speedlights

BUILDING THE HOME STUDIO PART 5: MONOLIGHTS & POWER PACK LIGHTS

BUILDING THE HOME STUDIO PART 5: MONOLIGHTS & POWER PACK LIGHTS

Getting the light right is extremely vital in photography. It can make or break an image. Just as there are many choices in cameras, lenses, backgrounds, light stands, tripods and other various photographic tools, there are also numerous choices for studio lighting.

Four monolight light setup.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

As I round out the last article in my Building the Home Studio Series, I wanted to recap on some of the options for lighting to help create your magic in the studio and discuss monolights and power packs.

 

CONTINUOUS LIGHTS & SPEEDLIGHTS

Previously, I touched on two other tools for lighting an image – once in one of my series articles: Building the Home Studio Part 2: Continuous Lights & Light Stands, and then later in a series article on speedlights, Building the Home Studio Part 3: Flashes, Light Meters and Backgrounds. Let’s do a quick overview on those two lighting choices again before jumping into monolights and power packs.

 

Continuous Lights

Continuous lights do as they are titled: they are continuous running lights. They do not flash like a speedlight, monolight or power pack light would. Some of the benefits for using a continuous light are that many subjects tend to relax more under continuous lighting rather than a flash – especially good for blinking subjects. You can also shoot wide open for a shallow depth of field. The downside to continuous lights is that you are limited on modifiers and a tripod is almost a must for the sharpest image when setting the shutter slower than sync speed.

Left to Right: Lowel Rifa 66ex – 750 Watt Light, Westcott Spiderlite TD6 and the Fiilex P360EX Variable Color LED Lights.

Images by Adorama.

 

I have tested and used a few continuous lights in the past that I thought were pretty impressive:

 

Tungsten: Lowel Rifa 66ex – 750 Watt Light available for around $475.11

Fluorescent: Westcott Spiderlite TD6 available for $419.90

LED: Fiilex P360EX Variable Color LED Lights available for $795.00 each

 

A single portable option for continuous lighting that makes for beautiful convenient light is the Westcott Ice Light 2 available at Adorama for $499.90. I created a demo photo below using two Westcott Ice Light 2 light sticks to show their power and potential effect.

Demonstrating the Westcott Ice Light 2.

Model: Daria Komarkova.

 

Speedlights

Many of you may not start off working in a studio. Some of you may be going to client homes or offices. Some of you may also shooting outdoors. Due to their compact size, speedlights can be a more portable and convenient solution for lighting a subject than a continuous light, a monolight or a power pack. I dive deeper into the actual advantages, disadvantages and functions of using a speedlight in my article: Quickstart Guide to Speedlights.

Nikon

I currently work with the Nikon SB-700 Speedlight (an older, but “still kicking” Nikon model), like most upgrades, the latest Nikon SB-5000 is a nice upgrade from the SB-700 in that it provides a longer flash duration, a quicker recycling time and greater lens coverage as noted below. Depending on what you are wanting to photograph, how quickly you are shooting and how far away you may typically be shooting your subject, these semi-minor differences might make a difference to you in deciding between the older model and the $270 difference for the newer model.

Canon

The industry standard speedlite for Canon shooters has been the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT at a $469.00 price tag. Unfortunately, and unlike the wireless Nikon speedlight, the Canon speedlite requires the Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT at an additional $280.00 to fire the speedlite – physically – off-camera.

Nissin

A current third party model that has comparable features to both Canon and Nikon flashes, but has radio capabilities at a fraction of the cost that I am a bit impressed with at the moment is the Nissin Di 700 Air Flash Kit at $299.00 which comes with the Commander and is made in Nikon, Canon and Sony compatible versions.

MONOLIGHTS & PACK AND HEAD LIGHTS

 

What is a Monolight?

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

A monolight, also called a “monobloc”, is a self-contained flash light source in which the head contains a lamp and power supply altogether. Monolights are a great choice because they involve no extension cables to meet a power pack. Since each of your flash heads are powered separately, if one head goes down, it may not affect the others. The only downside, really, to a monolight is that for most, you have to dial in and adjust the power on the back of each head individually, unless you have a remote control that controls the power for each of your heads. Monolights are generally less expensive than pack and heads due the the power source being a bit on the expensive side.

 

What is a Pack & Head Light?

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

A pack and head light, also called a “power pack”, is a light that must be connected to a battery pack. These can be a great choice as they can be placed just about anywhere without worry of having a power outlet nearby – including outdoors. You can control the power level of all of your lights connected to power packs in one place and use one power pack to ignite and power more than one head. That being said, the common downside to Power Pack lights is that if one head goes down or the battery isn’t working for some reason, any light connected to the same power supply may not be unusable. The other downside is cables between the lights and the power supply will run everywhere and will need to be taped down.

 

CHOOSING A MONOLIGHT OR PACK AND HEAD LIGHT THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU

Which flash lighting option you should consider purchasing is really up to you, your preferences, where you do most of your shooting, and your budget. Know that for speedlight options, you will usually have to buy a receiver if shooting off-camera flash, which will add to the cost of your investment. For monolights and pack and heads, this is also sometimes the case, though not always, and you may also need for a transmitter for your camera too. On a side note, as a rough guideline, 250W lights are sufficient for home studio use while 500W lights should cut it for a larger studio.

 

MONOLIGHTS

 

Flashpoint Rapid HSS 600 Monolight. I’ve had the opportunity to use several different monolights over the past few years in which I’ve liked some and others were just not my cup of tea. For the more budget-friendly option, I fell in love with the Flashpoint Rapid HSS 600 Monolight as it’s not only budget-friendly, but the receiver for this light is built-in. While the receiver is built into the monolight, a necessary piece of gear needed to run the light is a remote transceiver.

Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight with Built-In R2 2.4GHz Radio Remote System

Image by Yann Bizeul

 

 

I shoot with Nikon and was able to test out the Flashpoint R2 i-TTL Wireless 2.4 G Transmitter Remote for Nikon with both the monolight and the R2 Zoom Flash. There’s also a version for Canon, the Flashpoint R2T 32 Channel 2.4GHz Manual and HSS Transmitter for Canon. There’s also a 2.4GHz transceiver version for Sony, the Flashpoint R2 TTL 2.4G Wireless Remote and Triggering System – Sony. All transceivers work with Flashpoint’s other R2 lights including the Xplor, Streaklight and the Zoom Flashes.

Shot with a Flashpoint Rapid HSS 600 monolight.

Subject: Yann Bizeul

 

Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Battery Powered Monolight Flash. Another monolight that I bow down to is the Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Battery Powered Monolight Flash which is available on its own, with a transmitter or in a 2-head kit. I love this light because it’s wireless and the battery for the light is attached to the head. This means you can use this light indoors, outdoors and/or on-location where you might not have a power outlet nearby.


B1 500 Air TTL Battery Powered Monolight Flash

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

 

Use of a Profoto B-1 monolight with a grid.

Model: Xavier Lujan

 

Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 500 500ws Compact Flash Head. If you’re looking for something in between, the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 500 500W/s Compact Flash Head is a great choice. Beyond its 20 FPS lighting on low power, it has an auto-sensing  multi-voltage power supply which makes it able to be used anywhere in the world. This particular light comes complete with a metal reflector, a softbox and a light stand so you have a good starter kit without the additional expense.

 

Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 500 500W/s Compact Flash Head

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

 

Broncolor Siros 800 Monolight w/ WiFi and RFS2.1 Receiver. Another good choice is the Broncolor Siros 800 Monolight with WiFi and RFS2.1 Receiver which you can also get battery-powered in a kit with 2 heads, a silver umbrella, a softbox and speedring is also a good find as the receiver is included and offers rapid flash sequences with up to 50 flashes per second. It also has a receiver and wifi capabilities built-in.

Broncolor Siros 800 Monolight with WiFi and RFS2.1 Receiver

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

PACK AND HEADS

 

Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit. The Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit is a great lightweight power pack kit choice as it has a fast 0.03-1.35 seconds recycling time and functions in TTL and high speed sync. The built-in AirTTL allows for wireless operation and the battery can power two flash heads. The kit includes the powerpack, one (1) B2 head, a carrying bag and a battery charger. The transmitter for this is not included though is available in some of the kits offered at Adorama specific to your camera brand.

Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

Hensel Porty L 600 Power Pack Kit. The Hensel Porty L 600 Power Pack Kit is a good choice is you are looking for a good 600ws starter kit. It has incredibly fast recycling times from 0.2 sec with a short flash duration up to 1/8100 sec (with speed head), individual settings in 1/10 f-stop increments and an output range of 7 f-stops. This power pack has integrated Profoto Air radio, Hensel Strobe Wizard Plus and Freemask receivers. The kit includes a Hensel Porty L 600 Power Pack, an EH Pro Mini 1200-P Speed Flash Head, an EH Pro Mini to Porty Adapter Cable 16.5′ (5m), a 50-watt modeling lamp for Porty Heads, a quick charger for Porty 6 & 12 Lithium Battery (120-240VAC), an 8-foot aluminum stand, a 7 grid reflector for Hensel, a 4201 Deluxe Holdall VII Case with Wheels and a Hensel 90-day warranty.

Hensel Porty L 600 Power Pack Kit

 

 

Elinchrom ELB 400 Dual Pro To-Go Kit. Another great starter kit is the Elinchrom ELB 400 Dual Pro To Go Kit, which is a 424ws light that has a fast recycling time of 1.6 sec. at full power. The battery lasts 350 flashes at full power and is incredibly light making it easy for transport. The kit includes an Elinchrom ELB 400 Quadra Battery-Powered Pack with Battery, 2x Quadra Pro Head, 2x EL 11001 8′ head cable, 2x protective caps, an EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus, a 7″ Grid Reflector, a 5.3″ Standard Reflector, a multifunction cap, an Elinchrom 15.75″ sync cable, a ProTec location bag and an Elinchrom 2 Year Warranty for the ELB 400 Quadra Battery-Powered Pack.

Elinchrom ELB 400 Dual Pro To Go Kit

 

MODIFIERS

Modifiers are a necessary need once you have decided to jump into purchasing a monolight or strobe as you will need to diffuse and shape the light emitted from it. There are many choices on modifiers depending on the end result you envision and want to achieve. I recently wrote an article called: Transforming Light Into Art: 9 Modifiers for Diffusing and Shaping the Light which goes into great detail on a variety of modifiers and their uses. Some of the modifiers available for use with monolights and strobes are below.

 

Collapsible Reflectors

While not everyone has an easy time folding them back up, most of us know what a collapsible reflector is and many folks have actually successfully used one. They should really be your first light modifier, even before you buy your first monolight or strobe because they are useful outside in the field too. They work for not only lighting people outdoors, but subjects like flowers and animals too.

