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OK, so yesterday we looked at a very inexpensive way to do a location portrait shoot, or some wedding photography, using simple a “Hot Shoe” flash, one light stand and an umbrella. Today we’re going to take it up a notch.

There are two main things I’d tell a friend to get next:

  1. An additional hot shoe flash unit
    This gives you the ability to add a hair light, light a bride from behind, light a background, light a room interior, and about a dozen other things that will give your lighting a more professional look.

    Nikon: If you’re a Nikon user and your DSLR has a pop-up flash, you’ll be able use it to wirelessly operate both flash units. If you have a high-end Nikon D2X, or a Nikon D3, they don’t have a built-in pop-up flash, so you’ll need to buy Nikon’s SU-800 Commander wireless transmitter unit (link). It costs around $250, but if you have a D2X or a D3—you can afford it.

    Canon: If you’re a Canon user, you’ll need Canon’s $210 ST-E2 wireless transmitter (link) to operate those 580 EX IIs wirelessly).

  2. A Reflector
    This will help you fill in hard shadows on the opposite side of your subject’s face, and create a smoother more professional looking transition from the bright side of your subjects face to the shadow side facing away from the camera. It kind of acts like a second light, which is particularly important if your second flash is doing something else (like lighting a background, or hair, etc.).westcottref.jpg
    The reflector I use most is a Westcott Illuminator 30″ Square Reflector with silver on one side and gold on the other side. It’s collapsible, so it folds up into a small circle and fits in a little zipper case, and together they weigh next to nothing. It costs around $61 (here’s the link to it on B&H Photo).

Now, if you “work alone” (you don’t have an assistant helping you on shoots), then you’ll need to get a second light stand, and swivel adapter to hold your second flash (luckily, as you learned yesterday, those are pretty inexpensive), but you’ll also need a lightstand with a boom arm and two clips to hold your reflector in place.

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The lightstand/boom-arm reflector holder
I one use is from Impact, and it runs about $80 from B&H (here’s the link). It sounds like $80 is a lot, until you have to pay an assistant to hold your reflector for a day, then it sounds like a bargain, and it pays for itself in one gig.

Since you bought an extra lightstand and swivel clamp, you may as well spend the extra $10 and get another 30″white translucent umbrella for that second flash unit.

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You can carry all your stands, umbrellas, adapters, and even your reflector (abiet a bit snugly lengthwise), in Impact’s Light Kit Bag #3, which sells for around $45 (here’s the link).

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Now, you can toss your new flashes in your camera bag, but if you don’t mind spending a little more, you can really protect your stuff and use the same case I use; the Pelican 1560B Watertight Hard Case with Black Dolly with Foam (in Black). I use it to carry my three SB-800s, my SU-800 Commander Unit, my Nikon Battery Back, three table stands, three sets of gels, and I have room to spare. It’s rugged, it’s pretty small in size, and it rolls. It’s around $139 (here’s the link). (Note: the image above shows a version of the case with padded dividers. Mine just has foam, and I popped out little pre-cut segments to perfectly fit my equipment snug as a bug).

Now, you can stop right here, and you’ll have a very workable system with two lights, on stands, with umbrella diffusers, a reflector to fill in shadows, and a stand to hold it up. Plus, you can work alone, because the whole system is very lightweight, and easy to set-up and operate.

Nikon Users: To add this additional SB-800 flash unit, another lightstand, swivel adapter, umbrella, 30″ reflector, boom lighting stand, the rolling Pelican case for your flashes and flash accessories, and the Impact carrying case for your stands and other lighting gear, it (altogether) runs $700 (so add that to your $375 flash and stands, etc. from yesterday, and you’re at $1,075 for the whole 2-light kit and kaboodle).

Canon Users: To add this additional Canon 580 EXII flash unit, another lightstand, swivel adapter, umbrella, 30″ reflector, boom lighting stand, the rolling Pelican case for your flashes and flash accessories, and the Impact carrying case for your stands and other lighting gear, it (altogether) runs $785 (so add that to your $375 from yesterday, and you’re at $1,160, but realistically you’re going to need that wireless transmitter, which adds another $210, so you’re at $1,370).

But, if you can spend $40 more, you might like this better:

I mentioned yesterday, I’m not a big fan of umbrellas, but using them like we’re doing here (firing directly through them), does work well, and this is the only way I’ll use umbrellas. That being said, I personally prefer softboxes, but I can’t always take large softboxes with me on location shoots, so I use the next best thing: I fire my hot shoe flashes through a Lastolite 33″ tri-grip 1-stop diffusion panel held up by a Lightstand to greatly spread and diffuse the light. This has both advantages and disadvantages:

  1. The advantages are that your diffuser is not tied to the same lightstand as your flash is, so you can position the diffuser as far away from the flash unit as you’d like, to create a very large softbox like quality of light.
  2. Another advantage is that you can use the diffuser as a reflector
  3. You can use it outdoors to diffuse direct sunlight (it works fantastic for this).
  1. The disadvantages are: it requires another lightstand and a clamp to hold it up
  2. It’s more expensive than an umbrella. (The trigrip I’m talking about costs $68).

B&H photo has put a special kit together called “The Scott Kelby Location Kit” (I don’t get a commission or kick-back on sales; they put this together as a courtesy for my students), which includes:

Two stands to hold the flashes

  • Two Impact Air-cushioned lightstands to hold your Flash units
  • Two Impact Air-cushioned lightstands to the hold the Trigrip diffusers
  • Two 33″ Trigrip diffusers
  • Two Bogen Clamps to hold the Diffusers
  • Two “Justin Clamps” that let you swivel your flash in any direction using a mini hot-shoe ball head. They rock, and you can remove them from the light stands and mount a flash just about anywhere
  • A 30″ sliver/gold reflector
  • The Impact Boom Arm that holds the reflector

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They sell that kit (shown above), altogether, for $495 (Here’s the direct link). It’s been hugely popular, which makes me wish I was getting a kickback. ;-)

Now, you’d still have to buy your two flash units, and at $310 a piece, you’d be at around $1115 for Nikon users, or $1293 for Canon users plus the $210 wireless transmitter.

(Important Note: it’s very late at night when I’m writing this, so if I were you I’d double-check all my math).

So, that’s it for Day 2 of Lighting Gear Week. Tune in tomorrow when we take it “inside” for some studio lighting. See you then!