High Speed Sync vs Neutral Density Filters

HSS vs Neutral Density

I was reading online forums again (yeah, I know...)... I saw a discussion where a photographer was trying to figure out exposure settings for outdoor flash vs ambient light using neutral density filters. He was adamant that he did NOT want to use high speed sync (HSS) because HSS robs the flash of a lot of its power.

This got me thinking... Doesn't using ND filters also rob the flash of power? If you put a 6-stop ND filter over the lens you are effectively lowering the power of the flash 6 stops and also lowering the amount of ambient light 6 stops. If you use high speed sync to raise the shutter speed by six stops you lower the ambient light 6 stops. You also lose power in the flash, about the same 6 stops. Seems pretty much equivalent.

NOTE: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I might be compensated if you purchase equipment using the links. But you will also get a discount by using the link or the code CORNICELLO10 on the Interfit Photographic web site. Win/Win situation!

So, time to do some testing. Camera is a Canon 5D mkIII with an 85mm f/1.8 lens. All of the photos were made with the white balance set to Daylight. Flash is an Interfit Photographic S1 with high speed sync capabilities modified with a 24-inch collapsible beauty dish. Ambient light meter reading was 1/125 at f/9 and the flash was a bit brighter (f/13). I wanted to make the photographs at f/1.8. 

I needed about 5 and 2/3 stops of neutral density. I had two 0.9 (3-stop) neutral density filters handy, so I stacked them on top of each other and made the first series of photos below with normal sync. Then I removed the filters and switched the Interfit S1 to high speed sync mode and made a similar set of images above the normal sync speed of the camera. The third set as the Interfit S1 in HSS mode plus TTL metering. All the photos were imported into Adobe Lightroom Classic with no adjustments made to them and then I made the following groups via the Print module. The power level on the strobe was not changed between shots in the first two sets of photos. In the third set the strobe was in TTL mode, so it did vary the power (raising it as the shutter speed increased) to maintain the proper exposure.

While this test isn't super scientific, the things I notice are a definite color cast in the photos made with the ND filter, the ND photos do not appear to be quite as sharp as the HSS photos (a complaint I often hear about variable density ND filters, but these were two single density filters), and the ND filters I used required me to take off the lens shade (something I rarely if ever do) to attach them. The ND filters make it more difficult to see through the viewfinder (6 stops more difficult, I don't want to do the math to figure out how many times darker that is). I could/should have bumped the flash power up a third of a stop or so because of the extra density. The background would have remained the same with the subject being a little bit brighter. But it is what it is. All in all a bit of a pain to work with, but it gets the job done if you have a strobe unit that doesn't do HSS.

In the middle set, using the flash in manual exposure mode with high speed sync. Again, I should have/could have bumped up the power of the flash as I went above 1/3200 sec. on the shutter speed. But the last three are still OK and salvageable. 

The set with the S1 in high speed sync mode and TTL exposure seems to be the winner to me. I was able to adjust the shutter speed to make the trees in the background lighter and darker while at the same time keeping the exposure on the subject pretty consistent. I did not make any adjustments on the flash.

Until fairly recently, I hadn't used HSS or TTL all that much with my flashes. I've been a pretty strict manual mode and in the studio type of photographer. Working with the Interfit S1 strobes has changed my mind about this. What are your thoughts about using neutral density filters to balance flash and daylight versus using high speed sync? 

For those interested in how to figure out the exposure using ND filters, here is how I do it.

