Lighting on Location

When you arrive at a location, after you determine whether the location will fit your concept and determine a likely composition, examine the lighting conditions. Can you illuminate your client using natural light like window light and reflectors? Do you have to bring in artificial lighting like strobes or speedlights?

Although it may seem obvious, you need to make sure there are outlets if you require artificial lighting and determine if you'd need extension cords. If no outlets are available, you may have to utilize speedlights or portable power packs. Nearly all strobe companies have some form of portable power packs that can allow you to use studio lighting on location. The "vagabond" power pack is produced by the Paul C. Buff company. This pack powers a variety of lights that are usually operated without a pack (those that plug into wall sockets). The number of flashes per battery depends on the output of the lights, but you can purchase additional batteries to change in and out.


Portable power packs have a limited number of frames per battery charge. Most portable power packs provide fewer than 200 flashes per fully charged battery. If you are planning on doing multiple looks or changing locations, you may need another charged battery or an additional pack. Packs and batteries are often quite heavy; you typically need an assistant to help manage equipment for these shoots.

Take a careful look at existing light. If there are overhead lights, can you turn them off? If the lights are fluorescent or have a color cast to them, make sure you can turn the lights off, or you will have to gel your strobes to match the color cast.

If you're in tight quarters, can you even use artificial lighting or fit a reflector in the space?

In Chapters 8, "Ambient Light: All Natural," and 10, "Flash on Location: Taking Control," you can find instruction on location lighting with natural light, strobes, and more.

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