Lighting Reviews

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Joe Farace  |  Apr 10, 2012  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2012  |  0 comments

“Lighting is really common sense and personal observation. This is applied to a few rules of photography which cannot be broken and to others which I tend to bend a little.”—Paul Beeson


A monolight or monobloc to our European friends is a self-contained studio flash that is typically, but not always, powered by an AC power source and allows for different light modification devices, including reflectors, light banks, or umbrellas. The key phrase in that last sentence is self-contained. To my way of thinking the biggest advantage monolights possess is just that—if you’re shooting on location or for that matter anywhere and the power pack in a pack and head system stops working, so do you. If you have a couple of monolights and one of them fails, you can still shoot.

Steve Bedell  |  Mar 07, 2012  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2012  |  0 comments

Let me tell you about my first experience with a Vagabond Mini. I was teaching one of my lighting workshops, using a flash unit with its battery pack. The light and battery pack were a kit I’d purchased as a combo. We’d been shooting a while and the battery pack was almost dead when one of the other photographers there told me he had a Vagabond Mini in the car. We unhooked my dead battery, and using the AC power cord from the flash unit, proceeded to just plug in to the Mini and keep on shooting! And shooting, and shooting… You see, this thing really supplies a lot of flashes and can be used with many flash units. But let’s start at the beginning…

Joe Farace  |  Jan 10, 2012  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2011  |  1 comments

The monolights that I’ve recently tested for Shutterbug combine power supply and flash head into a single unit. Handy, but an alternative approach is using power pack and flash head systems, such as those made by Broncolor (, who offer these components as individual units that can be mixed and matched to produce different lighting setups.

Jack Neubart  |  Dec 27, 2011  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2011  |  0 comments

Increasingly, manufacturers are coming out with cameras and speedlights that support wireless TTL flash operation. What this means for you is a simplified approach to using dedicated flash units off camera—especially multiple speedlights, alone or mixed with other light sources. With wireless TTL you’re free to move the off-camera flash a few inches or a few feet here or there, not to mention modifying the light in any desired fashion, and all without having to recalculate exposures, use a flash meter, and link everything together with wires. The camera’s metering system does the math for you. Beyond that, wireless TTL assures you that all speedlights on and off camera will fire in sync.

Joe Farace  |  Dec 21, 2011  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2011  |  0 comments

Photographic umbrellas are the simplest and most inexpensive form of light modifier available and that makes them the most popular, too. Photographic umbrellas look and act just like rain umbrellas except they’re reflective and light is bounced into or shot through them, creating a big, soft light source that’s aimed at the subject. And size does matter. As photographers we live by a few important lighting rules: the closer and larger a light source is to a subject, the softer the lighting effect will be. Conversely, the smaller and further away a light source is from the subject, the harder the lighting becomes. That old lighting rule that “size matters” is important here because a large umbrella is going to produce broader, softer light for your portraits.

Joe Farace  |  Dec 20, 2011  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2011  |  0 comments

Rime Lite ( monolights are manufactured by Hyundae Photonics Co., Ltd., a company that’s been building high-quality studio lighting gear in Korea since 1981. They’re now being distributed in the U.S.A. by Dynalite ( The Fame Monolights are available in three different models that deliver 200, 400, and 600 watt-second output. (To see technical specifications on the three Fame monolights, go to the Instant Links section of our website,, for this issue.) The monolights feature a circular Xenon flash tube and a modeling light that’s protected by a hard vented glass cover that easily screws on or off. Two knobs on the back of each light allow you to continuously vary the output for either the flash or the modeling light. A cluster of four LED-illuminated buttons let you turn on (or off) sound, the modeling light, the built-in slave, or the ubiquitous “test.”

Steve Bedell  |  Dec 14, 2011  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2011  |  0 comments

The Einstein monobloc strobe is listed at 640 watt seconds (ws) of power, has a bright 250-watt modeling light that can vary proportionally with the flash output, a 12 flash per second (fps) claimed capability, and a constant 5600˚K color temperature, no matter what the power level. Also, a claimed nine f/stop range, from 2.5 to 640 ws, and Paul C. Buff’s proprietary IGBT technology fill out the bill. It’s solidly built, using a Lexan housing instead of metal. It’s not very big, but is bigger and about a pound heavier than the company’s AlienBees units that many photographers, including myself, use.

