Strobist Startup Kit — Budget vs Premium

Jan 2013 — still get people interested in this so I’ve just been through and updated it with fresh links & such.

If you want to get started with strobist photography it does not have to cost the earth. I’ve put together a list of budget kit with a direct comparison to their premium counter parts. I set John & a few others up with with exact set up listed on the left-hand-side for their first strobist adventures — happy to report they are still loving it.


Yongnuo YN460 II

These little flashes are amazing for the money! The Yongnuo products are actually really well made; not your typical Chinese product. With a guide number of 38 and power control down to 1/64th they have everything you need. However they don’t have an automatic mode (E-TTL) but you wouldn’t be able to use your flash on an auto mode when firing it with radio triggers. You can buy them here, Make sure you get the YN460 II it’s much better than the YN460.

Price: £44.00

430ex II/SB-700

These are both great flashes, but will cost you over seven times more, they have more features but none you really need. The automatic modes are nice when you are running the flash on the camera but you wont be able to use it when running the flash wirelessly. In fact you won’t be able to use any of the extra features of these flashes when firing them via a radio remote. You can get the Canon 430ex here and the Nikon SB-700 here

Price: £215.00

Light Stand


A light stand is a light stand right? These aren’t heavy, come with their own bag, and have lasted me a year and counting. Grab yours here

Price: £15.00

Manfrotto Nano

The Nano stand is a really nice product, it’s quite a bit smaller when folded down due to it’s 5 section design and it’s just 930g in weight. Available here.

Price: £41.00



This is really flexible, it’s modular design gives it a transformer like ability to suit nearly every combination of flash, trigger & modifier you could throw at it. And it does this pretty cool double lock thing on the light stand so you can move it around with out worrying about dropping it all. Buy one.

Price: £13.00

Manfrotto Lite Tite Swivel

This seems to be the holy grail of light brackets, I haven’t seen one in person, but if Manfrotto’s other products is anything to go buy they will be very well made. Available here.

Price: £24.00


2in1 Umbrella

For a first modifier it’s probably a good idea to go for something flexible, this convertible umbrella will fill that role nicely. You can use it as a shoot through as well as a reflective white & silver. Grab the this little beaut here.

Price: £18.00

Lastolite 100cm Dual Duty

This is exactly the same thing as the one on ebay special just with a brand name on it. The build quality may be slightly better but I can’t really see any other benefits here. Available here.

Price: £38.00


RF-602s RF-603s

These are the best things I have bought in a long time! They are super reliable, have a great range & the added benefit of being useable as a remote shutter release. They come in 2 flavours, Nikon & Canon, so make sure you get the right ones for your camera. These have now been replaced with the improved RF-603s which I hear are even better! Buy buy buy!

Price: £27.00

Pocket Wizard Plus II Set

These are the big boys when it comes to firing flashes remotely, honestly I couldn’t bear to part with this sort of cash for this type of product. They just aren’t exciting enough. But if you are really feeling flush with cash you can get them here — don’t forget you’ll need at least 2.

Price: £268.00


Budget: £117.00

Premium: £586.00

I am not saying that premium products are bad, I like them a lot, but there is a time and a place for them and making your first step into off camera flash photography is probably not the time or the place. £117 will get you a great setup to start experimenting with and it’ll also feel a lot less rapey than £586!

A Note On: Softboxes

Ok, so since I put this post live I have had a lot of questions about softboxes and what a good cheap softbox would be to get started. Honestly all the cheap softboxes I have used have been horrid, really terrible — fiddly to put up, fiddly to take down. The first portable/strobist softbox I have come across that I have really liked is the Westcott Apollo, and I mean REALLY liked! This thing owns! So here I wouldn’t recommend going cheap — if you really want a softbox splash out a bit, you can pick them up for about £120 & IMO they are well worth it. Also Westcott recently announced that they have a new distribution partner in the UK, so that should make it even easier to get their products. I just wouldn’t recommend buying it from Creative Video.

If you really cant bare to part with that sort of money you could grab some umbrella boxes, they don’t give you the control of a soft box but they do give you that nice diffused light. You can grab some nice big 43 inch ones here for £44.


  • Nice write up and the price difference is nuts

    Good job one of your lovely mates introduced you to the light bracket and convinced you to give rf-602’s a go eh ;)

    PS. You should add soft boxes to this too!

  • I’ve been using this kit for a week now and it’s amazing! Top quality stuff and very affordable :)

  • Toby Howarth

    Nice write up mate.

