Bill Cornett , Mar 30, 2004; 11:07 p.m.
Amber- As you are learning, it is very hard to determine just exactly what your flashes are doing if they don't have modeling lights. I would recommend that you soften your light with umbrellas or some other large diffusion surface, but again, without modeling lights that's hard to track.
You don't specify what type of camera you are shooting with. If it is a digital, then you have the possibility of checking your lighting with the on-camera display, but this can take some time.
Unitl you get some better lights and gain some experience, I think your best option might be to create a generic light set-up that you can live with. The light won't be too dynamic and you won't be able to change it to suit different subjects or needs, but it will get things properly exposed.
Try two lights in umbrellas set up three feet above the subject and either side of the camera. The third you can either set up behind the camera shooting light over your shoulder to control the ratio, or use reflectors to soften the shadows and use the third light as a hair light (you'll need to create some sort of snoot for it, if you do).
You'll have to shoot all your subjects in one spot, and not vary your lighting unless you want to do a lot of testing first. Note that this light will not be too interesting, but it will be consistent. It's similar to what the people use who go around shooting portraits for churches and firehouses, etc.
But I think that this is one of those situations where you will learn that there is a reason for somewhat more expensive monobloc strobes. Frankly, if I were you I would have purchased one inexpensive Alien Bee strobe and one umbrella, which would probably have cost about as much as your three slaves, but it would have been much more capable and versitile. I shoot a lot of jobs with just one light, and if you know how to work it, it can work out extremely well. -Bill C.