I'm a lighting fanatic. I pride myself on my lighting, thanks to my mentor, David Mecey, former Playboy photographer. I use my White Lightning/AlienBees monolights indoors, outdoors, even at the beach!
Small, lightweight, fan-cooled, and self-contained, these monolights with modeling lamp are everything I need-built-in slave, built-in fan, fast recycling, reliable, affordable. They're also perfect travel lights.
I use a variety of lighting equipment for my beauty, fashion, glamour, and swimwear shoots, depending on the location and nature of the shoot. Wherever I go, I use lots of well-placed strobes-anywhere from 4 to 20 AlienBees and White Lightnings-and modifiers.
For strobes, I use White Lightning X800s, X1600s, Ultra 600s, Ultra 1200s, and AlienBees AB1600s, AB800s, and the new ABR800 Ring Light. For light modifiers, I use the White Lightning beauty dish, AlienBees/White Lightning Light Mod Mainframes, Balcar reflectors, Photoflex softboxes, strips and Octodomes, grids, and gels. I also use PocketWizards and a Vagabond Portable Power System.
For the image of Erika with the jukebox , I used five AlienBees AB800s, five Light Mod Mainframes, 20-, 30-, and 40-degree grids, Matthews C-stands with 40" Hollywood arms, a Paul C. Buff Compuscene, and PocketWizards. Using one AB800 as the main light, we put it on a C-stand slightly off center to the right with a Light Mod Mainframe and 40-degree grid. Four AB800s were placed behind the model, attached with Mainframe Light Mods and mounted to Matthews C-stands.
One AB800 was positioned to the left without a grid to light the left side of the jukebox, the black marble floors, and the lower edge of the jeans.
Two more AB800s with Mainframe Light Mods and 20-and 30-degree grids were placed to the right of the model. On one, to light her hair and arm, the arms of the C-stand were extended, with one slightly higher on the right-and secured with sand bags as a precaution. The other AB800 was dangled low to light her left leg. A final AB800 with Mainframe Light Mod and 40-degree grid on a C-stand was dangled low to light the background wall for separation.
With the AB800s connected to the Paul C. Buff Compuscene, I can control multiple lights-set up at distances of 100 feet-in one place, without running back and forth to adjust each light. The hand-held unit controls the flash power over a five f-stop range, from full to 1/32 power. The remote also lets me control the modeling light and switch between full, off, and tracking.
I wanted to make sure to expose the shot to see the neon coming from the license plate. The entire shoot area was dark, especially with the black marble floors. I wanted to get the separation of the jukebox from the floor and have the model pop out. The Light Mod Mainframes with grids give you more control of your lighting by allowing you to have a broader or narrower beam of light. They also create "edge" highlights when placed behind the subject.
White Lightning/AlienBees no longer makes the Compuscene. A good substitute is the LG4X Four Channel Wired Remote. With the remote, the B800s I use are a mere 2.9 pounds; the B400s come in at only 2.5 pounds. Since some of my shoots can last 10+ hours, the built-in fans come in handy to cool the unit from the modeling lights.
I recommend Alien Bees to every photographer. They are very simple to use right out of the box. Just mount to any stand, plug in the power cord, attach any accessories with the quick-release face plate and built-in hole for umbrellas, plug in the sync cord, adjust slider/power setting, and shoot! And if you ever need assistance, White Lightning/AlienBees customer service and tech support is second to none. Must be their southern hospitality and charm!
One final note: I am a lighting purist and fanatic. These days, Photoshop and post-production make it easy to correct bad or so-so photos, but why not try to get a great shot from the start? Pay attention to the lighting, hair, makeup, and background or scene. If it's great going into the camera, it'll be great coming out. Take the extra time to get your lighting as perfect as you can before you shoot.
Sam T'ang, of Sam T'ang Productions (www.samtang.com), based in Miami, Florida, and Wixom, Michigan, has been in the business for 15 years. Specializing in beauty, fashion, glamour, and swimwear, T'ang's clients include the Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA pageant systems; magazines including Maxim, Playboy, Glamour, Young Miss, Cosmopolitan, Muscle and Fitness, and Style; and glamour and swimsuit calendars. For information on his upcoming workshops, contact T'ang at SamTangStudios@yahoo.com.