    I am glad I got the YN460 II as a starter despite it falling from my light stand and losing the reflector and diffuser (DOH),so may purchase the bracket you recommended instead as it looks a lot more secure !

    Anyway must go and practice my Low Key. . ..

  • Great post – I’m currently looking at picking up the YN460 II as a second light, but I think I need a lot more practice first!

    A quick note on the SB-600 – if you have a Nikon D90 (or above) then you can use the built-in flash as a wireless commander to control the SB-600 with full i-TTL features.

  • Dan

    I was pretty gobsmacked at the price difference when you were totting it all up at my house the other night but seeing it all layed out like this makes it even more striking. Having played about with a 460 (not the version II) for a bit I can totally agree that they are superb value for money and certainly not £200 different to a 430ex.

    Great post as usual sir.

  • Love these sort of write-ups!

    Another REALLY cheap remote trigger system is the 4 Channel PT-04 Wireless Flash Trigger with Remote Control + 2 X receivers.

    You can get between 1 and 4 receivers and have a complete remote flash studio up and running in no time…and little cost! I’ve been using it for about a year now and works a treat. The only thing to be aware of is that it doesn’t keep the SB600 out of standby so if you’ve taken a little while between shots just press the button on top of the transmitter to reactivate the flash.

    I’ll be checking out those flashguns! Thanks!

  • Great post thanks Rick just what I was after :) Will let you know how I get on!

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  • Great write up! Quite a few things in this I already own as I have no option but to do things as cheap as possible.

    Some alternative to the Ebay Bracket would be handy (or maybe even a hack), as like you mentioned, are a complete bitch to tighten sometimes with an umbrella. (or maybe I should just get stronger :( haha )

  • Great post, be on the look out for the YN560 if you have a little more cash which should drop by the middle of June.

    And definitely stick a Wescott Apollo link in there even if it’s not ‘budget’

  • Great write up. Saw your recommendations, on one of your blog replies, for a cheap setup and Last week I ordered a set of RF602’s, and a YongNuo460 II. I’ve had a yongnuo remote shutter trigger for a year or so and it has been great. Reliable and a massive range so I’m expecting similar value for money from the flash and trigger.

    Really can’t justify spending much money on a flash that won’t even make it onto the top of my camera.

    Going to look into the stand/bracket/umbrella now too, as wanting to try some strobe work. Especially the lowkey. Going to try replicate your lowkey portrait technique with my motorbike rather than a person though?!

    Keep the guides coming please! :-)

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  • Phil — Yeah, ok ok, you did make me give them a chance and I am glad I did. I love the RF-602s; couldn’t ask for anything more in a trigger. Good idea on the softboxes; I’ll add something in when I get some time tomorrow night.

    John — Yeah and you have bee producing some very good results, keep practising

    Toby — Yeah I have lost a flash that way, nasty stuff. I am very particular about the brackets now.

    Dan — Practice practice practice. Just had a look at your flickr. Love that self-portrait with the sun behind you. (Also just just noticed your are friends with @sneeu)

    The Canon flashes also have a similar ETTL IR system onboard with the 7D or via the ST-E2. I didn’t mention it because with both version it relies a lot on line-of-sight and the range is bad.

    Other Dan — Thanks dude, it’s a shocker, tell Nat to go and buy all the other stuff on the list.

    Steve — Firstly, I had to edit your comment because it looked very VERY spammy. In fact it still does a little bit. I have to say the PT-04 are the worst triggers I have ever used, ever! They are very unreliable, badly made, poorly designed… and they are no cheaper than the much MUCH better RF-602s.

    Stu — Yeah, do let me know which bits you pick up

    Mike — I’ll have a look around for alternatives, but I don’t like recommending things I haven’t used. I do have a Westcott bracket that I got with my Apollo and that thing could hold a house up! I haven’t seen them for sale on their own in the UK though.

    Roger — Yeah, good thinking. I will add the YN560 to the post when they start appearing for sale and a row for softboxes.

    Guy — Great, let me know how you get on. That technique would look really nice with an R6 ;)

  • Adam

    Nice post Rick, now I have one place to go to when I want to buy something :)

    I am genuinely gob-smacked about the price difference!

  • Steve

    Hey Rick
    Sorry, there was no spam – just the info on the trigger. I have no loyalties or connections with them!
    I guess everyone’s experience is different. It has worked a dream for me. Range has been brilliant – and without line of sight – and running several flashes off one trigger for a studio setup has been a breeze.
    Though I can’t say that £33 for one trigger is ‘no cheaper’ than two for £26!!
    Shame you didn’t have as good an experience.

