The Rogue FlashBender XL Pro: A Versatile Light Modification Kit

Whether you are new to Off-Camera Flash (OCF) or not, you might want to check out one of the most versatile systems on the market for OCF, Rogue FlashBenders, manufactured by ExpoImaging. The Rogue system is based on a pliable flat panel reflector that you bend as needed to modify your light when used in conjunction with speedlights. It is versatile, stores flat in your camera bag, and has a diffusion panel that installs over the modifier to turn it into a portable softbox.


The Rogue XL Pro Lighting Kit.

Flashbender Options
While the small and medium sized FlashBender systems are more suited to on-camera use, the latest addition to the line, the XL Pro ($99.95 as tested), is aimed at those using off-camera flash mounted on a good, sturdy light stand. I found its size and weight can prove to be a bit unwieldy when used with an on-camera flash. (It’s nearly three times the size of the original small FlashBender and twice the size of the popular large FlashBender.) To handle the extra size of the XL Pro, simply assemble the unit on your flash facing backward. This will allow you to see all of your speedlight controls and the weight of the FlashBender will not cause the flash head to tip forward. The new unit is not only larger in size—it is now offered in a complete kit form with numerous accessories and modifying options.

Left: The silver and black panel is a nice addition. The silver side will add to effective output and contrast. The black side will effectively absorb about three stops of light. Since speedlights have the ability to go down in power to 1/128, I don’t see the need for a subtractive panel, but it’s there so by all means add the effect to your kit. Right: The keys to the lighting kingdom lie right here in the strip softbox attachment. With the light now contained in a smaller package, it can be easily manipulated and feathered at will, allowing you to take your creativity to another level without having to buy separate pieces of gear.

The diffusion panel turns the FlashBender into that larger, softer source of light we all lust after. Having the panel live alongside the other attachments in our camera bag gives us yet another tool in our lighting kit.

Here are the relative sizes of the Rogue FlashBender system line. The small FlashBender is on the left; the XL Pro on the far right.

The Kit
The Rogue XL Pro Lighting Kit includes a silver/black insert panel, a diffusion panel for the full-size softbox, and a new strip softbox attachment, which I think many photographers will find useful and appealing. Utilizing a narrow strip of diffusion panel and a triangular-shaped top, the strip attachment allows you greater control over where your light can be placed.

There’s no question that the larger size of the Rogue XL Pro allows greater control and flexibility while shooting. By simply bending it forward or bending one of the corners to one side, you have control of the light hitting the foreground and background. The simplicity of the system lends itself to ready usage and quality lighting.

Left: The XL Pro is just the right tool for shooting outside. Here, with the model in front of an abandoned antique shop, I had a one-light solution to getting great foreground light while keeping light off of the background. I was also using RadioPoppers and testing high-speed sync using my Nikon SB-910 on this shot to balance with the ambient light. Technical info: Nikon D3, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens, 1/400 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight. (Unless otherwise noted all model shots made with D3 and 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens.) Right: By just bending the XL Pro forward and to the side a bit, I was able to control the light falling on my subject and keep unwanted spill off of the background to darken it and create the needed separation. By lighting across the subject I was able to skim light on her torso and create dramatic shadow detail that shows her musculature.
All Photos © Robert Harrington

Output & Light Quality
The light emitted from a “bare” FlashBender with no bending or accessories is equal to that of a more expensive soft light reflector, or what is commonly known as a beauty dish. The light quality is hard and soft at the same time and has that unique quality of shadow associated with larger modifiers.

The new panel insert in the kit allows for two unique lighting solutions. The silver/black panel attaches with Velcro to the edges of the FlashBender and allows you to add or subtract contrast and exposure. Testing exposure patterns utilizing the three panels—stock white, black, and silver—I came up with a range of effective output. With the white side, which is my base exposure taken with my Sekonic L-358 meter at about 4 feet away, I set my mounted Nikon SB-800 speedlight to Manual mode at 1/2 power and achieved an exposure reading of 1/125 sec at f/8 at ISO 200. I added the silver panel and came up with a reading of 1/125 sec at f/10, only a 2/3 of a stop increase in exposure.

