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Essentials: The Location Shooter

by Chris Gampat on 08/15/2013

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Essentials is a brand new series where we round up specially curated kits for different photographers in different situations. Other items could surely be substituted, but these are what we personally recommend.

Some of us have a crazy dream: we’re doing a location shoot involving models or even products, and we’ve got either a small crew or an assistant to help us out. While that dream is really sometimes very awe inspiring we never think about all the gear that we need to sometimes adapt and make the dream possible (on top of all that portfolio building.)

Now, don’t just think that you’ll be able to naturally light it all every time. There is sometimes lots of work that goes into it all and to give your potential clients great images.

And here’s a kit to start you off. More than anything though, we have to recommend and remind you all that the items are interchangeable. But here’s a starter guide.


Canon 5D Mk III and Sigma’s Trinity Prime Lenses

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The Canon 5D Mk III is a slight step up over its well known predecessor, the 5D Mk II–but the improvements are in all the right places. With a modest MP count still numbering in the low 20s, it won’t create image files that will fill your hard drive up as quickly if used carefully. The camera also has loads of autofocusing points, a quiet shutter feature, multiple exposure mode, and a 100% viewfinder that is pure bliss to peer into.

And when coupled with Sigma’s creme-de-la-creme of the lens lineup, you really can’t go wrong. The company’s 35mm f1.4, 85mm f1.4, and 50mm f1.4 are all really excellent and just the right prices.

Pro Tip: Don't ever forget about placing lights behind a subject. It can totally change the look and feel of a photo

Pro Tip: Don’t ever forget about placing lights behind a subject. It can totally change the look and feel of a photo

Canon, Phottix and Nissin Flashes

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A great idea for location shooting is to spring for little speedlite flashes that are both portable and can pack just enough power in the right spots. While Canon now has the 600EX RT flash, it can be a tad more expensive than most of us would like. The work around is to go for older Canon flashes like the 580 EX II and 430 EX II and third party strobes. Nissin’s MG8000 and the Phottix Mitros are both excellent options as well that can do nearly anything that any Canon flash can.

Pro Tip: Flashes synced by radio can handle nearly any lighting situation except for stroboscopic shooting. This is when the flash repeats its output a certain amount of times in a given time period. The result is a lot of stopped motion.

Pro Tip: Flashes synced by radio can handle nearly any lighting situation except for stroboscopic shooting. This is when the flash repeats its output a certain amount of times in a given time period. The result is a lot of stopped motion.

 Phottix Odin TTL Units

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Phottix’s Odin units are some of the very best transmitters that we’ve ever seen. They’re affordable, simple to use, and reliable. With a full digital display readout, you can easily and quickly set the power of your hot shoe flashes, switch over to high speed sync mode, manually control the flashes or set up groups.

Flash setup has really never been this simple.

Extra Batteries

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We’d be stupid to tell you to bring your camera and flashes and don’t bring backup power. Canon’s DSLR batteries tend to last nearly forever though, but you still don’t want to be left without juice. As for your flashes though, they tend to be significantly more hungry. And in that case, we recommend Eneloop batteries over anything else. They’ve never failed us, blown up, or overheated.

Pro Tip: Gels can really give a totally different look on a subject

Pro Tip: Gels can really give a totally different look on a subject

MeFOTO’s Walkabout Monopod

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Why are we recommending a monopod in this? Well for starters, don’t think of it as a monopod. Instead, think of it as a boom pole. This monopod collapses and extends out for easier use and with the right ballhead (or even by using the screw built in) it can hold a flash with a modifier.

Your assistant or someone else can hold the lighting nearly anywhere with ease then.

EXPOImaging Rogue Gels

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Though you probably won’t use them very often, gels can really help out on a shoot to give you a creative look that you can’t get otherwise without some serious gradient use. These gels come in their own mini case and are arranged in a special way to make them even easier for you to choose the shade that you want.

Pro Tip: Don't ever underestimate what high speed sync can do for you. And if you can't find the look of naturally diffused daylight, try to create it.

Pro Tip: Don’t ever underestimate what high speed sync can do for you. And if you can’t find the look of naturally diffused daylight, try to create it.

Impact Five in One Reflector

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A large reflector can be an extremely powerful and versatile light modifier. Not only will it help you work with ambient lighting but it can also work with flashes. When used correctly, it can mimic the look of an umbrella or softbox. It will just take some work to master.

Think Tank Retrospective 30

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We’ve featured lots of gear in this post, and handling all of it isn’t really an easy task: but the Think Tank Retrospective 30 can tackle it with ease. There are loads and loads of pockets that can accommodate flashes, lenses, your camera(s), and bunches more. The bag also has a strap with great shoulder padding and overall more than enough protection for all your gear.

We recommend almost nothing else.

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