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Studio Equipment on the Go!

Studio Equipment on the Go!

Written by William Algar-Chuklin

Elite studio photographers find they get their best results when they have the right equipment on hand. This can be easy when you’re working in a studio space and out of the elements, but what options are available for those out and about? Let’s cover that today with our roundup of essential portable studio equipment for photographers on the go!

The Rundown:

  • Controlling the Light
  • Portability is Key
  • Many options for Varied Situations

Shooting on the go can be tough. You never really know what to expect and it can be hard to decide what gets put in the camera bag and what gets left behind. This is my non-comprehensive list of essentials for shooting on the go.

Tripod

This one goes without saying. Much like the saying that the best camera is the one you have with you, the best tripod is the one you take with you. I never leave home without at least a light and portable carbon fibre tripod. I’ve found it’s been invaluable in the night and travel photography I love. I even wrote a whole article on finding the right tripod for you, which I’d recommend reading for a more indepth look on tripods.

5-in-1 Reflector

The 5-in-1 reflector is one of my favourite pieces of portable equipment. It’s foldable, compact and shockingly versatile. It comes in:

  • Black
    Useful for blocking out light sources without having the side facing the subject also getting lit by indirect/bounce lighting.
  • White
    Great for bouncing light from any source indoors or outside. The white panel bounces available light and allows for soft and even lighting. This is useful as any bounced light will match the colour of it’s source without you needing to modify it.
  • Gold
    Great for portraiture or any situation where you want to warm up the light a little before directing it to your subject.
  • Silver
    Silver is perfect for moments where you want to give the subject more drama with some sharper specular highlights and reflections. It won’t be as intense as a mirror fortunately, so the extra lighting won't look out of place.
  • Scrim
    This is a personal favourite. A scrim is a translucent piece of fabric meant to diffuse any light shining through it. It’s a great way to cut down on the midday sun and avoid any unwanted sharp shadowing, just place between the hard light source and your subject.

Flashgun (Speedlight)

Flashguns are extremely versatile. They work in a lot of different situations and if lots of different types of photography and honestly, Flashguns deserve a whole blog post to themselves.

For photographers on the go though, I’ve found that flashguns can be useful in these two situations.

In the Daylight

When you’re shooting in harsh daylight, you can often be dealing with strong sharp shadowing from the sun. Flashguns can be a useful source of fill light in these situations. Having a powerful enough flash, or a flashgun with High Speed Sync (HSS) like the hähnel Modus 600RT can help you control the lighting on your subject. This type of lighting works really well as an off camera flash, in conjunction with a scrim diffusing direct sunlight as mentioned earlier.

In the Dark

Flashguns are commonly used in dark environments like indoor events. Getting a flashgun with a TTL (Through The Lens) metering system that matches your camera’s make can be a lifesaver in these situations. Often used as an off camera flash, or as a bounce light (shooting the light into a ceiling or wall), this can be an easy way to improve your image quality by reducing low light noise and slow shutter speed shake.

Light Modifiers

Softbox

Portable softboxes can be a great way of projecting soft even lighting on your subject. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the light source the softer the light.

Magnetic systems like the hähnel Module Clamp have become very popular and allow you to mount something like the hähnel Module Softbox for a quick and portable softbox for any situation.

Gels

Gels allow for the colour of a light to be modified. This can be particularly useful if you’re trying to match the colour of the ambient lights around you, and can help when colour correcting in post. Coloured gels can also be used for artistic flair when shooting. For instance you might want to use a coloured gel on a flashgun lighting the background of your subject.

Hahnel also makes a nice Light Effects Kit to work with the clamp system mentioned above, with an added bounce card and grid.

Grid

Useful when shooting with off camera flash, a grid can help direct light at a subject while avoiding lens flares and light spilling onto the background of your image. Very useful to have should the situation call for it!

Signing Off

These are my main picks for essential portable studio gear to take with you. Small enough to fit in your camera bag, they can be lifesavers when dealing with the challenging conditions of shooting out and about.

If you need more information on Lighting or other accessories, check out more articles on the C.R. Kennedy blog.

William Algar-Chuklin is a night and travel photographer based in Sydney, Australia. You can check out some of his work at walgarch.com and on Flickr

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