Put your lights on a diet!!—with John Chandler

If you are like me you may be tired of lugging heavy portable lighting assemblies on outdoor sessions!   So I figured I would put my lighting on a diet and see just how much weight they could lose.  I want to share with you how I did that, and if the diet was successful. 

I have, and use a myriad of different flash assemblies ranging from Photogenic 1250 DR’s, Profot 600Rs, and the Nikon SB-900s and SB-800’s as well as Quantum Q5Ds and the Quantum Trio.  I like the ProFoto 600’s for their strength and portability;  also, you just cannot beat the “Vagabond” DC to AC power pack to juice up the Studio Flashes when used outside but they are heavy!!   UntitledAll that weight does produce some really good outside fill light though! 

How heavy you ask?  Just the head of the Profoto 600R weighs in at 5lbs.  Plus another 3lbs for the light stand.  Depending on the light modifier you choose lets agree it stands at 10lbs!  Don’t forget the 5lb weights to keep it upright in a breeze and the Vagabond battery pack at 3.5lbs puts this “Mobile” setup at a “THUD” of 18.5lbs.  And what is the Cost?  The 600Rs can cost as much at $1,100 but usually are found in a set of two that is $2,149.00.  And the Vagabond will set you back another $240.  So really conservative here we are looking at $1,300 because you will reuse your light stands and umbrellas. 

Heavy AND expensive! 


So let’s explore ALTERNATIVES and possibly “repurpose” equipment I already own.  Let’s re-purpose some of those old flashes laying around in my closet.  Below you can see that I put together three flashes, one -SB900 and two SB-800s.   _JWC5470-2_FB(and I just bought a third used SB-800 for $250). 

The item that ties all of these units together is the FourSquare block (FSA1) made by Lightware Direct.  [click to link to their website] Cost $99. 

These three flashes have been in my inventory for years.  You may have a few laying around.   This setup gives me the same light output as does the Profoto 600R.

How much does this set up weigh you ask?  Light stand is same as above 3lbs.  Each flash weighs just less than one pound, the FourSquare Block is measured in ounces (half pound for fun).  Umbrella is maybe one pound.  Tale of the tape:  7.5lbs  You do not need a Vagabond battery pack because these are battery powered flashes.     So you are lugging only 7.5lbs.  If you choose to add 5lbs ballast then you are 12.5 lbs.  

AND I can go TTL too!  

Profoto recently produced a battery powered portable flash that is on par with the 600R.  It is produced as the The B1 500 Air TTL  and is  powered by an exchangeable, high-capacity battery that is integrated with the flash. Combine that with an Air Remote TTL and experience the freedom that comes with shooting without power cables or sync cords.  But it retails at $1,995 and add an extra $400 for the TTL camera attachment.  The Air Remote TTL-C is a small, hot shoe-mounted device that acts like a wireless link between camera and flash, supporting manual and TTL control of B1 lights in up to 3 individual groups.   This unit weighs in at 3lbs. 


As you can see in my image above where I have “ganged” three Nikon Flashes on a FourSquare Block I am getting the same light output and I can drive these in TTL using the Commander function of my Nikon camera or utilize my Nikon SU-4.   When using either the in camera or on camera Commander function I can control the output of each flash via IR link that gives me full TTL.  Since I already own these flashes I may be saving myself almost $2,500 and still get the same output as the Profoto B1 500 Air TTL.  Sometimes it pays to know what you already have in your camera bag doesn’t it??!!

Images captured in TTL


All three images were exposed at 125/sec f5.6 at 200 ISO,  But the output of the flashes were adjusted using the Commander.  First image is one f-stop under, middle is even, and right image is one f-stop over.  So I did not have to change my settings at all, I could simply increase or decrease the output of the flashes using the Commander. 

While I have demonstrated this using Nikon equipment Canon users please know that your equipment has all the same capabilities with different names for each component. 

Using this kind of “repurposing” equipment I already own will be fully demonstrated at our next workshops here at Chandler Studios.  You will learn how you can get the MOST out of equipment you already own, and/or learn to purchase that equipment you NEED vice all the gear folks want to sell you.  Please click here to learn more about our workshops so you can choose the one best suited for your needs.

A Spare Room Studio Workshop


A Short Course on Digital Photography

You can always call us at 910 324 1646 for more information about this info paper and/or any of our Workshops. 

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