More Proof That Expensive Gear Does Not Equal Good Pictures

I created the iPhone Fashion Shoot to attempt to prove this point. 50% of the people who saw it "got" it and the other 50% claimed that it only looked good because I used $10,000 worth of light. Well I've always said "light is light" and all those expensive light modifiers do is make the light source bigger or smaller. Don't believe me? Bert Stephani will take over where I left off shooting with these work lights (the same ones that I used for part of the iPhone shoot) and a shower curtain.

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Bert is a great photographer and teacher, thanks for sharing this.

I was already planning to DIY studio by using that halogen spotlights
but I do plan to give a slight mod to the halogen lights to give a more cooler lights

This is great stuffs! :)

at least i can get an idea for a texture background :)

@JustinH, If you want help with backgrounds there is only one video you should watch


Because nothing instills confidence in a client like a pair of shower curtains and $30 work lights.

The next video should be of a guy doing a shoot without any lights or camera, to prove how you can create beautiful imagery using nothing but words.

I'm just kidding guys. Nice photos at the end and that's what really matters..

WAIT! He can afford an entire SHOWER CURTAIN?! You know, we're not all made out of money, right?


I guess I was part of the 50% that got it the first time. I guess it's just hard for some people to accept that the problem with their photographs might NOT be their equipment, after all....

Thanks for posting. You know, there's another whole blog that shows this kind of stuff all the time. It's a great resource for on-the-cheap solutions.

Nice Video..!

This is exactly the equipment I use to shoot hdslr video on pure black with no post production.

I have a double worklight to camera right as a key, single worklight to camera left as a fill and I flag them off (tin foil snoots basically) to keep them from spilling on the background. I have a black bedsheet hanging about 3 feet behind the subject and I'm done.

Simple. Zero work in post. Life is good. You can check a quick sample at

Wayne Leone's picture

I agree with the sentiment. Your clients may not unless your prices reflect your setup.

It's not the camera, it's the photographer...and the hair stylist...and the makeup artist...and the wardrobe stylist..and the...

I would also just like to say nice video. However I feel I must also (after reading some of the comments), say that your clients do not necessarily need to know that the shower curtains are indeed shower curtains and that your lighting is what it is. The results are amazing!

I would love to see you re-shoot the iPhone fashion shoot using Berts budget set up =]

Alvin Toro's picture

Oh this great! I really hope it spreads like wildfire in Hatersville. We need to become better at creating now with what we have than thinking what we could create later with what we don't.

no one mentioned the heat its gonna generate... its specially not comfortable being a model in front of those constant lit harsh lights.
Some things must be done right by getting the right equipment.
i don't recommend this method :(

OK ... WHY? WHYYYYYYYYYYYY Bert, on IN CONFESSIONS OF A PHOTOGRAPHER you do an amazing job like this but in your DVD you did "THAT"? WHY????

I'll grant you that yes, it works and you can make pretty pictures with shop lights. And I like the DIY ethic as much as anyone. But did you notice that at one point he had 1000watts of light five feet from her face? That's hot. When you're melting your model's face off to get a decent shutter speed, is it really worth it? You can get a cheap off camera speed light kit for $150, shoot all day and have a comfortable model in front of your camera.

Wayne Leone's picture

@Dj - I have to agree with you. 90% of the time I would not use this for paid work despite the results (I'm a fan of Bert's work). The same way I wouldn't call to someones house and stick my head in their sink for them to wash and cut my hair no matter how good they are. :)

LMAO @ Wayne Leone

So true.

He said "inner MacGyver"

I'm guessing it doesn't hurt to have a great photographer to go along with what every lights you can find :)

The discussion on gear is becoming very pointless, we all get that the gear does make the photographer or the photographs, so stop preaching to the choir... Fact is this kind of shoot requires some very fast glass (gear) expensive gear!!! Dammm even the iPad ain't exactly cheap :)

People really need to start focusing more on what gear does what GEEEEEEEEEEZ...

Anyway love the idea!

I've done some shoots with halogens. Really great light source for fraction of the price. Watching this was awesome, just as watching the iphone video. Sure nice, expensive equipment is great, but like I've come to learn, "a poor mechanic blames his tools."

btw... i dont know if i am permitted to do this, but here it goes : you can find relatively innovative and functional and cheap gear at

Remy Musser's picture

Whatever I shoot I shoot ISO 100
So if I would use this kind of lightning in studio I would have to shoot in my underwear and my models would melt...

