Magazine Article


Bright Ideas
Studio Photography’s Guide to Lighting Equipment

Photography provides a window into our social, political, and economic landscape. Whether your specialty is creating advertising billboards, capturing weddings and other special events, exploring nature, or documenting living history, lighting equipment can be a vital tool for transforming your subject matter into a memorable image. Studio Photography’s Guide to Lighting Equipment will help you find the resources you need, so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff when you rather be creating big and oftentimes Bright Ideas.

Brandless-Kalt-Aetna Group
Just getting into the business? Need something to light your way to the top? The SP Pro Starter Kit, the newest addition to the line of lighting kits offered by SP Studio Systems, illuminates every set for efficient use. Equipped with a 320ws Excalibur 3200 monolight, including a 100w modeling light, and a Spire Series 100ws 920 flash, the Starter Kit is ready for any kind of shoot. Also featured within the kit is a 27” square E-Z Softbox for the 3200 Monolight, and a 33” umbrella and metal snoot for the 920 flash. Packed neatly into two carrying cases, the Pro Starter Kit is ideal for photographers beginning in portrait photography.

Need a powerful battery that won’t wimp out at the most inconvenient of times? Bowens’ new Explorer 1500 Battery Generator will make sure no battery will need charging on its watch. The Explorer 1500 arms your technology with a consistent 1500 Watts of power. Using Bowens Quad Heads, the Explorer can simultaneously power up to Bowens Esprit Gemini units and generate up to 3000 watts of power. However, the Explorer’s speed will not be outdone by its strength; with flash durations as quick as 1/5700 per sec, sheer power is not its only forte. Woops, forgot to charge at home? With the Explorer 1500 you can re-power your battery using the optional car charger. With strength, speed, and versatility, it’s a shame battery generators don’t have an event in the Olympics.

“Airports and football stadiums have one thing in common: no electricity where you need it! For this shoot, I needed three flash heads and two cooperative models, on an aircraft at an airstrip in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and lots of power. I couldn’t have done it without my Explorer battery pack. One head was positioned at the top of the stairs, one at the bottom, and a final head aimed under the wing on low power to lighten the shadows, all fitted with large reflectors. It was dark and threatening to rain so time was short. We got models in position and fired a dozen or so shots. Job done. Equipment that’s reliable and up to the job—what more could you want?” - Chris Reeve

The Para FB 170 by Broncolor isn’t afraid of getting into the action on location and it’s perfectly comfortable in the studio. The 5’7” model-esque lighting system is easily folded up or collapsed to shorten in height, inspiring efficient transportation. Asymmetrical adjustability yields incredible versatility. The light source can be pivoted away from the optical axis, creating more lighting options. Photographers can also choose between hard direct light and a softer, less dramatic arrangement. Used for fashion, people, and commercial photography, the Para FB 170’s parabolic shape creates quality focus, which results in superior images.

“One of our recent shots featured Mark Clayton, a Baltimore Ravens football player. The 170 Para produces beautiful light, so it was the only piece of lighting equipment we needed. Within about 15 minutes of finalizing our composition, we had the Para set up as the main light, with a secondary light for the background. Within 90 minutes of our arrival at the house, we had unloaded and set up our gear, photographed the subject, edited and reviewed the selects with Mark and the photo editor, packed up our gear, and left. Everyone was thrilled by how smoothly and quickly the shoot had gone. That kind of productivity is priceless.”
-Judy Herrmann and Mike Starke

California Sunbounce
Sunbounce’s newest weapon against unwanted sunlight, aptly named the Sun-Swatter Pro, is quite the professional when it comes to reducing harsh light. The 4x6-foot mobile diffuser is lightweight, sturdy, and fast to transport. Featured in the Sun-Swatter kit: the boom stick, which allows set-workers to regulate the sun from a distance not infringing on the subject. The Sun-Swatter also features various f-stop reduction screens, including the more popular minus 2/3 f-stop reduction.

“The California Sunbounce Sun-Swatter is my favorite mobile diffuser. It allows me to work fast with my subjects, giving me more images for my clients, even in the wind at my Foto Fantasy Camp workshops. With the introduction of the Sun-Swatter, California Sunbounce continues to lead the field with its innovative lighting product designs. California Sunbounce products are light, strong, and extremely easy to transport. The Sunbounce system works perfectly on location and in the studio. It makes my job easier, especially when creating a challenging photo assignment.”
-David Mecey

Like a one-man band, Calumet’s Travelite 125 does it all. This self-contained flash can be used as a one-light portrait studio. Featuring a single rotary control, full power recycling in seconds, voltage stabilization, ready-light indication, a bright 250w modeling lamp, and a built-in photo slave, the smallest addition to the Travelite family proves size really doesn’t matter when it comes to quality. Packing a mean punch, this bite-size flash is also compatible with the Calumet Travel-Pak battery unit, providing 500 full-power flashes from only one charge.

