BIG light on a small budget + Giveaway!

This post is not only on how to get AWESOME light on a small budget, BUT, we are giving away the gear we are highlighting today!


(Giveaway info is at the bottom of this post!)

Today we are going to talk about using BIG lights.

We mean, REALLY BIG LIGHTS but on a small budget.

Now, when you go out to shoot, it is nice to be nimble and fast and move from shot to shot really easily. But sometimes, you just want to take some of the images from your shoot and make them look really different OR, you just don’t have any great light and need to make your images look awesome with some stand out off-camera lighting.


MOST of us look at the above shot and all we see is lots of gear and assume it costs a lot and then tune out… but don’t do this! STAY WITH US! :) We are going to demonstrate how to shoot images exactly like the ones you see above but using your speedlite and a cheap modifier that is super easy to use.

Large Light Rocks

Plain and simple, large light looks AMAZING on skin. It looks like butter when it hits your subject and is incredible. The times that you love shooting natural light most is just after the sun dips and we get that “golden hour” of light. The reason that light looks so good is because the sun itself (which is small in comparison to you) is no longer lighting your subject, but the SKY (what the sun is lighting) is now your main light. The sky is HUGE and makes the light at that time of day amazing.

So, whenever we can, we like to use the biggest light modifier we can and get it in close to make it as large as possible in comparison to our subject. This creates ultra-soft light (now there are other ways to soften light other than just having a huge light, and we have written a few posts already on those techniques. You can find some of them HERE).


The key for this look in the above shot is to go BIG! This image was shot with a 59 inch Westcott Para Softbox. This light is HUGE, it has 16 angled edges (vs 8 on the normal octo-bank) which helps the light wrap around your client’s face and make the sickest light you have ever seen. This light modifier is awesome, but it comes at a price: $699. We are also using our Elinchrom Ranger Speed Kit for the light source itself which is another 2k (crazy expensive!).

The gear used is needed for certain types of shooting, but is not for every photographer. So, what if you want to shoot some stand out portraits, but not spend that kind of cash? Here is what you can do to make stellar off-camera lighting shots, while sticking to a budget (oh, and did we mention that TODAY we are giving away 1 of each lighting modifier that we are talking about thanks to Westcott?!).

Option #1 – The 50 inch Mega JS Apollo light from Westcott


50 inch apollo

This light costs $169 and you can use a light you probably already have to shoot with it – your speedlite! You just need any old light stand and this mounting bracket to rock. It sets up in seconds and you pop your speedlite on the inside (firing it with a wireless trigger that you can find on our FREE gear list HERE).

Option #2 – The Westcott 7 Foot Parabolic Umbrella


It is so simple it’s insane. It costs just $99 and all you do is pop open this umbrella, put in on any light stand, add this mounting bracket (which holds the umbrella and your speedlite), and you are ready to rock some HUGE light. (Again, you must have a wireless trigger for your speedlite which cost around $80 total and are found on our free gear list).

Option #3 – The Westcott 26 inch Rapid Box


This light we have used a TON and even though it is the smallest one of the bunch, it puts out some stunning light due to the really good design of the unit. It needs a light stand, but comes with the speedlite mounting bracket included!

The images you see below all utilize the easy to use speedlite modifiers we mentioned:







Screenshot 2014-08-28 17.30.28


The total expense to get the gear you need to re-create shots like these is between $250-$300 for your stand, wireless triggers, mounting bracket and lighting modifier (we also recommend using a light meter for all your off-camera shooting that is done on manual settings, and you can find the one we use on our free gear list).

Why Buy Expensive Gear?

You may be asking, “Why would anyone buy that expensive gear from the beginning of the post, when you could spend less that $300 on this stuff and buy speedlite modifiers?”

The answer is POWER. When you use a speedlite you are sacrificing sun-stopping power that a speedlite just does not have even when using high-speed sync. The Elinchrom Ranger has 1,100 watt seconds of power vs an average speedlite has around 90 watt seconds.

The way to use speedlites effectively to get shots like you see above, is to use them under lower lighting conditions. Use them late in the day, use them in shade or cloudy days, or use them after the sun sets. If you use them at those times, then you will have incredible results!


What’s the Next Step?

Does lighting have you excited? Are you ready learn? Want to win some good stuff??

Read on!

STEP #1. Enter the Westcott Lighting Modifier Contest!


Nothing is better to get you started then winning FREE gear! Westcott has been gracious enough to give us one of each of the 3 lighting modifiers that we talked about!

This is all you have to do to enter to win:

1. Sign up for our email update list HERE (and when you do, you will get our free lighting eBook called the The Quick Start Guide to Off-Camera Flash! If you are already on that list, then move on to step 2).

2. Click HERE to Tweet the below message and officially enter to win! (Bonus points if you share the message on Facebook. Copy and past the following:

Enter to win a free speedlite softbox from @westcottco on @zachandjody’s blog at #ZJGear

[Prizes not redeemable for cash. Winners will be announced on Tuesday September 9th at noon central time. Winners will be chosen at random from our list of email subscribers and contacted on Twitter. Winners will have 24 hours to respond with their mailing address at or a new winner will be chosen. Modifier will be mailed directly from Westcott to the winners address].


STEP #2. Read the Blog Archives

A great place to learn more on off-camera lighting is right here! You can comb through this blog (we have around 400 posts on shooting, lighting and business) to find the techniques that we use to shoot images just like this. It might take you a while, but you will get there!

STEP #3. Watch us in action teaching you these techniques, step-by-step

DVD Light blog header ItsHere

We filmed an entire 4-hour DVD that explains every single step in our process that we use to shoot amazing off-camera lighting portraits using small or large lights. It gives you step-by-step instructions on our systematic lighting process, what gear to use, lighting styles, how to set up your light, what settings to use and tons of other info to get you shooting lit images fast with no guesswork. Then, this DVD takes you on 25 live shooting segments where you get to see the process in action in a variety of different lighting scenarios.

get it now button colored

If you have other great gear recommendations you want to share with everyone for doing flash inexpensively, then let everyone know about them and leave links in the comments below!




PS. If you enjoyed this blog post, then share it for us! Click  HERE to Tweet it out!