Ep 34: Portable portrait lighting solutions for every budget

Photo-Ep034-artwork

When you’re shooting portraits on location, it’s handy to have lightweight portable lights to achieve various looks. But which are the best lights to invest in – and will it cost you the earth? The short answer is no: you can get very affordable quality lights to take with you. In this episode, Gina and Valerie discuss lighting solutions for every budget including an entire kit for around $200. In the show notes, you’ll also find the exact gear that Gina recommends including links to where you can buy them. Please note that no item in this episode is sponsored. These are real recommendations.

This week’s theme for #ginachallenge is #bruce

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Show notes

Useful links
Gina has dinner with Vincent Laforet

Check out Vincent’s Air Project:
London
New York

Listener question: monitor calibration

Hi Gina and Valerie,

Thanks for the shout out in episode 31! I was so excited I called my husband from the car (hands free, of course) to tell him:-)

I’ve binge- listened to all the episodes and now that I’ve caught up, I’m down to my once a week dose. Friday mornings are by far my favourite drive to work now!

Anyway, the reason I’m writing is to ask how you calibrate your monitor. I have a 5 year old MacBook that I’ve been calibrating with a Colormunki Smile, but the Colormunki has died on me. Do you calibrate with some sort of device, or do you just adjust your lap top settings somehow?

I’m also considering moving away from the lap top altogether and buying an iMac. Do you have any advice on whether a desktop Mac or MacBook is better for photo processing? I’m a Mac girl, so not even considering a PC. I’d be interested to hear your photographer’s opinion so I can weigh it against what the sales people tell me.

Thanks so much for any advice you can offer and thanks again for the awesome podcasts!

Katrina Schubert?

Check out the episode for Gina and Valerie’s response.

The Ultimate Portable Portrait Lighting Kit

Should you buy pro-level or entry-level gear? We discuss the exact items where you need to spend money – and where you don’t.

Tripods and Light Stands
Buy once, buy well.

  • The extendable pole (useful if you have a helper)
  • Single light on a stand (LumoPro LP605 which I’ve owned for a couple of years and is perfect for speedlights.)
  • The C Stand Or boom stand (I use an Avenger A2033FCBKIT Steel 40-Inch Century Stand
  • Grip Kit (Black) approx $200.

 

A few factors to consider when shopping for portable lights:

  • Your shooting style
  • The Shite Lite 300 (yes that’s it technical term)
  • How much power do you need?
  • Quality of light
  • Two heads are better than one (to give you the option of another light)
  • Charging time
  • Number of flashes per charge
  • Recycle time between flashes
  • Accessories
  • Safety

 

Speedlights

I use a speedlight off camera for about 10%-20% of my photo shoots. Like any piece of gear, they have their pros and cons, but they can light you out of some tight spots (quite literally).
I use Canon 580EXii speedlights as my preferred lighting when I am travelling or need to work quickly or in tight locations.

These Speedlights are not cheap at approx $500-600 each but there is a really great alternative
to the brand names called the Yongnuo YN-560II Speedlight (It’s pronounced YONG-NEW-OH) for around $100.

They don’t have the same robust build and quality of the canon or Nikon speedlights and fewer features but are a great entry level light to start with.

The other mid options you may want to consider are the Sigma EF610 DG Super Flash for Canon and Nikon DSLR Cameras.

My portable lighting of choice is the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra. It’s a mid priced system that suits my needs perfectly.

Remote Triggers
When I bought my first set of remote triggers, I bought cheap infrared ones. Every time a vehicle with flashing lights or a forklift went by, it would set off my flashes. They were also really inconsistent and I missed many shots due to misfires. This was really frustrating but not impossible to work around. I just learned to have more patience on these jobs.

Remote triggers can be anywhere between $30 to $300 per trigger. I’m now using Pocket Wizards which are heavy duty and 100% reliable.

While you are still learning I recommend:

1. Buy the cheaper brands like Yongnuo RF-603N Flash triggers for approx $40
2. An even cheaper option is to use a sync cord.
3. Hire them. Hiring equipment is one of the most cost-effective ways to access equipment you don’t use very often, or can’t afford just yet.