Collapsible Reflectors come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

 

Reflectors basically bounce or reflect light from a light source back onto a subject. Photographing a person outdoors in the sun? We generally put the sun behind our subject to avoid him or her squinting, but then our subject becomes too dark because the light behind him or her is so bright. A reflector can be used to bounce light from the sun behind the subject back onto him/her so that the subject is also lit.  This works the same way in a studio.

 

Metal Reflectors

Metal reflectors are those circular metal bowls that attach around the bulb or flashtube of your monolight or strobe and light reflects from the bowl directly onto your subject. Some monolights and strobes come with a metal reflector as a starter modifier. They are generally great for background and rim light use.

Flashpoint 8-1/4″ Reflector to Fit Elinchrom

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

While they tend to cast a very harsh light, I have often been able to pull them off as a front light, especially when photographing males (where a more harsh light might be desired), such as in the image below.


Harsh light for male portraits.

Actor: Patrick Walsh

 

They also work well as a background light, such as in the image below.

Self-portrait using a metal reflector on a floor light.

 

Umbrellas

Umbrellas are probably one of the first studio modifiers that are ever purchased by photographers as they are cheap, portable and come in a variety of sizes and colors. White shoot-through, or translucent, umbrellas are one of the more common umbrellas used in photography because the shaft of the umbrella is pointed away from a subject when lighting, which means a light source can be moved in as close as desired without poking out their eye! The downside to a shoot through umbrellas is that the light is hard to control because the umbrella is translucent and the light spills everywhere.

From top left clockwise: white shoot-through umbrella, Silver reflective umbrella,

gold reflective umbrella and black and white umbrella.

Individual images courtesy of Adorama

 

Black/white umbrellas are a great choice for when you need to fill in shadows without it affecting the color, quality or quantity of light. A reflective umbrella, a silver umbrella (with a black covering) can be used when you want to bounce in specular highlights without affecting the color of the light. The light will be subtly harsher than a shoot through, depending on your umbrella’s distance from your lightsource and from your subject as well as the size of the umbrella. A gold umbrella with black backing can be used to warm the color of an image and your subject. This umbrella color works well when photographing someone in a bathing suit or photographing someone with a very fair skin tone, where a healthy warm glow might be desired. To see the effects of these umbrellas, check out my article, Umbrellas: Good for More Than Just A Rainy Day.

 

Softboxes

Whether using continuous lighting, speedlights or strobes, softboxes prove to be one of the best light shaping tools for any professional photographer’s to have in their toolbox. Round softboxes, called octaboxes or octabanks, make for wonderful key lights. Their round shape is similar to the sun and the catchlights produced by round softboxes can be much more pleasing to some as they cast a more natural round catchlight into a subject’s eyes to match the roundness of the pupils.

Individual images courtesy of Adorama

 

An octabox also tends to wrap light around its subject. I find a larger octabox placed close to my subjects face serves close to what a beauty dish would do for me when placed straight in front of my subject. When placed anywhere else, shadows can vary from subtle to harsh depending on its proximity to the subject. I’m personally a huge fan of the 43” Westcott Apollo Orb because it’s easy to set up and break down – much like an umbrella! Squares and rectangles work well as main light sources as well as a fill lights. Depending on their size, they tend to throw out a more defined light complete with a nice and soft transitioning of shadows. Strip softboxes are great for lighting the full body when placed parallel with a subject. They also work well as hair lights. Depending on the distance from the subject, strip softboxes can create a very subtle or a very harsh transitioning in shadows. You view some of the effects that each of these shapes of softboxes create and more recommendations in  my article, Softboxes: Containing, Directing and Diffusing the Light.

 

Beauty Dishes

If you are into portrait or beauty photography, a beauty dish is a “must”. A beauty dish is a circular reflector or bowl with an opening in the center that attaches to a monolight or strobe. The bulb or flash is hidden by a raised plate in the center that forces light to disburse into bowl and onto a subject rather than the light source directly hitting the subject. Beauty dishes come as white or silver coated on the inside. White coated dishes make for a softer light whereas silver coated dishes make for slightly more contrast.


From left: silver beauty dish and white beauty dish.

Individual images courtesy of Adorama

 

Beauty dishes have two different companion modifiers that can be used along with them: a diffuser, sometimes called a “sock”, and a grid. The image above was taken using a diffuser while the image below was taken using a grid. I’ve always had a regret of buying such a small beauty dish – at 16 inches. If you can swing it, get something at least 22 inches in diameter or more. Which beauty dish you should get will depend on the monolight or strobe that you have. Brands like Glow make a variety of mount options to work for more than one single brand.

 

Grids

If you need the direction of light from your light source to be more concise, a grid is your best choice. Grids are useful when you want to light something specific with little to no spill, such as when you want to light your subject but you want to keep the background dark.  Grids are typically made to work with beauty dishes and softboxes, but I’ve also found them as companion modifiers for barndoors and snoots too. They come in different sizes, the hole width determining the width of the light beam emitted.


Grid on a beauty dish.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

Grids come in a variety of types, brands, sizes and hole widths and which you get will depend on the type and brand of main modifier you use it with.

 

Barndoors

Barndoors are one of the most versatile lighting modifiers one could own. This modifier is basically four doors that attach to a base which can be attached to a monolight or strobe. What’s versatile about this modifier is that these four doors can be opened as little or as much as desired offering numerous lighting combinations. Many barn doors are sold as kits that also include companion modifiers of four gels and a grid, such as Flashpoint’s Universal Barn Door Kit featured below.


Flashpoint Universal Barn Door Kit

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

Snoots

Snoots allow you to focus in specifically on one small thing on a subject, such as just the face, just the hands or for baby photography, just the feet. They are also a great tool for lighting particular things for an interior shoot or even products because the light is so concentrated and direct.

Flashpoint Snoot Kit

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

Snoots can also have complimentary modifiers of attachable gels and grids. Snoots are generally brand specific or universal as long as they have the specific speed ring adapter that matches the brand of monolight or strobe you are using.

 

Gels

Gels are not only a practical tool but they are also a fun, creative modifier to use for lighting a subject. In situations where white balance is an issue (such as incandescent bulbs adding a warm orange cast to an image and fluorescent bulbs typically generating a green cast, gels can be used to match the light’s color in order produce an image with light color closer to white.


Rosco 20×24 Color Effects Kit

 

For a more creative touch, gels can also be used to color backgrounds or to color the light hitting a subject. In the image below, I used a Rosco 20”x24” Color Effect Kit which contains 15 different color gel sheets and is sold at Adorama for around $97.65 for the whole kit. These gels can be bent or folded and are still reuseable. This particular kit contains the larger-sized sheets, which also allows me enough available to be able to also cut swatches of the gels for use too.

I used gels to color the background and the light hitting my model.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

I used a red gel on a background light aimed at a Savage Smoke Gray Seamless background. I also used a yellow and blue gel on two separate lights on each side behind my model aimed back toward the camera to give her an interesting rim light color on her skin and hair. As a bonus, because I used a fog machine for special effect, the gels colored the smoke as well.

 

DON’T FORGET!!

One tool that is a huge help that you’ll want to have on hand in the studio is a handheld light meter. The largest goal in photography is to capture your images with accurate exposure or in better terms: for the camera to record your scene or subject as you see it. How can this be achieved if your camera or handheld meter only measures in tonality and brightness? In the same lighting scenario, every shade or color reflects a different amount of light and this is where a light meter can come in handy.

My Sekonic Flash Master L-358 with its younger sister, the Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR.

 

I wrote a very informative article on light meters, how to use them and some recommendations called, Light Meters: Measuring Light in Studio Photography, which you can check out on the Adorama Learning Center.

 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER…

Well, this wraps up my series on Building the Home Studio. From cameras, lenses and bags to carry it all; to backgrounds, light stands and tripods; to light sources, modifiers and the random odds and ends, you now have the resources to begin your own home studio. If you missed any of the other articles in this series, you can catch them on the Adorama Learning Center or by clicking any of the links below. You’ll find additional articles within each series article. Happy building!

Building the Home Studio Part 1: Space and Essential Shooting Gear

Building the Home Studio Part 2: Continuous Lights & Light Stands

Building the Home Studio Part 3: Flashes, Light Meters and Backgrounds

Building the Home Studio Part 4: Essential Studio Tools, Props and Odds & Ends

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Choosing the Right Studio Flash Lighting For You

Choosing the Right Studio Flash Lighting For You

There are many ways to light a subject when creating an image. You can choose daylight and a reflector. You can take your subject indoors and plug in some continuous lights with modifiers when photographing young children or subjects that blink a lot with flash photography. The other option is isolating a moment in time using a flash option such as a speedlight, a monolight or a pack and head light. It’s really a matter of personal preference and situation as to which type of light you decide to use to illuminate a photo.

Monolight flash lighting in practice.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

In this article, I want to discuss studio flash lighting options: what they are, how they’re used and giving you the information to empower you to decide which flash lighting option is right for you.

 

SPEEDLIGHTS

Let’s start with speedlights. I’ve written a few articles in the past on speedlights such as: Building the Home Studio Part 3: Flashes, Light Meters and Backgrounds as well as Quickstart Guide to Speedlights. I’ve also touched on Speedlights in articles such as: Practical Tools for the Portrait Photographer on the Go and The Art of Portraiture Part 2: Light.

A speedlight in conjunction with natural daylight was used here.

Model/Actress: Valery Lessard

 

Speedlights are a great, economical light source not only for photographers on a budget, but they are also typically the go-to tool for photographers on the road because they small and portable. Event photographers, wedding photographers and outdoor portrait photographers are among the types of photographers that use speedlights the most.

 

Nikon

My Nikon SB-700 Speedlight.

Image courtesy of Adorama.

 

While I have shot with Canon and Nissin speedlights in the past, I am primarily a Nikon shooter and I own a Nikon SB-700 Speedlight, which is an older model, but it still does the job for me. The newer model in this line is the Nikon SB-5000, which  is a nice upgrade from the SB-700 in that it provides a longer flash duration, a quicker recycling time and greater lens coverage as noted below.

 

Depending on what you are wanting to photograph, how quickly you are shooting and how far away you may typically be shooting your subject, these semi-minor differences might make a difference to you in deciding between the older model and the $270 difference for the newer model.

 

Canon


Image courtesy of Adorama.

 

The industry standard now for Canon shooters is the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT at a $469.00 price tag. Unfortunately, and unlike the wireless Nikon speedlight, the Canon speedlite requires the Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT at an additional $280.00 to fire the speedlite – physically – off-camera.

 

Nissin

Image courtesy of Adorama.

 

A current third party model that has comparable features to both Canon and Nikon flashes, but has radio capabilities at a fraction of the cost that I am a bit impressed with at the moment is the Nissin Di 700 Air Flash Kit at $299.00 which comes with the Commander and is made in Nikon, Canon and Sony versions.

MONOLIGHTS AND PACK & HEAD LIGHTS

 

What is a Monolight?

