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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Balancing Act Of Flash On Location

Building and mastering the art of mobile lighting will give you the tools to shoot anywhere


This Article Features Photo Zoom




As professional photographers let go of their expensive studio spaces and make the world their studio, it’s time to examine the needs of a photographer on the go. When studios were the norm, most pros had a space where they’d keep a number of power packs, stands, heads and all manner of modifiers. Today, we’re all working meaner and leaner, and our lighting gear is evolving with our business models.

Most of my shooting is in a run-and-gun mode where I have to get the shot and the lighting set up fast. Also, because I want to travel light (read: carry-on), preferring not to leave my photo gear at the mercy of baggage handlers, I find that my ideal setup is to carry a number of portable flash units. Any lighting kit will have a trade-off. By carrying a small flash unit, I’m getting portability at the expense of power and some modifiers (although a number of companies are offering sophisticated modifiers for my kind of flash, it’s still an area where the advantage goes to other setups). I could carry self-contained monolights or full-blown battery- powered packs and heads, but their increased bulk and the need for stands and heavier battery packs don’t work for me. I seldom need that kind of power. (See the sidebar “The Right Light For The Job.”) I’ve refined a number of techniques to get the most out of a single flash unit. None of these has “reinvented the wheel,” but they have certainly helped things run smoothly and have lightened my load and saved my back—that’s a very real consideration, especially for travel photographers.

 

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