Hey guys! My name is Nick Fancher and I am a Columbus, Ohio-based portrait and commercial photographer. I specialize in shooting in unconventional locations, specifically with the use of small flash.
My gear list has always been pretty minimal, though I’ve changed lenses and flash systems a few times before arriving at my current setup.
The thing that I love about the Cactus system, is that I can trigger off-camera flashes without the use of a transceiver and I can dial the output up and down from camera- even putting each light on their own channel or group. It also has high speed sync up to 1/1000 and ETTL capabilities (though I prefer to shoot manual). Not to mention, the flash is $200 brand new.
I have found that I rarely need more than two lights, most often opting to use one. It typically comes down to getting a good idea about what the ambient light is doing (take an unlit shot, underexposing by one stop) and then adding light to fill in shadow areas, rather than immediately setting up a light and trying to kill all the ambient. Treat the ambient as an ally you are teaming up with, rather than an enemy you are trying to conquer.
I also typically use the flash unmodified. I will often bounce the hard light into a nearby white wall, or any neutral-colored, light-toned surface. That saves the need for an umbrella or softbox which makes travel lighter and minimizes the amount of necessary shoot space.
Quite often I find myself shooting in cramped offices or homes, using a white wall or dry erase board for a backdrop. I only ever break out a second flash if I need to blow out the background or possibly add a hair or accent light. I carry a gel kit and a grid to further modify and shape the light.
Regarding lens choice, I have always stuck to 2 lenses, early on opting to use the popular Canon 24-70 f/2.8L and the Canon 70-200 f/4L IS lenses, because of their versatile range.
In recent years, however, I have found that the images that I was getting lacked sharpness, so I traded my wide zoom for the Canon 35mm f/1.4L and haven’t regretted the decision for a moment. And most recently I decided to trade in my trusty long zoom for the Canon 85mm f/1.4L and this is my new favorite lens. It’s my go-to for portraits, while I use the 35 for candid shots, environmental portraits and photojournalist coverage. The only lens that I ever find myself possibly needing is a macro lens option.
Because my gear list is so sparse, I typically use my Lowepro backpack, rather than my Pelican case. It’s perfect for flights since it’s small enough for the overheard bin and it zips up from the inside, so no one could come up behind me and unzip the bag. I holds all my gear, including a collapsible light stand, umbrella and my 13″ MacBook Pro.
My new book, Studio Anywhere, goes into all of this in much more detail. Also, check out my video series, if that’s your thing, and feel free to email me with any questions. Thanks for reading!
Canon 35mm f/1.4L
Canon 85mm f/1/2L
2- Cactus RF60 flashes and V5 transceiver
Lowepro Flipside 300 bag
LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5” light stand
Westcott 43”collapsible umbrella
Strobist gel kit
Powerex AA batteries