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

A monolight, also called a “monobloc”, is a self-contained flash light source in which the head contains a lamps and power supply altogether. Monolights are a great choice because they involve no extension cables to meet a power pack. Since each of your flash heads are powered separately, if one head goes down, it will not affect the others. The only downside, really, to a monolight is that for most, you have to dial in and adjust the power on the back of each head individually, unless you have something like a remote control that controls the power for each of your heads. Monolights are generally less expensive than pack and heads due the the power source being a bit on the expensive side.

 

What is a Pack & Head Light?

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

A pack and head light, also called a “power pack”, is a light that must be connected to a battery pack. These can be a great choice as they can be placed just about anywhere without worry of having a power outlet nearby. You can control the power level of all of your lights connected to power packs in one place and use one power pack to ignite and power more than one head. That being said, the common downside to Power Pack lights is that if one head goes down or the battery isn’t working for some reason, all of the lights are typically unusable since they are all connected to the same power supply. The other downside is that there will be cables between the light and the power supply everywhere which will need to be taped down.

 

USING MONOLIGHTS

 

Manual vs. Digital Controls

Manually controlled monolights are basically controlled by physically being present behind the light head and pressing buttons and turning knobs. There is typically a wheel or a slider to adjust the power, a button for turning the modeling light off and on, a test button, an on/off switch and sometimes there is a button that when pressed, allows for a release of the built up energy inside the head which is generally for releasing energy as the user powers the light down before shutting it off. Ports include the power plug port and a sync port for plugging in a receiver.

Flashpoint Budget Studio Monolight Flash

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

Digital controlled monolights can be used just like manual monolights in that you can physically control the power and press buttons standing directly behind the light, but they can also be controlled by remote control, which comes in handy when you have several lights at different powers and want more efficiency in adjusting light controls during a shoot as it prevents you from running back and forth to each light to adjust power.

Digital display of a Profoto B1X 500 AirTTL Light

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

WHICH FLASH LIGHTING OPTION SHOULD I PURCHASE?

Which flash lighting option you should consider purchasing is really up to you, your preferences, where you do most of your shooting, and your budget. Know that for speedlight options, you will usually have to buy a receiver if shooting off-camera flash, which will add to the cost of your investment. For monolights and pack and heads, this is also sometimes the case, but not always the case, as well as having the need for a transmitter for your camera too. On a side note, as a rough guideline, 250W lights are sufficient for home studio use while 500W lights should cut it for a larger studio.

 

Monolights

I’ve had the opportunity to use several different monolights over the past few years in which I’ve liked some and others were just not my cup of tea. For the more budget-friendly option, I fell in love with the Flashpoint Rapid HSS 600 Monolight as it’s not only budget friendly, but the receiver for this light is built-in. While the receiver is built into the monolight, a necessary piece of gear needed to make it “go” is a remote transceiver.

Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight with Built-In R2 2.4GHz Radio Remote System

Image by Yann Bizeul

 

 

 

I shoot with Nikon and was able to test out the Flashpoint R2 i-TTL Wireless 2.4 G Transmitter Remote for Nikon with both the monolight and the R2 Zoom Flash. There’s also a version for Canon, the Flashpoint R2T 32 Channel 2.4GHz Manual and HSS Transmitter for Canon. There’s also a 2.4GHz transceiver version for Sony, the Flashpoint R2 TTL 2.4G Wireless Remote and Triggering System – Sony. All transceivers work with Flashpoint’s other R2 lights including the Xplor, Streaklight and the Zoom Flashes.

 

Another monolight that I bow down to is the Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Battery Powered Monolight Flash which is available on its own, with a transmitter or in a 2-head kit.

B1 500 Air TTL Battery Powered Monolight Flash

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

I love this light because it’s wireless and the battery for the light is attached to the head. This means you can use this light indoors, outdoors and/or on-location where you might not have a power outlet nearby.

 

If you’re looking for something in between, the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 500 500W/s Compact Flash Head is a great choice. Beyond its 20 FPS lighting on low power, it has an auto-sensing  multi-voltage power supply which makes it able to be used anywhere in the world. This particular light comes as a kit complete with a metal reflector, a softbox and a light stand so you have a good starter kit without the additional expense.

Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 500 500W/s Compact Flash Head

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

Another good choice is the Broncolor Siros 800 Monolight with WiFi and RFS2.1 Receiver which you can also get battery-powered in a kit with 2 heads, a silver umbrella, a softbox and speedring is also a good find as the receiver is included and offers rapid flash sequences with up to 50 flashes per second. It also has a receiver and wifi capabilities built-in.

Broncolor Siros 800 Monolight with WiFi and RFS2.1 Receiver

Image courtesy of Adorama

 


Pack & Heads

The Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit is a great choice for a power pack kit as it’s lightweight, has a fast 0.03-1.35 seconds recycling time, and functions in TTL and high speed sync. The built-in AirTTL allows for wireless operation and the battery can power two flash heads. The kit includes the powerpack, one (1) B2 head, a carrying bag and a battery charger. The transmitter for this is not included though is available in some of the kits offered at Adorama specific to your camera brand.

Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit

Image courtesy of Adorama

The Hensel Porty L 600 Power Pack Kit is a good choice is you are looking for a good 600ws starter kit. It has incredibly fast recycling times from 0.2 sec with a short flash duration up to 1/8100 sec (with Speed Head), individual settings in 1/10 f-stop increments and an output range of 7 f-stops. This power pack has integrated Profoto Air radio, Hensel Strobe Wizard Plus and Freemask receivers. The kit includes a Hensel Porty L 600 Power Pack, an EH Pro Mini 1200-P Speed Flash Head, an EH Pro Mini to Porty Adapter Cable 16.5′ (5m), a 50-watt modeling lamp for Porty Heads, a quick charger for Porty 6 & 12 Lithium Battery (120-240VAC), an 8-foot aluminum stand, a 7 grid reflector for Hensel, a 4201 Deluxe Holdall VII Case with Wheels and a Hensel 90-day warranty.

Hensel Porty L 600 Power Pack Kit

 

Another great starter kit is the Elinchrom ELB 400 Dual Pro To Go Kit, which is a 424ws light that has a fast recycling time of 1.6 sec. at full power. The battery lasts 350 flashes at full power and is incredibly light making it easy for transport. The kit includes an ElinchromELB 400 Quadra Battery-Powered Pack with Battery, 2x Quadra Pro Head, 2x EL 11001 8′ head cable, 2x protective caps, an EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus, a 7″ Grid Reflector, a 5.3″ Standard Reflector, a multifunction cap, an Elinchrom 15.75″ sync cable, a ProTec location bag and an Elinchrom 2 Year Warranty for the ELB 400 Quadra Battery-Powered Pack.

Elinchrom ELB 400 Dual Pro To Go Kit

 

 


WHEN YOUR LIGHT FLASHES BEFORE YOUR EYES…

Speedlights, monolights and pack and heads all have one thing in common. They produce a burst of light for a split second aiding you in capturing a sharper image. Recycling time is important  with flash lighting, especially when working with a moving subject which may require a need for back-to-back consecutive captures. Whether you choose a speedlight, a monolight or a pack and head setup, flash lighting is a must for studio work when you don’t have the luxury of a daylight studio or want more control over your light.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
The Art of Portraiture Part 4:  Gear and Equipment for Success

The Art of Portraiture Part 4: Gear and Equipment for Success

A portrait tells a story of someone’s essence – someone’s being. It takes great skill and technique to capture an accurate portrayal of someone. While skills and techniques necessary for shooting a portrait are a large part of successful portraiture, the are not all that is needed. You also will need good tools to make the grade.

Capturing one’s essence.

Model: Maria Iodice

 

In the first part of this series, in my article entitled, The Art of Portraiture Part 1: Composition, Depth of Field and Background, I covered some of the basic necessities that contribute to a good portrait. In the second part, The Art of Portraiture Part 2: Light, I went over how light is an important element in a good portrait. In the third installment, The Art of Portraiture Part 3: Your Subject, we added in the most important element of your portrait, the person you are photographing and how to photograph him or her. In this last and final installment of this series, I will go some of the equipment that will help contribute to a successful portrait.

 

LENSES

The glass you put in front of your camera will determine the quality of the image the camera will help to produce. There is no camera made that will produce a stunning image if a bad quality lens is attached. While you most likely have a budget in mind for your new camera system, factor in the cost investment of a at least one exceptional lens before you buy that high-end camera body with half the features that you will never use.

 

Prime Lenses

Autofocus Prime Lenses. Autofocus prime lenses are great for shooting moving subjects such as when shooting fashion in the studio as you may have your subject continuously moving. Typically great focal lengths for shooting people in general are 85mm or a 100mm/105mm if you have the room. These come in several aperture ranges with the F/1.4 and F/1.8 being the most popular. The Nikon 50mm F/1.4 at $334, is a great compact lens that packs a lot of punch for its size. You can read more about this lens in my review here.

 

Shot with a 50mm F/1.4 lens.

Actor: Patrick Walsh

Manual Prime Lenses. Manual Prime lenses can cost a pretty penny and really work best only if your subject is stationary. These lenses are optimal for portraits and headshots. I found the Zeiss line to be exceptional with the more budget-friendly option of Rokinon right behind it. You can read some of my reviews on the Adorama Learning Center for the Zeiss 50mm F/1.4, Zeiss 85mm F/1.4, Zeiss 100mm F/2.0, Rokinon 50mm F/1.4 and the Rokinon 135mm F/2.0 lenses to determine which might work best for your needs.

Shot with a Zeiss 100mm F2.0 Makro ZF.2.

Model/Actress: Valery Lessard

 

Zoom Lenses

Zoom lenses can be a great option for shooting portraits as there is a tremendous variety in focal length and they allow for a versatile creative use of shooting while zooming in or out, among other uses. I’ve had the pleasure of using several Nikon zoom lenses in my studio work, most recently the Nikon 24-70mm F/2.8, retailing at Adorama at $1,796.95. While no longer manufactured, but still available used, I currently a Nikon 28-105mm in my space as well as client’s small spaces and have produced some very striking images.

Shot with my Nikon 28-105mm F/3.5-4.5D IF lens.

Model: Andy Mizerek

 

For either a close-up option or for shooting subjects from afar, I have found my Nikon 70-200mm F/4G ED AF-S to be the perfect option for producing a high quality photo, which I also use for headshots. Be sure to look for lenses that have have vibration reduction should your camera system itself not have an equivalent function.

 

LIGHT SOURCES

 

Daylight and Reflector. The easiest and most inexpensive way to light an image is through the use of bouncing natural daylight off of a portable collapsible reflector back onto your subject.

Using a portable collapsible reflector with natural daylight at sunset.

Model: Katie Buell

 

Speedlights. Another terrific portable and inexpensive lighting tool is a speedlight. Speedlights can be used indoors or outdoors and are typically used in conjunction with a portable collapsible reflector and/or bounced off of a wall or ceiling.

Using A speedlight in conjunction with natural daylight and a tungsten light.

