OCF - YONGNUO First Impressions

The winter months, for most photographers, is considered our "slow season". Most of us use this extra time to our advantage, typically to work on our business and do items on our to-do list that take a backseat when we're busy shooting, culling and editing. I've spent the past few weeks brainstorming ideas for 2015 and how I want to move my business forward. In addition to making a second shooter standard for all of my wedding coverage, I am branching out and stepping up my off camera flash photography for weddings as well. Or, as my other photog homies call it, "OCF".

While most SLR cameras come equipped with an on-camera pop up flash, it's rarely ever used by professional photographers. I could probably substitute rarely with "never" and still be correct. Sorry pop-up flash, but your game is weak. 

When you're working indoors and natural light is sparse or you're looking for lighting that is more consistent, it's time to add a speed light (fancy name for a flash that is it's own component/piece of equipment) to your gear. For years, I worked with a Nikon SB600 flash. I knew it was a must when I shot my very first wedding. It was a workhorse despite being a mid-to-entry level flash - until I left the batteries in it. 

For a few months. 

And then they exploded. 

Let this be a lesson and a word of caution - DON'T LEAVE BATTERIES INSIDE YOUR GEAR! Despite my efforts to clean the inside the camera and make my SB600 whole again, I knew it wasn't a reliable piece of gear for weddings and paid work. Thus, began my search.

I immediately started looking at replacement Nikon speedlights. I'm somewhat of a Nikon snob; I rarely venture off-brand. An SB600 would be hard to find - it had been discontinued. An SB700, like what I'd been borrowing from my Dad (thanks Pops!) was a good investment, but I knew I wanted to expand my wedding setup with multiple flashes. 

For years, I've been shooting weddings with my speedlight attached to my camera, bouncing the flash off ceilings, walls, etc. I wanted to transition into using OCF, which would include strategically placed light stands (or thinner, lighter weight tripods) around the dance floor and/or the reception hall. This would require multiple speedlights and remote triggers to get the flashes to fire when I needed them to. 

To review and to clarify, $$$$$.

That's when I found out about Yongnuo. Yeah, I'd never heard of them either. However, if you take a look on Amazon, these "underground" beauties are exceptionally reviewed. The prices? Amazing. Unbelievable. But still, I was apprehensive. Remember, I'm a Nikon snob. I don't even know how to pronounce Yongnuo! 

Through my research, I found Tim Payne. While Yongnuo is an Asian brand and manufacturer, Tim is a distributor for the product here in the US. I was completely lost as to where to begin, but Tim listened to my needs and what I hoped to achieve with my OCF setup and matched me with all the gear I needed. He didn't try to oversell me, and didn't make me feel ridiculous for being somewhat new to the OCF game. A few weeks after deciding what I needed, I pulled the trigger!

Northern Virginia Photographer

First off, my gear came quickly and shipped out the same day I paid. When it arrived, it was tightly packed (leaving less room for shipping damage) and wrapped meticulously in bubble wrap. The boxes were absolutely pristine.

Northern Virginia Photographer

Northern Virginia Photographer

My initial impressions of the packaging was good. As a graduate in graphic design, I can appreciate a good box design. Opening the box, the speedlight was wrapped in bubble wrap and came with it's own protective case. 

Northern Virginia Photographer

Inside the case, the product was additionally wrapped again. There is also an interior pocket for a flash stand. I don't remember my SB600 coming with a pocket, but I do remember quickly misplacing my own flash stand. 

Northern Virginia Photographer

Northern Virginia Photographer

I have to say I was impressed by the size and the sturdiness of the flashes. I don't know what I was expecting. Perhaps because these flashes are so affordable, I was expecting something "plasticy" and lightweight. These didn't feel like that at all. 

Northern Virginia Photographer

Northern Virginia Photographer

In additional to the flashes, I purchased a trigger set and flash controller. This will enable my camera to communicate with the flashes when it's not on top of it, as well as my second's camera, or an additional lightsource. Again, these are sturdy and easy to attach to the camera. 

I'm anxious to play around with these more, especially with such positive first impressions. If you're also a Nikon/Canon snob, I encourage you to give these a shot, and if you do - strongly consider the personal shopping experience Tim Payne can give you. He'll walk you through all the questions you have, before and after your purchase. 

I can't wait to see what these babies can help me accomplish this year. It's going to be a great one!

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