It is widely acknowledged that necessity is the mother of invention. DIY and jury-rigged lighting setups are all the rage these days. The phrase "gear doesn't matter" has become a mantra. Why are photographers so loathe to admit that gear can matter? Sometimes not having the right gear is what stands between you and your concept. Check out this Profoto video of Alexvi's images coming to life thanks (at least in part) to the type of gear he uses. (Turn on the closed caption unless you speak Chinese.)
Gear and Personal Style
Sometimes you may have a vision in your head that you just can't get to work once the lights start flashing. Surely everyone would accept that having a particular piece of gear at your disposal can actually help you execute a particular look. Perhaps even more than that, specific gear may help you actually develop your personal style in a way that another piece of gear might not. As a quick example, a photographer experimenting with long exposure would certainly end up with a different feel in their portfolio if they did, or, did not have a tripod. Or, just try getting the soft-light feel of a giant soft box with nothing but a collapsed 18-inch umbrella. Doable? Maybe. But it is unlikely that your images will have the same look.
Alexvi and Profoto
Known for his unconventional approach, Alexvi was asked by Profototo to take their unorthodox strobes out for a test drive. Looking to do something off the beaten track, Alexvi took his team and his Profotos to the shuttered Shijingshansteel plant just west of central Beijing. Using the portable B1s, B1Xs, A1s, and B10s Alexvi shot the models with a complex blend of hard-rim and slightly softer front lighting. Once the initial flashes fired, the model and crew would quickly leave the scene so that the background would burn through the model. Almost a double exposure feel. Having such portable and light-weight strobes that are also capable of producing high-end studio-quality light certainly helped Alexvi achieve his vision.
For me, being able to create an atmosphere or a feeling with light is much more rewarding than relying too much on post-production techniques, the B10 helps me do that - and with its small, lightweight size - I can do it in any location.
Sure, you could shoot this with much less expensive speed lights or heavier strobes. I doubt however that you'd get some of the more complicated lighting setups to work so well in camera. Inevitably you'd end up with color or power problems. You'd also be unlikely to get the lights out of the shot quick enough to allow the desired bleed through effect. So, when the goal is to get the blended exposure technique in camera, it's important to use gear that gets you what you need. I wonder if you tried this with speed lights and ran into color and power problems if you'd move on to something different. I don't mean to say that it would be worse, just that it would end up different.
Gear Can Develop Your Style
Photographers are often the first artists to claim that necessity is the mother of invention. Why then do we often have such a hard time acknowledging that sometimes the opposite is true? If not having a particular piece of gear can drive your style in a particular direction, surely having a particular piece of gear in your arsenal can drive you in another.
Make sure you check out the finished shots as well as some interesting behind the scenes shots at Profoto.