Saturday, July 22, 2006
Me and My Mola: A Love Affair
I love my Mola 33.5" Euro beauty dish. I don't mean I like it, I love it! It has become the pivotal, pre-eminent, light modifier in nearly all my glamour and tease photography.
Before I became a Mola guy, I used big umbrellas and softboxes of all shapes and sizes as keys or mainlights. But once I began using a Mola dish, the softboxes and the umbrellas I once used to modify my mainlight were put away and I've rarely brought them out except when traveling to exterior or interior locations away from the studio.
As you can see in the image above, Mola manufactures a variety of dish sizes (i.e., diameters) for their beauty dish line. I'm wondering: If Mola someday decides to make an even larger dish than the 43.5" Mantti, will they call it a Yetti? (That was a joke, BTW.)
The Mola dish is truly a versatile modifier. I'll admit, it's not cheap. But if you're serious about glamour, portrait, beauty, or fashion photography, and you shoot often enough in a studio environment, there isn't a light modifier I'd recommend more enthusiastically than a Mola beauty dish.
I know other manufacturers produce and sell their own lines of beauty dishes. Hensel, for example, makes a beauty dish. But since I've never used one, or any other manufacturer's dish, I can't comment on their prowess when it comes to transforming a bare bulb into soft, creamy, luxurious light.
When you compare Mola's dishes with others, the first thing you'll notice is Mola's unique and patented sci-fi shape. I'm not much of a science guy--except for science fiction because you can make it up as you go along--but from what I understand, Mola's odd, undulated, shape is designed to capture light (which, by nature, wants to scatter) and redirect it towards the subject. It also shapes the light by creating a 360° smoothly-graduated and feathered edge that is about a half-stop less than the light at its center. Cool, huh?
Mola's design includes an opalescent glass baffle at its center. The baffle works in concert with the dish's shape to produce the beautful lighting characteristics that so many photographers, professionals as well as hobbyists, admire. I also use the baffle to warm or cool the light by affixing an appropriate gel. Often, for glamour and tease shots, I'll clip a small piece of Bastard Amber, about four-inches by four-inches, to the front of the glass. To my eye, this produces a very pleasing warmth to the model's skin-tones that seems, at least to me, a bit more subtle than the same colored gel on other modifiers. I think I read somewhere that the paint used on the interior of a Mola dish is patented. The paint also has slight warming characteristics.
I keep my Mola mounted on the end of a grip arm which extends from a knuckle on a junior stand. This allows for limited booming as grip arms are only about 4' long. Since the junior stand is on wheels, I can easily move it about. The dish comes with a swivel handle that allows (limited) tilting and panning depending on how the dish is set and oriented on the stand. I've also discovered the Mola's optimal range, that is, for producing its signature lighting characteristics, seems to be between 3' and 5' from the subject.
Mola's Euro beauty dish has become one of those great additions to my studio; one that I really don't know how I got along without. In fact, I intend to buy another, probably a smaller dish, when my wallet permits. You can visit Mola's site by clicking HERE. And here's a headshot of Aurora lit with my Mola beauty dish which you can see if look really, really close into the catchlights in Aurora's eyes. MUA was Terese Heddon.