Back to Basics: what to keep in mind when buying a speedlight

With so many different flashguns available on the market, how can you decide which one to buy?

Changyin CY-20

We’ve discussed who might be interested in buying a speedlight in a previous article. We continue the topic with factors that might influence your speedlight’s buying decisions.

Camera compatibility

Unfortunately, not all speedlights are fully compatible with a camera you already own. For example, a Nikon camera won’t be fully compatible with a Canon speedlight. In most cases, such a speedlight mounted on your camera’s hot-shoe will be triggered by your camera but you’ll have to set the flash’s power manually. Other features that we will discuss in future articles, like TTL, high-speed sync or proprietary wireless triggering, won’t work.

Third-party speedlights

The good news is that you don’t have to buy a speedlight from your camera’s manufacturer, especially if you want to save some money. is a great source for speedlight alternatives. Personally, I think you should look into Phottix Mitros+ but more about it in a minute. Some other third-party speedlight manufacturers you might find interesting are Nissin, Yongnuo and Sunpak. Remember that most third-party speedlight manufacturers produce speedlights for multiple camera brands so always make sure that you’re buying a speedlight compatible with your camera.
Godox ThinkLite TT660 compared to Yongnuo Speedlite YN560-III

Triggering a speedlight

There are at least five ways you can trigger a speedlight. We will discuss these in detail in the next article. Remember for now that if you plan on taking a speedlight off the camera and outdoors, you most likely will need to invest in a radio transmitter and a receiver. I believe that the Phottix Mitros+ speedlight is a great solution because it already has a built-in receiver. However, this means that you’ll have to buy a Phottix Odin TTL transmitter for your camera so that the latter can transmit information to the Phottix speedlight.

Is a speedlight powerful enough for you?

This is a tricky question. If you plan on using a speedlight outdoors on bright sunny days and at a great distance from a subject, then the simple answer is ‘no’. You then have two options: invest in a strobe light or combine two or three speedlights on a tri-flash bracket. The first option (strobe light) is less portable than a speedlight because of the flash head’s size and the need for a battery pack. Depending on your needs and what speedlights you plan on buying, you might end up spending much more on a strobe light than on a couple of speedlights.Aputure Trigmaster II receiver mounted on a light stand bracket

Stands and brackets

Just keep in mind, especially if you plan your lighting budget, that you might also need to invest in a light stand and an umbrella bracket. Most speedlights come with a speedlight stand. It allows you to put a speedlight on a flat surface, like a desk or the floor. If you don’t have these where you shoot or you need more flexibility for how high you need your speedlight to be, then you might want to buy a light stand. These are generally inexpensive, especially when you don’t need a heavy-duty stand.

An umbrella swivel bracket is another useful add-on. Although you can use the stand supplied with your speedlight for attaching it to a light stand, you won’t have much flexibility when it comes to changing the angle of your speedlight in respect to your subject. Your speedlight’s head can be rotated but an umbrella swivel bracket will give you much more flexibility. Furthermore, the bracket has an umbrella receptacle, which in fact fits many more light modifiers than just an umbrella — such as softboxes, octaboxes, etc.

We will discuss speedlight light modifiers in a future guide.

Konrad Dwojak is a professional conceptual and environmental portrait photographer. Originally from Poland, he now resides in Memphis, TN.

Konrad Dwojak
Konrad is an international photographer, born in Poland and currently based in the US. He lived in Belgium and the Netherlands before relocating to the US and worked around Europe on a variety of photography assignments. Although he enjoys all types of photography, he focuses on conceptual portraits and editorial photography.