There’s a lot of things that can happen during a shoot and no matter how you prepare for everything, something will always come up and challenge your ability to improvise to finish the shoot. Although there’s that very common human error, equipment failure is a definitely the bummer.
Last week I was doing a corporate shoot and the first challenge was doing it without my assistant. I had to prepare all the equipment and made a checklist to make sure I got everything. When deciding which equipment to bring, you have to have alternatives just in case something goes south in the middle of the shoot.
There’s a reason why you bring two camera bodies and an extra lens during a shoot, just in case one equipment decides not to perform. Same goes to your lighting setup, backup is necessary and some few extra cables, battery, trigger and never forget the all around solution, duct tape.Upon arriving in the location, I first to checked the ceiling and the walls if they’re white and surely they were. This means that I don’t have to setup my softbox and other modifiers, something you don’t want when you don’t have an assistant that day. On the flipside, having all white surrounding is a disaster when shooting low key.
In this shoot, I did not bring any AC powered strobe since I didn’t want cable running around the set and everybody tripping on it. I had two battery operated strobe with extra battery pack and just in case one fails, I added a speedlight with extra batteries too. When you bring a speedlight, don’t forget the flash shoe to attach to your light stands, otherwise duct tape to the rescue.
And so the inevitable happens, the client decided to triple the number of heads to shoot. I got that covered, extra battery packs, check. In the middle of the shoot I encountered a problem with one strobe. I replaced the battery but it won’t work. I had to bring out my speedlight and re configure my lighting and increase ISO for a low powered lighting setup.
You have to think and decide quick because the more your client waits, the more trouble you get. The mood in the set will start to die and you will have to lift the energy back again to when you paused. Not to mention that you have a schedule to follow. This is where you expertise and experience comes in.
You can bring all your equipment to the shoot all you want and get all the possible alternatives during the shoot but you have to consider the logistics involved. This means mobilization, manpower and equipment management. You have to be smart on what to bring. Just enough to get you out of trouble.
After the shoot, I tried to find out why my strobe failed. It turned out that as I was trying to turn it on, I forgot to mount the strobe head cable. No wonder why it refuses to turn on. Times when you miss your assistant. Keep on shooting everyone!
Text and photos by Albert Pedrosa