Ask an Agent / Shooting Without Mains Power

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column tackling all your dilemmas about the photography industry – the photography industry’s first Agony Aunt! If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to Questions can be on anything to do with the photography business, such as photoshoots, marketing, professional practice, pricing, contracts, legal stuff – anything!

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With the LPA Futures 2015-16 launch fast approaching we’ve asked Lloyd Barker, General Manager at our sponsor Direct Photographic, to answer a question from a photographer wanting advice on shooting outside without mains power - a challenge which can easily be tackled with a little forward planning.

Dear Ask an Agent,

I'm a lifestyle photographer and need some advice on shooting outside with no power. I’ve been approached about an exciting job that involves several locations with no access to mains power. Could you tell me what I need to consider in terms of equipment to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day?

- Debbie Morrison

Powering a location shoot with no mains power is a challenge my team and I face every day. We have several options, depending on lighting requirements.

First off, the biggest piece of advice I can offer is to always start with an equipment list that includes and takes into account the production list – the need for hair and makeup areas, or a simple base for crew, for example. Secondly and very importantly, perform a recce at the location. It is absolutely essential to know what the location areas look like, how many areas will need power, and the distances between these areas in order to request the proper amount of cable.

The reason that the production list is so important is because small things that aren’t necessarily at front of mind like hairdryers, steamers, tea urns and catering equipment can quickly escalate power requirements. It’s always important to take power requirements into account for the entire location.

With the above-mentioned in mind, you’ll be able to quickly get to a budget and equipment list that works, and power options become very simple.


When batteries are required, it usually means that a recce isn’t possible. The up side to using a battery is that it’s easier to stay within a tight budget and be very mobile, shooting in multiple locations throughout a single day. In this scenario, a battery is really the only viable option.

Our range of battery options covers everything from flash to continuous, daylight to Tungsten, from speed-guns with dedicated TTL to the latest battery solutions from Profoto and Broncolor. The new B2 system from Profoto is 250ws; the Profoto B4 Air has excellent recycling time, is perfect for freezing motion, and can output 1000ws; the Broncolor Move will do 1200ws and comes in a rucksack.

When it comes to continuous, we carry 1x1 Bi-Colour LED Panels, LED Ring Lights, Tungsten Sunguns, Daylight Pocket PARS, and Joker Bugs. And new in from Kinoflo, we carry the 200 and 400 Celeb Bi-Colour battery-powered LED panels, which are punchier than – but just as soft as – the well-known Kinoflo Fluorescents.

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Behind the Scenes / Michael Heffernan

Portable Generators

For greater power we move to portable petrol generators. Long duration shooting is better powered by generators and if you need the performance of a mains powered flash but are away from mains power, this is the answer.

In our range of portable generators, Direct Photographic carries a range of Honda EU10is, EU20is, EU30is, EU65is and most recently the EU70is.

The smaller 1kW and 2kW models are perfect for location digital equipment setup. They supply more than enough power for a laptop and screen, and will run reliably without trouble for several times longer than an external battery.

The 3kW generator will run a 2.5 HMI or a Profoto Flash Pack and the 6.5kW generator will run a 4kW HMI or a couple of flash packs.

The new Honda EU70is portable generator (shown in photograph) is very exciting because it offers more choice. Two of these generators linked and running in parallel provide 11kW of power. In terms of production cost, having this amount of light on set for this cost and with such a small amount of equipment was previously unheard of.

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© Direct Photographic

Vehicular Generators

There are several reasons to choose a vehicular generator, among which are the need for a great deal of power between equipment lists and production requirements, and the need for reliable, steady power in several different places.

We most commonly supply models from our own fleet that range from 60kW up to 200kW. As an example, a 60kW vehicular generator is ideal for two 18kW HMI’s, carrying the head stands and cable as well as production elements like E-Z Up tents, trestle table, etc…

This particular generator is used regularly on large campaigns where clients require an exterior, completely self-contained studio-grade operating environment. This level of power works when you perhaps need six shots in 30 minutes, and therefore you have six times the amount of equipment running at once.

There are several costs associated with vehicular generators that aren’t always apparent which we can provide guidance on. For example, this type of hire necessitates that we supply HGV licensed crew who are trained and certified electricians.


“How long is a piece of string?” The size of a budget depends on what you are shooting, where and with what.

As every shoot is different, and therefore every budget is different. At the same time, if our teams are given the principle information to check off, they will be able to provide a quote quickly in order to give an initial idea of costs. When providing a quote, the essential information elements are:

- Lighting equipment list

- Production equipment list

- Location

- Call time & Wrap time

- Layout of the location so that cable can be estimated if required

Direct Photographic carries a wide range and large amount of equipment, from high directors chairs to makeup mirrors, steamers, irons, E-Z Up tents, trestle tables, gold brollies and more. For out of town and even mobile in-town shoots, we can provide a Man&Van service as well.

Please Note:

We reserve the right not to enter into ongoing correspondence.

We reserve the right not to answer all questions.

Please state whether you would like to remain anonymous.

This advice should be taken as a guide only.

Lisa Pritchard, LPA and guest bloggers take no responsibility for any omissions or errors.

Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.