Model: Andy Mizerek

 

Continuous Lights. These types of lights are perfect to use when shooting babies or capturing portraits of people who have trouble with blinking because there’s no disturbing flash.


Left to right: Lowel LC88EX1 Rifa

1000 Watt Light, Westcott TD6 Spiderlite, and the Fiilex P180E 40-Watt LED Light

Individual images courtesy of Adorama

 

Strobe/Monolight. Most photographers use strobes or monolights when shooting in a studio as the instant flash lends to capturing a sharper image and the numerous modifiers available for use allows the photographer to get more creative with their lighting.

Portrait shot using monolights.

Model/Actress: Celeste Smith

 

I have found the Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight with Built-In R2 2.4GHz Radio Remote System to be a great budget monolight for shooting portraits or any other type of subject in a studio environment. For more information on this terrific option, you can read my review on it here.

 

I’ve also had the privilege of using the delicious Profoto B-1 500 Air TTL Battery-Powered 2-Light Location Kit. No matter where you are shooting, these battery-powered lights are lightweight and store conveniently in a backpack.

 

LIGHTING NECESSITIES

 

Light Meter

Cameras see differently than we do. While we have the ability to see everything in color, the camera’s meter sees and measures only how light or dark a scene is. It sees only tonality: black, white and a bunch of shades of gray in between. The shade in the middle of the gray scale is what is called middle gray. Middle gray is achieved when it reflects only 18% of the light that falls on it.

My Sekonic Flash Master L-358 with its younger sister, the Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR.

 

The largest goal in photography is to capture your images with accurate exposure or in better terms: for the camera to record your scene or subject as you see it. How can this be achieved if your camera or handheld meter only measures in tonality and brightness? In the same lighting scenario, every shade or color reflects a different amount of light and this is where a light meter can come in handy. Sekonic pretty much rocks the market on light meters.

A light meter in use.

 

If you shoot video, a color temperature meter like the Sekonic C-700 SpectroMaster Spectrometer would be an ideal tool for you. If you are looking for the percentages of where your exposure is coming from (ambient, LED, fluorescent and/or tungsten continuous lighting vs. flash or strobe lighting), Sekonic meters are known to possess this feature. My current light meter, the Sekonic L-358 Flash Master, along with the Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478DR has this feature. Those folks that work in studios may find the need for a meter to be able to fire their strobe – “wirelessly” being a bonus. Some Sekonics such as the Sekonic L-758DR Digital Master have this feature.

 

Tripod

Obtaining a stable support system for your camera is one of the most important things you should do right after you buy any camera and lens. I’m always amazed at the number of students I’ve seen in the past who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars between a camera and lens (and maybe a flash too) along with other necessary and unnecessary equipment, but they were unwilling to spend enough on the support mechanism for their major investment.

Gitzo GK1545T-82QD Series 1 Traveler Tripod-4 Section- with GH1382QD Ball Head

 

This is almost like being too cheap and unwilling to put a good UV filter on your lens, which can help protect the front element from breaking if dropped. Not obtaining a proper tripod to support your camera and lens unit can result in the unit falling and getting damaged – sometimes beyond repair. How much did you spend on that camera and lens again? For more on tripods, check out my article, Tripods: Choosing the Right Support for Your Investment.

 

Lightstands

As you begin to add expensive pieces of equipment like lights to your home studio, you’ll want to make sure you buy proper light stands to support those lights. Regardless of the type of lighting  you may use now or in the future, light stands are a piece of equipment that you will want to think a little more long-term about as there are so many types, sizes and options available.


Just a few of the light stands in my studio.

 

For more on considerations for choosing the right light stands, check out my article, Building the Home Studio Part 2: Continuous Lights and Light Stands.

 

LIGHTING ACCESSORIES

 

Collapsible Reflector

While not everyone has an easy time folding them back up, most of us know what a collapsible reflector is and many folks have actually successfully used one. They should really be your first light modifier, even before you buy your first monolight or strobe because they are useful outdoors as well.

A good collapsible reflector is a “must” in portrait work.

 

Reflectors do exactly what their name might imply: they reflect light. They are used to bounce light from a light source back onto a subject. Photographing a person outdoors in the sun? We generally put the sun behind our subject to avoid him or her squinting, but then our subject becomes too dark because the light behind him or her is so bright. A reflector can be used to bounce light from the sun behind the subject back onto your subject so that he or she is also lit.  This works the same way in a studio. You can learn more about collapsible reflectors colors and what the different shapes and sizes do in my article: Building the Home Studio Part 04 – Essential Studio Tools, Props and Odds & Ends.

 

Umbrellas

Umbrellas are probably one of the first studio modifiers purchased by photographers as they are cheap, portable and come in a variety of sizes and colors.

 

White shoot-through, or translucent, umbrellas are one of the more common umbrellas used in photography because the shaft of the umbrella is pointed away from a subject when lighting, which means a light source can be moved in as close as desired without poking out your subject’s eye! The downside to a shoot through umbrellas is that the light is hard to control because the umbrella is translucent and the light spills everywhere. However, they guarantee your subject to be well lit.


A shoot-through umbrella in use.

 

Black/white umbrellas are a great choice for when you need to fill in shadows without it affecting the color, quality or quantity of light.

 

A reflective umbrella such as a silver umbrella (with a black covering), can be used when you want to bounce in specular highlights without affecting the color of the light. The light will be subtly harsher than a shoot through, depending on your umbrella’s distance from your lightsource and from your subject as well as the size of the umbrella.

Clockwise from the top: White (shoot-through), silver reflective, gold reflective and black/white umbrellas.

Single images courtesy of Adorama

 

A gold umbrella with black backing can be used to warm the color of an image and your subject. This umbrella color works well when photographing someone in a bathing suit or photographing someone with a very fair skin tone, where a healthy warm glow might be desired.

 

Softboxes

Whether using continuous lighting, speedlights or strobes, softboxes prove to be one of the best light shaping tools for any professional photographer’s to have in their toolbox.

 

Round softboxes, called octaboxes or octabanks, make for wonderful key lights. Their round shape is similar to the sun and the catchlights produced by round softboxes can be much more pleasing to some as they cast a more natural round catchlight into a subject’s eyes to match the roundness of the pupils.

Variety of softbox shapes.

Single images courtesy of Adorama

 

An octabox also tends to wrap light around its subject. I find a larger octabox placed close to my subjects face serves close to what a beauty dish would do for me when placed straight in front of my subject. When placed anywhere else, shadows can vary from subtle to harsh depending on its proximity to the subject. I’m personally a huge fan of the 43” Westcott Apollo Orb because it’s easy to set up and break down – much like an umbrella!

Use of a square softbox with a triangular collapsible reflector.

Model: Xavier Lujan

 

Squares and rectangles work well as main light sources as well as a fill lights. Depending on their size, they tend to throw out a more defined light complete with a nice and soft transitioning of shadows. Contrary to some preferences, I find squares to make interesting and dynamic catchlights in the eyes when used in conjunction with a circular or triangular reflector as shown above. In this image, I used a Glow 24” x 24” Square Softbox which has a large variety of speed ring adapters available, sold separately.

Use of strip softboxes behind the subject.

Model: Kathryn Hopkins

 

Strip softboxes are great for lighting the full body when placed parallel with a subject. They also work well as hair lights. Depending on the distance from the subject, strip softboxes can create a very subtle or a very harsh transitioning in shadows.

 

You can read more on softboxes in my article, Softboxes: Containing, Directing and Diffusing the Light.

 

Beauty Dish

If you are into portrait or beauty photography, a beauty dish is a “must”. A beauty dish is a circular reflector or bowl with an opening in the center that attaches to a monolight or strobe. The bulb or flash is hidden by a raised plate in the center that forces light to disburse into bowl and onto a subject rather than the light source directly hitting the subject.

My 16” beauty dish, bare.

 

Beauty dishes come as white or silver coated on the inside. White coated dishes make for a softer light whereas silver coated dishes make for slightly more contrast. Beauty dishes have two different companion modifiers that can be used along with them: a diffuser, sometimes called a “sock”, and a grid. I’ve always had a regret of buying such a small beauty dish – at 16 inches. If you can swing it, get something at least 22 inches in diameter or more. Which beauty dish you should get will depend on the monolight or strobe that you have. Brands like Glow make a variety of mount options to work for more than one single brand.

 

Grid

If you need the direction of light from your light source to be more concise, a grid is your best bet. Grids are useful when you want to light something specific with little to no spill, such as when you want to light your subject but you want to keep the background dark.

My beauty dish grid.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

Grids are generally made to work with beauty dishes and softboxes, but I’ve also found them as companion modifiers for barndoors and snoots as well. They come in variety sizes, the hole width determining the width of the light beam emitted. Grids come in a variety of types, brands, sizes and hole widths and which you get will depend on the type and brand of main modifier you use it with.

 

Barndoors

Barndoors are one of the most versatile and inexpensive lighting modifiers one could own. This modifier is basically four doors that attach to a base which can be attached to a monolight or strobe.

My barndoor setup.

 

What’s versatile about this modifier is that each of these 4 doors can be opened as little or as much as desired allowing for numerous lighting results. Many barn doors are sold as kits that also include companion modifiers of four gels and a grid, such as Flashpoint’s Universal Barn Door Kit.

 

Snoot

Snoots allow you to focus in specifically on one small thing on a subject, such as just the face, just the hands or for baby photography, just the feet. They serve kind of like a spotlight on a choice subject.

 

Snoot used on my model’s face only.

Model/Actress: Celeste Smith

 

Snoots also a great tool for lighting particular things for an interior shoot or even products because the light is so concentrated and direct. Snoots can also have complimentary modifiers of attachable gels and grids.

My snoot setup.

 

Snoots are generally brand specific or universal as long as they have the specific speed ring adapter that matches the brand of monolight or strobe you are using.

 

Gels

Gels are not only a practical tool but they are also a fun, creative modifier to use for lighting a subject. In situations where white balance is an issue (such as incandescent bulbs adding a warm orange cast to an image and fluorescent bulbs typically generating a green cast, gels can be used to match the light’s color in order produce an image with light color closer to white.

Rosco 20”x24” Color Effect Kit

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

For a more creative touch, gels can also be used to color backgrounds or to color the light hitting a subject. In the image below, I used a Rosco 20”x24” Color Effect Kit which contains 15 different color gel sheets and is sold at Adorama for around $97.65 for the whole kit. These gels can be bent or folded and are still reuseable. This particular kit contains the larger-sized sheets, which also allows me enough available to be able to also cut swatches of the gels for use too.

Red gel was used for background and blue and yellow gels were used to color the light.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

I used a red gel on a background light aimed at a Savage Smoke Gray Seamless background. I also used a yellow and blue gel on two separate lights on each side behind my model aimed back toward the camera to give her an interesting rim light color on her skin and hair. As a bonus, because I used a fog machine for special effect, the gels colored the smoke as well.

