Friday, January 02, 2009

Gear Bag Friday: Wait, There's More - The Little Flash That Could

Good Morning Everybody,
LaDawn and I are holed up in Florida working on blogs, books, and 2009 tour plans- Digital WakeUp Call - A New Dawn.

Oops! Did I say tour plans - yep, it's true - 58 cities throughout the USA from March 30 - November 15, 2009 covering lighting, software Magic Bullets, video with the new DSLRs, and 20 products to polish up your bottom line. I know I'm letting the "cat out of the bag" a bit early - just consider it a heads up. I'll fill you in a bit more next week.

Anyway, I thought this post might get lost in the middle of the holidays but I'm posting it anyway. Next week will finally return to some sort of normal schedule around here at Let's get to it...

Wait, There's More - The Little Flash That Could
Okay gang, this question only comes up about once a week and has been covered on the blog previously a number of times. But, since it's Gear Bag Friday I'm going to give this little flash a special place in my gear bag and give you the complete lowdown on it's use.

Whenever I'm creating a nice photograph of my bride in church, one way to add a little pizazz to that photograph is to just have a little accent light on the back of the veil. That little accent light is created with my little mini slave as shown here. It's a fairly low power flash unit that is fired optically by my other off camera strobe.

What I love about this little strobe is that it has a little foot on the bottom of the unit with which I can adjust the flash in an upward direction instead of just the unit laying flat on the floor. By adjusting it upwards, just a bit, I can direct it into the back of the bride's veil with the mini-slave positioned on the floor of the church.

Here are a couple things to consider when using this little strobe.
1 -- I prefer a working distance of around 10 or 12 feet from the subject when using my mini slave.

2 -- The thickness of the bride's veil can have an effect on how the backlighting is rendered. If it is a very thin veil, the backlighting may be a bit too strong and actually blow-out the veil. In this case, I simply cover the flash head with a single layer of a clean handkerchief. This reduces the flash output by two stops and accents of veil softly without blowing it out. On a thicker veil using the handkerchief simply isn't enough twinkle lighting effect. It is simply your discretion as to how much effect you prefer on your subject in your own situations. Remember; just don't cover the optical eye with the handkerchief.

3 -- I use an off-camera flash 99.9% of the time. Therefore, with the off-camera strobe coming from the left side or the right side of my subject, therefor it is never any problem with my little mini flash seeing the light coming from my off-camera flash. If you are using just your on camera flash, then the mini slave may not trigger because you're on camera flash will be blocked by the subject. An additional reason why off-camera flash is so important!

Anyway, this little flash is inexpensive, easy to use, reliable, and just adds that final twinkle touch to the beautiful bridal images. Here is a listing of some models that may work for you.

Here are links to 3 models available at B&H. Smith Victor PG250S Wireless Mini Slave – my favorite right here – about $23.50. Smith Victor PG160S Wireless Mini Slave – a little less powerful right here, and only $16.50. SP Systems Mini Slave Strobe – another version the first one right here – only $24.50

Hey gang, that's it for me today. I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and I'll plan to see you next week. Just remember, pixels count their calories during the holiday season. See everybody on Monday, -- David


  1. These little slave strobes are just what I am after for working on location. Trouble is I live in the uk and I am having real trouble tracking down anyone who makes/imports them here. Does anyone have any ideas?


  2. How close does the other flash have to be to the mini flash? My on camera flash won't set it off.

  3. David, I really hope you will come to Birmingham, Alabama on your tour! (Oh, Please!)

    I'm a huge fan of Digital Pro Talk.
    thank you for all the education you are giving all your readers.
    It's been so beneficial to me.

    Best Regards,

    Kelly Newport

  4. David - what a great little piece of gear! Thanks for sharing.

  5. @Steve T

    Jessops do a small radio slave trigger for 8.99. I got one for a shoot a couple of weeks ago.

    Hope that helps.

  6. Nice idea! The size of this flash would allow me to remove one of my sb-600s I normally carry for the same purpose - cheap too!

  7. I'm sorry but is it late, or am I the only one who does not quite get how this works? Do I set up my 580EX II as master, the small little light as the slave and that's it? Or is this a pocket wizard is needed?

  8. Great idea, thanks for sharing!

  9. Hi David

    First of all great website and im currently reading your excellent captured by the light book, I would love to buy one of these flashes but I can't find any in the UK, do you know of anywhere I could purchase one. All the us sites add $100 in fees :(

    Thanks in advance