  • Take a normal meter reading at 1/125 sec. shutter speed (this gives me leeway to raise the shutter speed slightly to darken the background without going over the sync speed of the camera)
  • Example: ISO 100, 1/125 Sec. at f/11
  • Adjust the output of your flash to read the same f/stop (f/11 in this case) or a bit higher WITHOUT THE ND FILTER (I went for f/13 above)
  • Decide on the aperture you want to use for depth of field. In this case I wanted f/1.8
  • Figure that from f/13 to f/1.8 is 5 and 2/3 stops
  • Find a 5 and 2/3 stop neutral density filter or adjust your aperture to match the ND filter(s) you have. If you have a 3 stop filter you can go from f/11 to f/4, with a 4 stop filter you can go to f/2.8, with a 6 stop filter you can go to f/1.4 (I opted for stacking two 3 stop filters above)
  • Take the photo with the ND filter(s) in place
  • Adjust the shutter speed up/down to darken or lighten the background
  • Adjust the power of the flash up/down to get the proper exposure on the subject
  • Deal with focus and color issues

To figure out the exposure with high speed sync

  • Decide on the aperture you want to use
  • Set the camera to that aperture
  • Make sure your flash is in HSS mode
  • Adjust your shutter speed up/down to darken or lighten the background to how you want it to look
  • Adjust the power of the flash to give proper exposure on the subject or use TTL if available

Do note that HSS on speed lights will run through batteries quicker. The folks at Interfit, though, tell me that the S1 battery actually lasts longer in HSS mode. HSS may also shorten the life of the flash tube. But everything is a tradeoff in photography.

Revisiting Shutter Speed In Relation to Flash Photography

How shutter speed affects flash in and out of the studio

Does this ever happen to you?

Does this ever happen to you?

From in-person discussions, q&a sessions in CreativeLive classes I’ve been involved in, and from online discussion groups I have come to the conclusion that shutter speed when using flash is a difficult concept for photographers to grasp when first introduced. We’re all familiar with the three legs of the exposure triangle: ISO (sensitivity), Aperture (amount of light passing through the lens), and Shutter Speed (how long the light is allowed to reach the sensor. For a more in depth look at how shutter speed affects your photos please visit this guide on the PhotographyTalk site). When we add flash into the situation there are another two legs added, the amount of light and the duration of the flash. And at the same time, the Shutter Speed leg’s effect is somewhat tossed away. This makes it sound more complicated than it actually is.


It is a double exposure
I find that it helps to think of flash photography as making a double exposure with one click of the shutter button. We have an exposure for the existing ambient light that is controlled by the big three (ISO, f/stop, shutter speed). And we have a second simultaneous exposure for the flash that is controlled by ISO, f/stop, and flash power. As ISO and f/stop affect both exposures we can eliminate them from the exposure equation. That leaves us with shutter speed to control the ambient light and flash power to control the flash light. More about that when I talk about working with flash outdoors in sunlight. Let’s start with studio lighting.

In The Studio

What I am saying is that in studio flash photography in the studio the shutter speed doesn’t matter all that much within a certain range, usually around 1/30th of a second to 1/200th of a second. That’s around a 3-stop range. How can that be? What about motion blur at 1/30? 

In the studio we have control over the ambient light situation. We can make the studio completely dark so that even a full 1-second shutter speed at a typical aperture of f/8 or f/11 will not record anything on the sensor. Then we add the flash. The flash provides the powerful light that does record on the sensor. But it only records for that split second that the flash is firing (the flash duration). So out of that 1-second the shutter is opened, the flash is only firing for a fraction of the time. Maybe 1/300 of a second for a big old powerful studio power pack and head system or only 1/9000 of a second for a newer flash unit. The flash duration has effectively replaced the shutter speed in terms of both providing the light for the exposure and for providing the speed necessary to stop motion. Now I am not advocating a shutter speed of 1/30, just using that as an example. Go ahead and test this yourself. Set the ISO and aperture you would be using in the studio (ISO 100 and f/8 is a good starting point) and turn down the ambient light to have a darkened studio. Before connecting and turning on your flash take a photo with those settings to see what gets recorded. In many cases the frame will be black, or show just a faint image. If you see too much image raise your shutter speed to 1/60 and try again.

