I admire the highly organized mechaniwho has the right tools for the job. One drawer holds the socket set; the other, perfectly spaced wrenches, standard and metric. The right tool for the job.
For years, I had taken what amounts to a crescent wrench to my assignments. Then finally, tired of having my metaphorical knuckles skinned, I began looking for the perfect tool.
Enter Rololight. I stumbled across them at PhotoPlus Expo a few years back. The lights illuminated the booth so brightly I had to ask the company president, who was manning the booth, to dial them down so we could chat. I asked about color temperature, color shift due to sine wave fluctuations, power draw, durability, then left to think about what I had heard. I returned about 30 minutes later and purchased every light in the booth.
For over 15 years, I have hauled and pushed and prodded my lighting equipment, all 300 pounds of it, to and fro. For a major commercial assignment, lighting a huge production line or a group of 15 executives, that lighting kit was exactly what the assignment called for.
But for the weekly portraits, for law firms where I set up a location studio, or for magazine covers and inside features, Rololights, with a three-light kit, plus a spare—weighing in at less than 100 pounds—are a godsend.
One of the drawbacks of flash-tube lighting, aside from recycle times on the less expensive packs, is that for subjects who hate being photographed, the flash creates an unnatural experience. After 15 to 20 pops, they get antsy, loose their expressions, and otherwise diminish their composure, and it shows in the images.
The Rololight’s continuous daylight light source means I’m not burdened by recycle times, which means I get far more frames to consider, increasing my chances of getting an image the subject is happy with.
For a standard law-firm portrait, I use a three-light setup, usually in a conference room, with one head typically to my left (subject’s right), one head directly opposite it (next to the background as a kicker to separate the subject from the backdrop), and one head on the backdrop (almost always Savage Thunder Grey paper), giving the background a slightly graduated tonality.
To my right (subject’s left), I have either a reflective white or silver panel, kicking back into the subject. For slightly weightier subjects, I move the kicker light to the same side as the main light, making those with weight challenges look their best.
For more complex location shoots, the number of lights can vary. In the two images shown here, one Rololight is positioned behind the glass wall, pointed toward me, and one is a main light source on the subject’s face. Both portraits, done for a high-profile corporate client, are being used as part of a corporate branding campaign for a hip, young clientele.
Sometimes we find ourselves in tight spaces and simply have to deal with it. Enter the geniuses at Lighttools. I can’t imagine traveling to an assignment without their light modifiers, called Soft Egg Crates. I have one for every softbox, and now for my Rololights.
I used to have a softbox nearly two-feet deep—even with my thin Plume softboxes—approaching three feet with the head. But when the Lighttools are attached to my Rololight, the depth is approximately eight inches, allowing me space to fly a light over the head of my subject, even when I’m fighting the standard seven-foot ceiling.
With the Egg Crates attached to a light panel, I am assured of no spill of my large soft light onto surfaces in narrow location studio spaces. Often, I will insert a sheet of Tuffspun in front of the lights to soften the light further and give the lights—which have individual tubes that can cause reflective lines in the eyes—a “standard” softbox look.
My friend and colleague, lighting genius Michael Grecco, also relies on Lighttools. So you know they’re a serious tool for controlling your light.