Photographers who shoot on location deserve a lightweight and powerful light that gives studio strobe quality light we can take to the woods. We don’t get flying cars. This is the least that science can provide. The Elinchrom Three is the sort of strobe light that responds to this need.
I could say the Elinchrom Three beautifully balances my needs as a location photographer, providing power and portability. Some publications test gear. Passionfruit takes it on a road trip. We tested this unit during a month-long road trip across America.
These are some of the photos and stories. What is it like to use the Elinchrom Three to create on the go? From Bigfoot to a 200-year-old theater, here’s what we discovered.
Elinchrom Three Across America: A Review
Shooting On Location Or While Traveling Is All About Portability
When shooting on location, if I can keep my hands free, that’s ideal. Some of us have crap balance. Some of us don’t want to find ourselves in a wetland without the ability to grab a tree should we fall. I used the Elinchrom Three to take a portrait at the Littleton, NC, Cryptozoology and Paranormal Museum. It came along for a location shoot at the 200-year-old Thalian Hall in Wilmington, NC, followed by a local wetland. Shooting anniversary photos for friends.
That said, I never felt like I was taking a strobe on the go with me. Clocking in a little over three and a half pounds, the Elinchrom Three takes up roughly the same space as a large zoom lens. At 10 x 6.5 x 4.1 inches, it’s not small per se. But it won’t fill your backpack, either. The tilt head can be removed, giving you more options for packing.
But Does It Make Pretty Pictures?
Reading the specs of the Elinchrom Three sounds like a tech nerd mumbling if you’re not a photographer. But to a certain kind of individual, hearing lighting specs ignites the same passion as a powerful sunset. So, for my fellow nerds, here they are. The Elinchrom Three delivers 261 W light in a tiny 3.6lb body. It has a recycling time of 1.2 seconds at full power and can shoot 525 full-power flashes on a single charge. It can do 11,250 flashes at its minimum power.
Using Elinchrom’s Transmitter Pro, you can access HSS (High Speed Sync) to synchronize your strobe up to 1/8000s. There’s always a learning curve with new gear, but Elinchrom’s touch interface is efficient and intuitive. It’s Bluetooth compatible, so you can set it, walk away, and finetune settings from where you’re shooting.
Your color temperature is adjustable from 2700 to 6500K with a 95 CRI. There’s also a bi-color modeling light for setting up shots or shooting video. The Elinchrom’s included diffusion dome does a remarkable job of softening the light, but it’s also compatible with Elinchrom and Profoto light adapters.
Ok, But Does The Elinchrom Three Make Pretty Pictures?
Popping out a stand, attaching the Three, and pulling out your camera takes less than a minute, so you’ll find yourself shooting more often. And when you start shooting, the difference is remarkable.
261 W is a lot of light, and you see it in the rich details of the photos the Elinchrom Three helps you take. Lightroom and Photoshop can do incredible things with low light these days. But there’s nothing like the options a perfectly lit shot can give you in the edit. All of the photos in this article were taken using just one Elinchrom Three. There are no backfills, secondary lights, or panels. They were also shot only using the included Diffusion Dome, no softboxes or other modifiers.
The shots you get right out of the box with no modifications are remarkable. Whether you’re using the app or touch screen, making adjustments is simple and fast. Most importantly, it’s size means you don’t have to have a big heavy stand to use it. That greatly improves your options for where you can set up your light.
A big part of shooting on location is working with the limitations that light provides. Speedlights are wonderful, but sometimes, in a particularly dark space with a lot of objects for potential shadows, you want something more powerful. Taking a light this powerful anywhere you can take a backpack blossoms your creative options.
Elinchrom Three In Practice, A Brief Travel Log
Los Angeles, CA – Testing The Elinchrom At Home
Leaving for a month of travel, bringing the light with me. Before leaving, I tested the light on my wife. Both for good luck and so I don’t embarrass myself in front of a client. The portraits come out beautifully, providing stunning deals of the subject and too much honesty about the clutter of my apartment.
Catoosa, OK – The Blue Whale of Catoosa
Any great road trip should include stops at critical historical landmarks. The Blue Whale of Catoosa is a 20 x 80 ft blue-whale shaped water attraction built in 1972 on an Oklahoma pond. Its mighty fins were once slides, and families could come to the pond to swim and fish and have a lovely day.
You see, we used to be a proper country, one that provided public services for the common good. While its still available as a picnic and play spot, the pond is now closed to swimmers. However, the beautiful Blue Whale itself still stands tall.
Sadly, I arrived at the Whale well after sunset had started. The photos I had been so excited to take came out dark, full of sorrow. Like a country without public swimming areas. I was left with this.
Utilizing the Elinchrom Three, I illuminated the entire 80ft body of the Blue Whale of Catoosa for a photograph.
