In An Electronic Flash Rut?
LumiQuest May Have The Answer

The snoot provided a narrow electronic flash beam for effective control and blending of highlight and shadow to create a still life of a Mexican mask with strong highlight and shadow contrasts.
Photos © 1999, Mike Matzkin, All Rights Reserved

The modern automatic electronic flash system can be a mind trap. You focus, aim the flash at the ceiling or directly at the subject, press the shutter release, and it's virtually a cinch that you'll get reasonably well lit images--with no danger of your creativity or imagination taking over. You fall into the trap of letting automation do all the work. For a lot of photography that's okay, but often it also adds up to a sameness from image to image. Even pros like Eddie Adams bemoan the fact that automation is making everyone's images look vaguely alike.

You can still keep the advantages of auto flash and give your creativity a chance. Every now and then a small company comes along with an idea that makes a difference. At least, that's what the people who manufacture and market the LumiQuest flash accessories seem to have in mind, and to a large extent they work. The accessories provide a great deal more flexibility to portable electronic flash. You are still going to have to let your creativity take over--but the accessories do help. You also don't give up auto flash exposure. I did the testing on the Canon 430EZ and shot on A-TTL as well as TTL.

Most of the light goes toward the ceiling but the built-in reflector directs fill light to the subject. Various inserts control light quality and flexibility.

The accessories attach to the electronic flash head with self-adhering hook and loop fasteners. Once the fasteners have been added to the flash they work to support virtually every accessory in the line. They are attached to the top, bottom, and both sides of the flash head. The accessories attach in a matter of seconds.

We'll talk about all of them, but first let's take a look at three that worked especially well for me. I used them to solve three different shooting situations and they made things a lot easier. The first accessory I tried was the LumiQuest Promax softbox.

I needed to shoot action pictures of Brazilian style Jiu-jit-su wrestlers. It's a martial art that Japanese immigrants brought to Brazil, where it was then modified and changed. It's beginning to gain popularity in the US. The action is fast and complicated. My big problem was eliminating shadows caused by the extremely close proximity of the wrestler's bodies. Available light shooting was not practical because the light level was much too low to allow for high shutter speeds. I also needed freedom of movement to follow the wrestlers around the mat. Using studio flash was not an option since I would be between the subjects and the flash a good part of the time.

Insert serves to provide bounce light when ceiling is too high. Small amount of light is also directed toward subject.

The LumiQuest Promax softbox measures 5x7" and weighs hardly anything. You do lose slightly more than one stop exposure but it allowed for short flash duration and virtually shadowless lighting. It also provided a softer look to the images and good skin tone.

I also used the Promax softbox to light the background with multiple flash setups for product photography. It provided a softer look to the background and avoided a dark, dreary or a harsh, overly bright look. The softbox also works well for portraits. It helps if you use the flash off-camera with a flash cord extension.

Another neat little accessory is the Promax 80-20. It simultaneously delivers bounce and direct lighting. Eighty percent of the light from the flash goes to the ceiling, while about 20 percent is reflected at the subject to act as a fill light. It works best with a 8 or 9' ceiling. You do lose effective light output but that depends on ceiling height. The Promax 80-20 has an accessory insert system for special lighting effects and a diffuser that softens the overall effect of the bounce light.

Japanese immigrants brought Jiu-jit-su to Brazil where it was modified and changed into a fast, tough and close contact sport. The LumiQuest softbox provided shadowless lighting and good skin tones.

A set of inserts adds greatly to the flexibility of the 80-20. I decided to shoot a portrait session of a mother and her daughters outdoors on a balcony in the evening. I wanted the dark background beyond the balcony and I still wanted to use bounce light. I attached a white insert into the top of the unit (hook and loop tabs) above the flash that created a bounce effect while still retaining the direct fill light.

I also made photographs with the gold insert that adds a warm, sunset quality light to the flash. The gold insert also works with flash fill light for shadow detail in normal daylight. A silver insert adds intensity to highlights outdoors or indoors. Great for more formal photographs.

I'd been trying to create a still life around two masks I brought back from Mexico. Nothing seem-ed to work well. The LumiQuest snoot inadvertently supplied the answer--keep it simple. I placed a mask on a black background and used the snoot to concentrate the light on the mask only. The snoot is great for narrowing the flash for a variety of close-up photography. I use it now for images of small or tiny subjects along with a macro lens or bellows mounted lens.

The softbox produces virtually shadowless lighting and good skin tones. Its light weight makes it applicable to a wide variety of action situations, and pros have adopted it.

LumiQuest manufactures a wide variety of electronic flash accessories. There's a pocket bouncer designed for use when there's no ceiling. It can also be aimed directly at the subject for a softer lighting effect. Good for quick portraiture. There's a light loss of somewhat more than one stop.

The Promax Ultrasoft is useful with one flash unit or for lighting the background with multiple flash.

The Big Bounce is somewhat larger but provides soft even lighting for portraits and close-ups.

Barn doors used with the pocket bouncer help direct light into specific areas of the subject.

A tabletop system enhances creativity and control with reflective lighting techniques.

The snoot narrows flash output for shooting tiny or extremely small subjects.

There's even an attachment--the Reflecta Bounce Kit--for use with bare-bulb flash with silver or gold inserts.

Other units: The Promax Midi-Bouncer is designed for use with larger, professional electronic flash units. There's also a set of colored gels designed to change light color for dramatic effects.

All that increased flash flexibility has its price. There's at least one stop light loss with the attachments. In some instances it's as high as 22/3 stops. It's a price worth paying if you find the modern electronic flash getting in the way of your creativity and imagination. There's some crossover with the LumiQuest accessories, but it does make it possible to choose one or more that fit your needs more precisely.
For more information contact LumiQuest, PO Box 310248, New Braunfels, TX 78131; (830) 438-4646, fax: (830) 438-4667. e-mail: