Some people may think I’m crazy, but I’m committed to lighting with speedlights. There are several advantages that speedlights have over studio strobes (in my opinion anyway) and they’re what I prefer. I still get asked quite a bit why I’m not using studio strobes, so today I’m going to provide some insight into why I’m the way I am when it comes to my lighting.
Speedlights are the absolute best portable, artificial light source for the money, bar none. Whether you buy one new or you buy one used on eBay, you’re getting the smallest, most powerful flash for your cash. Speedlights don’t take up much room, they’re really light, and you can power them with AA batteries that you can find anywhere. If you’re out in the field with a studio strobe and power back, you’re screwed if you’re power pack battery dies. There’s no running to town to pick up some batteries at the local store or Wal-Mart.
I can put a one of my little SBs anywhere. Since they’re nice and small, I can put them anywhere I need to in order to get the light that I’m seeking. Studio strobes aren’t so good at that. With a Justin Clamp I can clamp my speedlights on just about anything and know that they’re safe and won’t fall. I wouldn’t have the same confidence with a studio strobe. I’m sure there are devices out there that allow you to mount studio strobes in a similar way, but they’re bound to be expensive. A Justin Clamp is $50.00 and it already comes with a hot shoe adapter to mount your speedlight.
Also, my SBs can fire at 1/128th power, giving me the ultimate control over my light. Alien Bees (which would be my choice of studio strobe) only go down to 1/32nd power. It’s a lot harder to knock down the light if you need to.
Speedlights are powered by AA batteries (as I mentioned above). I use Kodak AA rechargeable batteries and chargers. I can charge 4 batteries in about an hour with one charger. The rechargeable batteries last longer than traditional AAs and the recycle times are a touch faster too.
True Wireless Freedom
A speedlight on a stand with a wireless trigger means true wireless freedom. With studio strobes/power packs you still have some wires involved. Wireless triggers like Cactus V2s (what I use), CyberSyncs, or Pocket Wizards are the tool of choice for most photographers.
Q & A:
Q: What if you need more power than one speedlight can provide?
A: Easy, I use more than one from about the same location.
Q: Can you modify the light like you can with studio strobes?
A: Sure. I use several DIY light modifiers that work in much the same way that studio strobe modifiers do. There are even several mass produced light modifiers out there that work great too!
Q: Why don’t you want to follow traditional lighting practices and use studio strobes?
A: Call me a rebel, a renegade, or whatever else you want. The most important part of lighting is the image. The final result. How you get there is up to each photographer individually. I like to break the rules and try different things. That is what gives each person their own “style” so to speak.
Take a look at the image on your left. I shot this in my home studio (garage) using three speedlights, two umbrellas, a couple of light stands and a Cactus V2s radio trigger set. I shot at f9 1/160 and had gobs of power to spare with the speedlights. If I can do this with speedlights, why would I want to step up to studio strobes and clutter up my setup? Personally, I wouldn’t and therefore I don’t.
My goal with today’s post was to allow you to get inside my head (a little) and find out why I light the way I do. My way is certainly not universal and I understand that. Each of us as photographers have to come up with the methods that work for us individually and go with that. With that said, how do you light?