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Which Strobe Is Best For You?

Lesson 4 from: Strobe Lighting on Location

Joel Grimes

Which Strobe Is Best For You?

Lesson 4 from: Strobe Lighting on Location

Joel Grimes

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Lesson Info

4. Which Strobe Is Best For You?


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Develop your Artistic Vision


Learn Strobe Basics


Which Strobe Is Best For You?


Strobe Questions Answered


Balance Strobes with Ambient Light


The Sunny 16 Rule


Choose the Right Modifier for Strobes


Lesson Info

Which Strobe Is Best For You?

So we have a speedlite, we have the Einstein at the top, we have, I think that's a Elinchrom, we have Profoto, there's a lot of options on the market, right? So people email me, they ask me all the time, I wanna buy strobes, what strobe should I buy? Well I always say, okay, well let me ask you a question. I wanna buy a car, what car should I buy? (laughing) I work on a farm, should I get a Porsche? I wanna haul hay, will a Porsche, you know, Carrara with a fin off the back, will that haul my hay? Well you can put it on top maybe, right? So just like with buying a car, strobes are the same way. There's a lot of options. And what's the right strobe for you? Well, we'll talk about that. But the number one thing you have to do is you have to say, where do I wanna end up? I'm an artist, where do I wanna end up? You say I love going into the jungle and photographing indigenous tribes, and I'm gonna carry all my big studio strobes with me. (laughing) Right, a generator? Okay, well so you hav...

