Quick Light (Using Only What You Brought)


As a location photographer I’m usually quick to break out as much lighting gear as possible. To me there’s almost no photographic problem that more light can’t solve (when it’s done correctly).

But sometimes you’re completely limited by the place where you’re working, the rules of the location or (in extreme situations) what you happened to bring with you. When it’s a really big  job I over pack gear like you can’t imagine. But sometimes an unexpected job comes along that requires you to think on your feet and use what you have (often in ways that it was never intended). Today I did just such a thing to photograph my girlfriends grandmother.

Last week my girlfriend, Deb, and I drove to Michigan for my uncles funeral. We knew that this trip would be super high stress and very emotional. Another thing we knew was that we’d have to spend some time with her grandmother who recently moved into an assisted living home.

We rushed when we packed so we could get on the road as quickly as possible. We didn’t grab much but I did grab my Manfrotto camera bag that I keep equipped with pretty much the minimum amount of photography gear. But being a crafty kind of guy (in my opinion) I knew that if I needed to do something I’d probably have enough to get by.

Today we spent most of the day with Deb’s grandmother, Rachel, and she was nice enough to let me take a couple of pictures with my super fast one light setup shown below.

What you see here is a single shoe mount flash with a Sto-fen diffuser mounted to my travel tripod and shooting through a translucent reflector (clamped and ball bungied to a tripod leg). I triggered the flash with a Cybersync radio system. The entire contraption became a quick solution for making soft, flattering light using only what I had in my camera bag today.

I set my flash to 1/8 power and zoomed it to 70mm. The camera was set to1/200 second at f6.7 (in manual mode) to try to bring down the light level of the room and I filled Rachel back in with my flash. To get a little more control of the flash I used a velcro speed strap as a snoot (to help reduce light spill).

Here’s another look at my lighting setup.

I took a few pictures from a few different angles (leaving the light in the same place for every shot) and I was really happy with how the shots turned out.

For the shot I shared the RAW file was converted to black and white in Lightroom 4 and finished up in Photoshop (there was an electrical wall plate that I removed with content aware fill).

I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and photography (especially when it involves lighting) always presents me with unique challenges to solve. Luckily my camera bag usually has enough goodies in it to create a quick lighting solution like the one I created today.

3 thoughts on “Quick Light (Using Only What You Brought)

  1. Nice capture with minimal equipment, way to be nimble! The b/w image leaves a definite impact and creates a link to the viewer.

  2. Nice job, Monico. I really like the b&w processing for this one, too.
    I guess it pays to not only be prepared, but know your equipment inside and out.
    BTW, thanks for sharing all of your “tricks” used to get the shot.

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