  • Steve — Not sure where £33 has come from? A RF602 trigger and receiver is around £27. Regardless of cost I would feel ripped off no matter how much money was exchanged for the PT-04. Whoever came up with the design for them is clearly on crack.

  • Steve

    OK, OK. Regardless, great post and one I’m making the most of…hopefully going to try the YN460 II flash!

  • Oli

    Very good, informaive post again. Thanks Rick

  • Oli

    Hey Rick, just a thought. If you use 2 flashes of different make, same settings and everything, can you tell? As in do different make light differently? Silly question again….

  • Nope, you’ll be fine. The only difference might be the power ratings. Check the guide numbers to see how powerful each flash is.

  • Oli

    Cool thank you :)

  • Thanks for this post, Rick. I had about £100 to spend on lighting equipment and have been agonizing over how to get the most bang for my buck. This post really really helped.

  • Nice sum-up! I really like it. I’ve been using a mixture of the list above in what comes to strobist hardware. But, before placing any orders when i was planning for what gear to buy I went trough a similal comparison.

    I ended up getting the tad cheaper lights and other electronics and the bit more sturdy stands and brackets. I thought that it would be best to start with the basic equipment and later on upgrade to the more professional gear.

    Great blog too, just found it via your Flickr stream.

  • Useful post Rick…

  • Kwame, Glad it’s helped, be sure to show me some results you get from your new setup.

    Antti, compromise is a good thing, I started cheaper and have slowly replaced items as and when I have needed to or been able to afford to.

    Nimal, no problem.

  • Rick, this post is gold dust for anyone that wants to get using this kind of gear. As you said here, “I started cheaper and have slowly replaced items as and when I have needed to or been able to afford to”, that sounds like a wise plan. I might treat myself on payday to some of the budget bits!

  • Really superb post! I’m no photographer but I’d love to learn more about it! Keep these posts coming! :)

  • Hi Ricky ..

    i have Nikon D3000 i just bought it 1wk ago with 18-55 DX lens . and i wanna get another lenses if u can advise me what to get i looked at NIKON 50mm f/1.8D AF PRIME LENS and Nikon AF-S DX VR 55-200mm 55-200 lens and Nikon Lens 70-300 AF Zoom f/4-5.6G .

    Thank you

  • Thanks Ben & Callum.

    Samir — For starters you’ve got my name wrong… thanks for that. Secondly if you want help it would be great if you could take the time to use decent English & punctuation. Thirdly, this is off topic it would have been better to email me. Fourthly you haven’t even told me what sort of thing you will be taking photos of so how can I advise you of what lens to use?

  • sorry Rick.. i was looking for an email address but i couldn’t find it, if u send it to me i ll contact you by email later on.

    Thank you so much

    P.s by chatting to you i might pick and learn good English

  • You must not have looked very hard. If you can find it you can try emailing me, else it’s tough luck.

    A few English tips for you:

    “u” should be spelt “you”

    “i” should be capitalised when used on its own like this “I”.

  • see I told you I will learn from you. thank you for the English class. and thank you for your help

  • Great write-up Rick thanks. I wanted to go the strobist route a while ago and just found it all a bit confusing. I ended up going for studio lights and got it all from the same vendor so I’d new it would all work together.

    What appeals here is that it’s a view from this side of the pond ;-) I may just lookout supplementing my studio setup with this cheap kit.


  • Hola me encantan tus fotos, se nota que eres apasionado en lo que haces y eso me gusta, quisiera hablar y charlar contigo, me encanta la fotografia pero no se por donde empezar; y siento que soy muy buena en esto; I would like that you answer to me to my e-mail: [email protected] Thanks for all and good luck

  • Rick,

    Thanks so much for this set up, I’ve finally found the time to put it all together and have a play and it works a dream. I’m off to photograph a family this afternoon and this is going straight in my car boot. Very happy.


  • thank you for information..
    i have nikon sb-800 and last week i buy yn-460 II
    u will try with 2 flash..

  • Hi Rick,
    Got any suggestions for a good budget softbox?

  • A good article Rick
    Softbox info would top it off nicely

  • Hi Rick.

    Really enjoyed your low-key tutorial, and really enjoyed this post. Have read back through some of your stuff now and really enjoy your blog and your writing style.

    This post has become like a shopping list for my ebay auctions – totally going to buy everything on it to get started with strobism – until now have been using my 430EXII on camera and bouncing with a reflector, but it doesn’t get me quite what I want.

    I’m generally a natural light photographer, but really want to expand into strobism.

    Can you tell us what umbrella boxes you’re using? I really like the look of them.

