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Tips & Tricks

What’s in Our Lighting Bag For Portrait Sessions

By Pye Jirsa on December 11th 2013

Our Lighting Gear Set Up

In this article we’re showing you exactly what’s in our lighting bag for a typical portrait session. Some people might think the gear we bring is excessive, but we want to be prepared for any lighting situation or any shot we might want to capture. Watch the video or read the article below to see exactly what equipment we take with us, and why we would need them.

What’s In Our Lighting Bag Video

The Gear In Our Lighting Bag

The Bag We Use: 13in One Bag

The bag we use to carry all of our photography and lighting equipment is the 13in Undfind One Bag. We created and designed these bags based on what we need as photographers. The One Bag is versatile, comfortable, safe, and most importantly all your gear is accessible quickly. Whether you’re using the bag for camera bodies, lenses, or lighting equipment, the One Bag can fit it all.  These bags are designed by photographers for photographers.


Natural Light Modifiers: Westcott 5-1 Reflectors

For natural light modification we use 2 Westcott 5-1 reflectors. We keep one reflector on the silver side and the other on the scrim side so instead of having to change one reflector constantly, we have both available to us at all times. These reflectors are incredibly useful on portrait sessions utilizing natural light, and for about $40 it’s a useful tool you can afford to have! We also have three great tutorials on utilizing the Westcott 5-1 reflectors on portrait sessions.

Pocket Wizards

To control off camera lighting and flashes we use the Pocket Wizard Plus III or the Pocket Wizard Plus X. We typically carry 3 or more of these on a shoot, one mounted on the camera and 2 on off camera flashes. These reliable remotes are extremely important to us because off camera lighting is an important aspect to our style of photography. These pocket wizards give us the range and reliability we need to capture consistent and professional images. To attach our pocketwizards to our light stands we use Hildozine Remote Transceiver Caddys.


Off Camera Manual Flash

For flashes our studio uses Nikon SB-80 and Vivitar 285HV flashes. We’re not very impressed with the Vivitar 285HV and the Nikon SB-80 is a bit pricey (although they work incredibly well), and you can only buy them used. As I mentioned before, off camera lighting is a big part of our studio’s style of photography and we’re still looking for a great, new, sub $100 manual flash. If you have any recommendations please let us know in the comments.

Vivitar 285HV flash size

Lighting Bag and Lighting Stands

To carry out our lighting stands and umbrellas we use the Manfrotto lighting bag. This bag is the perfect size because it carries 2 of the Manfrotto Lighting Stands and a couple shoot-through umbrellas. Manfrotto does make larger bags, but this is the preferred size for us because if it was any bigger then our gear would get rattled inside the bag, potentially damaging it. Our lighting stands fit inside the bag with the flash mounts attached, which is great because we don’t have to spend time removing and attaching them.

Flash Modification

For flash modification our most used item is a simple Shoot Through Umbrella. It’s a great compact modifier to use, and it’s also incredibly easy to direct and soften light. When using a Shoot-Through Umbrella we suggest putting a lot of distance between the umbrella and the flash (that way you use the whole umbrella) to get the best results, otherwise the light will be too harsh.

magmod attachments

We also carry color temperature orange (CTO) and neutral density (ND) gels. These gels can be noisy and easily lost, and a great product that’s coming out soon that will fix all that is the MagMod. The MagMod allows us to attach gels and grids quickly and quietly. It’s really an innovative approach to flash modification and we really enjoy using it.

Continuous Lighting

For Continuous lighting we typically use the Brinkmann Duel Xenon Flashlight. These flashlights were incredibly affordable (only $30) before they were discontinued. Another light we use is the Lowel GL-1. This is probably the best compact continuous light on the market for photographers because of it’s versatility, control, and power. With the Lowel GL-1 we’re able to paint in light into our shots easily and accurately, and the results are stunning.


Although it’s 20 times more expensive than the Brinkmann, we can confidently say you get what you pay for, and the Lowel GL-1 has definitely found a place in our lighting bag. Be sure to check out our review on the Lowel GL-1 to see if this is something you’d want to invest in.


We hope you enjoyed taking a look into what’s in our lighting bag. At SLRLounge we really enjoy photography and sharing everything we’ve learned through our own photography endeavors.

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Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Kurk Rouse

    Nice Kit

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  2. Mack


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  3. Jeff Nasci

    As far as sub $100 manual flashes go, I use the Yongnuo YN-560 iii. The Mark 3 versions have a built-in wireless receiver and have a slightly higher output and slower recycle time than the Mark 2 versions. I pair those up with the Yongnuo RF-603’s and boom, wireless on a budget. Downsides are that these strobes do not have high speed sync and the max sync speed is 1/250th. I was able to get 2 flashes and 3 transceivers for under $250 with shipping, not too bad in my opinion.

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  4. rockens stewart

    Hi all,

    For cheap flash heads, but really good quality, I suggest you have a look at this ! FLASH YONGNUO
    Works in ETTL, NIKON or CANON mount and as off-shoe flash, it’s great (ok it’s not a 680ex, but for +/- 100$…)

    You should really have a look at this, on weddings, I use these all around the place for the reception and it’s great (and less for 500$ for the family :-))


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  5. Joel and Amber

    We use a few of the Yongnuo 560 II flashes for off camera flash work, and they’re AMAZING. They go for all of about $60 on Amazon and work beautifully.

    They are a fully manual flash (no ETTL) and have about as much power as the Canon 580EX II (sorry, Canon guy here…). I’ve not had a single issue with the 560 II (the 560 III has wireless triggering with their triggering systems, but that’s not necessary as we use the Cybersyncs anyhow).

    More importantly, they have an onboard trigger port (PC sync) so you don’t even need a hot shoe to trigger them.

    And for $60, I can buy about a dozen of them for the cost of one 580EX II… Easy choice here! I could go on for awhile talking about them, but let me just say: GET THEM.

    – Joel

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  6. Nik Morina

    Great video regarding lighting gear.
    Although for Canon Users; I have not yet seen anyone talk about the Canon speedlight 600ex rt, I think they are the only flashlight in the market with their own wireless trigger. Instead using pocked wizards and having to worry about extra batteries, using the 600 also allows you to control the speed of each light individually from the camera, instead of having to do it manually by going at the light. I have been using them for almost a year now and I think it would make a great tutorial for others if talked about the 600ex rt.

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    • Pye

      We agree! We actually just ordered 4 for the studio, so once we get some hands on experience with them we will talk more about them. Thanks Nik!

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  7. michael cook

    Great video, why manual flash? Have you seen the new Phottix Mitros+, they have the built in radio (similar to the 600rt), one less thing to carry, not as cheap as a sb80 for 150, but if you have to buy a pocket wizard to go with it for another $150-200, then you might as well buy something newer and more powerful. Are you guys going to make an off camera flash video? I really enjoyed the natural light videos. Keep up the great work!

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  8. Sean

    Have you looked at Yongnuo flashes? Fairly cheap and I’ve seen good reviews. Would love to see your review on it as I’m considering supplementing my SB-700 with one (or two).

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  9. Caleb Keiter

    I’m a big fan of the Yongnuo YN 560 III – a manual flash for $100 (older model versions are cheaper). It looks and functions almost identically to my Canon 560exII.

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