Several months ago I received an email from a reader asking how and why I used my Canon strobes for on-location lighting. The how is pretty easy to illustrate as seen in the images below.
Small Strobes + Pocketwizards + Small Softboxes = Light-Me-Silly
My basic on location rig consists of the following:
Canon 580EX II Speedlites – A real work horse but a bit pricey. Throws a lot of light for a small strobe but gets hot and eats batteries. For a serious Canon shooter, there is really no other choice.
Canon CP-E4 Battery Pack – This is battery food for your Canon Speedlites. Very pricey but holds 8 AA batteries. Don’t leave home without it.
Pocketwizard FlexTT5 & MiniTT1 – Just say no to cords! I rented a set of these to try out and was sold after two minutes. Just say NO to Canon’s ST-E2 infrared transmitter. Works in full manual mode like a champ.
Lastolite Ezybox Hostshoe – This softbox unfolds in about 10 seconds. After spending hours setting up a conventional softboxes, you’ll love how fast this thing gets you to work. Now available in 24″ x 24″ and 30″ x 30″ sizes.
Manfrotto 3373 Aluminum 6′ Stand – Folds to 19″ long and weighs a little over 2 lbs. What’s not to like?
Photoflex Weight Bag – Just add water. Whoever invented this was a genius. Beats lugging around sand-bags all day long. Holds my favorite margarita mix (kidding).
Think Before You Light
The “why” is a little more difficult to explain. I tell this story all the time. I had a nice little weekend gig for a very small Houston manufacturer of oil field widgets. They needed some product shots for a new brochure but didn’t have a lot of money to spend.
I rented a pair of Westcott TD5 Spiderlites after watching a Scott Kelby video about them. The TD5 Spiderlite is a compact fluorescent lamp & softbox providing daylight-balanced continuous light which sounds perfect for product photography.
Working with these lights couldn’t be simpler and I had everything setup in 30 minutes and began to shoot. Since the lighting is continuous, you don’t need a flash trigger or cords and adjusting the lighting is accomplished by turning on or off each of the four bulbs and by positioning the light/softbox closer to or farther away from the product. Since the lights are compact fluorescents, there is no heat to speak of and you can position the light/softbox really close to get that wonderful soft, wrapping light that makes a product really “shine”.
Did I mention that no cords or flash triggers were needed? After about an hour of shooting their stuff I’m just about ready to pack up when an employee comes over with his trusty Nikon D90 and asks if it’s OK for him to take a few shots of the widgets for their web site. I begin to tell him that his camera isn’t going to work with my strobes & trigger when it dawns on me that THERE ARE NO STROBES and his wonderful little D90 will take complete advantage of the beautiful continuous lighting I’ve spend the past few hours setting up.
Talk about a blinding flash of the obvious (no pun intended). Continuous lighting works only too well in the field, which is why it was the first and last time I’ve used the Westcott Spiderlites on location. Yes, I got paid for my work but that senior moment cost me half of what I could have earned.