Like most photographers, I’m always trying to see just how versatile I can make my dedicated speedlights. In my case that would be Nikon SB-800 Speedlights. And when I really want to create a unique look I’ll sometimes use off-camera flash so I can vary the exposure on my subject in relation to the overall scene. That usually involves me adding light to my subject to either match or overpower the ambient light. When I do that I like to have a little more control over the quantity and quality of the light than what I’d have if I just aimed my flash at my subject with no modification.
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.
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.
Fresnel lenses are used to focus light. Many of the Hollywood glamour photographers of the 1930s and ’40s used them, most notably George Hurrell for his portraits of many of the screen legends of that era. Hurrell used 8x10 cameras, uncoated lenses, and bulky Mole-Richardson hot lights. You don’t have to go that route, but you can now replicate some of the lighting effects with this new offering from Photogenic.
One of the first workshops I ever attended when I began my career over 30 years ago was with the legendary Don “Big Daddy’” Blair. One of the things Don was known for was his almost fanatical obsession with posing, especially hands. Things have changed a great deal since then and posing as a rule has become much more relaxed, but there are still some basic “rules” that can serve as guidelines that can be incorporated into your own style.
Recently I had an opportunity to test Profoto’s D1 monolight and their HR Softbox 1.5x3. To check out the combo the company sent along a Profoto D1 Air Kit that includes two D1 monolights, stands, umbrellas, and a case. I did not have the Air Remote to control the units from camera position.
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM lens (average price: $969 on various Internet sites) is designed for full-frame cameras; with an APS-C multiply by your usual factor. At about 25 oz, I’d describe the lens as substantial, but not hefty. One of the reasons for the weight is the build—11 elements in eight groups, including the use of SLD glass, Sigma speak for Special Low Dispersion. The big chunk of glass on the end requires a 77mm filter. As to handling, Sigma has gone from their black “crinkle” finish to a smooth black rubberized finish that feels great to the touch. It’s plastic, not metal, but based on my experience with previous Sigma lenses, I’ve found them to be built to professional standards and can take a lot of abuse.
The Litepanels MicroPro Hybrid does double duty as both a constant light source and a flash. The light itself is made of black plastic and is fairly small, at 5.5x3.75x1.5”, and weighs only about a pound when you include the mounting bracket and six AA batteries (standard or rechargeable, and there is an optional AC adapter available). The top has a knurled knob to turn things on and acts as a dimmer so you can control output in stepless fashion. Vents are located around all sides. The battery door, flash ready light, flash sync, and input for the optional power adapter are all located on the back. The bottom is threaded so you can attach it to a light stand or to the (included) nicely made aluminum ball joint with a bottom end that slides into your camera’s shoe mount. Also included is a very short PC cord to be used when using the flash mode, plus there are warming, diffusion, and tungsten conversion filters that snap in easily over the front panel. All this fits into a nicely padded zippered bag.
Judging by the popularity of facial retouching software, there seem to be a lot of people out there who want to make their subjects look like they just arrived off a private jet from Monte Carlo. And they want to do it fast, and not get bogged down with little technicalities like learning how to use Photoshop. So, is it possible to just press a button and instantly have a complexion that looks like J.Lo after an hour in the makeup chair? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out, so let’s take a look.
First, let’s take a look at what we have. Perfect Portrait is one of six products that combined give you onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 6. You can buy the whole bundle or you can buy just the individual products that you like. And while I’m not going to address the other products here, let me just add kudos to onOne for using the same interface for each product, something you’d think would be automatic with software suites but sadly is not.
Sometimes we forget about all the factors that go into lighting a portrait. We might focus on the direction of that beautiful window light, the color of the fleeting sunset, the dim light in a church or that wall of light created by sun light bouncing off a building. Gaining skill in lighting means taking all four factors into consideration with each photo you take.
Photographers all have their favorite light modifiers. Some like umbrellas, some softboxes, others parabolics, and then there’s the beauty dish, which seems to be a combination of a softbox and a parabolic. For those not familiar with the beauty dish, it’s a round but narrow modifier that you attach to your light. Think of it as a parabolic reflector painted white inside and flattened. If you stopped there, and you could, you’d have a pretty harsh light that makes a well-defined circular pattern with distinct shadows. But there is another little modification that makes a very big difference and also softens the light considerably while still maintaining that circular pattern. There is a bulb cover or center bounce dish that blocks the direct light from the flash and bounces it back into the dish. When used this way, the light output sits midway between a softbox and a parabolic.