Last week I got a message from photographer David Diaz, asking my advice about photography lighting equipment.
David found me when searching for information about Profoto strobes, and wanted my opinion on what strobe he should invest in. He was looking at two main options: the Profoto B2 (reviewed here) or the Profoto Acute2 1200 Value Kit.
Unfortunately there is no single solution that is ideal for all types of photography, so we had to dig deeper.
Asking the right question(s)
It’s easy to find a plethora of questions asking advice about photographic equipment. People quickly respond which leads to a cavalcade of opinion-based, generic responses. I can’t give that kind of advice.
Photographers look at their idols and want to own the same gear, believing it will lead to the same results. I’ve been guilty of this in the past too! I don’t think you should necessarily buy the same gear I have.
Everyone has a different end goal.
Everyone has a different approach.
So it’s much more important for me to get an understanding of who you are as a photographer before I give any advice. I need to know what you’re trying to achieve, or what issues you’re facing before I can suggest a solution.
To choose the right photography lighting gear,
you must ask yourself the right questions.
Reading this post will not give you a definitive answer of what to buy. What it will give you is an approach on how to think about your needs and picking the solution that fills those needs.
So if you’re considering picking up a new strobe/flash for your photography, this post is for you.
1. What’s your passion?
Figuring out what it is you’re passionate about shooting is the first step. I shared a link about finding your passion the other day that might help if you’re unsure.
Answering this question won’t give you an answer on what photography lighting equipment you should get, but it’s always the best place to start when considering your gear choices.
2. What’s your vision?
Once you’ve found your passion, you can now start dreaming about how you want to bring that to life in photos. You can imagine what your ideal photography career looks like.
These two aspects of vision, specific images and where you’re aiming to get to in your greater photography journey, will allow you to determine what you need.
These first two questions are your north star. They are what help you choose:
- What locations you shoot in
- What approach you take into shoots
- What camera gear you need
- What lighting gear you need (if any)
- What kind of team you need
- Who you need to work with
- What projects you take and which you say no to
A few of those choices above will determine what photography lighting equipment you need to achieve your visions.
3. Where do you shoot?
The most important consideration from a logistics point of view is where you use your photography lighting equipment.
If it stays in the studio, you’re bound to make a different choice than someone who shoots outside on location or someone who is trekking across mountain passes to get the shot.
You shoot indoors under controlled conditions.
You get out of the studio but not too far afield.
You are trekking/traveling to remote locations.
Once you’ve sorted out which type of photographer you are, you can start looking at what lighting solutions are available to you.
|Reliability and longevity||Quick and easy set up/tear down||Light-weight, battery powered gear|
|Access to mains power||Battery vs Mains power & Gear weight||Weather sealing (when available)|
|Best Solutions||Plug in, robust solutions||Light-weight plug in or battery powered solutions||Super lightweight, battery powered solutions|
Of course some solutions can work for different applications in a pinch. I’ve worked with various lighting during on-location shoots
Amazing if you have access to mains power.
You can work alone out on location with this kit.
Great when you need to be super light weight.
4. What’s your approach?
How you shoot is just as important as where you shoot. In addition to giving you more information about the size/weight you’ll prefer, it helps you decide is what features and performance characteristics you need.
- Size/Weight – Will you need to move your lights around a lot or will they tend to stay in one place?
- Power – Are you working with the light up close or far away? How much space do you need your light to fill?
- Flash Duration – Are you freezing very fast movements or is your subject fairly still?
- Recycle times – Do you need your strobe to keep up with your max frames per second or do you shoot more slowly?
- Modeling light power – Do you need to see your lighting scheme/ratios as you shoot?
- TTL – Does your scene change rapidly not giving you enough time to make adjustments or are the conditions mostly consistent?
- HSS/Hypersync – Do you need to be able to sync your strobe with fast shutter speeds?
You probably don’t need all of those things to be “top-of-the-line”, so be honest with yourself about your needs so you’re not over-buying.
5. Your current lighting equipment
If you already own some photo lighting equipment, here’s some things to ask yourself:
- Will better lighting equipment make the difference you’re looking for, or are you better served looking at additional modifiers?
- How do you use your current gear? What aspects of the gear are inadequate?
- What power do you usually shoot at? Do you need more power? Can you do with less?
Looking at where your lighting equipment is failing you currently will help you choose new gear.
By really reflecting on your work, you may just figure out that it’s not the gear, but your ability to use the gear that needs more work.
6. Your experience
You experience and comfort level with lighting will help determine the interface/ergonomics that will best suit you. Even experienced photographers would like things to be as easy as possible to figure out.
There are some photography lighting equipment solutions that aren’t as easy for a newbie to figure out, so the more experience you have, the more options are available to you.
7. Your budget
After thinking about all of those questions, you might find that you still have more than one ideal solution. Or you may find that the solution you believe is the best is out of your price range.
If that’s the case consider what characteristics/features of the strobe you can compromise on to get to an option in your price range. Make sure to prioritise so that you’re trading away the features that are least important to your vision.
8. Choosing your photography lighting equipment
So you’ve had a serious think about the questions above. If that leads to a single solution that is in your budget, go for it!
However, if you’re still stuck between a couple options and aren’t sure, my best advice is that you rent the gear and try it out for yourself.
It is only by using it that you’ll figure out:
- If it performs like you need it to
- How quickly you can set it up
- How easy is it to change modifiers
- Does it give you the results you pictured in your vision
Then you’re off to the races.
PS Got questions? Ask away below!