Shooting with Power Pack & Head Systems

by | Sep 2, 2020

It’s Studio Week on the blog and each day I’ll be offering some tips, trick, and techniques for making your next shoot easier and maybe even fun while creating great portraits at the same time…

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Monolights, as I wrote about yesterday, combine power supply and flash head within a single unit. Another approach is used by power pack and head systems that offer these components parts as individual units that can be mixed and matched to produce different kinds of lighting set-ups.

Because there’s no internal power supply, the flash heads used by these kinds of system can be smaller and some are downright tiny allowing you to place them in locations where larger monolights might not fit. Because these flash heads are smaller than a monolight, there’s room inside for cooling fans without the head size getting too large or the fan too big and noisy.



Another advantage is the power supply can control more than one head. Usually the output for each flash is controlled in either symmetric or asymmetric configurations.

The power supply itself can also be larger because its design needn’t be concerned as much about heat buildup affecting the flash head allowing more flash heads to be connected.

How I made this shot: Looking oh-so Sharon Stone (think Basic Instinct) Misa Lynn’s white dress contrasts nicely with Silverlake Photo’s Wild Flower” Colorsmack background. Lighting was from a Speedotron Brown Line M11 light head with 48-inch black-backed silver umbrella placed at camera right with another Speedotron Brown Line M11 head with 54-inch silver umbrella mounted that was located near the back of my studio at studio left. Power was set at 400 Ws with the power pack in Symmetrical mode producing a final exposure of 1/125 sec at f/14 at ISO 100 with a Canon EOS 50D and EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens (at 115mm.)

When using any studio flash system you’re eventually going to encounter this buzzword: lighting ratio. Lighting ratio is the difference in the brightness of light falling on your subject between the main or key light and the fill light but there can also be tertiary lights that serve other purposes such as adding highlights to the subject’s hair or illuminating the background. Understanding this concept can be important when working with power packs that offer asymmetric controls that can be set for different output intensities.

A lighting ratio of 3:1 is considered “normal” for color photography but I strongly believe that photographers can be flexible in applying this rule and to tell the truth I seldom worry about hitting a specific ratio.


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