Friday, December 01, 2006

Paying for Efficiency

That thread on the Glamour 1 forum, the one that began by defending Alien Bees' ringflash system, then turned into a discussion about the relative pros and cons of the AB ringflash versus Hensel's ringflash, then sucked in Paul Buff, CEO of Alien Bees and White Lightning, and finally took another slight turn before it ended.

The slight turn at the end was a discussion of the relative merits of buying high-end lighting gear (in general) versus purchasing low and moderately-priced gear.

The final portions of the discussion seemed to be going nowhere. The "light is light" argument got thrown into it and, while to some degree I agree with that notion, a stalemate seemed to ensue.

But then Rolando Gomez, who had been ardently defending higher-priced gear, wrote something that made perfect sense to me and which I fully agree. He wrote, in one of his final contributions to the discussion, "As a pro I want to work as efficiently as possible and when working with lights that have those 'bells and whistles' that make my lighting easier I will not only be more efficient, but will have a "flow" with the model that helps produce better images--it's about working easier, smarter and efficiently and not battleing something you should not have too."

Gomez's observaton about "working efficiently" is certainly on target. If there's one thing the higher-priced gear delivers, it's the ability to adjust and manipulate its instruments' outputs in efficient and effective ways. Sliders and rotating knobs, for instance, that allow the user to adjust a light's power output with less-than-precise analog control are more difficult and time-consuming to utilize then digital "clicks" that are precise and include LED read-outs to the tenth of an f-stop. This kind of "ease of use" will certainly translate into a smoother work-flow on the set. And when your working with greater efficiency you end up with more time to spend on the MOST important part of the shoot, i.e., communicating with the model.

Anything that allows the photographer more time to work directly with the model rather than spending much of his or her time tweaking lights is a good thing. If your doing this thing for a living, you might find it makes sense to spend more on lighting gear to get those "bells and whistles" (for convenience and efficiency) then to shave some bucks off your equipment expenditures.

The images I posted along with this update are of Playboy AND Penthouse covergirl, Tera Patrick, a.k.a., the Queen of Glam.

P.S. Although I'm well-aware I cut most of Ms. Patrick's left-foot off in the first image, I still like it. I'll plead the Andreas Feininger defense for this one: "A technically perfect photograph can be the world's most boring picture." Besides, who's looking at Tera's left foot?


Greg Woolf said...

I have a sets of 320WS strobes and a set of Vivitar 2000 flashes.

Both of these sets are next to impossible to control the light without buying modifiers in bulk to 'shape' their output.

Try taking a large group photo while trying to 'set' an analog strobes output.

People get cranky and annoyed really quick.

(Unfortunately, I still don't have any 'expensive' equipment but I have learned that Efficiency is well worth the high price).

grsphoto said...

I saw a survey done by the PPA I believe, about what people don't like about dealing with photographers.

Always adjusting the lights and taking readings was the number one complaint.

Using this I structure my sessions to work as quickly and efficently as possible.

Your gear may help you, but knowing your gear is more important then the gear itself.


george said...

I'm shocked! I mean really, I had no idea... I always thought of my self as quite observent - but I must admit, I had NO IDEA you cut off her left foot until you said it. And even then I had to scroll back to check. :-)
Maybe we make a little too much of some of these little "mistakes"? Or maybe they're not mistakes at all - maybe they fall in the same catagory as "if a tree falls in the forrest and there's nobody to hear it, did it really make a noise?" If you get too involved counting toes, you miss the big picture - which in this case would be tragic at best - she's really something! :-)