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Tips & Tricks

Balancing Flash and Ambient Light Using Inexpensive Strobes

By Justin Heyes on July 24th 2017

Paul C. Buff products have been directly catering to the consumer since the early 1980s, offering affordable lighting solutions for aspiring strobists. The Alienbee line, in particular, adjusted photographers opinions on what was an appropriate amount of money for a studio level strobe. Last year Paul C. Buff released the Digibee, a minute strobe with an led modeling light and buttons instead of the classic sliders to adjust power.


While it doesn’t offer TTL or HSS like many other monolights on the market, it is still able to offer good quality in various situations. In the first installment of “Buff Basics”, photographer Jeff Carpenter demonstrates how to balance flash with natural light, using the DigiBee 400. Of course the theory applies regardless of what light you’ve got.

Gear Used:


The key to balancing natural light with flash is obtaining the ambient exposure first, setting the mood, then adjust flash power as needed.

Since the AlienBees don’t have HSS, Carpenter set his A7 II to a sync speed of 1/200s and an ISO of 100. In this scenario, he chooses to both close down the aperture of the Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 he was using, as well as used an 8-stop ND filter to retain shallow depth of field. The DigiBee 400 is capable of producing 160ws of power, or about twice that of a normal speedlight.

50mm, 1/200s @ f/5, ISO 100, No flash

50mm, 1/200s @ f/5, ISO 100, with flash

Unlike other popular strobes like the ones sold by Profoto and others, Alienbee’s require AC power. To move the lights outdoors Carpenter uses the Vagabond mini, a small battery pack and wave inverter which provides the DigiBee 400 recycle times of 1 second at full power, and 400 to 500 shots per charge with 640 total Ws connected.

50mm, 1/200s @ f/1.4, ISO 100, Flash used, 8-stop ND filter

The comparison between AlienBees to Profoto is not a fair comparison, they are in two different leagues. Where as the former is less expensive and can provide great results, the latter is more color constant over its power range among other things. Buff products are not built like a Lexus, but more so a tank. On forums and blogs, you can read stories of AlienBees, Einsteins, and White Lightnings taking terrible tumbles and still working.


Via: Fstoppers

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jennifer Futrell

    Just this past weekend I was doing family group shots at a wedding with AB800 and a Vagabond Mini  – went to reposition the light stand, forgetting the mini was attached and sitting on a table – it  tumbled off the table, hit the concrete and the battery came off the carrier. Oops. Picked it up,  turned it & the light off, looked it over, reinstalled the battery, held my breath, turned it on and it worked like a charm for the remainder of the day. I was very surprised how tough it was and withstood that fall without crack/failure (and learned my lesson).

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    • Motti Bembaron

      Yes, the Paul C. Buff product is built very well. However, your incident is not uncommon. From forgetting small radio cables to broken electric cords (happened to me), we need a better system to carry with us.

      Especially when photographing children, I hate the radio cable and electrical cords with a heavy battery.

      That’s why although I have two Einsteins, I now prefer to work with my new AD200’s.

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  2. Motti Bembaron

    We should stop referring to product made in China as just a Chines product , with a bad connotation.

    Godox is a company like Alien Bees or Profoto. One is Chinese the other is US base the third is a Swedish. Their product is innovative, of excellent quality and of course value!

    Two years ago I bought Godox speedlights from  Gadget Infinity and when couple of the batteries had a problem Godox shipped me two new ones no charge, no questions.

    Note: Gadget Infinity is now Cactus brand.

    I have had three of their speed lights for almost two years and they keep working brilliantly without any problem. Not to mention that their radio system is superior to Pocket Wizard. 

    It is true that customer service is not up to par however, it seems the company stands behind its product when something goes wrong. A couple of photographers received a defected AD200’s, they made a video showing that the flash has an error and Godox is shipping them a new unit.

    But if you want a local support, B&H has Godox lighting system now and they provide  1 year limited warranty.

    You want an “American” brand? Buy Adorama Flashpoint eVOLV 200. It is a Godox re-brand with Adorama warranty.

    Want another “American” brand? Buy Cheetah CL-200. Another Godox re-brand.  

    As I said, I have Einstein strobes and love them but I wished they went forward with technology. What a joy it is to just take the AD200 out, turn them on and start shooting. No cables to forget, nothing hanging from it. Clean and easy.

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  3. Vangelis Medina


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    • Justin Heyes

      Yes, inexpensive. There is a difference between inexpensive and cheap.

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    • Motti Bembaron

      Allen Bees  used to be some of the most affordable strobes out there and built very well.  They still are but…

      You will be much better off with the Godox AD200.  At just $300 you get a 200w/s strobe (almost 3 times the power of a regular speed light). 

      But the Godox have so much to offer: A built in battery (500 full power shots), built in radio good for 100m, TTL and HSS capabilities.

      The DigiBees at $349 still need a battery pack ($250) and a radio system (about $200 for trigger and one receiver). That’s $800 and still no HSS or TTL. 

      You can buy Two AD200’s, a Godox trigger and you will have almost enough for one of their flagship speedlight, the V860II.

      I have the Einsteins and love them. Even though I bought two of the Godox AD200 (and they are amazing), I will keep my Einsteins.

      I hope Alien Bees get with the program quickly and equip their strobes with built in radios, battery and st least HSS capabilities.

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    • Justin Heyes

      Alienbees is an American based product made by Paul C. Buff. The products have been tried and test by photographers over years.If you have a problem with your flash they provide excellent service to help you get back up and running

      Godox is Chinese based company. They have become a new wave in photography with no track record of longevity. If you have a problem with a Godox product you are potentially SOL and provide with the barebones (if that) customer service. Sure they are cheap, but at what cost.

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    • Vangelis Medina

      Inexpensive is synonyms of cheap in every dictionary.

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  4. Motti Bembaron

    Nicely done. 

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