My fave light modifiers
Umbrella to start with
Umbrella box (Westcott 301 Photo Basics 40-Inch 5-in-1 ReflectorLastolite Joe McNally Ezybox Hotshoe – 24 x 24″ (61 x 61 cm) )
The Large rectangle softbox
CowboyStudio Pro 30-Inch Octagon Umbrella Speed lite Softbox Brolly Reflector with Grid $38
Beauty dish with Grid great for location because they are heavy
Elinchrom EL 26185 Rotalux 39-Inch Deep Throat Octagonal Softbox with 2 Diffusers

 

Lighting kits for all budgets

The Ultimate Portable Lighting Kit for a Budget of $200

1 x Yongnuo YN-560II Speedlight (It’s pronounced YONG-NEW-OH) $70
1 x Yongnuo RF-603N Flash triggers $30

These are very cheaply made lights and not designed for pro heavy duty use but perfect for beginners.
CowboyStudio Pro 30-Inch Octagon Umbrella Speed lite Softbox Brolly Reflector with Grid $38
1 X Cowboy Studio Umbrella Mount Bracket with Swivel Tilt Bracket for Nikon and Canon 430EX E580EX SB600 SB800 SB900 $15
1x LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5ft Stand w/Ground Spike $40
1x Sandbag $7

The Ultimate Portable Lighting Kit for a Budget of $400

2 x Yongnuo YN-560II Speedlight (It’s pronounced YONG-NEW-OH) $140
2 x Yongnuo RF-603N Flash triggers $60

These are very cheaply made lights not designed for pro heavy duty use but perfect for beginners.
2x CowboyStudio Pro 30-Inch Octagon Umbrella Speed lite Softbox Brolly Reflector with Grid $76
2X Cowboy Studio Umbrella Mount Bracket with Swivel Tilt Bracket for Nikon and Canon 430EX E580EX SB600 SB800 SB900 $30
2x LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5ft Stand w/Ground Spike $80
2x Sandbag $14

The Ultimate Portable Lighting Kit Entry Level $1500

1 x Einstein™ E640 Flash Unit $500
1x Vagabond™ Lithium Extreme $400
VLX™ Spare Battery $150
Manfrotto 1004BAC Master Stand (Black) $100
1x LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5ft Stand w/Ground Spike $40
2x Manfrotto 026 Swivel Lite-Tite Umbrella Adapter $60
1 x Yongnuo YN-560II Speedlight $70
2 x Yongnuo RF-603N Flash triggers $60
Westcott 301 Photo Basics 40-Inch 5-in-1 Reflector

The Ultimate Portable Lighting Kit Mid Range $3000

Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Hybrid Li-Ion PRO Set A Battery Set with 2 Heads $2100
Elinchrom EL 26185 Rotalux 39-Inch Deep Throat Octagonal Softbox with 2 Diffusers $375
Manfrotto 026 Swivel Lite-Tite Umbrella Adapter $30
Avenger A2033LKIT Steel 40-Inch Sliding Leg C-Stand with Grip Kit (Chrome) $200
Manfrotto 1004BAC Master Stand (Black) $100
1x LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5ft Stand w/Ground Spike $40
2x PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver Black $250
Elinchrom Reflector and Honeycomb Grid Set $250
Westcott 301 Photo Basics 40-Inch 5-in-1 Reflector

The Ultimate Portable Lighting Kit High End $7000

Profoto B1 500 AirTTL Location Kit (2 heads with inbuilt battery) $4000
2x PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver Black $250
Manfrotto Alu Master Air Cushioned Light Stand Quick Stack 3-Pack (Black, 12′)
Profoto 505-705 3-Feet Octagon Softbox (White/Black)
Westcott 301 Photo Basics 40-Inch 5-in-1 Reflector

0 Response
  1. Hi – v useful article. I think the current Yongnuos (580EXII) have an identical feature set to the Canon 580. Certainly they work seamlessly with my 6D. I’ve read varying reports about longevity – the price difference is so vast though that even if they’re not so bullet proof they’re hard to ignore!

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