Lighting Guides + Case Studies

In each scenario for photographing group portraits, regardless of the scenario, there are numerous lighting possibilities. To understand how to best approach each scenario and choose which lighting technique to apply, we will first look at our lighting gear. Try not to get caught up in the debate over which gear is “best,” and instead consider which gear is best for you.

Here is a group portrait lighting gear and power guide:

  • Flash Vs. Strobe
    • Favorite
      • $$$ – Profoto A1 (75w)
    • Flashes
      • $$$ – Profoto A1 (75w)
      • $$ – Canon/Nikon (50w)
      • $$ – Phottix (50w)
      • $ – Yongnuo (50w)
    • Strobes
      • $$$$ – Profoto B1 (500w Full)
      • $$$$ – Profoto B2 (250w Med)
      • $$ – Godox AD600 (600w Full)
      • $$ – Godox AD200 (200w Med)

One consideration is how much the gear costs in relation to how helpful it is to you with the type of work you do. In other words, consider budget vs. simplicity. When it comes to producing the power you need from lighting gear, there are several options to choose from to arrive at the same power output, but the cost of each option can vary greatly, and the convenience of the gear (weight, size, portability, modification options, etc.) varies greatly as well.

Example

A Profoto A1 produces 75 watt-seconds of power, but it costs nearly ten times more than a Yongnuo flash, which produces a somewhat comparable 50 watt-seconds of power. Both are fairly small in size and are equally portable. However, the A1 includes beneficial features, including an intuitive interface, a much faster recycle time (approximately .05-1.2 seconds for the A1 vs. 3 seconds for the Yongnuo) and a larger RF wireless operation distance (1000’ vs 328.8’), among others. The Yongnuo is not without its benefits, but some photographers may require more reliability or faster recycle times, and depending on their budget, the A1’s may be their best choice. If at all possible, borrow or rent gear to test and help you decide which gear to buy.

Understanding Flash Power:

  • Flashes
    • Full power: 50w
    • Med: 1/4th to 1/8th power output of medium strobes
    • Full: 1/8th to 1/16th power output of full strobes
  • Medium Strobes
    • Full power: 200-250w
    • Flash: 3-4x more powerful than flashes (with flashes at full power)
    • Full: ½ power of full strobes
  • Full Strobes
    • Full power: 500-600w
    • Flash: 8-10x more powerful than flashes (with flashes at full power)
    • Med: 2-3x more powerful than medium strobes (with medium strobe at full power)

Use the guide below to quickly know which light will work best to meet your lighting needs. The green text represents an ideal light choice for particular lighting scenarios. For example, if you need only 25 watt-seconds of power, a standard flash is ideal. If you need two times the full power of a single flash, it’s still convenient to use to standard flashes, or a medium flash at 1/2-power would also be a great choice.