Tuesday, April 03, 2012

More Light Power Ain't Always What You Need

Last week I made another ebay purchase: This time it was a used, Photogenic Studio Max II, 160ws monolight. According to UPS tracking, it's out on the truck for delivery today.

160ws? Kind of wimpy in terms of power output, you might say. But here's the deal: I've often found myself in situations where I wish I could dial down a strobe to emit less light than my collection of monolights are capable of putting out at their minimum power settings... you know, as in "less is more."

Please note: I rarely shoot with small flash instruments like Canon's speedlites, of which I own two. Why? That's a subject for a whole other update. I do have a bunch of reasons for not regularly using speedlites. Some of those reasons will probably make sense to others, perhaps some of them won't. Anyway...

All of my monolights are either 300ws or 500ws. I find those approximate power ranges generally ideal for shooting glamour, portraits, and that sort of stuff. Still, having a source available that's capable of less light output than my 300ws or 500ws strobes are capable of firing with is something, I think, will make a nice addition to my gear. BTW, I picked up this Photogenic monolight for under $100. And, with free shipping. I thought that was a pretty good deal. A new one costs between $250 and $300. The seller advertised it as being 90% of original cosmetic shape and said everything works perfectly. Like a brand new one, it comes with the flash, reflector, mounting bracket, modeling light, bulb cover, and power cord. The seller also threw in a sync cord, although I rarely use sync cords. I'm a wireless sync kind of guy.

Here's how I'll mostly use this 160ws strobe: Either as a fill light or for specific highlights and accents. Also, I'll probably sometimes use it as a light to gently illuminate specific background areas. I'm sure there's more uses I'll think of once I start using this light in my production workflow.

I should note I've used my 300ws monolights to perform the same duties this 160ws will be performing. Often enough, however, I found they kicked out more light than I wanted. Sure, when that's happened I've knocked those lights down a bit using a scrim or diffusion material material, but I'd rather have a light available that's capable of doing what I want it to do without having to scrim or diffuse it. Plus, there's been times I wanted such a light to be more of a hard light, perhaps a bare light, rather than a soft light. Scrimming or diffusing softens the light. That's the down-side, leastwise when I don't want such a light source to be soft. Bouncing the light off some white foam core or other reflector will also knock it down, but using any sort of reflector means less light control. Most of the time, I don't want my light sources having too big of a spread.

A client has me booked for a shoot this Saturday. I'll be shooting 3, maybe 4, pretty girls. I'm anxious to try out my new/old monolight and put it through a few paces. Probably like most of you, whenever I acquire some new gear I'm always excited to give it a whirl.

The pretty girl at the top is Ally. (Click it to enlarge.) I understand Ally has been cast as the latest "Emmanuel" for an upcoming new version of the long-running film franchise.


James Mullineaux said...

I totally here ya here. I had a Novatron pack and head system when I was just starting out. 800/400/200ws split 4 ways. Then I saw this great deal on ebay. 5000ws Balcar pack with 2 heads under $300. Yes 5kws split three ways. I would turn the thing all the way down (2 stops) and put a splitter on a weak channel (2:1:1) and still be shooting @F22-32, iso100! I've since found 1200ws and 800ws packs that I primarily use now. Still I'm around F11 @iso100.

Lawrence said...

Ever ventured into the Paul Buff Einsteins? They dial all the way down to 1/128 power and give you 640WS at full power.

jimmyd said...

@Lawrence: Thanks for the info on PCB's Einstein. I didnt know they dialed down that far. That's great that they do! There's a lot of emphasis on power with many strobes but that emphasis is usually placed on their max power capabilities. Being able to dial down the power, way down, can be a big plus in certain shooting situations. With the Photogenic I bought, the price was the biggest factor. I received it yesterday and it's in even better condition, cosmetically, than they advertised. It's like new! Everything seems to work properly so I'm a happy camper with it.