Lighting, Nuance, Control, Etc

I wrote a bit about my own growth experiences in terms of balance with some SOOC photos to illustrate some challenges faced using a particular location. I used a few photos from that same session in a discussion regarding Capture One, this time with a few global tweaks to color and contrast. Two things I mentioned that I wanted to follow-up on were related to one of my most used lighting modifiers — The Profoto 4ft Octa.

Above is the very first frame I made as an exposure test with Melanie for my latest goofing around/experiments for the chastity project. You can probably guess what lighting modifier I used. Yep, the 4ft Profoto Octa. I mentioned before how that particular size is my own personal sweet spot. I'd probably recommend that particular size to most people that shoot individual people or maybe two people fairly close together, I'd especially recommend that size for any sort of location work indoors.

Here's the first frame/exposure test I made much earlier that same day using that same Octabox. It's a few feet farther away and a little higher at a different angle than the first photo the precedes. Both photos are with full diffusion. That's both the inner diffusion layer as well as the outer diffusion in place, the way you're supposed to use it. Note that these look very different based on what could be considered a minor distance and positioning change. That's one reason it's my personal sweet-spot. It's just right when working with one or two people close. There's typically enough room to make it look like you want but it doesn't change too too quick when moving it around.

I know it's probably difficult to see if you're not used to manipulating all sorts of lighting gear but the photos I referenced at the very top with Jehanne have a very different character in terms of specularity even though in that circumstance the same main light was much closer. Why? I tore off half of the diffusion revealing a bunch of the silver interior.

Here's the thing. The Profoto 4ft Octa is extremely versatile in the situations I've just mentioned. Here's the reasons.

  • With both diffusion layers in place it's extremely even across all 4ft. It produces a smooth and very beautiful light that's almost fool-proof used around 4ft-5ft away. It's very forgiving.
  • Used closer in it's very wrap-around for 3/4 length or tighter and can give the effect of huge modifiers. If you shoot wider and use it that close you get a lot of fall-off which can be very useful.
  • I regularly tear out some of the diffusion in numerous different ways for different effects.
  • Outer diffusion removed you get a soft/hard effect with not much of a discernible hot spot but it's much more specular for a bit of punch.
  • All diffusion removed it's a completely different beast. The soft silver interior and exposed head is a lot like a REALLY big hard reflector. I use it all the time like this (so do many many many fashion photographers).
  • Used with the inner diffusion torn out and the outer diffusion in place it's a lot like a hard light behind a diffusion gel with a pronounced hot spot but very soft. I use it for products like this a lot when on location. Especially if you want a reflection of that hot spot.
  • You'd also be surprised if you literally use it half-and-half. As in the inner and outer diffusion only covering half the box. Again it's like having two lights in one when used in this very inappropriate manner.
  • It's one of the most efficient modifiers that's this large I've ever used (let's not discuss true parabolics okay).
  • It's very controllable in terms of spill even without the grid.

Bottom Line

As with all gear you've got to really know your own circumstances to decide where your sweet spots are. Bigger is not always better in many ways. It's also true of most gear that it takes some experimentation, and experience to get the most out of it and really decide what's best for you. The good news is that this particular piece of gear is not crazy pricy. It's about 300-400 bucks. Not bad especially from a company where a lot of their gear will give just about anyone sticker shock. Having used many many different brands of soft boxes and modifiers I can say the Profoto RFi line is overall one of my favorites in all the trade-offs. I much rather this octabox than just about every one I've used that may be a hundred or two less expensive. I've also used many that are more expensive and not nearly as nice.

If you happen to use any of Profoto's flat front lights (D1/D2/B1/B1X) the answer is yes. It works great without the dome. There is a "but" to that, while it still works in all of the manner I just went thru in terms of tearing out diffusion etc, my preference is to use a domed light if I am using it with no diffusion. It also looks ever so slightly different with only the inner diffusion in place without a dome.

End Notes

Black and white images SOOC with one of my random presets slapped on them in Capture One Pro 10. Color image of Jehanne with a few minor color/contrast tweaks in Capture One. All photos made with the Canon 5Ds R and 24-105 f/4 L.

Notes specific to the chastity project another day.