So why set 1/200 as the other end of the range for studio flash photography? That comes down to how the focal plane shutter in our camera works. With a focal plane shutter (which is what we have in most dSLRs and many mirrorless cameras) there is basically a set of two curtains (simplified, as some have multiple blades, but the effect is the same). When you press the button to take a photograph the first curtain slides out of the way to allow light to reach the sensor. Then the second curtain slides across covering the sensor to end the exposure. To synchronize this with a flash the flash has to fire when neither curtain is covering the sensor. The fastest shutter speed at which there is no curtain in the way is the sync speed for that camera.

Here is an illustration of what happens. On the left we see the first curtain open up to expose the entire sensor in the camera. Then the flash fires, exposing the entire scene. Then the second curtain closes to end the exposure. On the right we see that above the sync speed the first curtain opens, then the second curtain starts to close before the first curtain clears the sensor. Then the flash fires and gets blocked by one of the curtains causing a black band along one edge of the photograph.

Syncronized shutter

Syncronized shutter

Out of sync shutter

Out of sync shutter

Your camera specifications might tell you that the sync speed is 1/180, or 1/200, or even 1/250, so why not go that high with the shutter speed? That number is usually in relation to using a dedicated flash on your camera in the hot shoe. As an example, look at the user manual for the Canon EOS 6D mark II. On page 280 it says:

Non-Canon Flash Units
Sync Speed

The camera can synchronize with non-Canon compact flash units at 1/180 sec. and slower speeds. With large studio flash units, the flash duration is longer than that of a compact flash unit and varies depending on the model. Be sure to check before shooting if flash sync is properly performed by test shooting at a sync speed of approx. 1/60 sec. to 1/30 sec.

Additionally, the use of a remote radio signal flash trigger can add a little bit of a delay to the firing of the flash, requiring a slower shutter speed than expected.

So, what happens if you do set your shutter speed too high? You will notice a dark band along one edge of your photo or no image at all. Here is a set of test images I created with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II and studio strobes (two Interfit Honey Badger flashes, one on the subject and the other on the background). The shutter speed for each photo is shown above the mannequin head. You can clearly see that the flash synced at speeds up to 1/125, but at 1/250 there is the start of a black band along one edge and at 1/2000 the frame is completely black. With some lower cost remote flash triggers you would even see the black band at 1/125, so you would need to set your shutter speed to 1/80 sec. or 1/60. If you have had that black band along the edge of some of your flash photos, here is the explanation.

Studio flash at various shutter speeds

Studio flash at various shutter speeds

High Speed Sync

For some time now dedicated camera flashes (I will refer to them as speed lights here) have offered a feature called High Speed Sync (HSS). This feature is now becoming available in studio flash units like the Interfit S1. It allows the flash unit to synchronize with faster shutter speeds. This comes in most handy when working outdoors in daylight and you want to make photos at wider apertures such as f/2.8 or wider and want to provide some fill light from the flash or even use the flash as your main light source. The issue there is that a typical mid-day exposure at ISO 100 and f/2.8 might call for a shutter speed of 1/2000. As we saw above, the flash won’t have any effect on the image at 1/2000 sec. 

Another situation is where you want to darken the ambient light exposure so that the flash is the main light on the subject. Changing your ISO or aperture will affect the flash exposure as well as the ambient exposure, so your control over the ambient light is your shutter speed. We’ve seen that you are pretty limited in available shutter speeds with normal flash sync. Only being able to speed up to 1/180 or 1/200 doesn’t give you all that much control to darken the ambient light.

Enter HSS
With HSS the flash fires in a stroboscopic fashion (pop, pop, pop, pop, pop) synchronized to the movement of the shutter curtains during the exposure. This happens very quickly, too fast for the human eye to see the multiple flashes, so it still looks like one flash burst. Here is a visual explanation of high speed sync...

On the left there is too much available light to be able to work at f/1.8, everything is overexposed. On the right HSS has been enabled and the shutter speed set to 1/8000 sec. to take the background ambient exposure way down and have the Interfit S1 battery-powered flash provide the main exposure on the subject. Here the S1 is being modified by a 2x3-foot softbox.

