The Aurora Orion light kit arrived on my doorstep at the busiest time of the year for me. At the end of the summer I take hundreds of high school seniors and thousands of “one shot” photos of the underclass students at high schools. So while it has taken me a while to get around to writing the report, I have used these lights to take thousands of pictures, and I was really glad to have a light kit that I could just pick up and walk out the door with and have all I needed in one really nice travel bag.
Like most professional portrait photographers, I use Photoshop every day. Yet, because Adobe Photoshop is such a powerful program with so many tools available, it also comes with a significant learning curve. And when it comes to facial retouching, there are several tasks involved that do not always make Photoshop the best choice for everyone, especially those who want to do the job and move on.
The Einstein monobloc strobe is listed at 640 watt seconds (ws) of power, has a bright 250-watt modeling light that can vary proportionally with the flash output, a 12 flash per second (fps) claimed capability, and a constant 5600˚K color temperature, no matter what the power level. Also, a claimed nine f/stop range, from 2.5 to 640 ws, and Paul C. Buff’s proprietary IGBT technology fill out the bill. It’s solidly built, using a Lexan housing instead of metal. It’s not very big, but is bigger and about a pound heavier than the company’s AlienBees units that many photographers, including myself, use.
Several of my fellow portrait photographers have been using cool lights for years. Interestingly, they have not abandoned their flash units but continue to use both, depending on the situation. Having been a strobe/available light photographer for the most part, I was eager to both find out how well they worked and for what subjects they’d be most suited. Interfit was kind enough to send me their very economical ($340 street price) set of two lights, each with an eight-sided softbox, so I could find out for myself. Could they do everything my studio flash units could? Were they a better choice for some subjects than others? After a few weeks of testing, I had my answers.
I really like extreme lenses. Extremely wide, extremely fast, and extremely long lenses will all allow you to create unique images that stand out from the crowd. When I heard about the Sigma 8-16mm lens I wanted to get my hands on one and start shooting, so I asked my editor if I could borrow one from Sigma for testing. He wanted to know what I was going to do with it, so naturally I told him: take portraits. You might, as he did, find this a little odd—taking portraits with a wide-angle lens, and a very wide lens at that. After all, don’t photographers usually use long lenses for portraits?
Why are photographers taught to use long lenses for portraits? There are four basic tenets behind this reasoning: narrow angle of view, shallow depth of field, flattering perspective, and a comfortable working distance between you and your subject. However, flip these “rules” on their head and you’ll see why I like working with wides: wide angle of view, great potential depth of field, unique perspective, and, oddly enough, working right in your subject’s face. In short, I use the special nature of a wide lens to give my portraits a new and unique look.
One of the biggest advancements in recent years in flash photography has been the ability to use your camera-compatible flash off-camera and wirelessly. Canon, Nikon, and others have developed their own systems where you can control multiple units that not only fire at the same time but also can be put into groups with their own settings.
Photography is all about light and photographers are always looking at ways to modify it. Visit any studio of a working pro and you’re bound to see softboxes, umbrellas, cones, snoots, grids, beauty dishes, parabolic reflectors, etc. Each has their purpose in changing the shape and/or character of the light. Using the same light source, you can modify it from a sharp, harsh, point light source with distinct shadows to a soft, even light source with very little or no shadows. With that in mind I decided to give one of these modifiers a test, the Paul C. Buff PLM v.2.
I’m not an equipment snob. That applies to both cameras and lighting gear. I’ve always believed that it’s that gray matter in back of your eyeball that determines whether or not you get a decent image, not the price tag on your gear. I like fast lenses and dislike variable apertures, so I pay for them. With lighting equipment, higher prices usually mean more power, more features and flexibility, and better construction. With that in mind, let’s see what the very reasonably priced Genesis 300 B monolight ($399 with battery) from Calumet offers.
In today’s world, stock photos often sell for pennies, yet there are still photographers out there making a good living selling work for a good price. By talking with stock shooter Bill Bachmann, I found out that I, and most of my portrait/wedding brethren, have been missing the boat big time by not using our client images for stock images. According to Bachmann, we’re sitting on a gold mine and...
Most of us know about making outdoor portraits using the small fill flash on our cameras. But these photos have a “look” that tells everyone they were “made with flash.” They have a flat, often harsh look to them. A more sophisticated technique that can be accessed with many new cameras is the use of off-camera flash; you can even use multiple units controlled directly from the camera. I use...