Shooting a series of portraits in the studio with Speed Lights.

"Those whom the gods would destroy they first make bored."

It's finally happened. I am officially bored by cameras. By cameras and all the lore and ritual surrounding their selection, their use and their supposed intrinsic power. I wanted to so love the Fuji X-Pro-2 but even though Fuji's website said all the right stuff the magic was nowhere in sight. I wanted to want to rush out and impoverish myself with their GFX 50S but when I held it in my hands there was no spark; no instant rationalization about how this camera was going to the one that would finally unleash my photographic super powers. I can't even glance at the Nikon website without thinking, "been there, done that so many times before..." And don't get me started on Canon. Not even the prospect of something new from Sony was enough to spark some neurons of anticipation. 

It's an odd realization and, like intestinal gas, this boredom with cameras may be a passing thing. But whether it's transient or permanent it doesn't mean that I've lost my enthusiasm for the actual process of photography. Far from it. What this new boredom has done is focus my attention on a different aspect of picture taking; away from the cameras and lenses and back to
the discipline of lighting.

Even there though I am tired or bored of lighting with the same old tools. I pulled down a Tenba case today and dragged out some monolights with the idea of setting up one of my standard lighting designs but it all seemed too rote and too easy. Too automated. I put the big lights away and decided to try my hand at lighting my portrait set up with speed lights. I set up a $35 Godox 47 inch umbrella softbox on a C-Stand with an arm so I could position it at exactly the angle I wanted. I stuck a Godox flash inside and made sure the trigger/receiver was set to the right channel. And then I decided I'd play around with an improvised modeling light. 

I pulled out a small, $59 Aputure LED panel from one case and a Kupo Super Clamp from another case and added them to the interior space of the softbox. Amazing, a modeling light for any flash in five minutes or less. 

I put another Godox flash into a small 12x16 inch softbox and mounted it all on a small light stand to serve as a background light. It's set to the same channel as my main light. That particular softbox is one of my most promiscuous having hooked up with at least ten different brands and types of flash...

I found a third Godox flash and put it at the top of another C-Stand+Arm and bounced it into a Rogue Flashbender before aiming it at the back of the portrait subject. Dialed it way down so it wouldn't be so obvious that I was using a kicker light. .

The final piece was a 50 inch round reflector which served as a passive fill light to the opposite side of my subject's face from the main light. We fire up a Sony A7ii, put a 100mm lens on the front and we're ready to make fun portraits. 

Somehow it seems more fun to me to do this stuff with a bare minimum of pricey gear. And, in reality, the flexibility and ease of adapting actually makes using the small speed lights quicker. More efficient. 

As a group we've spent the last ten or fifteen years in pursuit of the ultimate camera. Or at least the camera with the best performance-to-price ratio we could afford. I find that once we crested went beyond the target of adequate quality the cameras become more or less transparent. Invisible. Distinguishable only by slightly varied feature sets and different ergonomics. But the results; the output, is largely the same. Especially for the targets at which they are aimed and the uses intended. 

My exercise today was a re-focusing on what always mattered most in photography and that's just to get the kind of light you want on the subject you're photographing so you can the proceed to ignore all the mechanical stuff and begin the process of getting to know the person in front of the camera. The reason to own all this stuff. The partner in image creation. The subject is your collaborator. Everything else is just a helpful tool. 

The brain slows down and atrophies when you do the same things over and over again in the same way. Save your brain and do everything differently all the time. Ultimate productivity is highly overrated....


  1. Great post. I am reminded of the Dean Collins use of a hot light as a modeling light in his Basics Lighting course. Cools stuff!

  2. This too will pass, amen brother.

  3. Interesting post. I think we are at a point where a plateau in technical progress is coinciding with a level of sufficiency in our gear, especially in still photography. Still photo gear at this point is kind of boring -- nothing in the latest news is going to change my photographic life. There is some excitement in light with affordable wireless controlled flash coming online and the newer LED stuff, but even that seems to be peaking. I'm sure some video folks are very excited about 4K, but I don't see much excitement at the consumer level.

    So maybe for a while we can think less about the gear and more about the pictures.

    On a more mundane note, a few months back I built a mount to use a pair of Yongnuo hotshoe flashes in my Photek Softlighter. Later I added a bracket to mount a small LED for a continuous source -- not exactly as modeling light but more for those times I need a bit more light to help with focusing. So we are thinking somewhat alike here.

    To me the most exciting recent news has been the Godox bare bulb lights. I used my Lumedynes until they quit, so for me it is freat to see an affordable replacement -- affordable and far superior. I really wanted to buy an AD200 this month but decided a brake job on the van should take priority. Maybe next month ...


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!