1,000.00 - 1500.00 Kit: Einstein Flash Kit from Paul C. Buff
Light Head: Einstein E640 Flash Unit
Battery Generator: Vagabond™ Mini Lithium Battery
Modifier: Foldable 47" Octabox
Trigger: CyberSync™ Trigger Transmitter
Cheaper Option: CowboyStudio Set of Two 7 feet Stands with Cases
3,000.00 Kit: Profoto B1 and Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Octabox
Light Head: Profoto B1
Battery Generator: None
Modifier: Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Deep OctaBox
Trigger: Profoto Air Remote TTL-C
7,000.00 Kit: Broncolor Move 1200 L Power Pack With MobiLED Flash Head
Flash Head & Battery Pack: Broncolor Move 1200 L Battery Power Pack with MobiLED Flash Head
Modifier: Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Deep OctaBox
Trigger: Broncolor RFS 2 Transmitter (free if you get package above)
Since some of my most well-known work was shot with studio lights on location, I'm regularly asked about what kind of gear I take with me for those kinds of shoots. Having gear that is portable, yet powerful is an important part of being able to make those photographs, so I'm going to show you how to piece together an effective lighting kit that fits your price range, whatever that may be.
What I'm going to do is build three lighting kits at three different price levels. I've tested them out side-by-side to see the pros and cons of each setup and the kind of image quality you can achieve with each one. You can watch me test the lights and go into deeper detail by watching the video above.
Now, I am not loyal to any specific brand. The quality of equipment is much more important than the name that's written on it, so I'm only including gear that I have actually used in the past and that I know to be good. All of this equipment is stuff I would buy myself if I was given these specific budgets.
Let's just get one big disclaimer out of the way now. This shit is expensive. The price levels I'm going to go over are $1500.00, $3000.00, and $7000.00. Buying your first strobe kit is a serious investment, so I've designed this tutorial to help first-time buyers, and buyers looking to upgrade their gear, better wrap their heads around the complexities of such a niche market. Keep in mind that the prices for each of these items fluctuates with the time, so the prices I have listed might not be the most current. For the most up-to-date prices you should refer to the seller's website.
I'm a huge fan of owning nice equipment, but I'm also a fan of more scrappy "do-it-yourself" approaches. The kind of money invested into a lighting kit could buy hundreds of fluorescent tubes, LED flashlights, (or perhaps even a mansion in Detroit...) This is not a video about using found DIY materials, but I do try to save nonessential dollars wherever I can.
All the prices I have listed for the gear are the amount for brand new equipment. If you want to save a bit of money, you should think about building your kit from pieces you get from eBay, craigslist, and other photographers selling their equipment. Unlike other electronics and photography gear, a solid lighting kit can hold it's value for quite a long time, but if you keep an eye on the prices, you can find good deals on used equipment.
I feel like a lot of people nit-pick camera specs, and while this is important, what I believe makes a great photo is more the quality of light than the camera used. I've seen so many bloggers that boast the classic line "I only used an iPhone to take this shot", but often times the thousands of dollars of equipment sitting just outside frame is completely left out of the discussion. To me, the light is way more important than the camera used.
I know a lot of photographers prefer speedlights when assembling portable kits, but there are a few reasons why I'm leaving them out of these options. While speedlights can be very useful and can create great light, they can't output as much light as strobes can.
Even at that power, speedlights also take several seconds to recycle, which can cramp your shooting style if you're someone who likes or needs to shoot fast.
In this discussion, we are not going to talk about speedlights or camera-mounted flashes. Although speedlights are great and have thousands of uses, we are only comparing more powerful options that have a rating of at least 500ws or over. This will come in handy for over-powering the sun and being more in control of the look of your light.
For more info on speedlights, I recommend reading www.Strobist.com which is a badass site all about speedlights that's run by my friend, David Hobby.
To go along with this rule, I am only going to compare packs that have lithium batteries. In my opinion, lithium is well worth the money over lead batteries. I say this for two reasons. 1) they are much lighter 2) they charge much faster and hold a charge longer.
If I'm going to invest in a quality light, it makes sense that I'd also invest in a quality stand that will last a long time without breaking. You can get a solid C-stand for about $130.00. Sometimes you can find these at a discounted, secondhand price on sites like craigslist or eBay, but what I've found is that even when buying C-stands used, the prices don't change dramatically. Initially, that might sound like a bad thing, but they don't really lose any value over time because they are pretty hard to mess up. If you do buy a new stand, then decide to resell, you aren't really out any money.
Throughout all of our kits, this is one item that will remain consistent.
If every dollar counts for you, and you absolutely need to get a cheaper stand, I recommend this 7-foot aluminum stand made by CowboyStudio on Amazon. These guys are small and light-weight, but they're NOT capable of holding heavy heads or large modifiers without falling over or breaking.
Some photographers treat Paul C. Buff stuff with a certain stigma, but for this price range I don't believe you're going to find anything close to as good.
This is some cheap shit. I'm amazed at what you can get for the price, but at the same time, you get what you pay for.
To watch me test this light out and hear a little more in-depth information, go to timecode 07:56 of the video above.
The guys over at Profoto are probably going to have a heart attack when they see that I've "contaminated" their beloved Profoto B1 with an Elinchrom modifier.... It's a bit sacrilegious if you will, but I believe that Elinchrom makes some of the most beautiful lighting modifiers on the photography market. I'm not a huge fan of their flash heads, but their modifiers are unbeatable in my opinion. So in this kit, I've mixed-and-matched together an ideal setup for this price range.
So far the B1 doesn't have any real competition. It's the first light of it's kind and it's really a game changer. I can't imagine it will be too long before other lighting companies come out with an answer to this and we're laughing, remembering the days that we used to lug around these huge, heavy battery packs!
Now, I don't use TTL, but it is important to a lot of photographers, especially those who are leaving speedlights behind and upgrading to their first strobe kit. If you are going to use TTL, I recommend getting your basic exposure with it, then tweaking from there to get exactly what you're looking for.
To watch me test this light out, hear a little more in-depth information, and to see the final images, go to timecode 13:56 of the video above.
This kit comes with a soft case for the pack and a trolley backpack, among other things when you buy it through B&H. The kit they sell includes a Broncolor Flex Softbox ($250.00 value) but I can't wholeheartedly endorse it the way I do the Elinchrom Deep Octa. That doesn't mean that I think that all of Broncolor's modifiers are bad. If you have an unlimited budget, you should check out the Broncolor Para 177. That thing is a f*cking goddess.
Not to get too "gear-review-esque," but when you compare the Broncolor Move pack to the Profoto equivalent, the B4, the Broncolor is cheaper by about $2,500.00 (not to mention lighter by almost 8lbs.) !
To watch me test this light out, hear a little more in-depth information, and to see the final images, go to timecode 20:46 of the video above.
In short, if money is not an issue and you want the best shit you can get, you should consider Broncolor Move 1200 L. For the most bang for your buck, it's the Profoto B1. If you're just starting out or don't want to invest too much into studio light, the Einstein is the way to go.
Let me reiterate that this tutorial was not made to COMPARE these kits. It's obvious that the more expensive you go, the better the quality. When comparing these images, there are slight variances in light color. The Einstein's having a lot more of a warm/red light output. It's only in the field and using these for an extended period of time will you see the true difference between the systems.
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