The Balancing Act Of Flash On Location

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.

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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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