ON LOCATION HEADSHOT SETUP

WITH GREG THOMASON

My location kit and why I use it

At some point, almost every headshot photographer has to figure out how they will take their equipment to an on-location photoshoot. I’m Greg Thomason, a commercial headshot and portrait photographer based in the Nashville, Tennessee area. When I need to leave the studio, I try to lighten my load, while maintaining the same headshot look I obtain in the studio.

 

Lighting

My first headshot lights were Paul C Buff strobes, and they worked well. However, when Peter Hurley teamed up with Westcott and released the Flex Kit, I snatched one up! The lights stack nicely in the bag they came in, and therefore, they are easy to transport. Like many other headshot photographers, I like having a constant light source. This is true in, and out of, the studio. The constant lights make adjustments easy and keep my subjects’ pupils constricted, which shows off their iris color. The constant lighting also allows me to see what changes I need to make to my subject’s head position in relation to the lighting on the face before I click the shutter. The lights are lightweight, which means I don’t need heavy stands, can set them up quickly, and can move them around easily.

If my client wants a white background for their headshot, I also take two Profoto B1x strobes, which I trigger with an Air Remote For Nikon. Although I use speed lights in my travel photography, when working for my headshot clients I don’t mind the extra weight the Profoto strobes bring. I’m working out of my car, and the faster recycle times mean they are always ready. When using the Air Remote, I can control the strobes from my camera.

Profoto Air Remote TTL-N on Amazon

Profoto B1X 500 Air TTL Location Kit on B&H 

Westcott Peter Hurley Flex Cine Daylight 3-Light Kit on B&H

 

Travel Cases & Bags

When I leave the studio, any gear that does not have a very good, dedicated bag of its own goes into one of my ThinkTank bags. These are all semi-rigid, which makes for easy, flexible travel. These bags are excellent, whether I am working out of my car, or flying across the country. My cameras and lenses go into the ThinkTank Airport Security Roller. Once on location, I can still roll my photo gear around the area as needed. This bag doubles as one of my travel bags as well. 

Think Tank Photo Airport Security V3.0 on Amazon

Backdrop

I originally used the Westcott Hurley Pro Board for my backdrop when on the road and I often still use it in the studio. However, for weight reduction and ease of use, I have switched to the Westcott X-Drop System. My only complaint so far is that it has a fairly large footprint. I have both the white and gray background options for the system. My headshot work is done with the white, which I let fall off to gray unless I’m hitting it with the strobes. 

Westcott X-Drop Kit on Amazon

 

Stands

Here, I look for ease, weight, and reliability. While they can be a hassle to transport, stands have to be sturdy and reliable enough to trust with lights that cos thousands of dollars. The Manfrotto stackable stands fit the bill here. I use the Manfrotto 1004BAC stands. They are heavy enough to hold any of the lights I use, as well as the Pro Board if I take that out of the studio.

Manfrotto 1004BAC Master Stand on Amazon

 

Sandbags

I used to haul sandbags with me. After all, if I’m sticking expensive lights on top of a light stand, I’m weighing those babies down! You never know when someone might bump into a light. I want stands that will hold up to an inadvertent nudge. Now, I use the Westcott Hurley Pro Weight Bags when on location. They travel light and flat. Once at my destination I just add water, and presto, weighted bags for my gear! Even if you have sturdy light stands, don’t pass on weighing them down.

HurleyPro H2Pro Weight Bag at FJ Westcott

Tripod

I use the same tripod on location as I do in the studio. I use the Benro Mach 3 Carbon Fibre tripod. It performs wonderfully, is lightweight, and extends to 69.7”. Along with a ball head and camera, it is much taller than I have ever needed it to be. I feel the Benro performs as well as tripods costing twice as much.

Speaking of ball heads, which I recommend due to the smooth freedom of movement they provide, I have an older Manfrotto head. It serves its purpose, but I will be upgrading soon. Stay tuned…

Benro TMA38CL Long Series 3 Mach3 Carbon Fiber Tripod

 

Tethering

When I shoot headshots, I’m tethered to a laptop, whether I’m in the studio, or not. Doing so allows me to quickly check focus and lighting. Often, I will use images while I coach clients. Looking at the screen of a laptop beats trying to see details on the back of the camera. My Tether cables and equipment are from Tether Tools. To protect the camera’s port, and keep the tether cable from coming away from the camera, I use the Tether Tools Tether Block. I like the heft and solid hold it provides.

MacBook Pro 15 Inch on Amazon

TetherBlock Cable Connection Protector on Amazon

TetherPro USB-C to 2.0 Mini-B 5-Pin Cable

 

Equipment Cart

Until recently, I often transported my gear in a small coupe. With an upgrade to a small SUV came the space to add a Rock and Roller cart. I use the R6RT. I also use the optional grip bag to carry my light stands, X-Drop case, and tripod. It is a great solution for me as I can fit my gear onto it, and it fits nicely in my car. My back thanks me and yours will too!

Rock N Roller R6RT at Amazon

GripnGaff Bag Version 2.0 at Amazon

 

My gear has to make it easier for me to deliver the images my clients desire. If they solve more than one problem, even better! The gear I’ve listed meets my needs. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions while putting together your travel kit.

GREG THOMASON 

CONTRIBUTOR

Photographer at Greg Thomason Photography

Hi, I’m Greg Thomason, a commercial headshot and portrait photographer from the Nashville, Tennessee area. In addition to my commercial work, I lead photo trips and teach workshops.

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