    Cheers, and thanks again.


  • Wish I’d taken more notice! I just bought a YN460I instead of the YN460II – oopsie!

  • Just added some info about softboxes to the end of the post as a few people were asking for it.

  • Great tips! I’m thinking about getting my first off-camera flash, but I’m in Brazil and these things are utterly expensive around here…I never had heard about these Yongnuo flashes, but after reading this article I’ve found them here in Brazil for half the cost of an used 380EX.

  • Got all the budget equipment (except the umbrella and bracket – to purchase later) and had a quick play this morning. All works brilliantly! Can’t wait to get out on a location and try some strobist malarkey :D

  • Hi Rick,

    How many flash do you typically use?

    I was thinking to buy one of Yongnuo YN460II to give it a try… but end up buying another SB600 after reading all the reviews about it…

    The new PWII sounds amazin as it supports wireless i-TTL too!! But the price….

  • Sam, nice work — hope you have fun with it.

    Steven, I normally carry 3 around in my bag, but quite often only use 2. It’s nice to have more than you need though. Oh and it’s only the TT1 and TT5 that support i-TTL, and not for Nikon yet i think, but don’t be a girl! You should run your flashes on manual to give yourself more control over the lighting.

  • Hilary

    Hi Rick,
    Brilliant post – I got a link to it from digital photography school, and am definitely going to get the kit to get going on that now – but want it yesterday of course!!!
    Looked up the bracket, but the listing has ended, and I have no idea what else I can get in it’s place… would you be in a position to advise on anything at all? Am dying to get going, and don’t want to have half the gear and not be able to do anything with it because I don’t have the bracket… Thanks in advance… Will be following your site keenly from now on :-))

  • Hilary, I’ve just updated the post with a new light bracket that I have recently been pointed at. My friend Adam uses them and he swears by them. I think I’ll be putting them on my shopping list too.

  • Hilary

    Brilliant – thanks a million, Rick! Hopefully I’ll be up and running in no time now… Thanks again!!

  • Just ordered YN460 II with RF-602 triggers for my D60. Let’s see how things go ;) This will be my first give for the ‘strobist’ stuff.

    Seems that I need to wait the delivery until mid September though…

    And Rick thanks for your inspiring work you’re doing!

  • Hi again, Rick
    Quick update… just received my stand, bracket and umbrella and was trying to set up and get going… and was quickly disappointed when I realised I haven’t received the triggers yet!!! AAAAGGGH!!! How frustrating!!! BUT, in the meantime, I wondered if you would be able to post a fool’s guide to setting up the equipment as I haven’t used any of the things before and don’t even know how to set it all up!!! Stupid I know, but that’s where I’m at…!!! Have been searching the web, and haven’t come up with any kind of guide yet (although will try youtube again and see if there is anything on there), so would love it if you could either do a demo or just post how / where to put all the bits together.. would polish off your great blog on this perfectly!!! Thanks in advance for any help you have time to offer… Meantime, please send speedy delivery vibes my way for the triggers as I am DYING to try all this out!!! Cheers :-)

  • Hey Rick,

    Thanks a lot for this post! I’ve been hunting around for a nice ‘student-friendly’ Strobist kit and this is exactly what I need. However, I am considering getting the Manfrotto bracket as opposed to the eBay ones to protect my flash unless I can find any other alternatives.


  • Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  • What do you put in the soft boxes would you put the flashes in or some other light ?

  • Ash, just run a normal flash in them; It’s just a light modifier — same way an umbrella is.

  • Ahh thats ok then :) i just have bought this whole kit today so hopefully it should be all here before the mid of December :) Also how would i set the triggers and the flash to trigger off is it auto or do you have to set them up in any way ? thanks for your help


  • Ash, I’ll pop you an email.

  • That would be great thanks Rick!

  • Ash, how much did the full kit cost you if you don’t mind me asking? I’m in process of buying now myself

  • Ash

    i just bought the start up kit all for £103.56 or something around there :)

  • Julius

    Hey Rick, any experience with the YN-468 flash? Thanks

  • Nvm, was too impatient so ordered it already. I’ll see once it arrives…

  • rick, quick q…. westcott apollo softbox… the 2334 or 2335? 2335 says ”mono” in the description. ?


  • Guy Sleeman, you want the non mono one I think.

  • Just bought this entire kit, can’t argue with the value that’s for sure. Took a while to get the triggers, but they even sent it with the 2.5mm jack so I can use it for the shutter. Win!

