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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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