I’ve been luckily associated with the folks at the Lastolite Company for a while now. I have learned a lot from Gary Astill, their chief designer and mad genius in residence. He can take a napkin, a piece of wire and some black gaffer tape and make the light from small flash guns sing and dance. Over time, we have collaborated on a number of light shapers that have been well received.
I get asked a lot, “What always goes with you?” “What is your go-to travel kit, apart from lenses and cameras?” Or, the line of questioning is a tad more blunt. “How many goddam Speedlights do you really travel with, dude?”
Variations on a theme, to be sure. So, here goes. Speedlights, generally, three to five. Battery packs. Gels. Tape. Maha battery chargers, and Powerex batteries. (The Maha quick chargers can go zero to sixty in like 10-12 minutes. You get a fresh group of eight batteries pronto with these things.)
Then, what do your run the lights through? It’d be pretty idiotic of me to have designed light shapers I don’t use. So, below is a listing of light shapers I use consistently to relentlessly.
Ezybox 24″ Hot Shoe Softbox, White Interior
Handy, collapsible, nice, soft but punchy quality of light. Drop a velcro egg crate over it and it is very controllable, without a lot of spill. Translates well from location to studio.
Light and easy to transport, as all umbrellas are, it gives several variations in terms of approaching the subject. (Shoot through, reflected with white, reflected with silver and shoot through with square mask.) My favorite iteration is to use as a shoot through and put a Tri-flash with three Speedlights into it. Big, soft, easy light. With a little low fill, it transforms into a bit of glamour light.
Just shot the above on our wonderful Scotland workshop, organized by my dear friend and tidal wave of organizational prowess, Liza Politi. She and Ari (who shot the below on a smart phone) form Fancy Girl Street Boy Productions, and together we have done Prague & Vienna, and most recently, Scotland. Stay tuned. More to come.
The below was shot in China. The stuff travels well.
Used alone, at an angle, though, it can become a character light, with a deeper set of shadows. The light here is more to the side, and farther away from the subject.
Speaking of low fill…if you want to really formalize and directionalize it….the Uplite.
I use it on occasion when the set is static, and there’s some control being applied, in the sense we are not moving fast and shifting positions and locations. It’s a great low fill source that you can configure as a direct light, and as a bounce that is diffused.
Just enough of a low tweak to get under the cowboy hat, for instance. My subject here is the wondrous Nancy DeSantis.
Ezybox Speedlite Box. White interior. Small, light and fast. Move it close, and it’s a nice light. Never gonna be a 74″ Octa, but then a 74″ Octa doesn’t fit into your shoulder bag the way this does. A move-around light, perched on the end of a paint pole or hand held, it gives you a nice bit of control in an impromptu situation. Below are examples shot on the fly in front of an audience, working TTL, and moving fast.
The colors in the backgrounds of these are just raw Speedlights with gels.
You can use the speedlite box as a main if you want to carve out a singular area of light and leave areas of darkness to play with other lights. There are several lights in the pic below, Profoto big flash even, but the main is that little speedlite box-a-doodle.
Skylite Rapid with Masks. I call it the 3×3, but that is a misnomer. It is actually about a 40″ square of light. Collapsible frame. Nice light and you can control it well with the masks. Again, a source I often use with a Tri-flash and multiple Speedlights.
Whole surface below….
Mixed into a number of the above pix is the background, hopefully subtle, use of fill light, which is often coming from a Tri-Grip diffuser/bounce surface. They come in kits and can diffuse or reflect off a variety of surfaces. And, they can be used as a main light, such as below.
Most of the pictures published here were done very quickly, sometimes with just hand held poles and lights. Others required more work, but the basic mantra of the shapers I use is small, light and fast.
Gear questions, as always, shout out the big guy…[email protected]
Steven Gotz says
And this is one reason why people love you Joe.
Not only can you shoot like the master that you are, but you share your knowledge and experience with us. And you do it so well.
It is amazing how often you post some article like this, just as I need it for something I want to do soon.
It is no coincidence that I use Maha battery chargers and Powerex batteries. When one of your older posts sent me to Jeff Snyder to buy my camera and lighting equipment at Adorama, those are the brands he recommended.
James Thibault says
Awesome, as usual! Wish I could buy some of your creativity!
Lasse Jansosn says
I will never forgett when IO hade the chance to meet Joe when he visited Sweden som e years ago. Absolutely fascinating!
Lasse Jansosn says
Sorry, When I had the chance….should it be of course….
Robert Edwards says
Joe you’re the original strobist for me. I pack so much lighter these days my back and chiropractor thank you!
Lastolite products always last the longest for me. Other reflectors flake and my assistant or I end up full of silver sparkles. That’s OK for mardi gras but not a good look on a corporate shoot.
Tom McKean says
Hey Joe. As always you’re a shooter in my book. Regardless of what gear you use,
I started using Maha / PowerEx long before I found you recommending them… they are without a doubt the best kept secret in portable power. Thanks Joe !
Awesome!Thanks for share it 🙂
Curso Fotografia Bruno says
Fantastic article. Thanks for sharing.
Mark D says
Joe is there a reason your signature TriGrip with the blackout cover is no longer available?
Joe McNally says
Hi Mark…yep, it didn’t sell all that well as it was a bit more expensive than other models. So, they’ve discontinued that model….best, Joe
Umang Gupta says
Great Work….Thanks for sharing 🙂
Md. Mohibullah Al Mamun says
Thanks for this epic post and awesome photography. Low light photography is one of my favorite choice. You can prove your creativity in this areas. But to get better result you must follow some low light photography techniques. If you are interested to learn more about low light photography you can visit here..may be you will find somthing useful…
BJ Ramsay says
Joe I’ve got a question about trying to find a small light shaper, I’m shooting orchids, occasionally in situ “rain mud in the trees” you get the picture, and I’d like to get a small light up close for some soft light with controllable falloff that doesn’t just go everywhere, subjects can be as small as an inch or two. Any thoughts would be appreciated! And again thanks for getting my flash off my camera in AK during DLWS a few years ago ;o)
Valent Lau says
That is a whole lot of modifiers!
giá n?p h? ga b?ng gang says
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information in such a perfect method of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the search for such information.
Richard L Parez says