How to Use a Power Pack with Flash Heads

One of the benefits of studio photography is that ability to take advantage of off-camera flash, which provides more power and control than an on-camera flash. There are several different options for off-camera strobe lighting, such as speedlights, monoblocks, and power pack / flash head combinations. Though not very portable, packs and flash heads are the most powerful option — they are perfect for studio shoots. At Fairway, we include a Profoto Acute 2R 1200 Power Pack and two Pro 7 Flash Heads with our studio rentals. Here’s what you need to know about using this equipment. 

 

 

This is a power pack. It's a generator that operates on AC power (so it must be plugged into the wall). The Acute 2R 1200 Pack has a power output of 1200W, and three ports for connecting flash heads (labeled here as "A" and "B"). 

 

This is a flash head. It should be attached to a light stand and can be outfitted with a softbox, reflector, umbrella or other light modifier — all of which provide different qualities of lighting.

Here's our typical setup that should work for most photoshoots: a flash head with a large softbox on our righthand side, and a flash head with a medium softbox on the left. The smaller softbox serves as the fill light, meaning it's used to fill in the shadows produced by our main light.

Softboxes produce soft, even lighting. Click to learn more about the different lighting produced by softboxes and umbrellas.

 

The flash heads do not light continuously; they are controlled wireless by a Pocketwizard Transmitter and Receiver. The Transmitter is attached with a wire to the Power Pack, and the Receiver hooks up to the top of your camera. Make sure they are set to the same channel. When you press the shutter and take your photo, the flash heads will light automatically.


 

Understanding the Power Pack Controls and Settings:

  • MOD.A, MOD.B, MOD.LIGHT — these settings control the "modeling lights." Modeling lights allow you to see where the light will hit. When the modeling lights are on, the strobes will light continuously at a more modest setting.
  • If you want to set off the strobes without taking a photo, press the white TEST button.
  • The strobes will not work unless the TEST button, or "ready lamp", is lit up. It resets every 1/4-second, typically. The more power you use, the slower the recycle time. We recommend turning the SOUND setting on, so the pack will beep when the ready lamp lights up again. 
  • Each light can be set to full power, half power or quarter power. This is controlled using the switches labeled A and B. Remember that the more power you use, the slower the recycle time (it's best not to use more than necessary).
  • You can use symmetrical or asymmetrical power distribution between your lights. To control the power setting of each light individually, select the A+B setting. For symmetrical distribution, select A <--> B.
  • SYNC — This is where you plug in the transmitter cord.

Camera Settings + Lighting

Set your camera to manual mode. You'll need to set your aperture and exposure settings. For studio lighting, you'll typically use an aperture between f8 and f12 and a shutter speed of about 1/200 with your iso at 100-400. If you find that your lighting is too dark or too light, keep making adjustments until you get it just right. You can also adjust the power settings of your lights, as well as their placements.