Let’s face it. Flashes are expensive. Wouldn’t it be great if you could purchase a new flash and only spend half of what a new flash typically costs? I’m a Nikon shooter and already have two SB-800s, but another flash can sure come in handy when shooting with off-camera flash at a wedding reception. When I got the Bolt VX-710N, that’s exactly what I had in mind for it, but I decided to go ahead and try it as an on-camera flash as well.
While testing out the Profoto B1 500 flash head, I also had a chance to use one of my favorite light modifiers, a 3 foot octabox (also known as “octa softbox”, “octabank” or just “octa”), known as “3′ RFi Octa Softbox” by Profoto. Although Profoto carries a wide array of light modifiers and accessories in its arsenal of lighting equipment, I specifically wanted to get a smaller octa for outdoors photography. The primary reason was portability without compromising too much on the size. As you may already know, the larger the source of light in flash photography, the softer it is on the subject. The 5 and 7 foot octas were just too big and the smaller rectangular softboxes were too small for my taste. Quality-wise, both octaboxes and softboxes produce equally good quality light – the only difference is catchlight. I prefer to have more round catchlight in my subject’s eyes, rather than a square, so I prefer using octaboxes, umbrellas, parabolic softboxes and beauty dishes for that reason.
When Profoto announced their first truly portable setup with the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered flash last year, the news immediately caught my attention and I requested to get a sample unit for a review. The reason was fairly simple for me – I got tired of lugging around a huge and heavy battery pack for my Elinchrom Ranger lights when working on remote jobs. Speedlights are great for indoors and low-light environments, but they just do not have the juice to run big light modifiers or overpower the sun in mid-day lighting conditions (unless you use packs of them like Joe McNally does). For these reasons, I have been using big lights for sometime now, but with the huge inconvenience of carrying a heavy portable battery. Although the Profoto B1 lights have less power in comparison with a total of 500 watts, I realized that I rarely go full power with my Elinchrom Rangers anyway, so the B1 was plenty for most of my work. The biggest advantage that I saw in the Profoto B1 was portability – no need for any external power sources! Just attach a battery on the side of the head and you are ready to go. And with a built-in slave trigger, the head can be controlled with a radio or infrared remote units wirelessly.
Some photographers oppose the idea of using flash or light modifiers. Sometimes because it does not suit their style, sometimes because they do not feel comfortable using flash in first place. While we as photographers often love the feel of soft, natural light, knowing how to utilize artificial light can be of tremendous value in low-light environments. Not to mention that such knowledge and being ready to overcome challenging tasks in pretty much any environment can boost confidence and give peace of mind when working in the field. In this article, I would like to go over situations when flash should be used and how it can work to our advantage. I divided this article into indoor and outdoor photography to make it easy for everyone to follow. Please feel free to add your use cases in the comments section below. Please note that I am not going over the basics of flash photography here – the article assumes that you understand the relationship of flash with ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.
1.1) Lighting Ballrooms, Churches, Wedding / Corporate Reception Areas
As a working professional, one should have at least the basic lighting plan to be able to capture the day with ease. High-end DSLRs may be flexible enough to capture images in poorly lit environments, but it is a game of compromises. If light levels are too low, you will have to deal with blurry images due to motion blur / camera shake, or you will have to increase ISO level too high, which obviously increases noise, messes up colors and greatly reduces dynamic range. In short, you are leaving very few options for post-processing. In order to avoid that and potentially reduce your post-processing time and other headaches, why not use flash instead? You can start out with a simple configuration, with flash mounted on your camera, or you could get more creative and use flash in an off-camera setup to make images appear more dramatic and well-balanced.
As someone said, “photography is all about the light”. And nothing gives a photographer more flexibility to craft light better than quality studio strobes. If located in a permanent studio, they provide wonderful lighting and an endless array of possibilities, particularly when used with various light modifiers. Taking them on the road, however, is a different matter. Many models are bulky, heavy, and require proximity to a power source, making them impractical for many settings. Traditional off-camera flash units are much more portable and can be used creatively in a variety of situations, as David Hobby (a.k.a. “Stobist”) and others routinely demonstrate, but lack the power of strobe lights. To meet the needs of photographers seeking the power of traditional strobe lights combined with the flexibility of off-camera flash units, Impact provides the LiteTrek 4.0 DC Two Monolight and Mini LiteTrek (LT) Battery Pack Kit, a portable lighting kit consisting of 2 flash heads and a portable battery pack.
1) Initial Thoughts
This lightweight kit is well-designed and made. Add two lightweight light stands (not included) and it has everything you need to create a studio environment anywhere you need. I was surprised at the lightness of the 400W heads relative to their power. They were much lighter than my 550W Bowen’s studio strobes.
This is a review for the Impact’s Beauty Dish Reflector Kit with an adapter for the Paul C Buff Alien Bee Strobe. The Reflector kit includes a 20″ Beauty Dish Reflector, Honeycomb Grid for 20″ Beauty Dish Reflector, and a diffuse sock.
I have mostly been a natural light photographer. I believe there is so much beauty in available light. However, I have been playing with studio lighting to have more control over my lighting environment. I am a huge fan of light modifiers that create soft light (like a softbox or this parabolic umbrella). Using a beauty dish was new to me and a little different than what I was used to – it is always fun and beneficial to play around with new tools to give you a new perspective on photography.
Studio backdrops are a great way to transform a space. There are all different sorts of backdrops but I wanted a backdrop that folds up easily and doesn’t require lugging around a bulky backdrop stand. I also own some paper roll backdrops and it is so tough bringing out of the studio. What I like about this backdrop is that compact when stored, but unfolds to be the perfect size backdrop for shooting portraits. This is a review of the Impact Super Collapsible Background.
A reflector is a light shaping tool. When shooting indoors, I often like to have a reflector handy to bounce light back onto my subject. For example, if my subject is standing next to a window there is more light on one side, than the other side. A reflector is helpful to soften the contrast of the window light. Reflectors can be used to bounce studio lighting as well. This is a review for Impact’s Reflector Panel.
1) Initial Thoughts
I love the size of this reflector. It’s quite large, 35″ x 70″ and is the perfect size for portraits. I used it length wise, and it pretty much covered the entire height of my subject. It folds up nicely for easy storage. There are two different reflective fabrics that come with it– one is white/black combination and the other is a gold/silver combination. I use the white/black combination the most, as that combo yields the most desirable results for me.
This is a review of the Impact Two Monolight Softbox Kit. If you’re interested in learning studio photography and have looked at purchasing some gear, you know that once you start purchasing lights, light stands and modifiers, it can get expensive very quickly. Fortunately, there are some inexpensive options available out there, but are they worth it? While I don’t consider myself a master in the studio, I do have quite a bit of experience with different types of lighting equipment and, with a little use, can tell if I’d use something on a regular basis or not. Want to know what I thought of this Impact kit? Read on…
1) Product Specifications
2x 300 W/S Monolights
2x 24×32″ Softboxes
2x Sync Cords