Let there be LIGHT!
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
If you are wondering which light to buy or just wondering about lighting in general, I hope this helps.
I am at the tip of the iceberg in my educational journey on artificial lighting. I know this. Here's your disclaimer: I do not pretend to be a know it all. This post is intended for enthusiasts from hobbyist to professional who may be looking to add off camera flash to their work for the first time, or to switch from their old corded lights to something fun and portable. Search the web for photography lighting equipment and HUNDREDS of products populate...from $99 funky-named Amazon-sold continuous fluorescent lights to sell your car and walk everywhere $$$$$ Profoto and Broncolor sets, and every price point in between. I think I got 3 grey hairs trying to figure out which lights to buy. Sad day...couldn't just hop on a plane to NYC to check them all out at B&H. What's a girl to do...
Read ten thousand reviews on three thousand different light setups...figure it out. Get confused. Repeat. One kept calling to me. The Badger Unleashed, recently released by Interfit. Somehow, I got a word to the right guy at Interfit, who commiserated with me about the lack of retail stores where photographers could get their hands on products before buying, and he shipped me a demo.
First impressions: compact, manageable, so user friendly that I got it set up and working without reading any manual (it arrived two days earlier than expected...the online manual could wait), a very useful power range. A little advice on your first setup: watch your face when you open the included softbox bag. It opens like WHAAABAM! And here is my ONLY complaint: when in HSS, the remote/flash head will not allow you to power down all the way—it forces you to use the higher power settings. Definitely not a deal breaker, just something to know about it before you’re on a paid shoot wondering why you can’t power it down all the way. Also, if you're overly optimistic like I am, and could potentially order one of these today with next day delivery for a paid shoot tomorrow, you should know that you need to purchase a light stand. It doesn't come with one.
I wanted to use my time with this light for a few things. 1) To see if I want to buy one (yes, I do). 2) To do a little side by side comparison to show myself and anyone else that it's pretty worthwhile to have a light on hand in case the natural light where you are shooting just isn't the best
The first time I used the light, I was alone, so...SELFIES! I wanted to show everyone something REALLY cool about flash. The "flash duration" effectively becomes your shutter speed. Using a shutter speed of 1/200 would typically result in motion blur for moving subjects, but with a flash, motion is frozen. Don't feel bad if you don't believe me without trying this yourself. I didn't believe it either. Have you ever turned a kid's hand into a smear of skin across an image because that kid wouldn't be still for a photo? I wanted to demonstrate warp speed kid like movement, with a slow shutter speed, with flash, and each time was able to reproduce frozen motion. The best way I could be sure to move fast enough for this experiment: JAZZ HANDS. Go little fingers, go!! (That kimono was waving around, too...look how nice and sharp everything is)
It may not look like I was moving fast (that's the point), but I guarantee you I was moving fast enough to work up a sweat after a few shots. No smear blob extremities, yay. To reiterate, the Badger Unleashed is EASY to set up and control, even alone, doing selfies in your basement.
Second trial. An old college friend drove with her toddler daughter from an entire hour and a half away to come model for me. Name of the game: create a few portraits for her worthy of the toddler travel while putting the Badger Unleashed to the test in some of the WORST lighting. Seasoned pro's, this was the kind of light that your photo session nightmares are made of. Sun high in the sky, on green grass to get as much skin tone muddying color casts as possible. Trying to talk myself into being able to shoot any time, any place, so that the majority of my early mornings can be for coffee and baby snuggles, and my golden hours can be spent on the back deck with husband dearest. Moving the light all over my yard and controlling it while posing an uninterested toddler and her sweet mom, no problem! I was able to demonstrate to myself what I imagined would happen. These shots were only seconds apart. No flash: muddy skin tones thanks to funky shadows, and a really time consuming edit. Flash: much nicer tones all over, smoother shadows, simple easy edit.
I present to you no flash on the left, and flash on the right:
And the edited versions...The one on the left (no flash) took a lot of work. The one on the right (flash) was hardly any work at all, and the difference is still HUGE:
My third and final day shooting with this sweet little light was with some neighbors who had invited me to meet their horse a few months ago. Thankfully they were excited and willing to give me their Friday morning to introduce me to their lovely horse and allow me to photograph them while testing the light once more. For a minute I thought I'd get to do a nice early morning session...ideal light...use the light in an easy situation. WRONG. As I drove out to the farm, the sun was so bright that I was all squinty-eyed even with my sunglasses on and the sunroof closed. Thank goodness I had a light with me ;-) <--that's a winky face, for my non-millennial friends. I knew I would need that light to fill shadows and help with color casts. My cool photographer friend joined me to check out this light against his Profoto's, and ended up giving some invaluable assistance carrying the light all over the horse farm as I carried my 2 camera bodies. Again, sweaty. Again, the light was helpful to have to fill shadows, get catch lights in the eyes, and help freeze motion.
Here's a little BTS for you, courtesy of my friend David Carr ...check out his work, it's really great. Thankful that he filmed this little snippet for the whole wide world to see, unbeknownst to me at the time. Check it out below.
If you made it this far, THANK YOU for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts on any part of this!