21-September-2007 : Need A Quick Lighting Set Up And Hate To Check Your Bags?

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com — E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

21-September-2007 : Need A Quick Lighting Set Up And Hate To Check Your Bags?

I’ll admit it, I often over pack my lights. I like to be as prepared as possible for whatever my client may throw at me. I have shown up to a job that should be a simple executive portrait that has turned into shooting three executives and some interior architecture work as well. Ever since that nightmare scenario I have often over packed my lights.

On the other hand, I also have shot a number of editorial and corporate shoots where I know for a fact I am dealing with a maximum of two people. Very often I’ll travel for eight hours , have 15 minutes to set up and less than 10 minutes to shoot, followed by a nice jaunt back to the airport and eight hours of travel home. With these jobs, like most jobs, I really don’t want to deal with the baggage claim area. I like to get off the plane, get in my rental car and go.

For these jobs I have devised what I call my “Lighting Briefcase.” My “Lighting Briefcase” is my North Face Offsite bag (http://Offsite.notlong.com ). Even with a fully loaded photo backpack, or a Pelican 1514, I have never been questioned about the size and weight or my North Face Offsite on a US Domestic or Canadian flight (remember always carry all bags like they weigh 5lbs!!). The bag legitimately is a computer briefcase and with most US and Canadian carriers not defining a size and weight for a computer briefcase you’re fine……..I have tested this on dozens of flights on at least half-a-dozen US and Canadian carriers.

My North Face Offsite hauls the following, in order of top to bottom, left to right, correlating to the photo below
North Face Offsite ; two Bogen 3373 compact lightstands ; Pocket Wizard transmitter ; two Pocket Wizard receivers ; two PC cords ; Lightware “Z” accessory pouch ; two Nikon SB-28dx speed lights; two Photoflex speedrings (with rubber bands in a “tic-tac-toe” pattern to hold the flashes in place); two Calumet Swivel Adapters; small roll of gaffers tape ; Black/White Gobo ; two Photoflex Q39 softboxes ; Lumiquest mini-snoot ; Lexar USB multi-card reader ; USB cord ; Apple power supply ; 13″ Apple MacBook ; Timbuk2 laptop sleeve (under the MacBook).

The Lightware “Z” pouch holds two Nikon SB-28dx speedlights as well as all the Pocketwizards and PC cords.

This quick and easy light set up is very versatile, easy to haul around and fairly inexpensive to have around.

This set up is also my favourite set up not only for flying but when I need to use the subway to get to and from an assignment. The briefcase with a backpack is unassuming, does not call attention to having any camera gear , and the low profile makes it easy to maneuver in crowded in environment.

Happy Flying!

–Click On Images To Enlarge Them–
All The Gear Laid Out & All The Gear In The Bag

a group of objects on the floor a bag with a yellow tag and a green bag
The following is a photo shot with the “Lighting Briefcase.” It was shot for a corporate client in the parking lot at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU).
a man in a dark room


  1. Hi Fish,
    I like your blog, very useful!

    You said somewhere that you prefered softboxes over umbrellas primarily due to size. The Westcott double fold umbrellas however look really small and nice and probably weigh less than the softboxes you use. Just a thought 🙂

    Peter S.

  2. Peter

    I have tried a variety of compact umbrellas, and the double-folding umbrella. Overall having looked at space & weight the soft boxes vs the umbrellas, I choose the soft boxes. For durability I have never found an umbrella that can take the abuse of a soft box. Also over the years I have simply developed a preference for soft boxes.

    It’s personal choice for me mixed in with the practical reality of how I like to pack for my travels.

    Happy Flying!


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