We’ve entered a new year and I’m back after a break from, well, pretty much everything. Two weeks of just resting and being with the family sounds about as good as it gets. I’m back, however, and I bet you’re all thrilled about that. We’ll start of with something cute, just in case you’re not as thrilled as you should be. First, however, a tale of economic fortune.
A while back my dad came over with a bunch of boxes containing my old toys. It turned out that some of them actually had some collectors value. I’m talking about Dino Riders, a collection of dinosaurs with futuristic armor, they were seriously badass. Luckily I’ve always taken good care of all my things, so they were in very good condition. Not being much of a collector myself, I decided to sell them. The money I got was enough to get Perfect Photo Suite (the Lightroom and Aperture version) and a Lastolite Ezybox II Large Octa. I would say that the latter is the more interesting of the two.
I’ve noticed lately that I’ve used larger and softer light in many of my shots. The way I’ve done that is to use a regular, smaller softbox and then diffuse it a second time with a Lastolite trigrip. It works but it eats power and it’s not very convenient to use. That’s why I’ve been thinking of getting a bigger softbox and the unexpected cash made it easy to stop thinking and start buying. Initially I intended to go for the Westcott Apollo Orb, which is about the same size and much cheaper. Both modifiers have pros and cons but the deciding factor for me was the build quality. The Apollo is built on an umbrella frame, which has never been the most sturdy of constructions. I already have a Lastolite Ezybox and a Trigrip and I love the quality of those products, I feel I can handle them rough and not worry about breaking anything.
So, I decided to go the more expensive route and get something I could be sure would last me a long time (especially after finding some negative reviews regarding the build quality off the Apollo). I don’t regret it. It also packs surprisingly small and I wouldn’t worry about pulling it out in one piece if I stuffed it at the bottom of a suit case. Enough about this, let’s see how it performs.
I had already planned this shoot before I got my new toy. It’s as simple as it gets; big octa to camera left, done. What, you wanted more? There really isn’t much else to say. You’ll obviously need a cute subject (no, you can’t have mine) and once that’s acquired you just have to try to not mess it up. The light is fairly frontal, which you can tell by the shadows on her face. Actually there’s a bit more to it, but it all takes place in post processing.
Most of the time I shoot on completely black or completely white backgrounds and the reason is simple: I don’t have a proper seamless background so I use bed sheets. Bed sheets looks like crap. They’re wrinkled and usually gives off some colour cast that isn’t very pleasing. I’ve tried using a grey bed sheet before but it has never looked any good. However, I felt like challenging myself and decided to give it another try.
I shot this at f2.8 with a 85mm lens and kept my subject as far away from the background as possible with the very limited space I had. That kept the wrinkles under control but the colour still wasn’t very nice. I tweaked that with the purple and magenta colour channels – yes, a grey bed sheet apparently has lots of purple and magenta in it. Next up was a stop i Perfect Effects, which is one of the modules in Perfect Photo Suite, my other new toy. There I added a fairly subtle texture to the background. After finishing it up with a nice vignette it actually looked pretty good.
A proper seamless background would still be preferable but, considering what I had to work with, the result is definitely acceptable. Some form of background is on my to buy list in the future – said list is actually starting to get shorter, kind of.
That’s pretty much it for today. You’ll be seeing this light modifier in a lot of the coming posts though, I’m just getting started.