 

WHEN YOU’VE CAPTURED THE ESSENCE OF BEING

When you’ve captured a true portrait of someone, you have captured the very essence of their being. As you can see, there is much involved to achieve this and many techniques available to do this successfully. This is what makes capturing a portrait – an art.

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
The Art of Portraiture Part 2: Light

The Art of Portraiture Part 2: Light

Light is a vital part of portraiture. Heck, it’s a vital part of photography period. The word “photography” literally  translates “to draw with light”. There are many ways to introduce and use light in a portrait and we’ll go into some of those ways and more in this second installment of my series: The Art of Portraiture. In case you missed the first article, check out, The Art of Portraiture: Composition, Depth of Field and Background.

 

LIGHT SOURCES

 

Daylight and a Reflector

Daylight is the cheapest and easiest way to light an image because most of a day, it is always there. The quality  or characteristics of it may change due to the weather, but it is always available. A photographer’s optimal daylight situation is partly cloudy or overcast. This is mainly because when the sky is sunny and there are no clouds in the sky, first, there is no texture in the sky which is the result a cloud will insert into an image. Second, a sunny day tends to wash out colors. An overcast day will enrich colors.

A reflector was used on the left as I wanted to play with shadow and bright sunlight.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

Typically, you will want to position your subject with their back against the light source. A reflector is key to have on hand regardless of the weather since there is nothing to bounce light back onto your subject like a white ceiling or wall would. Whether you are creating a headshot, ¾ shot or a full body shot, a large reflector is a terrific tool for bouncing a lot of light back onto your subject to fill in the shadows that appear under the eyes, nose and neck.

 

Speedlights

Speedlights are an inexpensive light source that can be used on- or off-camera. They tend to be a versatile tool and a more convenient solution than a monolight or strobe.

My Nikon SB-700 Speedlight.

 

While they are a tiny little light source, there light can be spread through the use of tilting its head and bouncing its light off of a wall or ceiling onto a subject, or it can be combined with a modifier such as an umbrella or softbox to widen its effect.

 

Continuous Lights

Continuous lights are as they are titled: continuous running lights. They do not flash like a speedlight, monolight or strobe would. Some of the benefits for using a continuous light are that many subjects tend to relax more under continuous lighting rather than a flash and that you can shoot wide open for a shallow depth of field. They are also great for shooting people that blink a lot. The downside to continuous lights is that you are limited on modifiers and a tripod is almost a must for the sharpest image when setting the shutter slower than sync speed. Continuous lights come in a few flavors: tungsten, fluorescent and LED lights.

Left to Right: Lowel Rifa 66ex – 750 Watt Light, Westcott Spiderlite TD6 and the Fiilex P360EX Variable Color LED Lights.

Images by Adorama.

 

A few good recommendations I have tested and used in the past for continuous lights and that are available at Adorama are:

 

Strobes

Strobes are generally the lighting tool used in studio portraiture as they emit a great deal of power and light your image for capture in a split second. They can work with almost any modifier that is compatible with their make (and sometimes, model), usually using a speedring adapter.

Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight.

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

I recently found the Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight with Built-in R2 2.4GHz Radio Remote System (Bowens Mount) to be a great find as they work seamlessly with other tools in the R2 family such as R2 Zoom Flashes when using one of the following transmitters:

 

Flashpoint R2 i-TTL Wireless 2.4 G Transmitter Remote for Nikon,

Flashpoint R2T 32 Channel 2.4GHz Manual and HSS Transmitter for Canon, or

Flashpoint R2 TTL 2.4G Wireless Remote and Triggering System – Sony

 

Other good systems that are a little bit pricier but offer superb quality are the Broncolor Siros 800 Basic 2 Monolight Flash Kit, WiFi which includes a great starter kit. I am personally in love with the Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Battery-Powered 2-Light Location Kit. These can be used in the studio or outdoors on location as they are battery-powered and they can come with the transmitter and do include a convenient backpack for travel.

Profoto B1 500 Air Location Kit.

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

USE OF LIGHT SOURCES

There are many different lighting uses for monolights and strobes in a studio. Let’s jump into some of the main uses of these when shooting portraits.

 

Key Lights & Fill Lights

When working with multiple lights, a key light is the main light used to illuminate a subject. A fill light is sometimes used to fill in the shadows created by the key light to make up a more evenly lit portrait.

A key light was used on the right and a fill light was used at a lower power as fill on the left.

Model: Lizbeth Sawyers

 

Background Lights

A background light is used to illuminate a background and can be placed in several ways. I typically either place a floor light directly behind my subject angled up and shining on the background to create more of a circular effect on the background behind my subject or I’ll place a light on each side of my subject aimed toward the background either at different heights or the same height to evenly light the entire background.

Here I used a floor light aimed up at the background behind my subject and attached a red gel to it.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

Rim Lights

A rim light is typically placed behind a subject aimed at the back of the subject and does just what its title suggests: it creates a rim around the the hair and shoulders and arms of a subject.


Use of a rim light.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

Floor Lights

While floor lights can also be used as background lights and rim lights, they are typically used when lighting full body shots to illuminate the legs and feet of a subject.

I used a floor light to illuminate my model’s legs and feet here.

Model: Baron Jackson

 

Hair Lights

Hair lights are used to create separation between your subject’s hair/head and the background or another subject in an image.

I used a hair light above my subject to illuminate her hair and to give a little rim to separate her head from the background.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

LIGHTING TECHNIQUES

We all aim to make our images look unique from others and while there are a lot of choices in how to shine some light on your subject, below are some lighting techniques to help get you creating more interesting portraits.

 

Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt lighting came to be known by its name through study of works from the artist, Rembrandt, and how he portrayed light in his paintings. In most, if not all, of his works, he worked light into his masterpieces much like we shape light in our photographs, but with one interesting niche that became a “tell” of his work: he would show light shining on his subject in a position that made one side darker than the other and that darker side would contain a triangle of light on the shadow-side cheek.

Rembrandt lighting.

Model: Tara Virada

 

Loop Lighting

Loop lighting is a lighting technique called such as its “tell” is that it leaves a loop pattern under the nose. The loop lighting setup is very similar to Rembrandt lighting setup except that the triangle on the shadow side never closes and the shadow of the nose appears to be pointing to and/or just touching the corner of the lips.

Loop lighting.

Model: James Karl Campbell

 

Split Lighting

A split lighting setup results in one side of the face being lit and the other side of the face being completely in shadow. This occurs by placing a light on one side of the subject or the other.

Split Lighting.

Model: Celeste Smith

 

Underlighting

Underlighting, sometimes referred to as “movie” lighting is a quick and easy one-light setup that reels in (no pun intended) a dark, dramatic effect and will help to sculpt a subject’s body and face. Typically, a subject is wearing darker colors, though a mix with whites or reds can also lend to a character’s look.

Underlighting example, sometimes referred to as “movie” lighting.

Model: Kathryn Hopkins

 

Doubleback Lighting

Doubleback lighting, which I also found to be also called as “badger” lighting is a creative two-light setup that helps to emphasize shadows which adds angles to the face and body. Depending on the power and modifier used, the shadows can range from harsh (which works for chiseling a man’s face) to soft (like in the image of my beautiful model, Kathryn, below).

Badger or Doubleback Lighting.

Model: Kathryn Hopkins

 

The tell of this type of moody lighting is that it leaves inverted color markings rendered by the lights similar in look to those of a badger.

 

Butterfly Lighting

Butterfly lighting can be as little as a one-light setup (more if you want to light the background) positioned above and in front of your subject – high enough so that it creates a shadow under the nose similar to the shape of a butterfly.

Butterfly Lighting.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

Clamshell Lighting

Clamshell lighting is a form of beauty lighting that pretty much eliminates shadows on a subject’s face as the lights are positioned to cancel out the shadows each would create. It is generally used to emphasize natural beauty or to highlight makeup (usually for a skincare or makeup ad…) We used it artistically in the image below to highlight the creative color work that my hair/makeup artist, Gil Aldrin, created on my model.


An artsy example of clamshell lighting using two lights for the clamshell and two background lights.

Model: Kathryn Hopkins

 

High-Key Lighting

High-key is a lighting style that is a results in little-to-no shadow on your subject, based on the level of brightness of your lights hitting a subject. High-key is based on lighting ratios. It’s not a lighting pattern – which is based on light direction. Many lighting patterns can work for high key lighting so long as there is minimal to no shadows. High-key lighting can be achieved when your fill light(s) project(s) the same level of brightness as your key light to fill in shadows. This creates a 1:1 ratio eliminating all shadows.

High-key image of my model, Kathryn – extremely soft shadow transition,

light-color clothing and a strong black point using two background lights.

Model: Kathryn Hopkins

 

Low-Key Lighting

“Low key” lighting is a more dramatic form of lighting that focuses on form and shadow. It is typically a darker image where the focus can be on part of your subject whether it’s their face, a body part or a certain amount of their whole body. It can be much more interesting when adding a little bit of rim lighting behind your subject.


Result image of my model Baron based on a low-key lighting setup.

Model: Baron Jackson

 

LET THERE BE LIGHT…

Lighting a portrait can make all the difference between a good portrait and a bad one. As you can see here, there are several light sources available to you to use for different uses and to light in different ways. You can develop your own style just in the way you light an image. While I can light an image in any way (as shown above), my personal style, be it woman or man, is more on the darker side with lots of shadow – creating a moodier image. What’s your style?

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Practical Tools for the Portrait Photographer On The Go

Practical Tools for the Portrait Photographer On The Go

Not everyone works in a studio, or even within 4 walls. While I work a lot in my home studio, I oftentimes also have to work on location, so portability is important to me. For those photographers that might work out of their car, or even using public transportation as a means to get to location shoots (like I do), there are many useful tools out there that can make the journey much less of a hassle, allowing you to you to shoot in a much more positive frame of mind from start to finish.

One of my location shoots in The Bronx.

Model: Daria Komarkova

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

Tripods

A stable support system for your camera is one of the most important things you should consider purchasing right after you buy any camera and lens if you shoot still objects – and there is no shame in using a tripod for your portraits. I actually love occasionally mounting my camera to a tripod, check the frame and then use a remote to shoot – that way I can freely move around anywhere to engage more with my client or help adjust wardrobe or to demonstrate a pose.

Tripod in use on location in Midtown.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

Model: Vixie Rose

 

Tripods usually get left behind because they are too cumbersome due to their weight, too awkward to carry due to length or take too long to set up. They can also get a little pricey, however, they are supporting the weight of your $500+ camera and lens combination. Not obtaining a proper tripod to support your camera and lens unit can result in the unit falling and becoming damaged – sometimes beyond repair. How much did you spend on that camera and lens again?

My diagram of a tripod and its features.

