***DISCLAIMER: All images in this post are "SOOC" or straight out of camera and unedited for instructional purposes only. Will showcase finished work in an upcoming post.***
One thing I have learned how to do in recent years, is travel away from my studio to do photo sessions all over the world. Many photographers know that packing "light" might mean 2 checked bags instead of 4. For me, the hardest thing when traveling, was the ability to duplicate the studio look of my images, while on the road.
I just returned from 6 day road trip which had me traveling from Miami, to Atlanta, to Charlotte, to Fayetteville, then back to Miami and it got me to thinking. For trips like those, I feel like I ALWAYS over pack, because, hey, you never know. I'm getting bet though, and let me just say this for the photographers that might be reading this. RENTAL HOUSES ARE YOUR FRIEND! Being able to go to a FEDEX Office location or have gear shipped to your hotel, reduces the need to bring extra equipment.
The reality is, to have a mobile setup doesn't have to be overly technical, or even overly expensive, IF you have a little forethought going into it. I've listed what I normally use in the above photo, but I will go over, what I think are 7 things (besides your camera) to go mobile. (in order of importance)
- Portable lighting. Sounds like a no brainer right? Off Camera lighting makes the images consistent. Whether speedlights or monolights, the ability to measure and reproduce lighting ratios while traveling is important. Depending on need, I have a Profoto B1, Nikon SB800 and two Rotolight LED rings. The great thing is that they are all battery operated and with the exception of the Profoto, they all require easily accessible AA Batteries.
- Light Stands. I'm a fan of the air cushioned light stands for the big heads, and Nano stands for small heads/speedlights. I can put two Nano stands in my carryon duffle with no problem. And for the larger heads, the air cushion stands save from banging your head when lowering your heads. If room is available, compact C-stands are ideal. Although heavy, they have the ability to position light where you want it, and can also double as regular light stands.
- Reflector. Reflectors are great for blocking, diffusing, and guiding/shaping light, and often provide a secondary light source, good enough to fill in in shadows. I have about 6 different reflectors of different sizes that I travel with, with the Westcott Eyelighter being my favorite.
- Portable backdrop. I've always been a big fan of Savage Universal when it comes to backgrounds. I have seamless paper, vinyl backgrounds, and collapsible backgrounds from them. The background pictured is the 5x7 Black and White Collapsible. Great for head shots, and even shots with more than one person. While I can use it on a one stand pole, I choose to use it on the background support, to allow for horizontal orientation.
- Light Modifier. This is where it could get tricky, because there is no ONE modifier that does everything. Usually I travel with a Bounce umbrella, Shoot Through umbrella, Octabank, Softlighter, and Profoto Magnum reflector. If I could only bring 2, it would be the Magnum reflector and the Octabank.
- Tripod. The ability to have a stable and consistent base that allows you to shoot slower shutter speeds, as well as allow for consistent framing is important. This is one of the areas that I would always recommend, BUY THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD!
- Capture system. I prefer using tethered capture when available. Lets you make corrections with focus, color, lighting, instantly. Both Capture One and Adobe Lightroom are great software options for tethered capture, with both having its own pros and cons. When shooting tethered, I recommend using cables from the guys at Tether Tools. One reason, is that the cables are always "live" when connected, and have very little loss of quality, even when 100' away. Some cameras do not support tethered capture. In that case, have the best cards that you can have. And review as often as possible on a large monitor. This may be via Eye Fi to computer, or direct transfer after sets. The most important thing is accuracy, not just speed.
Well there it is. 7 things that can make you mobile right now. Most of the equipment listed, you may already have, but for those starting out, you may find that it can get pretty pricey. In that case, I would tell you to find YOUR system, and then build around that.
BONUS: Some folks will need to add/have a light meter. Those folks that do, would usually already have one. Others won't meter, or go off of an in camera meter, being mobile, probably wont change their minds either.
For those who shoot mobile, what are some of YOUR must haves? I'd love to know.
Model: Aquisha Gross
MUA: Brittney Taylor
Photographer: Leighton DaCosta
Dress: Kony Fashion Foward