For a Powerful, Versatile Portrait Solution
Photogenic 2500 DR Lights & Accessories
TEXT AND IMAGES BY HUGH JACOB
Owner, Personal Reflections Photographic Art
I used these lights well into the 1990s, until the introduction of the PowerLight 600. This unit changed my life, as it had so much more power than the StudioMaster and since it was much lighter and smaller, I was able to take it on location. Then, in 1998, I saw the new 2500 DR units, which I fell in love with when I was teaching at the New England School of Professional Photography.
They were even more powerful (now 1000 ws), were fan-cooled, and had a wonderful new feature: up to nine lights could be completely controlled with one controller, they power up and down in 1/2 stops or 1/10 stops, the modeling light could be full or proportional to the light output, the light could be fired as well from the controller, or put to "sleep" in a standby mode.
They also had a digital readout on the back instead of a rheostat sliding control. What this means is, for example, if the output of a light was 500 ws and you wanted one stop less, you just had to set the light at 250 ws. Not only would you be able to do this almost instantly, the light would self-dump, unlike other lights that had to be fired twice, where the first burst dumped the light and only the second burst was accurate, which would become annoying to the client.
I've taught lighting workshops for 10 years on some 60 subjects, one being the Zone System of Light as it applies to the tonality or the color of a background. The new 2500 DR lights were invaluable, using this system, as I was able to produce a series of light outputs ranging from f/2.8 to f/22 in 1/2 stop increments.
Not only did the 2500 DR lights work quickly, they performed accurately as well, using a series of color gels. I made 75 transparencies of several color gels on a variety of backgrounds, so I only have to refer to an f/8 blue or an f/5.6 green on a specific background and I'm able to produce it instantly. Knowing the output of each and every light enables me to write down settings, for instance, with a high key set, so I'm able to set up lights just minutes before a session.
These lights are dependable, versatile, lightweight, and well-balanced, with super fast recycling times—a very important feature when photographing children. There are a number of accessories available, with quick-change reflectors. I use 16" parabolics with barn doors and diffusers when photographing children to evenly light a white background, or as a double main light when using my Imagon soft focus lens. Three grids are available: 20 degree, 10 degree, and five degree, which translates into a four-foot, three-foot, or two-foot diameter circle from a distance of four feet. All three grids send out light in parallel lines, enabling me to put the light exactly where I want it on the background with no light spill on the subject.
Photogenic also makes a unique umbrella, an Eclipse, which spreads light evenly across the diameter of the umbrella. A grid isolates the light, which travels in straight lines as it exits the grid, not only placing the light where you want it, but not allowing any light to "spill" on the subject.
As a Kodak Mentor, I was asked by Kodak to test the new Portra films when they came out a year ago. Using a variety of lights, the films—and lighting—passed with flying colors. For a film to be outstanding, the photograph should have a complete range of tones—the whites should be a "clean" white, the blacks should be black, and the neutrals (skin tones) should be true.
I'll explain the versatility of these lights, using the accompanying images as examples.
• The main light and fill light are Photogenic 2500 DR units with 4 1/2-foot x 6-foot Chimera Super Pro Plus softboxes. In all the images, except the woman in red, the main light was to the subject's right, as we view them. It was close enough to the subject to be out of view when using a 150mm lens with a Hasselblad 503CW.
• The hair light, on the same side as the main light since there's only one sun, is a Photogenic 2500 DR unit with a medium Chimera strip light, to diffuse the light across the head. It should be the same output as the main light since it has an increased "angle of incidence" relative to the camera.
• The background light is a Photogenic 2500 DR unit with a 20-degree grid and a 26 red gel with the closeup of the woman in the red dress, and a 358 purple gel with the lady in front of the arch. It's positioned five feet from the background, off to one side, and pointing down 45-degrees across the background. In the sepia image, the background is lit by two lights—one on each side—with 16-inch parabolic reflectors parallel to the background and slightly overlapping in the center, with rip-stop nylon diffusion material that eliminates the hot spot in the center of the lights. I used a new Kodak Portra B&W film, which the lab prints monochromatic (warm sepia) or B&W.