e to say where am I gonna end up? What am I gonna do? And then you go and you build a system based on that, right? Now if you're like me, you like to do that and you like to do strobes in the studio, you like to do all these different things, so you end up with all these cases full of gear. And then you have to justify every purchase with your wife, right? Or your spouse or whatever. And you're always buying gear. And so the manufacturers love that. But if you're starting out you've gotta ask yourself a question, where do I wanna end up? And again, we go back to the fact you're an artist. So I had a saying because I get so many emails, and one of the sayings I say, you can rock the world with one camera, one lens, and one light. So, you don't have to have all the equipment in the world, and so you gotta start somewhere. Get off your butt, get off the couch, take what you have, go out and start creating images. Most of us have at least a small strobe, right? You know? Or we can borrow one from one person or rent one. But, many different uses, right? Many different applications, and so it's not easy sometimes to pick. The second question is, how much strobe power do I need to fulfill my vision as an artist? How much power do I need coming out of my strobes? And so if you're gonna light a team portrait outdoors which I did for 10 years I shot the Broncos team portrait, and seven years I shot the Rockies team portrait. And I had 50 people for Broncos and I think about 40 maybe for the Rockies. I had to light them all outdoors in full sunlight. That requires a lot of power folks. And I was shooting back in those days on a 4 x 5 camera. Okay, so that's a shallow depth of field, I had to have a lot of depth of field so I needed a lot of power. I needed at least f32 power, f32 f stop on my 4 x and my strobes are gonna be 20 feet, at least 20 feet from my subjects. At minimum 20 feet, backed up. That's a lot of power, okay? So I had to solve that problem. And so, but and then you, how much gear can I carry? So this goes back to a really funny little thing I always say now. I say to people that talk about building a body of work. I say, you know what, let's say I have a model, makeup artist, maybe the wardrobe all together. I got my assistant. We all get in a car, a couple cars maybe, whatever. And we're gonna go out in the desert and we're gonna take a picture, right? We're excited. We got this great idea. Maybe one of these dresses and the wind's gonna blow and it's gonna be gorgeous fashion shoot on location. And I'm bouncing down a dirt road and I see this pile of rocks. Gorgeous rocks. They're about 100 yards away. I go, wow. That is perfect location. And my assistant says, but what about those rocks over there? And they're 200 yards away. They're better. And I look like, they are. But guess what? I'm not carrying my gear 200 yards, right? There's a limit how far I'm gonna carry my gear. So the way that my gear can limit me and my personality of how much I'm gonna go suffer, right? So weight is an issue. When you start schlepping gear around weight is an issue, and how much gear do you wanna carry and how far will you carry it? Well I can carry my studio gear, battery packs, and all my big stands about 100 yards. That's my limit and I'm done. I can't go any further than that. So you gotta talk about those. What are those needs that you're gonna have. All right, as a general rule, biggest drawback for speedlites is power. You can stack them together. We'll talk about that and I'll show you some options. And the biggest drawback for the studio strobes are weight. So that's really kind of, you split it up there. Cost is an issue. So speedlites, like say the Canons or the Nikons or whatever the name brands, they get a little pricey. You know, you get five of them it adds up. You know? You can get some speedlites, they all range in different prices and stuff, get a little pricey. All this gear gets kinda pricey if you start buying multiple of anything. But cost may be a consideration, too. So, get a look at those. So what's right for you? Well, here's what I would do. Number one, if you have option to where you could borrow, borrow. Don't borrow from me though. No I'm just kidding. I get people. Or rent. You know? Or buy one light and then start with it and then go from there. And test it out. Test how far you're willing to carry gear or how much power your gonna need in the field, and then you can kind of go from there. But what's right for you? I don't now what's right for you. You gotta figure it out yourself. And so walk through the process and see what works best. So I always say in the end light is light. We always think that if there's a certain name on the side of a strobe it's gonna be better light. I gotta have this. 'Cause the best pros use it or whatever. Light is light. And when I was in the 80s starting out, oh everybody talked about this strobe versus that strobe, this company versus that company. We still do that today, right? And there was, in a sense you want to buy the best. You wanna buy the best if you can afford it. And in the end you discover light is light. It's a flash tube. If it's daylight balanced, you put in a modifier. You shoot it through a grid or whatever it is, light is light. Don't get caught up in, I would say you get what you pay for to some degree, but don't get too caught up in the brand. Though I like brands. There are certain brands I like and I recommend certain brands, but don't... It's a trap. I fall into it all the time. Gotta have this because it's the best. Well, the light is light. So, and you got a budget. Does anybody here not have a budget? (laughing) You got unlimited budget? We all have a budget right? So you gotta make sure that you don't go and buy all the strobe equipment and then you can't feed your kids. Not a good thing. They'll revolt. They'll take over. Tie you up in the closet and you know... All right, so light is light. But here's the good news. The good news is that we have more options today than ever before. In fact, I do all these talks and I go to these... There's trade shows tied to these things I go to, Photo Plus and... So I get to walk around and I can see all this new stuff. There are so many cool things on the market. It's like, wow. You can almost, you like spend your wallet in the first row, you know? You walk down, I want that, I want that, I want that, oh look at this new thing, right? But a lot of options. Have you ever bought anything that you ended up not using? (laughing) That's the coolest thing and then you never use it. Now have you done this? You can't wait, you order something, right? From B & H or whatever online, and you end up pushing like next day delivery, okay? So a little extra money, you get it the next day. You're like every UPS truck, oh that's it. And then you get it and you're like oh, you get it and you take it out, okay. And you set it on the counter and then you go off and do your thing. You don't even use it for another week. But we just as human nature is like that, I just can't wait to get it. I can't wait to try it out or whatever. But then I end up just letting it sit in the box for a while. So that's my human nature. A lot of options on the market, but if you think about it, this is a modifier right here. We're gonna talk about modifiers in a minute. That wall is a modifier. So you can bounce off the wall and soften your light. You can use a shower curtain if you have to. And I love going to home depot and building things and finding flats and spray painting 'em and doing all sorts of stuff. So you can kind of go out there and play with stuff and I know that there are some instructors that they have some really fun little tips that they use by just building things. I love, I love, that's what I love about photographers, very innovative, problem solving, and you can go and try something. The only thing that I would say about gear is this, is that, and we haven't really talked about this, or I say in this program, I didn't cover this too much, but I end up shipping my gear, or I say bringing my gear with me a lot on photo shoots. So I got a question, I think it was yesterday, I get these interviews, and they said, why don't you rent equipment when you get... So I have a shoot in New York why don't I just go rent all my equipment there? Instead of hauling it with me. Well, a couple reasons why I don't do that. One is I love my equipment. I love to treat it really well. And I love to make sure it all works. You know? And then, it's my equipment. I don't have to go rent something and go oh my gosh, this head doesn't work or I mean I've rented equipment, and the guy that was renting it to me didn't know how to use it. And I'm trying to go, okay, in this pack this is a new pack, I've never seen this pack before because the pack I wanted was already rented out or whatever. And I gotta learn the pack. And the person who's renting it doesn't even know how to use it. And I got a photo shoot in two hours. So I don't like to have that variable there. It's kind of a challenge for me. And if you think about this, so there's a couple options that you can do with your gear when you wanna go on location. You can, if you get on an airplane, you can try to pack it up, and if you keep it under 50 pounds you don't pay excess weight but you do pay excess bags, right? Some airlines will give you a discount if you can prove you're a media person, a photographer. You say, I'm a photographer, so you get a discount on your bags. But, so if you think about this, if I, instead of maybe... If I can get away with not maybe shipping my light stands, which I still do, I have the stacker stands that are really small. But, the cost of me shipping me gear is still probably gonna be cheaper than renting it. So if I go to a rental house, I go to rent all the gear, I get a bill. So I have to send that off to the client. They pay for it. Or if I'm doing a shoot for myself I gotta pay for it myself. But the fact is I've gotta pay. Either way I gotta pay. So why not just get your own gear there? And so that's my theory of gear. But you gotta also think about weight. And so you gotta look at like a boom. You're gonna see me work with a boom. It's a pretty solid boom. It's Avenger boom. By the way, we're gonna have my whole list. I say a general list of my gear available to those as a bonus thing, right? You know, whatever. But I have an Avenger boom. It's a solid steel boom and it's pretty bulky. It's not the lightest thing. There are some booms you can take apart and they're really small. And then when you put weight on 'em they go... You know, they're not very sturdy. I don't like an unsturdy boom right? So I'm willing to ship that boom. I usually put my booms and my big modifiers in a soft golf club case. And now I might get in trouble by the airlines if I say this, but I put, I have some cases that are designed for photography, for shipping. But the booms are pretty long. They're over 50 inches. They're like 52 inches or something and they're a little too long. So I put them in a golf club case, soft shell golf club case that golf club case I got on Amazon for like $50. And then I just throw it on the, I just say golf clubs? I go golf club case. So I'm not lying. And so they don't even look at it. They just... As long as it's under 50 pounds. Usually when I put a photography case on the... You know, I come up and they go, well what's in this? Photo gear. Okay. Now they're gonna want to sign a waiver or whatever. But, so I use a golf club case a lot to get away from that. But the thing is is I find little innovative ways to get my gear onto location. So I have a bunch of sandbags that are empty. Then I get there, I get off the plane, get my rental car, I have my assistant. We take off to home depot and I buy a big bag of 25 pound bag of sand. And we sit there in the parking lot and we fill up al the sandbags. And then what happens is, when we get done with the shoot we're usually dumping out the sand at the airport. (laughing) Adding to the flowerpots around the airport. But so that's how I get away with my sandbags. So there's some little innovative ways that I can go and get my gear on location. But you gotta think about that. Right now, I drove up from Phoenix here to Seattle and I'm doing a project and I designed the back of my SUV so that I've got three of the Westcott long, they're square, square cases. They're long, they're 48 inches long I think and square, about, what is that, about a foot and a half. I don't know what they are. But they're square. And three of them fit perfectly in the back of my SUV. You saw how it was, Cliff. So it's got three and then I can stack a few things on top of it. They're square meaning that they butt up tight, right? And then they can stack on top kind of thing. A lot of cases you buy, they're like shaped like... You know there's these soft, the hard shell cases, but they're not very good for stacking. Does that make sense? So I think about that now that I'm in a situation where I want to stack stuff in the back of my car, it's much easier to have three of those in the back because now my back is all flat and I can lay stuff on top. So I think about that. So when you buy a case. You know, a soft shell golf club case doesn't stack very well. But it does fit in the back of a trunk, of most cars. You can fit it in there. So when you go and buy some cases think about what car you're using or you get a rental car and you don't want to put it on the top and then bungy it down. It doesn't look very good when you're going down the freeway. How are you gonna transport it around? So but these are all things you gotta consider right? Gear, holding it down, sandbags, booms, light stands. This is not an easy thing to figure out. And nothing worse when you're out in the field and you have to go and hold your gear down and you didn't bring sandbags.