Shooting on a bright, warm, sunny Saturday morning in August is not the best time for high-quality natural light. But, with the XL Pro, I positioned my subject so the bright sun through the trees dappled her head and shoulders. My key light was just one speedlight to create this in-scene high-key shot. I shot at a high ISO to increase my shutter speed so I didn’t have to use high-speed sync. Exposure info: 1/1250 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1000, WB Daylight.

All I did was place my light about 5 to 6 feet from my subject and bend the XL Pro forward to send all that nice beauty light directly to the model’s face. This sent the flash toward her so she is flatly lit—but the overall light sure isn’t flat.

Left: I shot this with two speedlights. I had my model surrounded by red Mylar balloons and put a red velvet cover over a small divan to get this fun effect. I used a simple two-light setup: key light high and above, kicker light on the floor for effective fill. Exposure info: 1/125 sec at f/7.1, ISO 400, WB Daylight. Right: Do these setups get any easier? Key light above is a Nikon SB-910, Manual mode at 1/2 power, PocketWizard Plus III, and a XL Pro with diffusion panel. Kicker light on floor is a Nikon SB-800, Manual mode at 1/4 power for fill, XL Pro strip softbox sitting on top of a white painted Masonite board for soft fill.

The key to the silver-sided panel, though, is the increase in contrast from the reflective nature of the silvering. When I swapped the panel and tried the black side with the same speedlight settings, I came up with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/3.6. I don’t know when I’d need this much light loss in a setup since speedlights can be set to decreased output anyway, but it is nice to know I have this added tool in my lighting kit.

The full-size diffusion panel turns the new XL Pro into that beautifully large light source we are all looking for in a portable lighting solution. The large panel allows the light to be softened but also to have a nice spread so that it can be used as an effective key light with good exposure values and a nice wrap around our subjects. The large panel also is an effective backlight and edge or separation light.

Even though it does throw light all over the place, you do have effective control over where you can place the light by feathering (bending) it from one side to the other. Dramatic effects can be achieved simply, creatively, and easily. The central hot spot, common to most light modifiers, is controlled by the addition of a small extra diffusion square attached right where the speedlight emits its blast of light.

I went for a dramatic black-and-white look with this model. This uses both the strip box and regular diffusion panel. Shot against black felt I purchased at a local fabric store, this two-light setup was easy to execute with a couple of speedlights and Rogue FlashBender XL Pros. All of my raw conversions are done in Capture One Pro 6. Exposure info: 1/125 sec at f/7.1, ISO 200, WB Daylight.

This behind-the-scenes shot shows how I keep light from spilling onto the background. By using black felt, which absorbs the light, and flagging the light with two Impact brand 42x72 white reflectors, I was able to concentrate my key light on the subject with a strip softbox while feathering the backlight off of her left shoulder with the large diffusion panel. I did this black-and-white conversion with Totally Rad! Actions Bitchin B&W and skin retouching with Totally Rad! Actions Portrait Retouch V2.

Strip Panel Creativity
For me, the main reason to get this modifier is the addition of the new strip panel. The engineers at Rogue have devised this solution to light control by slimming down the overall profile of the softbox attachment with a slender piece of diffusion panel about 6 1/2” wide and a triangular top piece that all fits together with a bit of Velcro. The strip box allows much more control over light placement, yet can still be used effectively as a key light with little light spillage to either side of your subject. Edge lighting, backlighting with a gradient, and head-and-shoulders lighting can now all be achieved with this simple attachment. Feathering the light produces some of the most dramatic light I’ve seen out of a small flash modifier.

Simply stated, the new Rogue XL Pro is a worthwhile investment for any off-camera flash user. Its size and versatility as a modifier with several uses will endear this piece of gear to you and you’ll find yourself heading to it first when out shooting. The strip panel alone is worth the price.

Left: Here’s a one-light solution. When the model appeared from my changing room in that yellow bustier, I knew the purple drape would contrast perfectly with her outfit. All my drapes are 96” tall and will touch the ceiling and floor, eliminating any corrections or cropping later. Exposure info: 1/125 sec at f/8, ISO 200, WB Daylight. Right: The Rogue XL Pro with diffusion panel high and above my subject as the key light with my SB-910 set to Manual mode at 1/2 power. I use a Manfrotto 1052BAC light stand with a Matthews 40” Hollywood Grip Arm to get my light above and out of the way. I use Matthews grip arms because the tube for the arm is stainless steel and can be cut if needed to a specific length.

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