While I’m not suggesting this $999 strobe light as a travel light, can you imagine how powerful family slide shows would be if these were standard issue for parents? We need universal basic income, medicare for all, and a national photography program.
Littleton, NC – Cryptozoology & Paranormal Museum
Even when traveling for work it’s important to continue your personal quest for edification. Constantly searching “Cryptozoology,” “Ghosts,” or “Bigfoot” in your GPS while road-tripping is how I found Littleton, NC’s Cryptozoology & Paranormal Museum.
Nestled in Littleton, NC, population 521 as of 2021, the Cryptozoology & Paranormal Museum is run by former Littleton Mayor and bigfoot expert Stephen Barcelo. Inside you’ll find Sasquatch hair, casts of footprints, local lore, a truly upsetting amount of haunted dolls, and the warm humor of Barcello.
After touring his facility, I asked Barcello if he would let me to take his portrait. He obliged. In the interest of not spoiling the museum’s delights, we have hidden them behind the Sasquatch statue. Go visit Steve, or check out his incredible YouTube channel.
Wilson, NC – Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
Wilson, NC is home to the North Carolina Whirligig Festival and America’s largest year-round whirligig park. These giant metal sculptures are whimsical reminders of the beauty of public art, and a great way of demonstrating just how powerful this light can get from a distance.
Wilmington, NC – Thalian Hall and a Local State Park
Comedian Cliff Cash is a star in Wilmington, NC, but makes his living traveling this great country telling jokes far from home. So when he was asked to film his first special at Wilmington’s 200-year-old landmark Thalian Hall, it was a big deal. Thankfully, Cliff let me take some photos of him in the legendary space to promote the show.
Here’s where the power and portability of the Elinchrom really won me over. Lugging a heavy stand and lights up three flights of stairs to explore balconies is a hassle. But the Elinchrom Three provide me a powerful and adaptable light source without overpowering. Even in tight conditions.
Whether shooting with it next to me or staging it across from a grand balcony, I was able to place the light wherever I needed. Even between tightly packed rows of seats.
With its adjustable power and duration, this is a piece of gear that lets you get the good basic shots early so you can take some time to experiment.
After we were done shooting we tested the light outside at a local state park/wetland. What’s remarkable is just how effective the Elinchrom Three is after battling powerful ambient light. Even when the sun poured through the trees, the Elinchrom Three fought back.
Where Does the Elinchrom Three Need Work?
This review has been incredibly romantic. We’ve gone traveling, artists documenting their big break, and a man who runs a Sasquatch museum in a town of less than 600. Still, there is certainly a downside to the Elinchrom Three, though it’s more a reality than a downside.
Photography gear, particularly lights, can be very expensive. The Elinchrom Three costs $999 and that doesn’t include the transmitter, which costs $256.95. In short, this is very expensive piece of photography gear. For the same price a beginner can get three speedlights and a wireless transmitter, which can be used to build an incredible lighting setup.
Why You Should Consider Investing In The Occasional Expensive Light If The Price Turns You Off
I’m also a cheap skate photographer who builds his lighting set up specifically to meet the needs of my wallet and audience. I know what it is like to build a business one piece of gear at a time. My first weddings were in backyards and state parks. For a long time, I was proud of what I could create, setting up multiple cheaper lights to get just the right image.
But for the sake of clients and sometimes my own creativity, I regularly wish that after I got my first few lights, I started saving up for something like this. And when I started shooting weddings, a light like this wasn’t available.
This light was a joy to use for both creative and professional work on this test. But the flexibility it offered me while shooting in a 200-year-old theater where I didn’t have time to lug bags from floor to floor was a gift. It made me think about how long it would have taken to get the same lighting effects with multiple speed lights.
What you can accomplish with something like the Elinchrom Three, especially if you do pair it with a fill light, is incredible. This is a dream for wedding photographers but also creators who shoot photos of models on the street. You can roll up and completely set up, shoot, and leave within minutes if you practice. But it’s also small enough that I felt comfortable walking around and shooting a model in the evening without breaking down every time.
Final Vertict: Elinchrom Three
For photographers, particularly anyone who likes to mix it up between portraits, modeling, events, and creative art, the Elinchrom Three is an incredible middle ground. Small and light enough to go anywhere, but powerful enough to be the main studio strobe for plenty of creators.
At $999, $1256 including the transmitter, this is an investment in your photography career. But just like streamers sometimes must upgrade their lighting and computer hardware, so must the mighty photographer upgrade their gear from time to time. This light will do the work of lights that cost hundreds more while offering more portability. And that’s important for photography creators.
Anyone can get great light in a studio, but having the tools to turn any location into your studio with just a backpack is creative heaven. The little features we haven’t even gotten around to discussing, such as the ability to charge it off a USB-C power brick, are nice additions. But even without them, the basics here are like giving a kid a new box of crayons.