Small Strobe PackThe next step up from using a speedlight is using a small portable strobe pack. Why spend the extra money for this option? Strobe packs offer more power, faster recycle time and the ability to use large softboxes for very soft fill light.
I like to use a battery-powered strobe pack like the Elinchrom Quadra. Battery units like this allow me the freedom to shoot anywhere I want. Since I normally add fill light in outdoor settings, freedom from AC power is critical.
Nothing changes in fill-flash principle. I’m still adding some fill light to reduce shadows, adding catchlight to eyes and popping the colors, all while balancing my flash with the daylight exposure. But with the 400-watt Quadra, I now have enough power to use very large, softboxes to add my fill light. A great trick when shooting portraits is adding a large soft fill-flash so subtly that most viewers won’t even know flash is being used. This touch of big, soft light opens up shadows, adds catchlight to the eyes and makes the difference between a nice portrait and a great memorable portrait. Have you ever looked at a portrait and thought, “Wow, that’s a great shot,” but you can’t quite figure out why that portrait looks better than the rest? Chances are, there was some big, soft fill-flash being used.
Another advantage when using a strobe pack is the fast recycling time. When adding fill light on portrait shoots, it’s important that your flash recycles quickly so you don’t miss any special moments with your model. When I shoot with my Quadras, I get very fast recycle times, shot after shot. I never have to wait for my flash to recycle. Since I’m only adding fill-flash, which doesn’t require much power, my recycle times are even faster, about a second. I use the wireless Elinchrom Skyport to trigger the Quadra. The packs have a built-in receiver that also allows me to control flash output at the camera via the Skyport.