Thursday, May 15, 2014

Soft Box Options & Photo Shoot Planning

Lights, Camera... Ok now what!?

You got a camera, feeling good about it and you've shot a bunch of images, probably even bought a flash but you're puzzled about the accessories. I've been seeing a lot of questions come up recently and in the last year about what options there are for their latest piece of lighting kit. I decided post the options available, there are dozens if not hundreds of light modifiers from all corners of the globe I can't list them all but I made a short list of the known options.
There is every conceivable speed ring option under the sun for flash heads, and they are easy enough to fabricate that i've seen many strobists showing off their own home brew speed rings so I will not be covering those.

Elinchrom Rotalux SoftBoxes:
  Elinchrom makes good quality products, albeit pricey ones. The prices range from 150-400 dollars. Most if not all of them can be packed up and deployed quickly because they don't require full deconstruction. The Rotalux kits may not include certain panels.

  Impact makes a large quantity of soft boxes and umbrellas, they seem reasonably priced. Umbrellas are priced around 20-120 dollars, the soft boxes are 100+. You have the option of buying direct from Impact or going through one of the multitudes of authorized dealers. (Adorama or B&H ).

  This company makes a lot of different light shaping tools and i've used some of them myself, they even stock a handy selection of portable backdrops.

Paul Buff:
  Paul C Buff makes a variety of lighting tools and they provide some very nice inexpensive light shaping tools as well. There are beauty dishes but you are better off buying the dish made specifically for your own light if its not a Paul Buff light.

  The PLM kits range in price from 35-85 dollars, some of those options include the P. Buff Einstein mounting hardware. The only Non PCB light currently supported directly is Elinchrom. These should all easily fit any third party (non PCB light system) you want to use.

  This company makes a variety of light shaping tools, from the traditional range of soft boxes as well as some nice but expensive umbrella units like the Softlighter II and a very large white diffuser umbrella they call the Sunbuster.
Profoto SoftBoxes & Umbrella's:
  Profoto has a rock solid reputation for making high quality long lasting gear, their RFI soft boxes are no exception. With great quality comes a high price point, some photographers would rather buy it cheap and replace it when it breaks than pay the premiums that the big names demand. The RFI soft boxes have price points ranging from 200-450 dollars.
  A small tip for you readers, Profoto's blog is chock full of video how-to's on just about every camera and lighting subject you can think of, they add more all the time. You don't have to own or buy their products to benefit from these tutorials.

Rime Lite
  Rime Lite makes a line of very innovative high tech flash heads that range up to 1200 watt seconds. They also produce a full range of light shaping tools.  Prices range from 150-520 dollars. B&H Photo stocks them..

Rime Lite Dynalite Softbox Series.

91 inch silver Octa DynaLite Grand Softbox
The Octa that ate Chicago!

FJ Wescott:
  Westscott makes a very large selection of light shaping tools; Umbrellas, Parabolic Reflectors, Softboxes and more, far too many to list.

Story Boarding and Planning your shoot:

I've been scratching my head these last few months on how to plan and storyboard a shoot. I am a very visual person, I need to see where the lights are and how it all looks before I get to the location and start shooting.
I began looking around the web through google to find some answers, one answer that I arrived at was a software called Cinema4d. It's been featured in's wonderful videos a few times to demonstrate a 3d composited scene of the lighting, the model poses and the scene which the shooting takes place in. That software costs thousands of dollars, so I searched around some more for cheaper alternatives and I discovered this little gem. Set a Light 3D studio, It's very limited compared to cinema 4d's ability to give the user complete freedom over the environment and the posing but it's as close as I will get for the time being. They have various options for lighting, they need to add a lot more however. It's worth a try for those of you not familiar with it.
Phlearn posted a very handy PDF file for taking care of the logistics behind it, MUA releases, briefing packets to send the talent in advance so they arrive mentally prepared for the days shoot.