One of the most terrifying things to happen to a beginning photographer, and even still with the most professional and professionals, is when gear breaks. It’s why we usually bring an extra camera body. Maybe another light. But when you’re starting out, most photographers are usually broke. So, you don’t have spare anything….

I’ve been incredibly lucky though. Nothing. Ever. People would say “You’re jinxing yourself when you say that!”. That’s just stupid. I don’t believe in stupidstition. Be prepared. Have cheap insurance like extra memory cards, extra batteries, extra flashes and okay, bring a spare camera body.

The thing is: buy quality. And quality isn’t all that expensive. Not anymore. You can get really great gear for not much more than the cheapest gear out there. I largely use Flashpoint equipment which is store-brand Adorama. It’s good. It’s solid. I’ve used their Flashpoint Li-Ion R2 TTL for years. Never a problem. The batteries last F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Built like a tank. My Profoto gear will last 10 – 20 years with decent care. No problem.

My Flashpoint Li-Ion R2 TTL Flash

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But no. I’ve seen people with money still buy the cheapest gear they can. Because, in their mind, it’s all about the camera and lens. The quality in their lights, modifiers and bags don’t matter that much. Right? They feel that with the money they save on an item, if it breaks and it needs to be replaced, it’s okay because they’ll still save money on two items versus one.

Explain that to a client.

My Flashpoint Li-Ion R2 TTL is as good a flash you can get. Absolutely. Some other models have some interesting gimmicks. But to get 99.9% of work done, this flash is fantastic. Great functions, menu and build quality. Do you know how much I paid for it? $99! Brand new!

Adorama haș a huge sale during Black Friday in November. I think this was a bundled deal: buy a Flashpoint XPLOR 400 and get the flash for $99. I bought two XPLOR 400 strobes. I think I got a 3rd flash a few weeks later during a Christmas sale for $99.

The flashes have more than paid for themselves since then. Absolutely fantastic. It makes zero sense to save $20 on a flash at this price. Wait an extra week or two to save if possible. It's completely worth it.

But no matter how good the quality, even the greatest and toughest will break. Like it did with me once.

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So there I am having a fantastic shoot with model Brooke. Looking gorgeous and well, perfect. It’s a good shoot. I’ve had a couple with her where we kept it simple and the shoots were fantastic. That’s how I was going to do this shoot. 

I mean, this shot is perfect.

Unfortunately, the Photoflex modifier is so light, it like having a sail on the light stand and a nothing breeze toppled over everything. I heard a definitive clunk when the Canon 580EXII flash hit. Yes, my heart sunk. It was the only one I had.

I couldn’t get it to work again. Nothing. It was damaged.

I panicked a bit. But I thought: it’s one of those times to be resourceful. I’ve seen photographers talk about when gear isn’t working correctly or maybe something else isn’t, and you have to improvise. That’s what I would do!

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Sunlight. Shadows.

Luckily, the flash broke near the end of the shoot and it was approximately 5pm. We were in the middle of San Francisco’s Financial District with fantastic light starting to make its appearance. We were shooting on Montgomery Street during rush hour. People were watching. I was nervous that we would be the cause of a traffic accident! But really, gentlemen, you haven't seen an attractive woman having her picture taken?

The shoot turned out so well and Brooke posted pictures from it, that her model and actress friends would comment how gorgeous images were. Like they were from a magazine!

Thank you for that!

Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
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