 

Tripod Legs

Weight for the traveling photographer is a huge factor when deciding on a tripod. Aluminum legs can be heavy. If you spend the little bit of extra money, upgrade to carbon fiber legs. Carbon fiber is very lightweight material that is also very durable. All I can really say about the differences here is to walk into Adorama and ask to see and lift up one of each type of tripod legs: you will see what I mean!

If you must get fancy or want the top of the line, the Gitzo GT0545T Series 0 4- Section Traveler Tripod pictured below is a good choice as it weighs only two pounds and closes to just over a foot.

Gitzo Traveler Tripod Legs.

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

The Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber 3 Sections Tripod with Horizontal Column is a more affordable choice that has a horizontal column, however, it weighs close to 4.5 pounds. I’m actually looking to upgrade my tripod legs to the Manfrotto MT190CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber 4-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column as it has a useful 90 degree column (hey, maybe I want to shoot someone laying down? Sure, but it nice to have options when you like to shoot more than people…) These legs are a great option as they are lightweight due to the carbon fiber construction weighing in at only 3.6 pounds.

Manfrotto 190 4-Section Aluminum Tripod

 

Tripod Heads

Tripod heads, well, good tripod heads make up the bulk of a tripod’s weight. There are several types of tripod heads and really, it all comes down to preference, I personally like the flexibility of a ball head. You do not have to get a large ball head, but do make sure it does have a little weight and feels solid (not that cheap plastic feel…) as it will last a bit longer.

Various type of tripod heads.

Collage created by Dawn M. Wayand – Individual images courtesy of Adorama

 

You can learn more about tripods: why you need them, why they get a bad rap, considerations when purchasing a tripod, components of a tripod and more of my recommendations for tripods and heads in my article, Tripods: Choosing the Right Support for Your Investment.

 

Light Stands

Just like your tripod, light stands are known to sometimes hold monolights or strobes worth thousands of dollars, so you want to pick a reliable light stand to support your investment. I’m a big fan of the Manfrotto 1052BAC 93″ Air Cushioned Aluminum Compact Stand. This light stand weighs only 2-3 pounds, holds 10-11 pounds and folds up to 33-34 inches. Note that this is an air-cushioned light stand. This is really important as if you have a heavy light on top of your light stand and you lose your grip while lowering the light, the air cushioning will take the sting out of the light’s plummet as it drops to the next level of the stand – which could result in damage without this feature.

Manfrotto 1052BAC 93″ Air Cushioned Aluminum Compact Stand

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

Maybe you are only using speedlights. A great portable option for a speedlight stand would be the CheetahStand C8 Light Stand. It expands to 96 inches, can carry 6-7 pounds, collapses to 28.5 inches and weighs 6 pounds. This is a free sliding light stand, so you will need to be careful with what you put on top of it when you lower it from any height.

Sometimes you might need a short light stand to light feet or to light a background behind a subject, and while they are aluminium, I have have found the Interfit Compact Light Stands to be very convenient to have on hand.

Interfit Compact Light Stand.

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

For those of you who may be working strictly in a studio and do not need to worry about weight and size or you work both in a studio and on the road, I have written a good read with more recommendations on light stands in my home studio series: Building the Home Studio Part 2: Continuous Lights and Light Stands.

 

Sandbags

BTW – don’t forget to use sandbags on those light stands! Yes, this can be tricky with weight and traveling, but would you rather your light stand with a $1,000 light go toppling to the floor because you had nothing weighted holding the light stand down?

Flashpoint Weight Sand Bags

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

An inexpensive option for sandbags, which I actually own are the Flashpoint Weight Sand Bags which you can find for $12.95 each at Adorama.

 

Speedlights

Speedlights can work really well on the road. Due to their size, speedlights can be a much more portable and convenient solution for lighting a scene than a strobe. I dive deeper into the actual advantages, disadvantages and functions of using a speedlight in my article: Quickstart Guide to Speedlights.

Self-Portrait taken using a Nikon SB-700 Speedlight and a White Shoot-Through Umbrella.

 

NIKON

I am primarily a Nikon shooter, and while I currently work with the Nikon SB-700 (an older, but “still kicking” Nikon model), like most upgrades, the latest Nikon SB-910 is a nice upgrade from the SB-700 in that it provides a longer flash duration, a quicker recycling time and greater lens coverage.

My Nikon SB-700 Speedlight.

 

CANON

The industry standard speedlite for Canon shooters is now the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT at a $469.00 price tag. Unfortunately, and unlike the wireless Nikon speedlight, the Canon speedlite requires the Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT at an additional $280.00 to fire the speedlite – physically – off-camera.

Image courtesy of Adorama.

 

NISSIN

A current third party model that has comparable features to both Canon and Nikon flashes, but has radio capabilities at a fraction of the cost that I am a bit impressed with at the moment is the Nissin Di 700 Air Flash Kit at $299.00 which comes with the Commander and is made in Nikon, Canon and Sony versions.

Image courtesy of Adorama.

 

There are a lot of great accessories and modifiers that work well with speedlights that I go into more detail on in my article, Building the Home Studio Part 3: Flashes, Light Meters and Backgrounds.

 

Monolights & Strobes

 

Monolights

I recently had the pleasure of using a Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight and was really impressed with the quality of lighting produced for the price. It is a very lightweight light, perfect for the traveling photographer.

Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight in use with an umbrella.

 

Due to the receivers being built into the monolight and flash, this particular monolight is also compatible with the Flashpoint R2 Zoom Flash for Nikon, Canon or Sony when using the respective Flashpoint R2 i-TTL Wireless 2.4 G Transmitter Remote. Below is a portrait my assistant took of me using this monolight as a key light along with the Flashpoint R2 Zoom Flash as a fill light.

Using the Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight a a keylight and the R2 Zoom Flash as a fill.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

You can check out my review of this monolight, Hands-On Review: The Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight for more information on this light.

 

Strobes

I’ve had the opportunity to use the Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Battery-Powered 2-Light Location Kit a few times through Adorama Rental, and it was a dream. This kit is very easy to use with is fully-integrated with your Nikon or Canon digital camera via the optional Air Remote TTL-C or TTL-N. It’s battery powered and cordless so it can go with you anywhere. One of the great features of this kit is the exclusive custom backpack that the equipment travels in, which keeps everything safe and secure.

Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Battery-Powered 2-Light Location Kit.

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

LEDs

If you use LEDs, an interesting choice for versatile, compact LED lights is the Westcott Ice Light 2 at $499.99 each, which I recently had the opportunity to try out and was blown away with the light quality. This is a great handheld, wraparound, daylight and portable light with an output of 1740 lumen and a CRI rating of 96. It can mount to a lightstand or tripod or be used handheld at any angle you want.

The Westcott Ice Light 2.

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

You can even shoot and hold or have you model hold the light(s) at the same time should you not have an assistant available. The Westcott Ice Light 2 lasts about an hour on a full charge.

Testing out the Westcott Ice Light 2.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

Modifiers

For portability purposes, there’s a few types of modifiers that fit the bill and work very conveniently for location shoots: reflectors, umbrellas, certain softboxes, a beauty dish,  barndoors and/or gels. There are also a few speedlight modifiers that work well too and I’ll get to those in a moment.

 

Portable Reflectors

A portable reflector is probably the first modifier you will ever own, especially if you shoot people. They are an inexpensive, portable and convenient fill light source. Whether you use the sun or a flash, monolight or strobe, portable reflectors are an excellent tool to help fill in unwanted shadows.


Large oval reflectors, circular reflectors, square reflectors and triangular reflectors.

 

I go into great detail about reflectors in my article, Building the Home Studio Part 04: Essential Studio Tools, Props and Odds & Ends.

 

Umbrellas

Umbrellas are convenient portable tools that serve to diffuse or bounce light back onto your subject when shooting in a studio or on location. No matter your level or budget, umbrellas are your great tool for getting professional results in your portrait work. I go into great detail on umbrellas in my article: Umbrellas: Good for More Than Just a Rainy Day.

Shoot through, white, silver and gold umbrellas.

Individual images courtesy of Adorama

 

Softboxes

Umbrellas softboxes, like umbrellas, are convenient and portable as they fold up like umbrellas and take up less room than conventional softboxes. I’m a big fan of the Westcott Apollo Orb which is now on sale at Adorama.

Octabank, strip and square softboxes.

Individual images courtesy of Adorama

 

There are a few softboxes with speed rings that are easy to set up too.  I’ve had the opportunity to try out the Profoto 2’x2’ RFi Softbox which were are a dream to put together. I actually own two Glow 24 x 24″ Softboxes, which didn’t cost much and are easy to put together (speedrings are separate and custom to your light’s brand). Glow also has strips and many other shapes and sizes available.

 

Beauty Dishes

If you are into portrait or beauty photography, a beauty dish is a “must”. Beauty dishes come as white or silver coated on the inside. White coated dishes make for a softer light whereas silver coated dishes make for slightly more contrast. Beauty dishes have two different companion modifiers that can be used along with them: a diffuser, sometimes called a “sock”, and a grid.

Silver beauty dish (left) and white beauty dish (right).

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

If you can swing it, get something at least 22 inches in diameter or more. Which beauty dish you should get will depend on the monolight or strobe that you have. Brands like Glow make a variety of mount options to work for more than one single brand. Don’t forget to get a beauty dish bag to carry it on location. This will help keep it circular instead of battered and mis-shaped.

 

Barndoors

Barndoors are one of the most versatile and inexpensive lighting modifiers one could own. This modifier is basically four doors that attach to a base which can be attached to a monolight or strobe.

Flashpoint Universal Barn Door Kit

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

What’s versatile about this modifier is that these 4 doors can be opened as much as desired allowing for numerous lighting results. Many barn doors are sold as kits that also include companion modifiers of four gels and a grid, such as Flashpoint’s Universal Barn Door Kit featured above.

 

Gels

Gels are not only a practical tool for color correction, but they are also a fun, creative modifier to use for lighting a subject too.


Rosco 20”x24” Color Effects Kit

 

In the image below, I used a Rosco 20”x24” Color Effects Kit which contains 15 different color gel sheets. These flat-like-paper gels can be bent or folded and are still reuseable. This particular kit contains the larger-sized sheets, which also allows me enough available to be able to also cut swatches of the gels for use too.

Example of use of gels with monolights (okay, maybe a fog machine too!)

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

Additional Speedlight Modifiers

Using a speedlight and not a monolight of strobe? Some of the same modifiers can be used for speedlights as well, but if you’re using a speedlight, you can get even more portable than that. Expoimaging makes a great kit that has many of these tools called the ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 Portable Full Lighting Kit for $199.95 at Adorama.

ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 Portable Full Lighting Kit

 

Laptops, Tethering & Storage

 

Computers & Laptops

Shooting anything on location where you can bring a laptop and/or where more serious situations might include a laptop with monitor and a monitor hood. This doesn’t just apply to people and products, but it can also apply to landscape shoots too.

My Apple 27-inch iMac for studio use and my Dell laptop for location use.

