This lighting kit was recommended to me by Heather Kanillopoolos of Heather Kanillopoolos Photography. I get so many questions about it every time I post that I wanted to break down exactly what's in my kit, what it looks like, how it works, and what is the end result.
First things first, what flashes do I use?
I use (2) Godox AD200's. You can find them here:
What is an OCF?
OCF stands for Off Camera Flash. This means it serves some of the same purposes as a traditional on camera flash, but has much more versatility and power.
What is the difference between On Camera Flash and Off Camera Flash?
Off Camera Flashes (OCF) are attached to a light stand and typically have some sort of diffusion on them, such as a softbox, umbrella, or beauty dish. We'll touch on diffusion more later.
This is the On Camera Flash I use:
On Camera Flashes can also be used on a light stand and with an umbrella, but are not made for overpowering sunlight. Meaning they are better suited for a low light indoor wedding reception mounted on camera with a diffuser.
Off Camera Flashes meaning do not have a hotshoe mount to connect directly to your camera. They must be placed on a light stand and fired using a separate trigger (more on that below).
Off Camera Flashes don't have a tilting/rotating head the way a traditional on camera (but not built in/pop up) flash would.
How many OCF do you need?
I purchased two AD200s, which was recommended to me by Heather. She also said that in her experience the AD200 Pro didn't have any features that made it worth buying over the AD200. She recommended the Godox AD-B2. This allows you to dual mount your AD200s to create a light with twice the power. But when that's not necessary, you can just use one, or put them on separate stands for more versatility.
And while I'm glad to have that versatility, and glad to have a backup when one takes a fall and breaks....... I don't know that it was completely necessary to have two right now for my purposes. My first session using OCF I didn't realize until the end of the session that the second light had been on the wrong channel which means it wasn't firing. So I had two lights attached but only one of them was affecting my shots.
My second session using OCF, I didn't realize until partway into the session that I had left the battery to my second flash in my car (no biggie, I could have gone back for it if it was necessary, but I knew the first session worked without it so I wasn't worried).
So it took me a few sessions to actually begin using both lights, and if I had only had one all along I believe I could have adjusted the power to get about the same results. Now, keep in mind I still only schedule for golden hour sessions, so I'm not overpowering mid day sun. If you are, I still believe purchasing two AD200's and the AD-B2 dual mount is your best bet.
What if you don't need the extra power or versatility?
If you do decide you just need AD200, you'll want a different mount. You'll need this one instead:
So what makes it work?
Something has to tell it to fire. In this case it's a trigger. The trigger mounts on the hotshoe of camera, like an on camera flash would, and tells the OCF when you've hit the shutter so it knows when to flash.
Heather recommended the XPro, so that's what I went with. You will need to make sure the last letter corresponds to your camera make. I have the XPro-C for Canon. If you use Nikon you'll need the XPro-N and Sony and XPro-S. But on the plus side this means that there is only one version of the flash for all camera makes - only the trigger changes based on what you use!
Godox also makes another trigger model called the X2T, which is $10 cheaper, but Heather strongly encouraged against it. I know that I enjoy the layout and ease of use of my XPro (seriously it is literal plug and play, it remembers my settings so it automatically connects to my lights every time!) and I am very happy with my decision.
The trigger also serves the useful purpose of adjusting your settings! You can change the power level of your flash directly without touching the flash. This is especially great for those who may be shorter and don't want to have to lower the light stand each time they need to adjust a setting.
What makes the light pretty and flattering? Isn't flash harsh and ugly?
If you want to master artificial lighting, you'll need modifiers. Modifiers, or diffusers, are used to soften the light. Soft light is very flattering and pleasing!
Here is the diffuser I use:
It is 37" which makes it kind of a mid size softbox (although it may seem very large to look at) and octagon shaped, which is why I call it an Octabox.
Note: This cannot be used without a mount, it only has a circular metal ring and you must purchase the dual mount or the regular S Bowens mount separately. The mount then locks into place in this metal ring. If you do not purchase one of the Bowens Mounts you will be unable to use the softbox.
