Professional Lighting On Location

by William Lulow

As most of my work these days is on location at someone’s corporate offices, I thought I’d describe how I go about transporting and setting up my lights for these types of shoots.

First, drawing from years of experience, I have managed to condense my studio equipment into three or four bags that all fit nicely on a single handtruck. True, I need space in my car not only to put the bags themselves and any extra items I might need, such as backgrounds and gobo cards, but I can basically handle all the items I need by myself. As I said, everything fits on the handtruck. Here’s what it looks like:

Now I have mentioned before that there are shooters out there who can manage to take their studio equipment in one bag! And, that’s great for those photographers who constantly must travel by air. But, one reason I still like my studio lighting equipment is that (1) none of my lights is battery-powered so I am assured of constant quality output, (2) I’m totally familiar with all the light modifiers for my studio lights and (3) even if I used battery-powered lights, I’d still need light stands, gobos, a tripod and a bag for extras. So, the package would not be significantly smaller unless, of course, I was using speedlights. More about my speedlight kit in a minute.

These are the extras I usually bring when I have a series of corporate portraits to do on location:

This was the setup for a two-day shoot during which I photographed approximately thirty executives! In addition, I had to shoot several full-length portraits like the one below:

I also shoot many different events and for those, since there is really no way to set up cumbersome studio lights so, I use my speedlight kit. This is what it looks like:

This case is small, has wheels and has room for three heads, two hi-speed battery packs and assorted accessories. I have a fourth flash unit that I carry in my camera case.

These are my portable flash heads complete with radios attached. This kind of event photography requires much more portable lighting and lights that do not need to be plugged into a wall outlet. They give me much more freedom of movement and various lighting possibilities by turning them off or on depending on the effect I want. As you can see, these “heads” have round reflectors which I find much better than smaller speedlights like the one I put on my camera. (A Canon 435EX).

So, depending on what the job calls for, I have location lighting kits I can use. One for bigger jobs and one for smaller ones. I can also modify the amount of equipment I take to any job I do. I’ve done shoots which required only one light, an umbrella, stand and tripod as well as others that required almost all the equipment in my studio! Each photographer has to decide for him or herself, what is within the comfort zone to carry and what types of lighting is best for various shoots.

My equipment has seen lots of use over the forty-or-so years I have been doing this, and there are probably some upgrades that should be made. But my theory is that as long as you have reliable lights that you can count on time after time, “light is light.” It really doesn’t matter all that much what it comes from, as long as you are thoroughly familiar with how they work and keep them properly maintained.

I have had to refurbish the battery packs once in about 20 years or so. They are both Lumedyne mini-cyclers and the heads are Sunpak 120J units. (Which I don’t think are available anymore). As a matter of fact, since the above image was made, I have upgraded both heads with newer ones I bought on eBay. Another thing about location power, the mini-cyclers I use are rechargeable and I have had no problems with them except when they needed reconditioning. Plus, they last for an entire day’s shoot when fully charged. For my other portable flash units, I invest in new batteries from time to time. I find that with rechargeable AA’s, for example, I never really know whether the charge is 100%. So, keeping a fresh supply of these for my other flashes as well as the radio units is just an extra added cost of production.