Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Preferences in Modifiers is Modified from Time to Time

I don't know about any of you but when it comes to modifiers I don't have long-term loyalty to any specific type or brand. I don't think I'm a fair-weather friend to my modifiers, I'm just ever-evolving as a photographer. Leastwise, I like telling myself I am.

That's not to say I'm routinely fickle about the modifiers I employ. I'm not. Generally, I stick with one modifier or another for a fairly decent length of time. But then, at some point, I decide to move on to something different and whatever I move on to becomes my modifier of choice for a time.  Currently, and it's been this way for a while now, my main light modifier of choice is a Photek 4' Softlighter.

I have three major criteria for my choice in modifiers: 1) The "Quality of Light" they produce; 2) The ease in which they are set-up, broken-down, stored and transported; 3) Price.

Not too many years ago, my main light modifier of choice was a Mola 33.5" "Euro" beauty dish. I love my Mola!  It produces and exceptional quality of light. Unfortunately, it doesn't score highly on my 2nd and 3rd criteria:  It's easy enough to set-up and break-down, altho it's a bit heavy, but schlepping it around is a pain in the you-know-what. It's cumbersome and takes up way too much room in the back of my Toyota 4Runner. When I'm working, I carry a fair amount of gear: stands, arms, modifiers, sand bags, apple box, stingers (extension cords), portable power unit (if I need it), reflectors, scrim, bag full of clamps and other small grip gear and, of course, my camera bag. My Mola dish barely fits in the back with all that other gear stowed. As for my 3rd criteria, well, Mola beauty dishes are on the pricey side. When I purchased mine, I bought it used from a retiring commercial photographer. I paid $600 for it, altho he threw in a used Matthews "Junior" stand which was worth a couple of hundred so it was a pretty good deal, all things considered.  At the time, I think a brand spanking new Mola Euro was somewhere nearing $1k.

I then moved on to a Photoflex Medium OctoDome.  My Photoflex Octo scores high on my "Quality of Light" scale-- not as high as my Mola but pretty high, nonetheless. It's also easy to transport and stores away efficiently. Price-wise, it's not ridiculous but it's not inexpensive either.  Where my Photoflex Octo scores miserably is in the set-up and break-down category. It's a pain-in-the-ass performing either task. In fact, breaking it down is often harder than setting it up and setting it up isn't easy, leastwise doing either without bending one of its eight rods.  (I think at least two of my Octo's rods are permanently bent to some extent.) There's a trick to setting-up and breaking-down the Octo and every time I think I've completely mastered it, the next time I use it I discover I haven't.

Finally, and most recently, I discovered the Photek Softlighter. (I became aware of it watching an Annie Leibovitz behind-the-scenes video on YouTube.)  My Softlight scores just behind my Octo in Quality of Light... although not by much. It's quick and easy to set-up and break-down and it stores away requiring even less room than my Octo. Price-wise, it's the cheapest of mythree go-to mainlight modifiers and that's why, as of now, my Photek Softlighter is my preferred main light modifier.

But who knows? That could change.

The pretty girl at the top is Kayla. I love shooting Kayla! She always rocks it in front of the camera. My main light for this one was my Photoflex Medium Octo.  I also set a couple of small kickers, either side of her slightly from behind and on the higher-up side so they'd also act as decent hair lights. Not a lotta processing, but you probably noticed that.

1 comment:

Bill Giles said...

I've been using Softlighters for around ten years, for pretty much the same reasons that you mention. When portability is a major factor, some sort of umbrella usually gets the nod. I've got a huge, say 40 X 60" softbox that I like very much,but it is very heavy and a real pain to set up and tear down. It is so heavy that I mount the softbox by the speed ring, not by the light head.