Master, Slave, & the Downtrodden Photographer


As I get older (and lazier) I look for solutions to lighten the load. I’m comfortable shooting with big strobes, but I don’t like moving them more than a few feet. When I started testing the Nikon AF Speedlight SB-900, a light bulb went off in my head, so to speak. Not only does it beat the hell out of a DSLR’s pop-up, duh, but it makes you think about ditching big studio lights. It’s not cheap, of course, with a street price around $450, and you really need at least two of ’em—ideally three if you want to produce swoon shots—but you can hang ’em on a work belt. (Let Joe McNally lug six or more, he’s in better shape.).


Looks like I’ll be shelling out some moo soon.


BUT… I’ve also been trying out the SV FL110 2-Light Attache Flash Kit (Street price: $350) from Smith-Victor. These are great little strobes made to travel. Perfect size and everything fits in a case—not the small attache James Bond carried, mind you, but still pretty portable. You could fall in love with these babies.

So now I’m thinking… this kit combined with an SB-900 could make for a beautiful master-slave relationship. Ménage à trois, anyone?

Forgive me, but I’m having one of those Zen workflow moments (Hell, I once did my writing on a Pocket PC with a folding keyboard.)

BUT, NO, THERE’S MORE. Need to add the Photoflex LiteDome xs Kit 1.


With this extra small soft box you can boost the SB-900’s coverage by roughly 33x. Remember, the bigger the light source the softer the shadows. (Street price: $89.95)

Last, but not least (and why the hell not)… to my dream kit I’m adding a HonlPhoto 8″ Speed Snoot ($29.95) for use with the SB-900 so you can sculpt the light for dramatic effects. Too bad I didn’t have one last weekend when I was shooting Noir. (See the previous post below.)


So there’s a pretty cost-effective wish list. For under a grand a flexible mobile lighting system.  A good starting point.

In  future posts we’ll explore this system further and see what’s possible and what’s not. There are always limitations, but sometimes the fun is in discovering work-arounds while saving money. Unless you’re on deadline or have an antsy art director breathing down your neck. Then all bets are off.