Jack Neubart  |  Dec 13, 2011  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2011  |  0 comments

I was quite impressed with Nissin’s initial lineup of shoe-mount strobes. The Di866 Professional (now the Di866 Mark II) is quite innovative and versatile in its own right, sporting a full-color menu interface, while providing TTL wireless operation. There’s also the Di466 (for Nikon, Canon, and Four Thirds cameras). And the Di622 has been updated to the largely revamped Di622 Mark II, now the subject of this review.

Joe Farace  |  Dec 08, 2011  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2011  |  1 comments

It’s called “continuous lighting” because it’s on continuously, much like a light bulb or the sun for that matter, enabling you to use your in-camera meter to measure the light falling on your subject. Continuous lighting lets you see how all of the light—shadows and highlights—is falling on your subject, but continuous sources sometimes use quartz or photoflood bulbs that can be hot, even dangerously so, leading to the use of the term “hot lights” to describe them. An increasing number of continuous lighting tools are now being made using other kinds of light sources, even LED, producing cool “hot” lights. And that brings us to the subject of this review—the Calumet ( Pro Series LED Panel Light.

Joe Farace  |  Nov 18, 2011  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2011  |  0 comments

Gene Kelly had an umbrella while dancing to “Singin’ in the Rain” but he didn’t use it much, preferring instead to get wet. Photographic umbrellas won’t keep you dry but are the simplest to use and most inexpensive form of lighting modifier available, and that makes them the most popular as well. These umbrellas look and act like the kind of umbrella that keeps “raindrops from falling on your head” except that in a studio lighting situation they are usually reflective and light is bounced into them, creating a big, soft light source that’s directed toward the subject. Sometimes an umbrella is covered with translucent material and instead of mounting the umbrella so light is bounced into it, a light is fired through it, turning it into a direct source. While some light is lost shooting through an umbrella, it produces more direct light, and since more light is being directed at the subject it gives you the ability to shoot at a smaller aperture than when bounced into the umbrella. If you compare the apertures produced in the illustrations you’ll see what I mean.

Joe Farace  |  Nov 02, 2011  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2011  |  0 comments

If Dustin Hoffman’s character in The Graduate were graduating from photo school this year, the advice he would be getting instead of “plastics” would be “speedlights,” and why not? When compared to a monolight, the biggest advantage of using a shoe-mount flash is that they’re small and portable, which means you can take them anywhere. Today’s shoe-mount flashes—or speedlights as camera manufacturers like to call them—are sophisticated, seamlessly blending natural light and flash as well as having the ability to group several flashes together, trip them wirelessly, all the while calculating the correct exposure.

Jon Canfield  |  Nov 01, 2011  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2011  |  0 comments

There are few things in digital photography more frustrating than problems with color fidelity. One of the most commonly heard complaints is “my prints don’t match my display.” While color accuracy is improved with LCD displays, it isn’t perfect by any means, and if you’re serious about your photography it’s important to calibrate your monitor. And, if you do your own printing, you’ll often find that you can improve the quality of your prints with profiles built specifically for your printer and paper selection.

Steve Bedell  |  Oct 25, 2011  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2011  |  23 comments

Several of my fellow portrait photographers have been using cool lights for years. Interestingly, they have not abandoned their flash units but continue to use both, depending on the situation. Having been a strobe/available light photographer for the most part, I was eager to both find out how well they worked and for what subjects they’d be most suited. Interfit was kind enough to send me their very economical ($340 street price) set of two lights, each with an eight-sided softbox, so I could find out for myself. Could they do everything my studio flash units could? Were they a better choice for some subjects than others? After a few weeks of testing, I had my answers.

Steve Bedell  |  Sep 19, 2011  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2011  |  0 comments

One of the biggest advancements in recent years in flash photography has been the ability to use your camera-compatible flash off-camera and wirelessly. Canon, Nikon, and others have developed their own systems where you can control multiple units that not only fire at the same time but also can be put into groups with their own settings.

Jack Neubart  |  Aug 29, 2011  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2011  |  0 comments

Many of us use the speedlight’s built-in kicker panel to add catchlights to the eyes and thereby give the subject a more animated look. Regrettably, this built-in device plays a marginal role in filling in shadows. So we turn to much larger, more functional bounce panels, and although they offer distinct advantages, these third-party panels may not be as flexible as we’d like. Enter Rogue FlashBenders from ExpoImaging ( These panels quite literally lend a unique twist to speedlight photography.