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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

An introduction to cheap, unbranded & universal fit Studio Photography strobes

Episode 2 of 1 minute 101's v2 An introduction to cheap, unbranded & universal fit Studio Photography strobes.

In today's 101, I cover the first strobe lights I ever bought! They're small, they're basic, but ultimately they can do what you need them to do. I always say this, but a light is a light is a light, and what you are paying for is consistency, convenience, build quality and of course, adaptability, via either the available modifiers, or the in built special features on more specialist and professional heads.

Suggesting these are universal fit may imply the latter, but in reality they're quite limited, and it refers to how we attach modifiers to strobes lights. We'll cover both modifiers (and terms such as soft boxes, umbrellas, beauty dishes etc) and how to attach them to photography strobe lights in a later video, but in short, without buying an added extra in the form of a mount converter, you will not open up the real world of lighting modifiers made for more popular brands, and more importantly, mounts.

While my strobes were unbranded, because these were cheap and cheerful, most budget companies sold a variant of them with their branding on. Most notably, Godox, one of the kings of budget, yet reasonably well functioning photography gear. In fact, one of the major players, and probably the most notable strobe mounts of choice for most brands, Bowens, suffered as a result of Godox being able to do what they do, but for far cheaper and while ditching the universal mount system in favour of the Bowens s-fit. Bowens then went into liquidation, and with the cruel irony of all this being that, even at this point, Godox were also helping manufacture some Bowens strobes too! Since, Bowens have been bought out and back to life by the same company whom own WEX photographic, and Godox now manufacture all Bowens lights in their factory, but to the Bowens brand specifications!

Basic functionality of any strobe light

I've included above, the back of the Godox 300DI with a key to all it's functionality. A light is a light is a light, right? Sure, but to be useful in a photography studio, they really need some basic functionality to make the most of them, and for you to not be feeling frustrated or too chastised in the process - and having said that, there's typically always some physics limiting you as a photographer, but it's your job to use it to your advantage, or to take it into account in advance so that it doesn't become an issue outside of a convenience or luxury! Again, we will cover a bunch of these functions regarding syncing lights and how they talk to the camera in a future video/blog, so for now I'll just focus on one the thing here... the exposure dial. Exposure being the amount of power output the light has. Believe it or not, you can get fixed exposure strobe lights, with the concept being that you use distance to control the output. A light is a light is a light, but equally, a light's distance to its subject will also change that lights 'quality' too, so while having the ability to move a light as a tool for exposure should not be scoffed at when nothing else is available, having the ability not to so, will serve you more. I've also included a picture of the plastic light mount where the light its self attaches to the light stand. This was just to make a quick point about how poorly made these are, in fact, you can see in the video that I've modified mine with a washer and new bolt given the thread went on the old one. They can also snap, and they can't hold the weight of a decent modifier without collapsing in on themselves. They do say that if you buy quality, you only need to buy once.. but consider this, that lack of convenience and the possible trouble at an amateur hobbyist level will result in a world of amateur engineering, plan b's and experience for when shit will inevitably hit the fan as pro.. and it will, and you'll be more prepared than most! You'll be happy to hear, however, that while we do have these knocking around Splash Point Photo photography studio simply because I still have mine from back in the day, they're not by any stretch our main lights, and no one uses them - but they're there if you wish to expand your set-up.

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