When wedding, portrait, and event photos are required outside of the studio, you often need to bring portable lighting kits. As we all know, houses of worship and event spaces are rarely lighting friendly to the wedding shooter and portrait photographer. While we all wish we had enough hired help to lug full-sized lights and heavy C-stands to our locations, portable light kits help photographers get the shots their clients demand without requiring pack mules or forklifts.
Lighting options on the market are plentiful and the price points range from that of an expensive dinner to that of a decent used car. Let's break down the different genres of lighting and provide a few recommendations for each category.
Relatively new to the market are battery-powered compact monolights that are the size and weight of a common pro zoom lens. While they don't bring the power of a traditional monolight strobe, what they lack in power (they will still be more powerful than an on-camera speedlight) they make up for in portability.
A big player in this segment of the market is Profoto, with the Profoto A2 Monolight and its 100Ws power. Weighing just over 27 ounces, the light can fire off 400 full-power pulses before needing to be recharged. For light-shaping needs, the A2 is compatible with the Profoto Clic System, like the user-friendly Clic Softbox Octa 2', for example.
Elinchrom brings the Elinchrom ONE Off Camera Flash Kit to give 131Ws of power and up to 725 full-power battery-powered flashes and a fast recycle time. The ONE is also available as a dual light kit.
Godox's AD200Pro TTL Pocket Flash Kit is a portable, modular system that allows you to fire either a speedlight or bare bulb flash on the same unit. TTL metering is supported through many camera brands. Available in six colors, the Godox AD100pro Pocket Flash is a strobing alternative.
For those needing monolights with more power, yet still want to maintain portability and the versatility of DC (battery) power for use in the field, many brands have you covered with full-sized, yet transportable monolight setups.
The Aputure LS 300x Bi-Color LED Monolight features a variable color temperature range and is powered by either V-Mount or Gold Mount battery packs. While it will not provide strobe functionality, it produces a powerful continuous source for video needs.
Broncolor's Siros 400 L Battery-Powered Monolight is a sleek strobing monolight that cranks out 440 full-power flashes after charging for just over an hour. Its low-power LED modelling light is color balanced with the main strobe source.
Another 400Ws monolight, the Godox AD400Pro Wistro All-in-One Outdoor Flash, packs TTL metering capabilities for several camera brands and fires up to 390 full-power flashes from its battery pack. You can also run the unit from AC power, when available. If more power is needed, the AD600Pro Wistro is also available.
From Westcott, the Westcott FJ400 400Ws Strobe with AC/DC Battery is also AC/DC power versatile and fires 480 full-power flashes on a fully charged battery. Supporting TTL with major camera brands, the FJ400 is compatible with a long-range radio trigger, as well.
The Elinchrom FIVE Monolight Kit fires at 522Ws and has a battery that provides 450 full-power strobes. The FIVE recycles in 1.6 seconds at full power and features a bi-color LED modeling light with a high CRI and low power draw.
LED Panel Lights
Great for video and fill light for stills work, LED light panels are relatively lightweight, can be color versatile, and are generally friendly to transport. Many units are battery powered or can also be plugged into AC power when it is available.
Luxli's Orchestra Series of all-color battery-powered LED panel lights is anchored by the Luxli Timpani 1x1 RGBAW LED Light, which comes available in three different power outputs and in a two- or three-light kit. As an RGBAW light, you can dial up almost any color on the spectrum and digitally simulate 150 different gels.
The Lightpanels high-powered Astra 3X Bi-Color LED Panel light delivers crisp high-CRI lighting and can be powered by Gold Mount or V-Mount batteries. The latest version is greater than 3x more powerful than the original Astra and handy for photo and video applications.
Dracast's LED1000 Pro Bi-Color LED Light with V-Mount Battery Plate is a sharp-looking 1x1 panel light with variable white color temperature functionality. The unit can be powered by AC plugs and features a worldwide compatible power adapter.
Mini LED Panel Lights
While monolights and LED panel lights mounted on light stands are great for photo stations and photo booths, sometimes wedding photographers need to mix it up on the dance floor, and portrait and event photographers move with their subjects. While the traditional camera-mounted speedlight is useful to the max, a small LED panel that can be used on- or off-camera might be a good tool for small jobs.
Lume Cube came on the scene with its small, but powerful Lume Cube and has expanded its lineup to include larger lights, such as the Lume Cube Panel Mini, a credit-card-sized light with adjustable white balance and power. The internal battery powers it for almost 72 minutes at full brightness. The Lume Cube Panel Go RGB LED Light is slightly larger, but features RGB color versatility.
From Luxli's Orchestra Series (we met the Timpani above), the Luxli Viola2 5" On-Camera RGBAW LED Light and its bigger sibling, the Cello2 10" RGBAW LED Light, feature the same color diversity as the 1x1 Timpani with the ability to simulate gels and transmit almost any color while mounted on or off the camera.
Odds and Ends
Not every portable light kit for portrait, event, and wedding photographers falls cleanly into one of the above lighting categories. In this last section, we look at a few versatile lights that can deliver the illumination needed to capture memorable images.
Known for cycling and underwater dive lights, Light & Motion's StellaPro light system features high-powered, small and portable LED lights, like the StellaPro Reflex S LED/Flash Head, which provide continuous lighting for video needs and also deliver strobe-like LED flashes to freeze action.
LED tube lights like the Nanlite PavoTube II 30X RGB LED Pixel Light can simulate the lighting effects of a rectangular softbox while delivering the versatility of multiple color options and brightness. The tube shape makes them easy to hold, mount, and transport, and allows for some creative lighting possibilities.
What are your needs in a portable lighting kit? What kind of photography do you do and how do you want to light your scenes? Let us know in the Comments section, below, and feel free to ask us any questions you might have about the selections above and other portable lighting kits!