The Right Tool for the Job

Wedding Photographers John and Susan Francis are Catchlight Studios Photography based near Orlando Florida. They are also the owners of Harmon’s School of Photography and teach all aspects of digital photography to hundreds of students annually. They are often asked what kind of lighting a photographer should buy when starting out.

They usually explain that this decision depends on the style of photography, whether TTL (through the lens) exposure control is important, and how mobile the photographer wants to be while shooting. At one end of the spectrum, small hotshoe flashes (Speedlights) are light, TTL-capable and fairly powerful for their size. However, they recycle relatively slowly and are prone to over-heating if fired rapidly. At the other end of the scale, studio strobes are very powerful, especially when you want to underexpose sunlight to give a more dramatic feel to the image. The downside is that they tend to be heavy, bulky, require large battery packs and do not support high-speed synch or TTL exposure. They are a great choice for studio-based work but can be limiting for many other applications.

The Quantum flash system sits squarely between these two more commonly considered options. While slightly larger (but not heavier) than a Speedlight, the Quantum flashes support TTL exposure, high speed synch and will even play nicely with Nikon or Canon’s own flash control system. They recycle faster with the small but powerful Quantum battery backs and never overheat. This makes them perfect for rapid fire wedding situations like the Processional or the Bouquet Toss. In our work, we use both the on-camera TRIO flash with our Nikon cameras, as well as the more powerful T5D-r flashes off-camera.

The first image was taken with the TRIO on-camera in QTTL mode and just bounced off the ceiling and wall behind and to the right of the photographer. Beautiful, even light that is easy to produce in a hurry.





One of the great features of the TRIO is the in-built radio control allowing other TRIO’s of T5D-r flashes to be used simultaneously. This permits great lighting, for example, during wedding receptions. We use on-camera TRIO’s to control a pair of T5D-r flashes on tall light stands on either side of the room. This gives much more interesting light than an on-camera flash alone as seen in this Father of the Bride dance shot.




Quite often, we operate with a single T5D-r on a light stand or extendable paint pole. The flash is in manual exposure mode and is triggered with a Pocketwizard Plus II. This setup is rock solid reliable and gives great results every time. In the next image, our bride is lit with a single T5D-r and a shoot-through umbrella providing a nice “beauty light” on our subject.






We used almost the same location for the next image of an engagement couple. This time though, we wanted a bit more emphasis on the pillars and arches, so we used a wide angle lens. A T5D-r flash with shoot through umbrella acted as the main light, but we also added a backlight in the form of a Nikon Speedlight set to optical slave mode so that it would trigger when it saw the flash from the T5D-r.







The T5D-r also provided the main light in this image of our client and his special needs dog – who says we don’t get fall color in Florida! Here, a 1/2 CTO gel on the flash prevented the subjects from looking too cool in the warm early evening light.


The bottom line is that lights are simply tools in the box and it is up to the photographer to choose the appropriate one for the job. There is no “one size fits all” but the Quantum system comes pretty close!



John and Susan Francis

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