Class Materials

Free Download

Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Bonus Video - One Light Portrait

Ratings and Reviews

Christopher Langford

I love Joel, even though I'm not a big fan of his style. He's a great teacher, really down to earth, and best of all, humble. He's a true professional and knows the business. Even if you're a seasoned photographer, I believe you will pick up some great tips throughout this course. What I enjoyed most from this course was learning Joel's thought processes and how he takes on challenges.

Dana Niemeier

After seeing Joel at Shutterfest 2016, I am a fan. He is intense, but that is inspiring. I especially like the segment using ND filters as I live in Florida where bright sun can be an issue! His teaching method sets the student at ease. You see him make mistakes and then figure them out! Makes us believe there is HOPE for us in the learning process! I also bought his commercial photography class as an add on. Great to see him work and think on his feet. Thanks CreativeLive for giving artists this platform that reaches out to artists around the globe.

Gilbert Wu

I did enjoy the class despite not being used to the American product placement culture. The British say “the proof is in the pudding”, Joel’s pictures are fantastic and create drama. He has the eye. I like his very down to earth approach which is far better than many youtube photographic charlatans. Apart from the techniques he shared, one very important thing I learned from this class is “Be an artist and not a technician”. If you want to learn from people who can take better pictures and more confident and experienced in his/her work than you, Joel is one of those people.

Student Work