Photography on cheap by Vilts


Elite Cafe Member
Apr 8, 2007
Maybe it's useful to someone. One more way to do "studio" photography at home with very little resources, but quite decent results.

Sexy and naked model this time is my engraved Zippo.

What you need:
  1. Camera with flash
  2. One or more stand-alone flashes
  3. Slave flash trigger for these flashes

Now this setup is somewhat picky about flash on camera - what you need is a camera-flash combination that flashes only once. So TTL, E-TTL, red-eye reduction and full automatic cameras are unfortunately out, they do some pre-flashes to measure light and other stuff. This pre-flash tricks the slave trigger and makes stand-alone flashes to fire before it's needed. On my Canon Speedlite I set the mode to Manual and it did the trick.

Stand-alone flash can be basically any flash you can get your hands on. I used one old cheapo flash that I had lying around, it's worth probably no more than $10-15. Would be nice if you could adjust the flash power, but not necessarily - add paper sheet or 2 and you can reduce the flash power. eBay for Vivitar 283, Vivitar 285, Nikon SB-24's and probably many others.

Flash slave triggers are little neat thingies that you attach to your stand-alone flash and they will give sync signal when other firing flash is detected. Search on eBay for them, I got new one for $10 and works like a charm. They work even when shutter speed is 1/1000.

As you can see from my 'studio setup' photo, that on-camera flash is turned away so it doesn't light the scene. It is only used to trigger the slave units. I set my on-camera flash power to 1/128th and it triggered even then.

After that all you need to do is set the slaves as needed and shoot away.

Oh, one more flash tip of balancing flash and ambient lights. Flash brightness is determined only by aperture, ambient light is determined with combination of aperture and shutter speed. So if you look at the Zippo photo then the background is very dark, to achieve this I just set the shutter speed so fast that ambient light didn't register and aperture was set according to flash. Simple as that.

Equipment I used:
  1. Canon EOS 5D with Canon 100/2.8 macro lens
  2. Canon EX580 flash - only for triggering slave flash
  3. Unomat el Cheapo flash, as slave
  4. Flash trigger for slave
  5. Nokia 6310i phone for paperweight - works very well

And for your viewing pleasure, here's full size photo of that engraved Zippo - feel free to zoom in and see every slip I made there...

Actually on the right side of Zippo I held a paper sheet to fill in little bit this darker side, if you look closely then you can see it. The sheet of tracing paper in front of slave flash is just to diffuse the light a little.

Don't hesitate to ask if anything is unclear.



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