 

Tethering Equipment

I love, love, LOVE tethering to a computer (my 27-inch iMac when in the studio) or my laptop(when on location) whenever I am shooting people so that I can see my results immediately and on something larger than my 3-inch LCD screen. Then I can make any necessary adjustments that I might’ve missed if only viewed on a smaller screen. Tether Tools makes a huge assortment of products for your tethering needs.

The Tether Tools Starter Kit.

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

I invested in a Tether Tools Starter Kit which consists of one direct 15-foot TetherPro Cable that plugs from computer to my specific camera model, a Jerkstopper Cable Management System consisting of a piece for your camera (to prevent the cable from being pulled out of the camera should you step on the cable), and a piece for your computer/laptop (to prevent the same from happening from your computer/laptop), 10 Jerkstopper ProTab Cable Ties and a small carrying case for all of it to keep you organized. If you shoot tethered, I cannot emphasize how much this kit will help you with an otherwise shoddy, unreliable connection.

 

LaCie Rugged RAID Portable Hard Drive

It’s a good idea to use a portable hard drive when on location as you can set yourself up to immediately back up your images as you are shooting, which is safer than relying on your memory card to not fail you. I back up to a LaCie 4TB Rugged RAID Portable Hard Drive whether I am in the studio or on location to ensure my images are safe.

LaCie 4TB Rugged RAID Portable Hard Drive

 

Bags and Cases

Of course as a photographer working on location, you need bags and whatnot to carry your gear, equipment and odds & ends. I go into greater detail on selecting what you need to carry these things in my article, Bags, Cases & Pouches: Picking A Means For Carrying and Storing Your Gear.


Some of my typical location bags and pouches.

 

Camera Bags

Camera bags really come down to preference. You may want a backpack or you might prefer a shoulder bag or crossbody bag more. Others might like a roller bag. If I’m on a light location shoot where I do not need to take a lot of lenses, I might go with my fashionable Kelly Moore Brownlee Bag (pictured above in Indigo).

If my shoot is a little more involved, I take my Ape Case Pro Backpack. I love this versatile backpack because you also have the option of rolling it (yes, it has wheels too). This backpack has numerous compartments for your camera and many lenses, plus it has plenty of room for a small laptop and tethering cords too.

The Ape Case Pro Backpack and the ThinkTank Retrospective 5 Shoulder Bag/Messenger Bag.

 

Gentlemen, you might find the fashionable ThinkTank Retrospective 5 Shoulder Bag/Messenger Bag to be a good option if you prefer a shoulder bag for on the go. Again, there are numerous options and my previously mentioned article explains what to look for in a bag along with some great examples.

 

Pouches & Wallets

Camera battery and AA battery pouches and memory card wallets are great for keeping these tiny necessities all in one place instead of them rolling around your bag. The memory card wallets even have clips to clip to a part of your bag to ensure they do not get lost.

ThinkTank corners the market on exceptionally made battery pouches and memory card wallets.

 

Monolight/Strobe Cases

Many monolight and strobe manufacturers create custom bags that are included with your light. I love the Profoto B1 Kit backpack as it makes carrying that expensive investment much easier and safer. I’d definitely want those attached to me!

Westcott Deluxe Strobe Bag and the Profoto B1 Kit backpack.

Individual images courtesy of Adorama

 

I also like the Westcott Deluxe Strobe Bag if I already have on a backpack (like a camera backpack…) because it’s on wheels. It means less weight on my body, plus the wheels feature both make it easier to move around.

 

Light Stand/Tripod Bags

Light stand bags with wheels are very convenient for the traveling photographer as are tripod bags with shoulder straps. For the light stands, I like the Hensel HD Bag for Stands and Umbrellas. It doesn’t have wheels on it’s own but if you pair it with the Hensel HD Trolley for Strobes, then you have a solution for both stands, some modifiers and strobes.


Hensel HD Bag for Stands pictured with Hensel HD Trolley for strobes.

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

For tripods, I find the Hakuba Tripod Case to be a good investment as your tripod most likely cost you several hundred dollars. You want to make sure it’s protected plus it has a strap that can easily be worn over the shoulder.

Hakuba Tripod Case

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

Odds and Ends

 

Gaffer’s Tape

Gaffer’s Tape is a great tool for taping down electrical wires or seamless. It’s also useful for taping a flag to your speedlight or lens, taping equipment to clamps, tripods, light stands and taping wardrobe in the back when it’s too big, etc.

 

A-Clamps

A- clamps can be similar to gaffer’s tape in that it has many uses such as clamping wardrobe when it’s too big, clamping a muslin background to a background support system or clamping a seamless roll so that it does not roll out farther than you want it to. I like the Tether Tools 2″ Rock Solid “A” Spring Clamp in solid black.

Tether Tools 2″ Rock Solid “A” Spring Clamp

Image courtesy of Adorama

 

Batteries

Batteries are needed for many things on location such as your transmitters, receivers, speedlights and your camera. Always have a large stash of backups (Depending on how long my shoot will be, I usually try to have 2 sets of batteries for each piece of gear that requires it as backups…) It can get expensive replacing batteries all the time so I use Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries which are a good solution to save money and to help save the environment.

My battery stash at home. Remember those pouches above?

Great for storing some of these for the road.

 

Extra Bulbs

It’s really important once you own and start using strobes that you have backup bulbs. These can get really expensive, but if you are on an assignment and one or more of your bulbs blow, you could be screwed. Having additional bulbs can save the situation. I tend to keep one backup bulb for each strobe I own…

Additional bulbs.

 

There are many odds and ends that you might find useful depending on what you are doing with your location photo shoot. You can find more of my tool ideas in my article Building the Home Studio Part 4: Essential Studio Tools, Props and Odds & Ends.

 

Some Final Thoughts…

Yes. I did go over a lot of gear and equipment here for a location shoot, but it doesn’t mean you need all of it every time. Depending on many factors and your personal preferences, you may need only a few things from what I listed or sometimes maybe more than just a few things. The greatest challenge is packing as light as possible to avoid additional strain on you. Many of the items I mentioned here are lightweight whereas things like your DSLR camera and lenses, you may not have much of a choice if you care too much about how your client assesses the relationship between your equipment and being a professional. Organization is also key, so good bags will help do the trick. I hope you found this list helpful. Feel free to leave some comments here and let us know what you have found useful for shooting on location.

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Umbrellas – Good for More Than Just a Rainy Day

Umbrellas – Good for More Than Just a Rainy Day

Umbrellas. They keep us dry when it rains. They also serve a purpose for photographers from amateur to professional. No, put your rain umbrella away. Let me welcome you to the world of photography umbrellas. They can be just as inexpensive as rain umbrellas and they are portable pieces of equipment that serve to diffuse or bounce light back onto your subject when shooting in a studio or on location. Whether you are a new photographer or a photographer on a budget, umbrellas are your best bet in getting professional results in your portrait work.

 

Classification & Types of Umbrellas

 

Classifications of Umbrellas

There are two classifications of umbrellas: shoot-through and reflective. As you may have guessed, shoot through umbrellas are the white translucent umbrellas which allow you to aim your light source into the umbrella and position the umbrella with its outside aimed at your subject. This classification of umbrella not only serves as a diffuser to your light source, but it takes a small light source and spreads it out everywhere.

1. Umbrellas

Shooting through a translucent umbrella aimed at a subject.

 

The downside to shoot-through umbrellas is that the light created using this type of umbrella is hard to control since it spills everywhere.

2. Shoot-Through Diagram

Uncontained light exits the umbrella in all directions.

 

The other classification of umbrella is a reflective umbrella. With this type of umbrella, you would aim your light source into the umbrella, but turn the umbrella and light source away from your subject as the light will bounce off of the inside of the umbrella and reflect back onto your subject.

3. Umbrellas

Reflective umbrellas reflect light back onto your subject.

 

Reflective umbrellas are beneficial because the light is more controlled and can be aimed in any direction that you point it. It also retains the more power of the light from the light source.

4. Reflective Umbrella Diagram

Light is contained and directed by choice.

 

Types of Umbrellas

There are also a few types of umbrellas, all with different purposes to aid you in getting your envisioned end result in portrait and other types of photo work.

 

  • Regular Umbrellas. These standard umbrellas come in many sizes based on different manufacturers, for instance, Westcott makes regular umbrellas in 32-inch, 43-inch, 45-inch and 60-inch sizes. They also come in a variety of colors such as translucent/white, silver, gold and black.

 

  • Parabolic Umbrellas.  A parabolic umbrella typically comes in 5 to 7-foot sizes and are known for their subject wrap-around quality. These umbrellas produce a beautiful soft light that makes for soft transitions between highlights and shadows. Westcott makes 7-foot parabolic umbrellas available at Adorama in shoot-through, black/white and silver for $99.90 each or you can purchase the 3-umbrella kit for $258.99. Adorama also sells their own brand of a 5-foot parabolic umbrella in gold for $34.95.

5. Silver-Parabolic

Photo of my model Katie using a Westcott 7-foot Silver Parabolic Umbrella.

 

  • Umbrella Softboxes. This type of umbrella works similar to a softbox with some subtle differences. The umbrella softbox is known for producing a hot spot that works well when positioned onto your subject’s face, letting the rest of the image go slightly darker. It allows for the focus to remain on the brightest part of the image (your subject). Savage makes Umbrella Softboxes and Umbrella Bounce Softboxes each in 36-inch and 43-inch sizes for $21.99 and $26.99, respectively.

6. Umbrella-Softboxes

Savage umbrella softboxes in white and black.

 

Colors

 

White Shoot-Through

White shoot-through, or translucent, umbrellas are often in a photographer’s bag because their setup requires the light source pointing into the umbrella and the umbrella is positioned with its back (and light source) aimed directly at a subject.

7. White-Umbrella

Savage 43” Translucent Shoot-Through Umbrella

 

Why does this setup matter? With the shaft of the umbrella pointed away from your subject, you can move the diffused light source as close as you want to your subject without poking out their eye! This might be fine for beauty lighting, but I personally find the light to be a bit flat. In addition, light is hard to control with shoot-through umbrellas because the umbrella is translucent and light spills everywhere.

 

8. Shoot-Through-Umbrella

Since the light doesn’t wrap around, the image looks a little bit flat.

 

In the image above, I used the inexpensive JTL 40-inch White Umbrella w/ Removable Black Cover with the black cover removed, available at Adorama for $26.95 each.

 

Black/White

A white or translucent umbrella is a reflective umbrella that requires its opening (and shaft) pointed toward your subject. While you must keep the light further away from your subject than you would a shoot-through umbrella, light is much more controlled than its shoot-through counterpart.

9. White-Black-Umbrella

Pictured here is an Interfit 43-inch white/black umbrella.

 

Black/white umbrellas are a great choice for when you need to fill in shadows without it affecting the color, quality or quantity of light. In the image below, I used the JTL 40-inch White Umbrella w/ Removable Black Cover, but with the cover on.

