notoriously top heavy when loaded up and if you are using an umberella that’s basically a parachute on a windy day.

Light Modifiers

So we are almost there, we have a flash or two, a means to fire them off camera and a way to mount them on light stands, all we need now are some diffusers.  Now there is a world of choice out there, if you are intending to travel with your kit (and why not, the whole thing runs on AA batteries) I would suggest collapsible is the way to go.  The simplest collapsible diffuser is the umbrella and it’s a very versatile piece of kit, you can get translucent shoot through ones or silvered reflective ones and they’ll mount on those adapters I mentioned earlier too.  For the price, there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t have an umbrella or two in your kit bag.

The catchlights in the eyes of the model show the two umbrellas I used here.

Model with catchlights in her eyes

Umbrellas are great, but they don’t offer a huge amount of control – though Zack Arias does some very cool stuff with half collapsed umbrellas.  Get his video course, seriously, it’s the best out there.  For more control you really want a softbox, there are square ones, rectangular ones octagonal ones, just be sure to get one with an egg crate (or beehive) to go on the front.  This gives you the option of truly directional but diffused light.

This next shot was taken with a large vertical softbox and an octabox (the catchlights in the eyes).  The idea was not to go for dramatic shadows but to capture the model as naturally as possible.  There is a lot of light here but it’s very diffuse and the shadows are soft and flattering.

Model with catchlights
Model shot with studio style flash

Given that we have a Bowens mount we can easily add diffusers that you wouldn’t normally associate with speedlight flashes, such as a beauty dish.