Tip - Cheap Flash Units for DIY Studios

Lately I've been experimenting with a DIY home studio setup in the basement. I started with continuous lighting using large CFLs but moved on to trying out flash units.

I picked up an inexpensive flash trigger systems for three units from iShoot off Ebay that consists of a trigger that sits in the flash holder on your camera and three receiver units that fire the flashes.

So far the results have been great. I picked up a couple of inexpensive umbrella stands, a few flash clamps and a few shoot through umbrellas. This stuff is all new to me so its all very exciting. ;-)

For the actual flash units - one is a Olympus T-20 that I had from back in my high school days when I had an Olympus OM10 which as a popular budget camera in those days. I've long since sold off my OM10 camera. After dusting off the Olympus T-20 and inserting fresh batteries I was pleasantly surprised to find that it works perfectly and gives off a lot of light.

I've seen similar T-20 units on Ebay for around $20. There is also the Olympus T-32 which was the step up model that offered some bounce abilities in the flash unit. If you are mounting this on a flash bracket that moves than you really don't need to spend extra for this feature. They run closer to $30 on Ebay.

For really cheap new flash units, you'll find a lot on Amazon and Ebay. I got one from Neewer for under $10 and it even includes a slave function which means it has a light sensor that can trigger when it see any other flash.

These cheap flash units are sold under a number of different names in this $10 - $12. I found that mine works, at least so far, but its not as strong as the T-20, so I ordered another one and I'll mount them together or from the sides to light up the background for "over white " shots.

One nice thing about these cheap-o flash units is that you figure them out quickly. They don't have a lot of settings, they just fire. You can move the stands around to get the right lighting mix and "chimp" or look at the lcd screen to instantly see the results.

With digital cameras, just checking the lcd and histograms can take to the place of a light meter.

Here is the 300 Watt CFL:

Photo credits: Peanutroaster.

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Interesting concepts !


Thanks for the info.


Thanks Cmoulton. My doggie "Tiki" - First photo of him accepted. He was a very good model even with the flashing strobes. The flashes allowed him to stay sharp.


Thanks for the great info. I'll be trying this out ASAP :) I LOVE "white dog" photo in your recent images section. :)


Thanks for sharing!


thanks for sharing this great info.


Gavril, I've been around the block a few times, I can tell the difference between a CFL and a Halogen. ;-) Halogen - small, tubular and you can cook and egg on it. CFL - box says CFL and its spiral shaped and doesn't get as hot.

Nice lighting on that example image by the way!

Home Depot carries a huge spiral CFL that is sold as a 300W. I can't recall what the actual watt usages is. I have a photo in my pending images, if accepted I'll post it here.


Thanks for sharing


Those 300W lights at Home Depot are Halogen lights. I have a few. They are not that good for photography. The light source is small and they create strong shadows. I have one accepted photo I did with that setup. ID 7575791
With the fluorescent lights I have many more:) ID 10689572 for example


Gavril, thanks for the info. Strobist's idea of a cheap strobe is $150. My idea is $10. ;-)

With strobes you also have to consider maintaining all the batteries with strobes. So far my one test model got a little board waiting for recharges.

I got these 300 watt bulbs from Home Depot for about $15 each. Rated at 2700 K. I've had good results with them also but I worry about knocking them over and breaking them. I have to make some kind of rig for them.


Interesting blog, a lot of useful info about cheap strobe solutions can be found on strobist archive.
But according to my experience it takes a lot of trial and error to get something going correctly, which is OK for static subjects but when it comes to people the patience is running out quickly.
I experimented with continuous light, which is possible today much more than in the past due to the cheap fluorescent bulbs. I bought 1,000W of equivalent light for $100 in two banks of 5 100W bulbs, including two stands and two soft boxes. They don't heat up since the real power they consume is about 200W. The bulbs give a light temperature of 5100, very convenient.
The light is weaker than a few flashes together but enough for a group photo of 3-4 people sitting.
It is much easier to work with than flashes I found.


Thanks for sharing! :) ...Great photos!


Really interesting blog, thanks for the info!

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