The first question has to be “Do you need a portable photography lighting kit?” well, if you like to get out and about to take portraits or don’t have a photography studio (like me) a portable lighting kit is essential to capture the best portraits. Okay, it is possible to capture good portraits relying on natural ambient light and reflectors, but having decent portable lighting will not only make life easier but also open up a whole new world of portrait opportunities. If you have never used portable lights you really need to, and I guarantee that once you’ve tried them you will not go back to not using them.
My first serious portable photography lighting kit for taking portraits consisted of four large and powerful speed lights. I ganged three speed lights together to effectively make a single key light, and left the fourth in the camera’s hot shoe to provide a bit of fill light. All of the speed lights have ETTL technology which meant I was free to let the camera decide on the flash power leaving me to move the light around the subject, lighting it from different angles in order to get unique and creative photos.
Leaving the flash in ETTL mode gets the exposure in the ball park however I tweak it using the flash exposure compensation feature to get the exposure how I wanted it.
In order to fire the speed lights in sync I used three Yongnuo 622 triggers (one for each speed light) and a further trigger on the camera’s hot shoe underneath the fill light. Using four flash triggers required a lot of batteries, which was a chore but at least the speed lights used a single cell battery.
I admit that I am a bit of a Canon brand snob when it comes to lenses, however not when dealing with speed lights.
The Canon speed lights are stupidly expensive and overpriced, and whilst they are very good I refuse to pay the sort of money Canon are asking. There are alternatives that are just as good as the Canon branded speed lights but a fraction of the cost, such as the Godox Ving, and this is what I use. The Godox Ving 860 is an awesome speed light that has all the features of the Canon 580 and just as powerful as the Canon 580. I managed to buy three Godox Ving 860 speed lights for less than the cost of one Canon 580! For a quick and unbiased review of the Godox Ving 860 please take a look at this article.
Ganging three speed lights was ideal (if you want to know how I did it please feel free to check out this article) and had it not been for the discovery of the Godox Witstro AD360 a ganged three light set up would still be my portable photography lighting set up of choice. I stumbled across the Godox AD360 during a local camera exhibition, and after a demonstration I knew I had to have one. This was one bit of portable photography lighting kit that looked like it would open up a world of possibilities.
The Godox AD360 not only has ETTL technology but also pushes out more power than my ganged light set up (not much more but a little, which is good) but it is a smaller and lighter solution which makes it more portable than the three speed light set up. The Witstro is also quicker and easier to set up, which is obviously more efficient and also makes me look “more professional” in front of my clients too.
Since the AD360 is a single unit it only needs one Yongnuo 622 trigger which obviously saves on batteries and also the chances of misfires, although I have to say misfires are a rare occurrence with the 622 flash triggers (even when using several at once). The Yongnuo 622 flash triggers are excellent and should be in every portable photography lighting kit. For an unbiased review on the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers you may want to take a look at this article.
Like all speed lights the light from the AD360 can be a little harsh and needs softening up using some sort of light modifier. I have tried several different light modifiers however my portable photography lighting kit consists of a shoot through brolly for the AD360 and a small speed light mounted soft box for the on camera fill light. Many photographers have a soft box in their portable photography lighting kit however I prefer to use a brolly. Shoot through brollies are cheap, quick to set up (and pack away), effective and once collapsed they take up less room than a soft box.
In order to use the AD360 and shoot through brolly set up you need a sturdy light stand, as I am sure you have already guessed. The AD360 and brolly set up can also act as a wind trap and topple over, therefore a sturdy light stand combined with some rope and ground pegs is needed to prevent an expensive accident. Because of a nasty experience in the past (where I had a light stand topple over breaking a speed light in the process) I tend to buy heavy light stands. Heavier stands require more effort to lug them about but I am more than happy to have to exert more energy to keep my expensive portable photography light kit safe and sound.
As you can see from what I carry around with me, there really is no need to have a large and extensive portable photography lighting kit and as long as you have the bare essentials there really is no need in carrying equipment around you are not going to use.
If you liked the above article and found it useful below are some links to other portrait photography articles you may want to check out:-
“Basic portrait tips” to get you started in the world of portrait photography or brush up on the skills and techniques you need.
“Advanced portrait tips” to take your portraits to the next level.
Lighting is a key aspect in portrait photography and “Portrait lighting to capture awesome portraits” is an article that should help you out.
“Portrait photography on a budget” is an article that proves you don’t need to spend a fortune on photography equipment to capture awesome portraits.
The choice of lens is key in portrait photography and this “Best lens for portrait photography” article should help you choose the best lens for the type of portraits you want to capture.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.