Larson’s Larry Peters 16x60 Light Bender: A Uniquely Shaped Softbox

We all know what softboxes look like. They’re big, small, square, rectangular, sometimes round or shaped like octagons—we’ve seen them all. But there is nothing quite like the 16x60 Light Bender from Larson. It is long (48”), narrow (12”), and looks like a strip light that someone grabbed by the ends and yanked toward the middle. In this test I’ll take a look at just what this oddly-shaped light can do and why a photographer may consider adding it to his or her arsenal of light modifiers.

Courtesy of Larson Enterprises

The Light Bender was designed by well-known photographer Larry Peters from Ohio and is produced and sold by Larson Enterprises.

After unpacking, I mounted the box to the backplate, a really snug fit, and then added the speed ring that allows me to mount and swivel the box on my light. After assembly, I mounted it on my Paul C. Buff Einstein unit. The light mounts dead center and the “wings” fly out to the side. There is no interior baffle in the design so the light is much stronger in the center and drops off rather dramatically as you move toward the edges.

“Traditional” Softbox

Left: For this image of model Kelly Tipton I used a hair and background light and a 3x4 softbox directly overhead and shot under it. Note the strong shadows and the dark area on the side of her face and under her neck. Technical info: Nikon D3, Nikkor 80-200mm lens at 155mm, ISO 200, 1/100 sec at f/6.3. Right: The only difference between this image and the first one is the addition of a silver reflector underneath to bounce light back into the shadows and create a bottom catchlight in the eyes. The shadows are now much lighter and the transition from highlight to shadow much smoother.
All Photos © Steve Bedell

Before testing I spoke with Larry about the Light Bender and he said it produced an amazing light when combined with his Eyelighter, another one of his products that is a specially designed reflector for producing a unique light shape in the eye when used with a top light. I did not have one of these for the test, but did use a silver reflector from underneath with very good results. Larry also said it was designed to be used horizontally so of course I used it both ways.

Light Bender

Left: This image was taken using the same setup as the first photo but I replaced the 3x4 softbox with the Light Bender and no fill. You can see how the neck and shadow areas are much lighter with the Light Bender acting as its own fill. Right: In this shot I’m using a silver reflector from underneath in combination with the Light Bender for “clamshell” lighting. While noticeably lighter under the chin, I think the biggest difference is actually in the cheeks and side of the face, producing a beautifully soft and creamy look. This could be a real “go to” setup for model headshots.

One of the first things I did was to see how the light from the Light Bender compared to the light from a typical softbox. I mounted a 3x4 softbox on an arm and positioned it above my model’s head. I then took images using both boxes with and without a reflector to see if they looked any different. They did, especially the ones where a reflector wasn’t used as a fill from below. It appears that by tilting the box down toward your subject, the light from the wings is down lower and on the sides so it actually acts as a weak fill, lightening up under the neck. Those side lights also fill in the sides of the face and hair. Used with a reflector, it created a very soft, creamy light that is quite unique.

Catchlights

The big narrow light produces a good-looking catchlight in the eye. In this shot of model Kendelle Chandler I got a high angle on a step stool and aimed down and created nice lighting with no fill light or reflector at all. Technical info: Nikon D3, Nikkor 80-200mm lens at 200mm, ISO 200, 1/100 sec at f/5.6.

Side-by-side comparison shots show a very different character to the light.

Full Length

Turning the Light Bender to the vertical position produced this full-length shot of Kelly. A fill, background, and hair light were also used. Background by David Maheu. Technical info: Nikon D3, Nikkor 50mm lens, ISO 200, 1/100 sec at f/6.3.

I must admit that when I first saw this light I considered that it could be a “gimmick.” Who needs a softbox shaped like a horseshoe? And would the light it produced really be that much different? After testing I can tell you that the light it produces is very unique and is especially suited for in-close glamour headshots. Combined with a bottom reflector, it makes creating beauty shots a pretty simple process. In all, I consider it a very worthwhile addition to any photographer’s lighting arsenal.

Portraits

Can the Light Bender be used as your everyday softbox? Sure! Here I’ve done a seated pose of Kelly with a four-light setup just like I’d do as part of a regular portrait session. A texture was applied to the background. Technical info: Nikon D3, Nikkor 80-200mm lens at 100mm, ISO 200, 1/100 sec at f/6.3.

The 16x60 Light Bender costs $425, while the 12x48 version is $325. For more information, contact Larson Enterprises at: www.larson-ent.com.

Steve Bedell has been a portrait photographer for over 25 years. To subscribe to EPhoto, a free e-mail newsletter with tips for photographers, contact Bedell via e-mail at: sb@stevebedell.com. Also ask about his lighting DVDs.

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