A mini guide to location photography lighting kit

May 31, 2013 | Continuous Lighting, Flash, Location | 10 comments

One of the questions I’m most often asked is what lights should I buy for shooting on location? So here is my quick guide to location lighting kit for photographers.

This picture of corsetry by Lisa Keating was shot on the edge of some woods with daylight illuminating Victoria from the left of the camera and a single Lupolux DayLED 1000 spotlight powered with the Lovegrove Li-Ion inverter pack was used both as kick light and to back light the leaves.

01. This picture of bridal corsetry by Lisa Keating was shot on the edge of some woods with daylight illuminating Victoria from the left of the camera and a single Lupolux DayLED 1000 spotlight powered with the Lovegrove Li-Ion inverter pack was used both as kick light and to back light the leaves.

There are two key factors to consider when choosing lighting equipment for shooting on location: Power requirements and the quantity of light required.

1. Is there a power supply available?

This is not a problem when shooting in hotels, houses or commercial buildings but if there is no mains supply you will either have to use a small generator like the type market traders use or you will have to work with battery operated lights or flash units. With a generator, studio flash heads or multiple continuous lighting heads can be powered just about anywhere that is dry.

Battery solutions: The Lupo LED spotlights have a dedicated low voltage input of the broadcast industry standard 14.7v so they can run directly from camera batteries from companies like Anton Bauer or PAG. Or they can be plugged directly into Lupo battery kits.

For battery flash systems we recommend the Elinchrom Quadra ELB 400 Kits.

I lit this Koshiba dress collection shot with an Elinchrom Quadra outside in the garden to simulate sunshine coming through the windows. It was raining at the time. I used a Lupolux DayLED 1000 with a half CTO gel as the key light and a Lupolux DayLED 650 as a subtle kick light.

02. I lit this Koshiba dress collection shot with an Elinchrom Quadra outside in the garden to simulate sunshine coming through the windows. It was raining at the time. I used a Lupolux DayLED 1000 with a half CTO gel as the key light and a Lupolux DayLED 650 as a subtle kick light.

2. How much ambient light is there at the shoot location?

Unless you are shooting at night it is likely that the ambient light level will be an influence on the exposure you are working at. If the location is out in open daylight then flash really is the only kind of light source that will be powerful enough to deliver worthwhile results. In full sun expect to need a 400ws flash kit like the Elinchrom Quadra used open faced at full power. Or if you want a soft light source you can use the more powerful Elinchrom Quadra Ranger in conjunction with a Rotalux softbox at full power or open faced at half power.

This picture of a corset by Lisa Keating was lit with an open faced Elinchrom Quadra head at about 3m from Victoria.

03. This picture of a bridal corset and skirt by Lisa Keating was lit with an open faced Elinchrom Quadra head at about 3m from Victoria.

In shaded places like woodlands, open farm buildings or interiors shot in daylight hours there are many more options.  Lupolux DayLED spotlights come into their own if you have the means to power them. The nominal 5600k colour balance ensures you can mix the lights with window light or other stray daylight. Big flash packs like the Ranger are likely to be too powerful even with a 6 stop range so a Speedlight in a Lastolite Ezybox is a better soft light source in darker conditions.

This picture taken at Dundas Castle in Scotland was shot on a wet January day and lit with a Lowel iD light on full power.

04. This picture taken at Dundas Castle in Scotland was shot on a wet January day and lit with a Lowel iD light on full power.

In dimly lit restaurants or wedding venues in winter, flash and daylight balanced light units are overkill. This is where small tungsten light sources are perfect like the renowned Lowel iD light. [UPDATE – Damien now recommends the Aladdin A-Lite as a affordable alternative] The classic Lowel iD light is a 100w tungsten light with a flood spot control and a dimmer and is now supplied with a smaller and more powerful lithium ion battery. In brighter interior places at night I recommend the Arri Fresnel lights. These are mains powered and have less robust bulbs than the Lowel but the extra power and wonderful lenses make them a better choice for use on stands.

In summary

a) For full sun outside fashion type imagery 400ws – 1200ws flash packs are the tools of choice.
b) In open shade I suggest using 400ws flash packs and Speedlights.
c) For deep shade or interiors I use Lupolux Spotlights and Speedlights.
d) For lighting interiors at night I use tungsten lights ranging from 100w – 300w by Lowel, or Arri.

If you are like me and shoot in all these environments, your lighting kit list will be extensive. Some of the bigger items you can hire as and when you need them but you are more likely to use the lighting kit if you own it. My advice for any aspiring and professional photographers is get out there, light your pictures well and lift your work above the noise of the masses.

Please feel free to comment below.

10 Comments

  1. Kevin Cull

    I have this DVD and it’s awesome!

    KJC

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Kevin :)

      Reply
  2. Ed

    I’ve just started using a speedlight for OFC, using it in full power to attempt to overpower the sun, but finding the light too harsh, really need a quadra and softbox.. I work on my own, so once I get though, I’ll need an assistant! Want want want lol… love photography too much – is there such a thing? haha.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Ed,

      Thanks for your comment. Make the most of what you have and then get a Quadra :) I use a bare faced Speedlight a lot of the time. If you get the direction of light spot on it can look amazing. Take a look at this: http://vimeo.com/29031880

      Stay inspired,

      Damien.

      Reply
  3. jonathan Lappin

    Thanks for the advice, i shall be checking out the options you have listed for my lighting

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Jonathan,

      Let me know if you have any questions :)

      Damien.

      Reply
  4. Jenkins Photography Ltd

    Recently ordered our new Elinchrom Quadra kit as recommended by Damien & the team. Can’t wait to use it. “excellent service & great price” thank you :) Andrew. J

    Reply
  5. Clare

    Thanks Damian,
    very useful as ever. BTW I have just watched your natural light DVD and loved it, it made me look at Bristol through new eyes! Thank you so much for including post processing at the end.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Clare,

      Thanks for your kind comments. Bristol has changed a bit over the past four or five years. Stay inspired.

      Kind regards,

      Damien.

      Reply

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