  • Max

    Can anyone suggest a backdrop stands and backdrops themselves? i am thinking of purchasing a 10×20 ft, gray and chroma green.

  • Max

    Another thing I am looking for is a good tripod, but with a budget price. any suggestions for tripods?

  • @Max: Look at the Benro A-150EXU. It’s light and comes with a ball head and quick release plate. Got mine for about $60.

  • Max

    Thanks alot Kwame. Looks like its a winner. good reviews so far. nice price too.

  • this budget kit is ace! after reading this i ordered pretty much everything you recommended and i love it.. thanks Rick!

  • Hi Rick,
    Thanks a lot for your post! Bought more or less everything you mentioned and saved myself a lot of money II haven’t got (yet?!). I love it ’cause it is so easy to get around with and to set up anywhere. I took some pics at my daughters pre-school and it worked brilliantly. However when I took some photos of my sister and her baby a bit after that all the pictures have some black vinetting on one side. No idea what I am doing wrong or whats happening. Have you come across that or have you got any idea? All photos I take are fine when I shoot with on camera flash or no flash. A couple of pics even have about a third part of them black. Hope you can help or maybe soomeone els came across that. Cheers!

  • @Susi. Try slowing down your exposure. I have had this problem, when the exposure is too quick for the wireless trigger. I find anything over 1/200 is too fast. Anything over 1/250 is usually too fast for the 460 in the hotshoe too.

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  • Definitely need to get into strobism – it’s the future!!!

  • Hi great list, the link to the umbrellas does not exist any more, I have had a look on eBay but can’t seem to find an exact replacement. Is there another you would recommend?
    Cheers Jim

  • Awesome!! :) Thanks!

  • Well deserved top spot on Google for this! I know where my money will be going this month.

  • Hi there,

    Looking at purchasing 3/4 flashes and triggers etc for shooting cars. Recently i have been doing a lot of night photography, slow shutter speed and just using 1 flashgun manually..

    I have a budget of around 200-250, would these do the job for shooting a car ?

    Many Thanks, great blog.


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  • Amazing. I am setting my equipment up right now, so this post helped me a lot! Thanks for sharing. Keep posting!

  • Thanks for the repost and email…I ended up buying 2 YN46011’s to accompany my canon 460 ex2 with a dslr kit pt-16 radio trigger and 4 receivers from ebay, they seem to work great with good distance and through the walls in my house.

    Can you pls advise which Apollo soft box you prefer?, ideally to illuminate a couple of people close together.

    I was going to buy metal adapter brackets for my elinchrom octas but had second thoughts as my main objective with a strobe setup is to be 100% portable and get setup fast so splashing out on one should be worth it.

  • I have 2 YN460 II’s, 4 RF603’s, 2 Konig light stands, 2 cheap umbrellas and have a small softbox on the way. I am the king of budget kit, and i recommend it all the time. For anyone just starting out there really is no need to go any better.

    In fact i used the YN460’s for a wedding recently as a second shooter, and the pro’s SB900 kept over heating and interrupting the ceremony with loud beeps, but the Yongnuos went all day popping hundreds of flashes each with absolutely loads of power left.

  • Great gear update, Rick. I’ve followed your advice for most of the strobist kit. Before I found your site I had already purchased a 580EX II. I have the Yongnuo 560 now and it works great. I’m in between getting more speed lights or moving up to some Alien Bees. I also purchased the RF-603s and they work really well – great range with the added benefit of either trigger being a transmitter or receiver.

    I’m really digging my Apollo Westcott 28″ softbox. I’m going to get a new stand for it soon so I can angle it a bit better. I also took your advice for the tripod and Ball Head – Manfrotto 190 More and 324RC. I don’t have any complaints about either one. Right now I’m shooting most product stuff and the tripod has been perfect for that.

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  • Phil

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for this comprehensive list.

    I’d just like to let you know that the cheaper flash bracket is no longer available.

    I ordered one from the seller on Amazon and they sent me a different item which was a piece of rubbish.

    Unfortunately, they then messed about with the refund and it’s taken a month to get it sorted and only then by getting amazon customer service involved.

    I’d advise any of your readers to avoid BV Electronics as the experience has been a nightmare


  • Thanks for the feedback Phil, I’ll get the post updated when I get a little bit of free time.

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  • Thank you Rick for your honest input about Strobist photography tools. For sure I enjoyed reading your research result with purchasing the cheaper version in Amazon. I have never used this kind of photography area and I am sure it is full of fun and excitements once you get into it.

  • zeljk2o

    Here’s a cheapo Chinese alternative to Westcott Apollo, just$28 on ebay