Misinformation: Lighting Tech

Myth: You Need Big Strobes

In an economic slowdown, photographers look to cut costs as much as possible. In many cases, this has meant eliminating the studio and a lot of the expensive gear that often sits around taking up space in said studio. Thankfully, eliminating the studio, and therefore studio lighting, doesn’t really mean that your lighting possibilities are limited.

The simplest light source, the flash, isn’t just for event photography anymore. Canon and Nikon and most other camera manufacturers are offering a selection of flashes that can compete with studio lights in terms of features and ease of placement. What these flashes lack in sheer power, they make up for in versatility. Canon’s top-of-the-line Speedlite 580EX II can configure and program up to three sets of unlimited Speedlite 580EX II or 430EX II flashes wirelessly. Nikon’s flagship SB-900 AF Speedlight also can work as a wireless Commander, able to control up to three remote Speedlight groups with an unlimited amount of compatible Speedlights. Imagine what you could do with a whole case of flashes like these. The potential is incredible.

Sharpen Your Lighting Skills With Our Portrait Lighting Essentials tutorial

Additionally, third-party companies like Metz, Quantum Instruments and Sunpak also offer “run-and-gun” solutions from flashes to ring lights, and they come at more affordable pricing points. Many models feature TTL operation with Canon and Nikon systems, as well as TTL compatibility with Fuji, Olympus, Sony and most of the majors.

Flashes aren’t the only option when it comes to portability. A great power supply matched up with a couple of quality lamps from any number of the well-known lighting companies, including Bowens, Broncolor, Dynalite, Elinchrom, Lowel, Profoto and others, often can be the only kit you’ll need if you take the time to learn and master your light. Also, monolights, which have the power source built into the lighthead, are reasonably powerful and also reasonably compact. Digital photography has been a boon for all professionals. When it comes to lighting equipment, it has meant more efficient and hence more compact systems that also are able to produce more powerful and more portable light sources.

Limited resources can hone your talents and sometimes generate the added benefit of forcing you to trim the fat. When the shoots aren’t coming in, eBay can start to look pretty attractive, especially when so many lighting setups are bought for a particular need and then sit around collecting dust just in case you might possibly use them again. None of this is to say that one setup will provide you with a solution for every possibility. For the most part, however, a large Pelican case of carefully chosen gear will cover the bases for most of your shooting situations and allow you to improvise in more difficult ones. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

Required Reading

Want to sharpen your lighting skills? Our guide to Portrait Lighting Essentials provides instructions on the must-know basic lighting techniques, and provides tips for making a memorable image.

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