My nephew got married recently, an event I was unfortunately not able to attend, although my high tech family managed to send me pictures of the event. One picture that made my teeth grind was one with the wedding photographer in the background, trying to light a dress shot with a dinky external flash.
This was the photographer with a killer web site that my future niece felt she was lucky to get, but there was no way the results displayed on the web site were captured with the camera and flash combination in that photo. Judging by the pictures I’ve seen so far, she was duped by a slick web site with, at best, a tenuous connection to whoever took the promo pictures displayed there.
To contrast the difference between that lighting setup and the real pros, I went to see Karl Leopold at Images4Ever near Melbourne Beach, Florida. Karl has been shooting weddings longer than most photographers working today have been alive, has won more awards than I can list here, and is the president of the Atlantic Professional Photographers Association. I wanted to see a real pro lighting setup and wasn’t disappointed.
Karl builds his portable lighting kit around a pair of Canon 580 EX ii Speedlites, pairing those with a PocketWizard FlexTT5 for Canon. The trigger on the camera is a combination of the MiniTT1 matched up with an AC3 Zone Controller for changing the power settings on any of the flash units on the fly wirelessly.
“I can change the power by 3 stops on any of the flash units right from here,” Karl explains, dialing back the power with the AC3. I watched him flip through the power settings while shooting nearly continuously, much faster than making the change through the camera menu.
The arrangement provides the flexibility to mount the fill flash on a monopod and let an assistant adjust the location and height to fit the situation. If he’s working alone he can mount the remote on a light stand and adjust it himself. Instead of being tethered to the camera, he can also move the key off the bracket handle if the situation calls for it.
It’s all about speed, reliability and flexibility, with added bonus of being able to light the world.
“The big advantage is you can put a light behind the subject for those nice, bright highlights,” Karl explained. The radio triggers work around corners and even when concealed behind foreground objects.
Equipment isn’t the only factor separating the pros from the posers, but having the right gear is definitely a bonus.
In the days to come I’m planning to work with Karl and Images4Ever on more articles on studio lighting, exposure, and working with models on commercial shoots. Stay tuned.