Portrait

What Is In a Portrait Photographer’s Gear Pack?

13 April, 2015

Written by: Drew Gurian

Drew Gurian is a young, up-and-coming portrait photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Each month, he’ll be bringing you a behind-the-scene perspective, navigating the freelance marketplace of one of the busiest photo markets in the world – New York City. This time, he talks about the lighting gear that he brings to a shoot.

Lots of photographers think that in order to produce professional looking photos, they need a ton of gear. Of course, there’s plenty of situations out there that involve a sizable production, but for the most part, striving to keep things simple is a good rule of thumb to live by.

Every now and again, a client calls and needs me to shoot something that involves every piece of gear I own, and then some. For the most part however,  I’ve worked out a fairly stripped down gear pack that can get me through at least 75% of any shoot I get.

Light Shaping Tools

The vast majority of my portrait work is in the music and entertainment industry, and I’m usually assigned to photograph a single person, or a small group of people, not large groups. This enables me to use smaller light shapers, and only pull out the full arsenal when I absolutely need to do so.

Below are some of my go-to Light Shaping Tools.

 

Profoto Softbox RFi 3′ Octa

The two images above were shot with the Profoto Softbox RFi 3’ Octa

The 3′ Octa is my top go-to light shaper and comes with me on every single shoot.

It’s about the same width as your average umbrella, but the quality is much richer thanks to its depth, and two levels of diffusion, which lets the light develop beautifully before exiting the soft box.

It’s obviously a lot more durable than an umbrella, and of course, gives you infinitely more control of the light based on the fact that it’s a soft box. It can be further controlled by using a fabric grid on the front as well.

 

Profoto Softbox RFi 1×3′ Strip

The two images above were shot with the Profoto Softbox RFi 1×3’ strip light.

Strip lights are sometimes seen as a specialty light of sorts, but they make perfect sense for my style of work, and I bring one on every shoot along with my 3’ Octa.

On a lot of the assignments I’m given, I’m working in fairly tight locations where I need all the control I can get from my lights, making the strip a perfect tool for the job.

Based on the fact that this is a thin strip of light, that’s exactly the pattern of light that comes out of it. Predictably, the falloff from highlight to shadow is much quicker than square soft box or octa of the same size, because it’s a thin line of light. Again, I often use a grid with this soft box as well to gain even more control over the scene.

The quality of the light is still really soft, but it’s inherently a more dramatic light since it’s surface area is so much thinner than a 3’ octa.

Umbrella Shallow M Translucent & Umbrella Shallow M White

This image was shot with a Umbrella Shallow M Translucent.

The translucent umbrella and the white medium umbrella let me mix and match either a reflected or shoot through scenario.

Umbrellas are usually the first light shaper just about any photographer gets, as they’re super compact, lightweight and affordable. I generally am working in fairly tight locations where I need all the control I can get from my lights, and therefore, I don’t use them all that often as a main light.

They do however come in handy firing a light through them as an on-camera fill, or paired up with two lights in a reflective manner to make an even cross-lit background.

 

Stands

  • Two C-stands, both with removable bases, which let me travel with them easily. One has an extension arm, and one has a mini-boom, to let me boom out a light much further than I could without it.
  • The only disadvantage to c-stands is that they’re heavy, but as a photographer, I encourage you to learn to love them. It makes absolutely no sense to put what’s potentially a several thousand dollar light on a flimsy, cheap light stand that is likely to fall over.  Instead, spend the extra money, pick up a few of these, and they’ll last forever (literally).  These are actually Joe McNally’s old C-stands, and are probably close to twenty years old. On top of their stability and durability, they let you easily boom a light into your set, which you’d be hard pressed to do with a normal light stand. The closer you can get your lights, the more beautiful they look, and these enable you to do so with ease.

 

Various Grips

  • Two Profoto RFi Speed Rings
  • One Profoto Speedlight Speedring, which let’s me fire two small flashes into just about any Profoto light shaper (except for the Softlight Reflector). Essentially, it enables me to craft one or two small flashes in a much more sophisticated way than I’ve ever been able to before.
  • One Profoto Zoom Reflector with grids
  • Two Umbrella Adapters
  • Justin clamps for small flash
  • Two super clamps with metal pins
  • Black, white, and bright colored gaffer tape
  • A-clamps

 

This entire kit fits into that rolling case in the middle, and is packed and ready to go for every shoot I get. Aside from this bag, the only other things I generally bring are:

 

  • Profoto B1 Location Kit
  • Two Nikon speedlights
  • Camera bag
  • 4×6’ Popup black/white background
  • One reflector/diffusor
  • Rolling cart to easily get gear from my car into the location

 

This may sound like a lot of gear, but it’s a fairly compact gear pack that I can handle on my own. It let’s me craft portraits simply and quickly— as time generally speaking is not on my side.

That is that. That is my lighting bag.

Hope you enjoyed the read, and let know if you have any questions!

Thanks,
Drew Gurian

Drew’s website
Drew’s blog

Written by: Drew Gurian