The Ultimate Portable Lighting Setup For Event Photography

Last Updated on January 23, 2022

Portable Lighting Setup For Event Photography

Studio In Your Hands – Simple Lighting Setup

I do a lot of travelling around the globe to create images, from directing editorial assignments in remote jungles to teaching photo workshops in the shifting sands.

Creating portraits of people you meet is one of the best feelings of photography, no matter where your event is held, it can be your hometown or an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Bad Lighting Conditions

There are times that I find myself photographing people in tough lighting conditions. In event photography, you have to shoot with the existing light because you don’t have a lot of time in any location. Events can happen at any place, and the lighting conditions can be bad.

Lighting nasties such as harsh daylight, martian green interiors, dark alleys, dreary overcast can be waiting for you on your events. But with portable lighting setup, you can defeat these rough lighting situations.

Portable Lighting Setup For Event Photography

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Lighting setup has spectacularly improved in the last few years. Nowadays, equipment is easier and lighter to use with more power. Anyone can create amazing portraits on the road by combining this with instant feedback from a camera’s LCD.

This trick offers you multiple lighting options with as little weight and size as possible of gears. And you have to fit this lighting setup in an overhead compartment for air travel.

You can use two portable lighting setups on your events. One setup should be super-lightweight and streamlined, which I call “The Bare-Bones Setup”.

And the other lighting setup should be slightly larger but with more power and faster flash duration, which is “The Equalizer” as it has all the things I need to remove any nasty lighting I face.

You can combine these setups when your needs and situations are different. 

The Bare-Bones Setup

  • 2 Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights
  • 1 Nikon WR-R10 Wireless Transmitter
  • 1 Lastolite Small White/Soft Gold Reflector
  • 1 Rogue Gel Kit
  • 1 Rogue Flashbender (Large)
  • 1 Rogue Diffusion Panel (Large)
  • 1 Lastolite Ezybox Speed-lite
  • 1 Lastolite TriFlash Bracket
  • 1 Manfrotto Justin Clamp
  • One 5001B Manfrotto Light Stand
  • 1 Compact Umbrella

This is a very light setup. It packs into a camera bag with your camera and lens. With this setup, you can have a lot of lighting combinations using snoots, gels, and reflectors.

You can use Nikon equipment; their flash system is cool. You can control the SB-5000 wirelessly by the radio WR-R10 transmitter attached to the camera. You can also add a Flexible LED Light Pane to this setup. Hence, you can be able to create interesting lighting setup with off-camera flash.

The Equalizer

  • 2 Elinchrom ELB400s
  • 3 Elinchrom ELB40 Pro Heads
  • 1 Elinchrom 53” Octabank
  • 1 Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS
  • 2 Manfrotto 5001B Light Stands
  • 1 Lastotile Small White/Soft Gold Reflector
  • Various Rosco Gels

This lighting setup has more power, faster recycling ability, and options to use larger softboxes for studio-quality lighting. The Elinchrom ELB400 is very speedy and powerful. You can overpower the midday sun if you use flash with lightning-fast recycle times.

When I was in Bali, I used this setup, and it proved its worth. Our subjects were not comfortable with us photographing them for a long time. ELB400 helped us in that case because it has instant flash recycling so that we could take a maximum number of frames in a short amount of time. 

You can also use a 53” Ocatabank to create a very soft light for your portraits. You can control the ELB400’s output at the camera via the Skyport Plus HS Transmitter because its packs’ have a built-in wireless receiver.

Each pack of this has two ports for flash heads. You can use two heads on the light stands. You can also add a third head on the ground to add fill light. You can put the Octabank, and the Light Stands in your suitcase while you’re travelling with this lighting setup. 

How To Carry It All?

You can take Lowepro Pro Roller x100 into consideration. This rolling bag can hold your entire Bare-Bones Setup including your camera and few lenses. It can carry The Equalizer Setup, but you have to take less camera gear with this setup in this bag.

You can take your light stand and umbrella in your suitcase until you arrive at your destination then you can strap these on the Pro Roller when you’re going to an event. 

Portable Lighting Setup For Event Photography

Dealing With Security

Strict security is a fact of your life. You might get frustrated when you’re roaming around the world with your setup. The biggest frustration can happen when you take lithium batteries with your portable studio.

It’s good to check the Transportation Security Administration before starting on a trip. It’s better to not having random lithium batteries floating around in your luggage.

You won’t face any problem carrying TTL flashes with lithium batteries installed or taking extra batteries in their original package. The Elinchrom ELB400 can raise security questions as it uses a lithium-ion battery. You can carry the Elinchrom manual, it describes this type of battery, and it satisfies the security.

It’s a good idea to bring manuals for large battery-powered devices. Don’t forget to smile and act friendly with the security officers to go a long way in working with them. 

But which portable lighting setup for event photography is the right one for you?

Well, it depends on cost, weight, and your shooting habits. No matter which setup you put together, you have to practice with a lot so that you can be ready when you hit the road.

Stay safe while you’re focusing in daylight. You can get a third person to give you a hand, standing on the stage wearing sunglasses and point the light at your objectives.

Using Light To Take Great Photos

Extra Batteries & Chargers

Don’t forget to bring the extra batteries and chargers with the adapters for emergency reasons. I hope you can make the right lighting setup for your event photography based on this guideline.

Be confident, get out and shoot!