Off Camera Lighting | Simple Setup

When something happens 3 times in a short period of time, I think that means it is time to pay attention. Such is the case when I received basically the same question 3 times within a 24 hour period 🙂 In this case, the question has to do with Off Camera Lighting and sounds something like this:

Hi! I am interested in learning more about Off Camera Lighting and want to make sure I have or get the right gear to experiment. Can you please help me with a list of items?

Instead of responding individually I wanted to share with you all here, in case anyone else can benefit from this information. I am going to provide a quick and easy setup to achieve an Off Camera Lighting setup. This is by no means the only way to achieve it, simply “a way” to achieve it.

First and foremost if you want to dive in and really learn about Off Camera Lighting, especially using “OneLight“, be sure to visit my friend Zack Arias’ websites and purchase yourself his WONDERFUL OneLight DVD, (for $250, it is an absolute steal for the education you receive. Empty your brain because Zack fills it up!) sign up for a OneLight Workshop or join in on the Forums. Zack is a great guy (read: real, genuine, down to earth, friendly and humble) that has helped me tremendously when it comes to using alternative lighting, among many other things such as using your camera to feed your family and pay the mortgage.

OK, onto a simple Off Camera Lighting setup that you can start with. Hopefully you have a lot of these pieces already so you can save yourself some money by not having to purchase. Otherwise going with advice I received from Zack, use what you have and if you don’t… buy this stuff.

Here is what you will need:

  1. A small flash. If you are a Nikon User you can use the SB-800, 900, 600 80DX, SB-28, etc…. Canon… 500 series I believe. If you do NOT have a flash but want to experiment, do yourself a favor and buy a Vivitar 285. It is a fraction of the cost and allows you to shoot the Flash in Manual Mode (which is what you will want to do).
  2. A Lightstand. Hands down the Avenger Stand is the way to go. Inexpensive, durable and extends really high.
  3. A cold shoe adapter. This is an inexpensive “holder” for the flash to be placed on the stand
  4. An umbrella adapter. This connects to the lightstand and the coldshoe attaches to the other end. There is also a hole for and umbrella shaft to go in.
  5. A modifier. Modifiers come in all shapes and sizes. Softboxes, grids, umbrellas, etc… Each has a unique use. Start off with a decent umbrella that you can shoot through or bounce off of.
  6. Some type of Trigger to fire the flash. My favorite is the Pocket Wizard Plus II Transceiver. Not Cheap, but very reliable. You can buy cheap triggers on Ebay. I also know of some people using Radio Poppers and they seem to work well. Also, Nikon has the CLS built into its newer flashes where one flash can trigger the other flashes. I have used it and it works well sometimes, but iIMHO it is not as reliable as Pocket Wizards or the like.
  7. You will need a connector for the trigger to the flash. In my case, the Pocket Wizards come with a male to pc sync cord that fits perfectly with the Nikon SB-800. You may need to buy a special cord or adapter depending on the flash unit you are using.

Here are some links to the above mentioned equipment:

  1. Vivitar 285 $89 @
  2. Lightstand (looks like they discontinued the Avenger… Bummer!) this is a Manfrotto 9.5 ft. $69
  3. Coldshoe Adapter $9.95
  4. Umbrella Adapter $29.5 *Alternatively you can save some $ and get this which combines the coldshoe and umbrella adapter – $15
  5. Modifer Umbrella $24.95
  6. Pocket Wizard Plus II Transceiver (*Need 2*) (Alternatively – Visit for more info on the Radio Popper)
  7. If you need custom cords for your Trigger to Flash, visit Paramount Cords For simple mono to mono cords, visit your friendly neighborhood Radio Shack

That is about it. Of course you need your camera too 🙂 You put the other trigger into the hotshoe slot of your camera.

So using this equipment effectively and correctly is a whole other story 🙂 We can touch on that later. Please leave any questions in the comment section. Enjoy!

*UPDATE* as I am scrambling to get out of the house, it has been requested to show an example… So here is the first one that came to mind. 🙂


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