Q: What do these three shots have in common?

1024 511 Tim Breaseale

A:  One Speed light set-up.

I wanted to share what equipment I use and how easy it is to get a cool shot from just one speed light.  My basic set-up consists of:

  • Canon 580 EX II
  • Radio Popper JrX set with RPcube
  • Lumedyne HV Cycler
  • Manfrotto mini ball head

Some other equipment I use that’s not pictured is a Manfrotto compact light stand, Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries and of course, all the appropriate cables.  I also use the Pelican CF card case.  I find that this case durable, waterproof and fits in my back pocket easily.  I did not mention a camera because all three of the portraits above were taken with different cameras (Canon 40D, Nikon D300 and Leica S2).  Click any image to enlarge

Here is the basic set-up.  When I use my Canon flash off-camera, I can use just about any camera that has an appropriate ISO standard hot shoe.  What I love about the Radio Poppers JrX system is that I can adjust the power for my flash right from the camera position.  When my flash, let’s say, is ten feet away from me, it is very convenient not having to walk over to the flash to adjust power and walk back into position to take the picture.

Here is an excellent example of my flash position far to my right side (about 10 feet away).  I used the ambient light (surrounding light) to build the background as I used my flash just for my subject.  Flash power will vary depending on the ambient light.  With the clean highlight and a dark shadow of the face, this portrait becomes very dramatic.

Sometimes I want to concentrate the flash to a smaller area.  This is when I use a Strobies grid.  This grid is a 20 degree spot that really helps out when I do not need the flash to light up the whole area.  I use this a lot when I am shooting macro work.  It also works well when lighting up zombies from underneath the face or highlighting an area of a product.  Below is a shot I took just using the Strobies grid with my Canon flash and merging several images into one.

Here are some more examples of the one speed light set-up.  Most of the portraits that I photograph with this set-up are taken during a festival or special event.
















Here is a diagram showing the placement of the light.  I will use the light to the left or right of the camera.  Sometimes I will also place it above the camera, but not that often.  It does depend on how crowded the event is and how much space I have around me.



The best way to carry all this around is a Think Tank Photo Street Walker PRO.  I have been carrying equipment for a long time and this bag is the most comfortable backpack I have ever used.  It has been from Alabama to Massachusetts to Miami to Atlanta to Dallas to Ecuador to Columbia and I have to say, it still looks great!

This bag is roomy enough for a pro camera body with a 70-200 attached, a couple of other lenses, a flash and accessories.  There is even a nice rain cover just in case you get caught in a downpour.  I have never used the rain cover, but I have to say when I was in Ecuador trekking in the rainforest, the bag was soaked when I finished the trek and my equipment was perfectly dry.  When I fly, this bag also fits nicely under the seat.   I can’t recommend this bag enough.

Here are some more examples of my one speed light set-up.








During the events that I photograph, I strongly recommend having your contact information with you.  I use MOO cards.  MOO cards rock!  My images are printed on heavy stock paper and look awesome.  I will have a picture on one side and my contact information on the other.  One of the great things about MOO is that you can have up to 50 different images in one set of cards.  That is handy when you approach different clients for different types of work or for general networking.  Below are some of my portrait and commercial cards.

I hope this has been helpful for new photographers wanting to experiment with the flash.  I highly recommend all these products and have used them for many, many years.  To read about how I processed the zombie images from a past blog (click here).  To see more images of Florida’s Supercon (click here).  Here are the websites to some of the equipment that I use.

  1. www.usa.canon.com
  2. www.radiopopper.com
  3. www.lumedyne.com
  4. www.moo.com
  5. www.manfrotto.com
  6. www.thinktankphoto.com