 

10. Black-White-Reflective

The white umbrella’s super-soft light wraps around Katie making the image a bit more 3-dimensional.

 

Black/Silver

Also a reflective umbrella, a silver umbrella (with a black covering) can be used when you want to bounce in specular highlights without affecting the color of the light.

11. Silver-Umbrella

The Phottix 40-inch Silver Umbrella above provides even distribution.

 

The light will be subtly harsher than a shoot through, depending on your umbrella’s distance from your lightsource and from your subject plus the size of the umbrella, the size, of which, we’ll get into later.

 

12. Silver-Umbrella

Serving like a mirror, the silver umbrella reflects a little more light back onto Katie

than the black/white reflective umbrella above.

 

Here, I used something similar to the Phottix 40” Two-Layer Silver Reflective Umbrella available at Adorama for $17.95 each.

 

Black/Gold

A gold umbrella with black backing can be used to warm the color of an image and your subject.

13. Gold-Umbrella

Pictured here is the Phottix 40” Two Layer Gold Reflector Umbrella.

 

This umbrella color works perfectly with bathing suit shots or shots of a subject with a very fair skin tone, where a healthy warm glow might be desired.

 

14. Gold-Umbrella

Now the Katie has a little bit of a warmer glow.

 

Here, I used something similar to the Phottix 40” Two-Layer Gold Reflective Umbrella available at Adorama for $21.95 each.

 

 

Sizes

 

Depending on its maker, umbrellas typically range between 19 inches (a specialty umbrella) up to 88 inches. What size do you get? It really depends on what you are shooting. The larger your umbrella is, the more your light will be spread out. Larger umbrellas are great for full body shots, group shots and portraits, where smaller umbrellas project a more narrow focus, therefore, better for some portraits and headshots.

15. Parabolic Umbrellas -Size

I set up my Westcott 84” Silver Umbrella a few feet away from my subject for full coverage.

 

Accessories

 

For Speedlights

 

  • Speedlight Light Stand Adapter:

 

  • Speedlight

 

For Strobes

 

  • StrobeThere are so many strobes to choose from that I’m not going to recommend any here, but be on the lookout for my upcoming article on Building the Home Studio Part 5 in June involving strobes for more advice on picking out a strobe that is right for you.

 

For Speedlights or Strobes

 

 

  • Sandbags

 

What To Make of It All…

Yes, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of choices on umbrellas and it is a tough call on what to pick. The sad thing is that I cannot tell you what to choose. I can tell you what I like, what I can afford and what works for me, but that is based on my budget, what I shoot and how I shoot. Arm yourself with your answers to those questions and check into Adorama to speak to an associate on what might work best for you. It couldn’t hurt to pick up a couple of each type of umbrella (since they are fairly inexpensive) and learn their effects and how they can benefit you. You can always upgrade when you’ve found what you really like and what you would use.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Building Your Home Studio Part 03:  Flashes, Light Meters and Backgrounds

Building Your Home Studio Part 03: Flashes, Light Meters and Backgrounds

Light is crucial in photography. Don’t believe me? Turn out all of the lights in your room, close the blackout curtains, make sure there is absolutely no light coming from anything in your room. Now try to take a picture. Focus giving you issues? Don’t give up. Turn your focus to manual and now try. I bet you still get nothing. Without light, there is no photograph.

 

01Always-Need-Light

Light of any amount from any source is necessary to create an image.

 

You can create and shape light as you wish to convey the mood you envision for your end result, but you must always have some sort of light – no matter how little – to create a photograph. We covered continuous lights in our last article of this Building Your Home Studio series. In this article, we will move into the convenient and portable flash or “speedlight”.

 

Speedlights

Though a decent strobe can be less expensive than a good speedlight system, I wanted to start our flash lighting topic with speedlights first because many of you may not start off working in a studio environment. Some of you may be going to client homes or offices. Some of you may also shooting outdoors. Due to their size, speedlights can be a much more portable and convenient solution for lighting a scene than a strobe. I dive deeper into the actual advantages, disadvantages and functions of using a speedlight in my article: Quickstart Guide to Speedlights.

 

NIKON

 

Flashes-100

My Nikon SB-700 Speedlight.

 

I am primarily a Nikon shooter, and while I currently work with the Nikon SB-700 (an older, but “still kicking” Nikon model), like most upgrades, the latest Nikon SB-910 is a nice upgrade from the SB-700 in that it provides a longer flash duration, a quicker recycling time and greater lens coverage as noted below.

 

Comparative Features Nikon SB-700 Nikon SB-910
Flash Duration – M1/1 (full) output: 1/1042 sec. 1/880 sec.
Quicker Recycling Time –  [using NiMH (eneloop) batteries]: 2.5 sec. 2.3 sec.
Greater Lens Coverage – (FX-format, Auto mode): 24-120mm 17-200mm
Price $326.95 $546.95

 

Depending on what you are shooting, how quickly you are shooting and how far away you might shoot your subject, the semi-minor differences might make a difference to you to warrant the $120 difference for the newer model.

 

CANON

 

03Canon-Speedlite-600EX-RT-1

Image courtesy of Adorama.

 

The industry standard speedlite for Canon shooters is now the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT at a $469.00 price tag. Unfortunately, and unlike the wireless Nikon speedlight, the Canon speedlite requires the Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT at an additional $280.00 to fire the speedlite – physically – off-camera.

 

Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT

 

Features
Flash Duration (at full power): 0.0018 – 0.0023 sec
Recycling Time: Approximately 0.1 – 5.5 seconds
Lens Coverage – (Full-frame): 14 mm – 200 mm
Total Price: $749.00

 

NISSIN

 

06Nissin-Di-700-Air-Kit

Image courtesy of Adorama.

A current third party model that has comparable features to both Canon and Nikon flashes, but has radio capabilities at a fraction of the cost that I am a bit impressed with at the moment is the Nissin Di 700 Air Flash Kit at $299.00 which comes with the Commander and is made in Nikon, Canon and Sony versions.

 

Features
Flash Duration: 1/800 – 1/30000 Sec
Recycling Time: 0.1 – 4 Sec
Lens Coverage – (Full-frame): 24 – 200mm
Total Price w/ Commander: $299.00

 

Flash Accessories

 

Batteries

Batteries can be a big investment over time if you go with regular alkaline batteries. However, if you go with NiMH rechargeable batteries, they are better for the environment because they are reusable, they help the flash have a better recycle time and they are less expensive in the long run. Panasonic Eneloop AA Rechargeable Batteries are $19.99 for a pack of 8, but are high-performance and be reused up to 2,100 times.

 

07Flashpoint-Packs

Image courtesy of Adorama.

 

For extended use in the field, a battery pack could be a good idea as well as they are also rechargeable, they can triple the duration of the flash and they allow for a faster recycle time. Flashpoint Blast Power Packs are decent budget power packs that run between $269.95-$349.95 depending on if you want an extra battery with it or not. They are available according to your brand of flash.

 

Flash Brackets

Flash brackets are mainly used for events but they can be a little cumbersome for the average user. They are used because they typically place the flash a little higher than the line of sight, which helps to avoid red eye.

 

08Flash-Bracket

Image courtesy of Adorama.

 

With flash brackets, you are able to rotate the camera but keep the light in the same position. The Custom Brackets Digital PRO M Rotating Camera Bracket Kit is the standard for those that use them. At $379.95, if you are an event photographer, it just might be a good investment for you.

 

Flash Modifiers

 

On and Off -Camera Flash Modifiers

There are many tools out there that can be used to shape the light of both on and off-camera flash. There are things such as:

  • Diffusers
  • Umbrellas
  • Mini and Standard Softboxes
  • Bounce Cards
  • Grids & Honeycombs
  • Snoots
  • Color Filters & Gels
  • Ringlights

 

Expoimaging makes a great kit that has many of these tools called the ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 Portable Full Lighting Kit  for $199.95 at Adorama.

 

09Expoimaging-Flashbender

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

Another great tool that I actually own and love is made by Interfit called the Interfit Photographic Strobies Modi-Lite Accessories Kit and it sells for $99 at Adorama. It includes a universal mount that works on most flash heads, a snoot with 2 honeycomb diffusers, a diffuser globe, a barndoor set, a reflector/beauty dish with a honeycomb grid,, a small softbox, a set of colored gels and a simple honeycomb grid.

 

10Strobies

My Interfit Strobies Modi-Lite Accessories Kit.

 

Other Off -Camera Flash Modifiers

Other modifiers you can use to diffuse harsh light from a speedlight include softboxes and umbrellas which I will individually dive into deeper next month… stay tuned.

 

11Umbrellas

White umbrella and silver umbrella. Available in gold too.

 

12Profoto-Flash-Softbox

Profoto 2′ Octagonal Off-Camera Flash Softbox

 

Light Meters

Now that we’re starting to get into flash lighting, it’s definitely time to think about investing in a good light meter.

 

13Sekonic-Flashes

My Sekonic Flash Master L-358 with its younger sister, the Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR.

 

A good handheld light meter will have the three metering capabilities: incident, reflected and flash modes and if you are also looking for the percentages of where your exposure is coming from (ambient, LED, fluorescent and/or tungsten continuous lighting vs. flash or strobe lighting), Sekonic meters are known to possess this feature. My current light meter, the Sekonic L-358 Flash Master (discontinued), along with the Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478DR (available at Adorama  for $337.99) has this feature. As you may contemplate strobes either now or a little later down the line, you may find the need for a meter to be able to fire your strobe – “wirelessly” – too. Some Sekonics such as the Sekonic  L-758DR Digital Master have this feature too. I do discuss light meters pros and cons, how to operate a light meter and features more in-depth in my article: Light Meters: Measuring Light in Studio Photography.

 

Backgrounds

As you are now beginning to pull together home studio, don’t forget that background as it can make or break your image. Your background is a very important piece of your photo shoot puzzle, something that it will never be without – so it’s important not only to choose creatively, but to choose wisely so that the focus stays on your subject and not the background.

 

14Seamless

My Auto Poles with Interfit Chain System for Seamless Paper

 

In my article: Backgrounds: Choosing the Right Backdrop for Portraits, I spend a great deal of time going over the nitty gritty of backgrounds including the importance of and considerations for choosing a proper background for your subject. In addition, I jump into the major background types such as natural backgrounds, portable backgrounds, muslin, canvas, floordrops, vinyl, seamless paper and other creative background types.

 

We are getting there you guys! For those of you following along, and that have been taking some of my suggestions and who have become proficient in using some of the equipment I’ve mentioned should now have the necessary means to bring in a client here and there to start to start reimbursing those upfront, out-of-pocket costs of your immediate equipment such as your camera, lens(es), continuous and/or flash lighting, a tripod, a background choice or two and a few initial modifiers. I have a few things up my sleeve to help you along your journey including some helpful tips and information coming up in the next few months. Stay tuned!

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments