Portrait photographers are spoilt for choice when it comes to equipment – Geoff Harris chooses 10 accessories that will help you get the best people pictures possible
Portrait photographers have so many accessories available to them. From simple flash diffusers to pro-level lighting setups, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Here's a quick guide to some of our favourite timesavers and creative gadgets to ensure you get the best people shots possible…
Rotolight NEO 2 LED Light
This handy unit can be easily mounted on your camera's hotshoe or a lighting stand, and combines continuous LED lighting and high speed sync [HSS]. The NEO 2’s ability to activate HSS at 1/8000sec makes it a lot easier to freeze action or add sophisticated creative effects. It can also be used as a portable lighting solution for video. Elinchrom's Skyport 2.4GHz HSS wireless flash receiver is integrated into the LED panel, so it can wirelessly sync up to 10 lights in four groups, at distances of up to 200m. As an added bonus, there's zero recycle time and 85,000 full power flashes per battery charge.
Westcott Ice Light 2
The Ice Light was designed by top wedding photographer Jerry Ghionis and although it might look like a laser sword, it's a very convenient continuous LED light wand, which is ideal for portrait photography on the go. The unit is light and portable, and can be angled by hand, or placed on a tripod or light stand for pleasing, constant-lighting effects. The light output is 1,740 lumens and is daylight balanced, so it's strong without distracting the subject. The unit can run for over an hour on a removable Li-ion battery and the light output can be dimmed right down to 5% too. The Ice Light 2 has a colour rendering index [CRI] score of 96, revealing accurate colours, skin tones and hues. There's also a power cord and built-in Bluetooth, and the whole unit weighs less than 20 ounces, making it handy for travel photography as well as studio work.
Westcott Ice Light 2
Rogue FlashBender 2: Portable Lighting Kit
Sticking to on-camera flash can save time and hassle, but the very direct light often needs controlling and diffusing. This bumper kit from one of the leading names in flash diffusers combines everything on-camera flash gunners will need: large and small reflector panels with matching diffusion panels, a 3-in-1 grid kit, 20 LEE grid filters, 20 LEE flashgun filters and a handy bag in which to carry everything. The lightweight FlashBender 2 Large Reflector (254mm x 280mm) can be easily manipulated into different positions to control and soften bounce flash, while the 3-in-1 Flash Grid system helps to produce a precise directional spot of light with gradual falloff. So, it's ideal as a main, hair, background, accent or mood light. Meanwhile, the large and small diffusion panels provide all the benefits of an on-camera softbox, and the easy-to-attach grid and flash gels deliver some really cool lighting effects. This is a great all-in-one kit.
Rogue FlashBender 2 - Portable Lighting Kit
Interfit 5-in-1 42-inch Reflector Kit
Reflectors are another essential tool for portrait photographers. Not only can you place them opposite your main light source to create a nice bounce effect and fill in harsh shadows, you can also place them closer to your subject to soften smaller shadows or sharp facial features. As well as being very useful, this comprehensive 5-in-1 reflector kit is extremely good value. The reflector has four large, zipped reversible surfaces, as well as a half-stop translucent diffuser panel. The silver and white surfaces create a neutral effect, which is ideal for bright sunny days. The white light it reflects is particularly subtle, and this can be further enhanced with the 'soft sun' surface. A stand is provided, in addition to a swivel joint for precise positioning.
Interfit 5-in-1 42 inch Reflector Kit
Lastolite Ezybox Pro Switch Large
This versatile softbox is a world first. It can be switched from a square to a rectangular format, giving you maximum flexibility for portraits in the studio or on location. It’s also surprisingly light and folds down into a handy carry bag. The Ezybox Pro can be quickly assembled by popping it open and securing it with two light, but sturdy support rods and a zip system enables you to expand or retract the width of the two side panels to adjust the format. The unit is designed to fit studio flashes, flashguns and the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX. And, it's built to last too. A grid of reinforced stitching across the fabric ensures that a small snag will never become a bigger problem.
Lastolite Ezybox Pro Switch Large - Narrow 89 x 44cm / Wide 89 x 89cm
PocketWizard PlusX Transceiver (Twin Kit)
Being comfortable with off-camera flash is an essential skill for serious portrait photographers, as it provides a very fine degree of control over how you light your subject. This PlusX is very straightforward to use and the perfect entry into the PocketWizard Wireless System. The kit is compatible with all Standard Channel-capable PocketWizard transmitters and receivers, so it also works seamlessly with your existing radios and new flashes (this kit contains two PlusX Transceivers). Furthermore, ten standard channels enable you to claim your own 'zone' for exclusive triggering when working alongside other photographers at crowded events. The total height of the transceiver and antenna is less than 4.2 inches, and it weighs only four ounces, including batteries.
PocketWizard PlusX Transceiver Twin Kit
Elinchrom D-Lite RX One/One Softbox To Go Set
If you're keen to set up a home studio or one in a restricted space, this is definitely worth considering. The Elinchrom D-Lite RX One/One Softbox To Go set gets you started quickly, with two heads, two stands, two softboxes (one 66cm square and one 56cm octagon), one translucent deflector, an EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus, leads, lamps and carry bags. The Elinchrom D-Lite RX One head is a small but robust compact flash offering around twice the output of the strongest flashguns. The built-in Skyport transceiver provides accurate wireless flash synchronisation and radio remote control, using the included Skyport transmitter. You can also take full control of settings with the EL-Skyport App, via the optional Wi-Fi module for iOS devices.
Lastolite HiLite Background 6×7ft
Ever wondered how top documentary and portrait photographers get such wonderful people shots on location? They often take along a portable background, as distractions and clutter can be a big headache out in the field. The Lastolite HiLite backgrounds range not only gives you a lovely clean background, but also enables high-key photography on location and in restrictive spaces. The white background can be lit from the rear, so you no longer need to use a background light behind the subject. And, because the background is illuminated, the subject can stand right in front of it without casting a shadow. HiLite backgrounds also work as large rear softboxes. They illuminate the subject, so you can use just one other flash head to light the subject from the front. This larger 6x7ft version is ideal for full-length portraits and small group shots, but can be easily packed and carried.
Lastolite HiLite Background 6 x 7ft
Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible Generation Five Speed Mount
This is the latest version of Gary Fong's best-selling flash diffuser, giving you much more control over the potentially harsh light from your camera-mounted flashgun. It features a new mounting system, which enables you to securely attach and switch out the modifier in seconds. Once attached, the Lightsphere Collapsible Speed Mount will stay securely in place, offering an equally tight fit for nearly all flashgun situations.
Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible Generation Five Speed Mount
Westcott 7ft Parabolic Umbrella (White/Black)
Umbrellas might be old school, but they still come in handy for creative portrait lighting and shouldn’t be dismissed. The Westcott 7ft Parabolic Umbrella is perfect for indoor and outdoor use. It offers a white interior that softens and broadens bounced light, while the solid black backing eliminates any potential for back-spill light. The umbrella's fibreglass frame is stronger and more durable than standard steel or aluminium frames, and the centre shaft has been engineered to two times its normal thickness. This durable shaft is finished off with a 7mm tapered tip, allowing for easy insertion into a variety of photographic lights. It’s brolly good, in other words...
Westcott 220cm (7ft) Parabolic Umbrella - White/Black