Getting Started With Strobist Photography

Off Camera Flash

Let’s get right back to basics with strobist/off camera flash photography. The perfect way to get started if you’ve never had a go, or to get more out of that speedlight that’s gathering dust on your shelf.

Triggers & Flashes

Best advice is to get started on a budget, these cheap Yonguno RF602 (sometimes named RF-600TX) will trigger most flashes.

They come in a few varieties, so you need to get the ones to match your camera — Canon / Nikon (These will work on other cameras too, I’ve used the Canon set successfully on Fuji and Sony cameras).

Triggers on a budget, the RF602s thanks to @ben_grubb for the photo

Now you can search eBay for a cheap Flash/Speedlight to go with them. I picked up my first flash from a flea market for about £11.

Alternatively, if you wanted to spent a little more money for something a bit better I’d recommend grabbing the YN600EX Flash (The Canon 600EX-RT copy) and a YN-E3-RT Trigger, they are everything you need and the flashes have got a good power output.

Once you get the basics down of getting the flash to fire off the camera, it’s time to point it at something. I grabbed a camera I’d built from a kit, and chucked it on a lump of wood.

Camera & Flash Settings

One of my favourite things about photography is that the best way to learn something is by doing it. Strobist photography is no different. But there are some good settings that I always tend to use as a starting point:

Shutter Speed: 1/125— Don’t go any faster than this, you’ll start to get dark lines at the bottom of your photo (This is your shutter closing before the light has completely traveled to your subject).

Aperture: Wide open — For as much light as possible. With the 50mm I was using for this F/1.4 was the widest I could go. This lower number gives a shallower depth of field and more light hitting the sensor means the flash doesn’t have to work as hard.

ISO: 100 — this is my default wherever possible, start low and move higher when you need to. Lower numbers generally mean better quality photos.

Start by taking a photo without the flash on, this will give you a feel for how the ambient light get’s exposed at these settings. For me it was almost pitch black, so I dropped the shutter down to 1/50th of of a second to bring a little light back into the shot.

At this point you’re ready to introduce the flash, power it on to it’s lowest power setting, point it at the subject and let a few shots fly. Try moving the flash around, and slowly increasing the power until you get something you like the look of.

Videos make everything easier to understand, so grab a coffee and spend the next 13 minutes and 17 seconds listening to me talk you through this stuff.

Getting Started With Strobist Photography - Getting Started With Strobist Photography - Result Photographed by Rick Nunn

The end result came out really well — especially for a totally bare flash pointed directly at the subject. 

Lighting Diagram

Lighting Diagram for Getting Started With Strobist Photography


Camera Settings

  • Shutter Speed: 1/50th
  • Aperture: F/1.4
  • ISO: 100