“The power and flexibility of the Calumet Travelite with battery pack made this urban shot of the musician easy to create. It literally took just ten minutes from setting up the light with the pack, attaching the strip box, and taking a reading for the background to capturing the image. The Travelite’s portability makes it possible for me to quickly turn any location into a studio without ever having to plug in.”
-Bibbi Lane Photography

The ultimate innovator, Canon welcomes its youngest member to the Speedlite series: the Speedlite 580 EX. Successor to the Speedlite 550EX, the new model’s flash has a maximum guide number of 58/191 at ISO 100 in meters/feet (at 105mm focal length). The fresh technology features faster recycling, more consistent color, and improved applications. Compatible with Canon’s E-TTL II (Evaluative Through The Lens) auto exposure technology, which modifies flash power and results in better flash exposure regardless of subject size, reflectance, and photographic composition, the 550EX inspires greater image quality. Photographers can get the detail they need without sacrificing image objectivity.

“Most of my work is done on location and the Canon Creative Lighting System fits my needs. It’s compact, travels well, and can be set up to shoot quickly. For a recent studio portrait on location, I set up a backdrop and lighting in the office of Pastor Charles Jenkins. As I arrived, set up the backdrop, and positioned my Canon Speedlites, I was shooting in 15 minutes. The Canon 580EX and 430EX fit my needs for most location shoots. Since they are wirelessly dedicated, it expedites setup and shooting. There is no need to meter each light to set up lighting ratios; they can be dialed in on the Master Strobe. The Master Strobe transmits the exposure information to create beautiful light. There are many advantages to using the Canon Speedlite, the main one being portability. I cover the Midwest for TIME Magazine and I light my subjects anywhere. For this portrait of Pastor Jenkins, I went one step further and used three Canon Speedlites. My Master 580EX was on camera, but the strobe was turned off. It was used to trigger my main 580EX on a light stand with an umbrella, and my fill light, which I bounced off a white wall. The main light shot into a white umbrella close to the subject, just off to the side of the camera and was set to be strobe “A”. The fill light was on the opposite side in the rear, filling in the shadows; it was strobe “B”. Using the Light Ratio feature on the Master strobe, I set the ratio to 1:4. I was shooting away, various poses and clothing. The shoot was completed in under an hour, set struck, and lights packed. I like to travel light and the Canon Creative Lighting system works for me. I use it for magazine assignments, portraits, both studio and location, and for my wedding work. It’s great to have a second strobe in a dark reception hall to give you a kiss of light to fill in the dark areas all controlled from the camera.”
-Bob Davis

Chimera’s latest design, the LiteShaper, is a unique new technology that modifies and controls the shape of the light passing through your image. It can be applied with or without a lightbank. The LiteShaper has two sides; one black, the other white or reflective silver, with Velcro edges to attach lightbanks or extra LiteShapers. Great for any shoot, LiteShapers allow you to control every detail of your lighting, avoiding image inconsistency, shadows, and dark spots.

“On a recent shoot of jazz piano legend Cedar Walton, I had to create a low-key background in a very tight space. We were looking for a very dramatic portrait of Cedar, with a soft, extremely controlled source of illumination on the face and the rest of his head, vignetting into black. The piano could not be moved away from the wall. A dark muslin backdrop was hung to conceal the wall and a light stand was squeezed between the wall and the piano with a 3x4-foot softbox attached, producing the light for Cedar’s face. The softbox would not wrap around quite enough because of the tight positioning, so multiple LiteShaper panels were added to the box across the piano’s top to bring the light around to where we wanted it. More LiteShaper panels were added to the far side of the softbox—fanned out along the wall to completely gobo the dark muslin from any light, eliminating wrinkles and unwanted texture. The LiteShaper panels were invaluable in creating the lighting we needed. The piano keys were lit with gridded flash heads from both sides of Cedar with small LiteShaper panels clamped to the flash heads to light the keys and further gobo stray light from his face. The LiteShapers make extremely convenient gobo devices for flash heads, as well as reflective panels, on and off the softboxes themselves. Their potential uses are as varied as your own creativity.”

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