First off, It’s been FOREVER since a good ol’ Tuesdays with Nate. It’s nice to be back. I doubt this will be weekly, but hopefully once or twice a month I’ll be able to share some thoughts with you, and I KNOW I’ll have a Tuesday Top 5 for you soon, just like the good old days.
For today, I wanted to share with you a little bit about our lighting setup. We get a lot of questions about what we use for lighting and how we set it up. I’ve put a lot of time, research, and money into it, and still dont’ think we’ve got it all figured out (I hope I never “figure it out”) but this is all stuff that works for us. As always, here’s the “Nate Disclaimer”:
We like to shoot ambient light with minimal artificial light most of the time. This is not because we don’t know how to shoot with lights, but because we prefer the look of available light in our photos. We have Canon Flashes. To get to the system we have now, we tried the more expensive route and were about to throw out some big bucks for Pocket Wizards and new strobes when we decided at the last minute to try one more thing for our reception lighting and as luck would have it, it worked and we liked it. We are not, and don’t claim to be off-camera lighting experts, because that’s not really our main thing, but we know what works for us and how to use it well. If you want to know how to use 6 lights with ETTL and see lighting diagrams and learn which diffusers and modifiers to use, go to my good friend Erik Valind’s blog. If you want to see some simple lighting setups that won’t break your budget and will be modest and consistent, here you go:
Our Current Lighting Setup for Weddings
Amazon Triggers- $28.99 for a trigger and two receivers (I’d buy two, they are cheap, and made cheap)
A simple, no frills way to trigger off camera flash. They have a hotshoe built in, and work on a radio signal, so they work in daylight when infrared will not. They have good range, but are simple triggers with no metering or adjustments. You’ll need to set your flashes manually. We use them mainly with the cable that is included, attached to our camera bodies with the bracket that comes with the Sima video light (see below) Also, I’ve gotten several of these triggers and one was dead on arrival, another died shortly after. They are NOT made extremely well, but you could buy a like 5 of these for the price of one pocket wizard.
Apollo softbox – $150 for the stand and softbox, with adapter for hotshoe flash
This is a fantastic piece of gear and a great value. We use the box for our partybooth (with a powered strobe, not a speedlight), and it’s a great tool for when you only have space or time for one light source for portraits or headshots. It’s a fantastic soft light source and produces a beautiful, even light. Can’t beat if for the price.
Vivitar 285HV – $86.99 each
Our secret weapon. Amazing off camera flash. They never misfire, they’re build like tanks, and they are bright and fast. The recycle time is great. They give off a very wide light, and come with a diffuser to make it even wider, which is great for dance floor lighting. They work perfectly in the softbox and with the cheap wireless triggers. THEY ARE NOT REPLACEMENTS for your main flashes, but they ARE perfect for simple, manual, off-camera light.
Sima Video Lights – $27.57 each, buy a few because they’re handy in all kinds of situations
This is a neat little video light, it’s rechargeable and very bright. It can be a great way to backlight a portrait, or get a separation light, but it’s a little bright for normal portraits, and too bright for dance floor light. I use it most commonly for ring and detail shots, and the bracket it comes with is perfect for a wireless trigger when you need your main flash on camera. You can use them for light writing or just to see in your camera bag in the dark. We’ve even loaned one to a minister during a night wedding so he could see to read his script. ;)
Lumiquest Pocket Bouncer – $22.49 each
Not a whole lot to say here. It’s easy to put on, which is handy when we’re coming into a reception situation and haven’t had time to set up our main lights. It’s much softer than direct light, and great when there are high ceilings and you need fill flash.
So that’s our modest setup. It is a simple system that works perfectly for our needs. We know there are tons of options out there and each photographer has to figure out what will work best for the style of lighting they like to use, but we hope that for some of you that may feel lost amid the sea of options, this helps to give you a jumping off point. Or at least some inexpensive ways to dip your toes in the world of lighting. You can get this whole setup for under $500 (with 2x flashes, triggers, video lights, and pocket bounchers). Not too bad if I do say so myself. Ps. Bonus points for those of you that caught the Kanye reference in the title.