Pros: It creates a very pleasing light and comes with a compact carrying case that all of the pieces, including ones purchased separately, all conveniently fit into without pushing and shoving. But it is one of most affordable softboxes I could find, a lot of value for the money, and name brand to boot!
Cons: It is not collapsible like an umbrella as some more expensive softboxes are, which means you'll need to carry it assembled at your shoot locations. It is large and cumbersome to carry, but you get used to it. I will be purchasing a utility wagon this year for this purpose. It can be extremely difficult to assemble and disassemble to softbox your first few times. However, after a few uses you get the hang of it and it can be quick, easy, and even satisfying to assemble and disassemble.
The secret to assembling the Godox 37" Octa Softbox is to adding your rods in a symmetrical pattern, like lugnuts on a tire. This means install the 12 o' clock pole, then the 6 o' clock, then the 3 o' clock, then the 9 o' clock, and so on. It will be difficult if you attempt to go in a perfect clockwise/counterclockwise pattern. You have to alternate sides. If you have difficulty putting the pole into the metal ring first and then inserting into the velcro like pockets, switch to the reverse way until you find what is easiest. And if you have one that you just cannot get in or out, use your elbox to hold the pole straight while installing. This makes it so much easier!
Important Note: When shopping for soft boxes, be sure to carefully study the photos and product descriptions. A lot of other modifiers such as beauty dishes appear in searches and while some of them may produce a similar lighting on your subject, some may be very different and may mount different as well. Beauty dishes are made for the flash to face inward towards the reflective insides of the modifier so that the light can bounce back onto the subject. The soft box I linked on the other hand is made for the light to face outward towards the subject and to have a sheer piece of white fabric (included) attached to soften the light. Make sure to do your research on the type you are buying.
What else do I need?
You're almost there! You just need something to hold it up! Right now you've got a softbox on the ground, but you want it to be just above eye level of your subject! That means you'll need a stand. I purchased some at a yard sale years ago and have been using them. They were from a cheap kit. They did get the job done, but fall over easily and had lose connections in the top metal piece which made it less stable. Any light stand will work that has that little metal piece on top that looks like a thin spool of thread. This is where you'll attach your softbox so you'll want it to be sturdy.
Edit: I have recently purchased this 9.5' lightstand. So far it looks and feels much more sturdy than my old ones.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: Don't do as I do, do as I say. Learn from my mistakes when I say:
SPEND THE EXTRA MONEY TO PURCHASE THE FLASHBACK BUMPER.
It may seem like the silliest little over priced hunk of plastic you've ever seen, but ask yourself, would you rather pay $39 now or $299 for replacing the light later or $100 for repairs?
(Use code BROKENFLASH for 10% off your purchase of The Off Camera Flashback Bumper!)
I tried to play it cheap and say I didn't need it, but low and behold my softbox catches wind (which it did not seem to us to be a windy day to the naked eye), falls on a sidewalk, and one of the two AD200's breaks. Now because of the dual mount the bulb is fine, but the on/off switch broke off (and we were unable to find it), the battery ejection switch dislocated so the battery is stuck, the plastic casting broke apart in a way that would not pop back together, and the unit got stuck in a sort of limbo where it knew there was something wrong but we were unable to turn it off or do anything to help it.
I found a website that will repair it for $92, plus another $35 for additional parts, so I'lll save you all the $92+ and tell you to buy the $39 bumper. It's worth it. Trust me. I was using the $3.99 silicone sleeves and they had no affect.
They have released a new silicone bumper for $13, but it seems to be built differently so I doubt it will have the same protective qualities as the hard plastic bumper.
Ready to light up your life?
Checklist of what you'll need:
Godox AD200 (1 or 2, it's up to you) Godox AD-B2 (if you purchase two lights)
S Type Bowens Mount (if you purchase one light)
Godox XPro Trigger (last letter corresponds to your camera brand)
The Off Camera Flashback Bumper(s)
All of these images were taking using the kit described in this article.
AFFILIATE LINKS: The links contained in this article are affiliate links, which means I will earn a small commission if you use them, however opinions are my own and I wouldn't recommend something I didn't believe in.