Which Flash Should Beginning Real Estate Photographers Start With?

December 5th, 2014


Beginning real estate photographer Sarah asks:

I own the Canon Rebel T5i and I use it in my real estate business.  Since purchasing the camera (and the 10-22 mm lens that you recommended and ranked #2 on your list) and playing around with it extensively it has become apparent to me that I need to purchase an external flash.  As a novice I could really use your advice.  I am only interested in purchasing one (I’m looking at the speedlite 600ex-RT, speedlite 580EX II or the speedlite 430EX II).  For wide-angle photography and bouncing it off the ceiling, is there a clear winner in your opinion?  I find it interesting that the newest 600 model is less expensive than the 580 but if I can get away with the 430 obviously from a budget standpoint that would be ideal.  Any help you could provide would be much appreciated!

For real estate photography, I don’t recommend the 600ex, the 430ex or the 580EX. These flashes are OK for other uses where automatic flash makes sense, but for real estate all you need is an inexpensive manual flash.

The YN-560-III is a great all around manually triggered flash that you can use to get started or if you are using Scott Hargis’s Lighting Interiors manual flash technique. For details see Lighting Interiors e-book or Scott’s Lighting Video series.

When you are using Scott’s manual flash system you need to trigger at least one flash wirelessly if you are going to get the flash off your camera and have one flash fire other flashes optically. What I like about the YN-560-III is it eliminates parts and batteries because it has a RF602/603 receiver built-in to it.

So the complete setup would be:

  1. RF602/603 in the hot shoe of your camera. Choose the right one for your Nikon/Canon body.
  2. One or more YN-560-IIIs are triggered from the RF602/603 in the hot shoe.
  3. The rest of your flashes could be either YN-560-IIIs or Sb-80DXs and be optically triggered.

For those just starting out with Scott’s manual flash system the YN-560-III and an RF603/603 make a great first flash. It gets your flash off the camera, it triggers wirelessly without spending a fortune on triggers, and it minimizes parts and batteries. Then as you learn Scott’s system and need to acquire more flashes you can acquire, SB-80dxs, or YN-560-IIs or YN-560-IIIs any of which can be optically triggered by the first YN-560-III. If you have multiple YN-560-IIIs you can trigger them all with the RF602/603 trigger in your hot shoe.

It’s worth pointing out that at 2014 prices you can get 2 YN-560-IIIs and a set of RF602/603 triggers for the same price as 1 used SB-80Dx. Scott and David Hobby have been promoting the SB-80Dx for years and the price keeps going up and up. when they are available from KEH or Ebay they are about $190.

I can attest to the build quality and reliability of the YN-560-IIIs because I have 4 of them. I never have any reliability issues with mine. The touch and feel of the Yongnuo’s is very similar to my obscenely expensive Canon 580EX which I haven’t used since I met Scott.

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10 Responses to “Which Flash Should Beginning Real Estate Photographers Start With?”

  • Right now, the Yongnuo YN560III is the way to go. There is also a YN-560TX remote commander available that will allow you to control the flash power of up to six groups (each group can have as many flashes as you need) for a reasonable $40ish all from your camera position (YN-560III’s only). I’d not recommend the RF-602 transmitter as it is a legacy product. Pick up a set of RF-603 II transceivers in a kit along with the proper remote cable for your camera. You can use one -603 handheld to remotely trigger your shutter. That comes in handy if you want to hold a reflector/flag or flash in the scene. You may only be looking at one flash right now, but going with the YN560 will leave options open to expand as you gain experience.

    The Canon flashes are good to have if you find yourself taking portraits or shooting weddings where eTTL will come in handy. For real estate, you don’t want the flash to do any thinking for itself. You want a very basic flash with manual controls. I use my Canon 550EX in manual mode with a RF-603 when I have used up my other flashes. Canon flashes don’t have an optical trigger like some of the Nikon’s. You can find very inexpensive flashes such as the Neewer TT-520 that are completely manual and have an optical triggering mode. Sometimes you can find Canon -EZ series flashes for a good price since they will not work in eTTL mode with Canon’s modern SLR’s, but they would work fine with a -603 trigger.

  • Lumopro LP180
    Rock solid with built in optical receiver.

  • Bottom line, for those that listen….these suggestions will save you hundreds of dollars to accomplish what you need to do.

    $75 per unit vs $400+, no brainer

  • Have used both canon flash guns and yongnuo ones including a yn560iii. It worked and gave just about enough light however the one word of caution I would give is that it gave up after about 9 months of intense professional use (around 50 jobs per month). The canon ones are older and still functional (for the moment st least).

  • LP180. I still own a few YN units, but their reliability and optical slaves leave much to be desired. The Lumopro is a good step up from YN, especially if you don’t want to buy a transceiver for every single flash unit.

  • Here’s an alternative for shooters that want to use multiple off-camera flashes that I’ve found to be very useful. Cactus has introduced their V6 system that includes a dedicated transceiver that you mount on your camera’s hot-shoe. This transceiver allows you to control up to four groups of flashes (they have to be the Cactus R60 versions). It’s very easy to set up and use. The big benefit is that you can adjust the power output of each flash from your camera position – no more running up and down the stairs to change the output on that Speedlight you need to light that stairwell, etc. I bought 3 of these after one of my SB-80’s committed a violent suicide and have had good success and saved a ton of time (and shoe leather). I love my SB80’s and use them in situations where I need more than the three Cactus Speedlights. The downside is that they are more expensive than the YN-560’s but you have to do the math – what’s the value of the time saved per shoot by not having to manually change the power output on each of your flashes? Another thing I’ve noticed about the Cactus speed lights – they can eat up batteries but if you have backups (I’m using the Enveloop rechargeables) it’s not a big problem.

  • Similar to wtlloyd and Jeff, I’m a fan of the LumoPro LP180. Very solid unit, well-built, with good battery life. Shot a 8K sq.ft house last month, flash throughout, used ~2/3 battery. I may change triggers, but for now I’m happy with the Phottix products. 4 groups is nice, but that’s not something I ‘need’ right now anyway.

    It was David Hobby that originally brought the LP180 to my attention. He promoted them heavily at their launch having been involved in their design requirements. Last I looked, they’re still on his ‘wholeheartedly recommend’ list.

  • I have a Canon 430 EX II if I’m doing on camera flash photography, the mix it up with an Alien Bee 800 for my main secondary flash. For more involved situations, I bring out a pair of Yongnuo YN560-III’s. I also have two sets of Cowboy Studio NPT-04 triggers that have served me very well. I use various sized umbrellas for all of my lights, but bust out my 55″er for my Alien Bee when needed. Happy with all my equipment. Some is not the most expensive, but they get the job done.

  • The YN are okay but as others have said they fail after a rather short period of time. I switched to the Neewer TT850 about 6 months ago and other than the hit or miss optical sensor they kick butt – they leave both Lumopro and Yongnuo in dust IMO!

  • I have dropped four of my YN-560 III’s. Some off of umbrella stands, some off of doors or refrigerators, and all landed on tile or concrete. Batteries, optical covers and plastic stands go flying. They are getting a little dinged up but they work like new. I’m amazed at such durability from a $75 dollar flash. I haven’t had to replace a lighting element yet!

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