1k watt lights! think of the environment! :o

A true artist can make something out of nothing.

Hi everyone..

I think the tittle of this is a bit wrong. "more proof that expensive gear does not equal good pictures". I think most photographers would disagree. I think nice gear "enables" the photographer to make cutting edge images.

Maybe it's just me.. or my "style", but all the mind blowing images have always been produced with the leading gear. The photographers sites that I bookmark, and watch are in fact using some top grade gear.. and in order to replicate that level of work.. yep, you need that. (again, speaking of a specific style.) Now, if your making a living from shooting from "sub standard" tools.. then by all means, more power to you. Sure, you don't need tons of gear to take a nice lit picture.. but for some, photography is a business, or it;s a journey to become better and better.. and from this point.. you will need all the gear, and money you can get your hands on.

From experience, I quit my job.. and followed my passion. I make more now then ever before.. and I could not have done it without a TON of money upfront.. and people who believed in me, among myself first. It goes to the old saying.. it takes money to make money. It takes a great photographer and the right tools. period.

- Travis

1,000 WATTS IS NOTHING! Many strobes have 250 watt modeling lights (Einsteins and Profoto both use 250 watt modeling lights). If you are doing a typical "white background" you have 2-4 lights for the background, a hair light, a fill light and a key. That's 1250-1750 watts and you model or portrait client didn't melt.

Work lights a little too crude for you? Than get Lowel Tota-lights (about $130.00) Never had a client complain, and I started using them in the 1970s. Scott and I pooled our Tota's (total of 8) for a video shoot of his a couple of weeks ago. No complaints!

I started using real "shower curtains' before Rosco and Lee started making frost.

I own Profoto strobes, but they are not always the right tool for the job. Sometimes tungsten and HMI hot lights work best.

Sorry, I don't buy it. First of all what about his expensive camera and iPad? And regarding the lighting setup:
1. I tried to use these halogen lights - they heat the shit out of the place, and you can't also touch them to adjust because they get incredibly hot. Eventually your model will get sweaty because of that heat. The guy also used stands for his diffusers. These stands alone can cost more than 70 EUR. Yes, he said that you can use whatever to hold the diffuser, but have you ever tried? If you hang it from the ceiling - it is a permanent solution, but if you have no money, then you also don't have space for permanent studio etc. etc. I am speaking here from personal experience, so please stop it with your "no money needed" approach. It simply doesn't work. If you want to have a good setup you will have to spend money. Of course creativity and talent are most important, but you can't fix your car with an axe, and you can't shoot a model without proper tools.

There are some angry and self-absorbed people commenting here. Lighten up! (Pun intended)

Actually, I'm kind of surprised nobody commented that the photos only looked good because he used a $10,000/day model. :P

It's true that top-notch photographers will want to use top-notch gear. But if pro-rated gear was all that was required to create a stunning image, then I know some doctors and lawyers who are photo enthusiasts and who should theoretically be shooting on par with Gregory Heisler.

They're not. Instead, they're using Hasselblad H4Ds to create little more than snapshots. Like it or not, the saying is true; it's not the camera that makes the image, it's the photographer. Personally, I'd rather hire a guy who could make outstanding images with a $2500 camera and $200 of lighting than someone who craps out mediocrity with a $35,000 camera and $15,000 worth of Elinchroms. The client won't give a shit about your fancy gear if your photos are flat and lifeless.

There also needs to be a touch of reality here. People are commenting on how clients would react to this set up. If you're restricted to using something like this, face it, you're not shooting for a multi-million or billion dollar company. You're probably doing some low-end product photography or headshots. That level of clientele probably won't give a damn about your set up.(For people bitching about the iPad, he didn't say it was NECESSARY, he just happened to have one so he used it to show the model the photos. You could do the same thing using the LCD on the back of your camera.)

To be fair, I've shot video using the exact lights he's demonstrating. They're not pleasant to work with. The above comments that mention how hot they get are dead on. The things become untouchable, and DO NOT get anything flammable near them. Put four of those things in a room and you can melt the paint off the walls. We blew fuses like crazy, too. But the lights fit the budget at the time and they got the job done. If I had to do it all over again I'd buy some cheap hotlights from Impact or something, but the point of the video above (which still seems to be lost on many) is that you don't have to let your budget kill your ideas. He presented some possible solutions, nothing more.

Being a photographer is about problem solving, not just tripping a shutter.

I think this is my fave post by far!!

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