On the left there is too much available light to be able to work at f/1.8, everything is overexposed. On the right HSS has been enabled and the shutter speed set to 1/8000 sec. to take the background ambient exposure way down and have the Interfit S1 battery-powered flash provide the main exposure on the subject. Here the S1 is being modified by a 2x3-foot softbox.

While HSS allows the flash to sync at shutter speeds up to 1/8000 sec., there is a catch. Everything in photography is a trade-off. With HSS the trade-offs are power loss, battery life, and a shorter lifetime for the flash tube. If you have used flash before you are most likely familiar with recycle time. Each time the flash fires it releases energy stored in capacitors. Those capacitors need to charge up again to provide the power for the next flash. Depending on the flash, the time for the recharge can be from  a bit less than 1 second to 8 seconds or more at full power. The time to recycle goes down as the power of the strobe is turned down. Do you see where this is going? In order to have immediate recycle times to allow a number of rapid fire flashes within 1/8000 of a second (as per our example) the power of the flash has to be set way down--you get much less light out of the flash. Right now it seems that most HSS flash units have a maximum power output of around 500 to 600 watt seconds. Anything more powerful would not recycle fast enough or would require larger/heavier power units and be much more expensive. This limits us in that the flash has to be in pretty close to the subject, especially if using big modifiers like soft boxes or umbrellas. Or you end up using smaller/harder light sources and have to deal with the consequences of that. And all that rapid firing of the flash can shorten the lifetime of the flash tube (which is usually a user-replacable item).

Without High Speed Sync you can see the shadow of the shutter curtain when the shutter speed is set higher than the sync speed of the camera

Without High Speed Sync you can see the shadow of the shutter curtain when the shutter speed is set higher than the sync speed of the camera

Do we need High Speed Sync?
It depends.
Yeah, I hate non-commital answers like that. But it does. If you want to totally blur the background on a portrait of one person yes, you might want to make the photo at f/1.4 or f/2.0. And for that you will need to use HSS to be able to work at the high shutter speeds you need in daylight with those apertures. But if you have multiple subjects like a family group you will often be working at f/8 or f/11 or even f/16 to get everyone in focus. At those apertures there is a good chance your shutter speed might drop down to 1/200 or slower and you won’t need HSS.  Even with an individual, if you can pose them someplace where the background is far enough away, you might be able to still get some separation at smaller f/stops and not need HSS. 

For more information about shutter speed in general and how it is used in non-flash photography please refer to this excellent article on the PhotographyTalk website

Thanks for following along! I cover all this and more in my book Anatomy of a Studio Portrait. I also teach lighting classes in the Seattle area at Glazer's Camera and at Photo Center Northwest. Private instruction is also available. Now please go out and light up the world!



Baffled by Baffles

Is it a baffle or a diffuser?

Being my pedantic self again here. And maybe this use of the term baffle has been going on for a long time and I've just ignored it. But recently I have seen a lot of photography sites using the terms baffle and diffuser interchangeably. I see references to the "inner baffle" on a softbox (try this Google search on softbox baffle). One ad mentions a "white diffusive baffle." This isn't just photographers writing about light, it is also in the descriptions of modifiers on the websites of lighting companies.

Let's start with the dictionary and the definitions of baffle and diffuser...

a device used to restrain the flow of a fluid, gas, or loose material or to prevent the spreading of sound or light in a particular direction.

a device that spreads the light from a light source evenly

From the definitions, these seem to be opposites. A baffle would be more akin to a grid on a light that restricts the light to make it more directional and prevents the light from spreading out. The inner translucent panel in a softbox is diffusing the light and spreading it out and trying to avoid having a directional hot spot. The outer diffuser does the same thing. And some photographers put multiple diffusers over the outside of their softbox/octa/softlighter. None of these things are acting as a baffle in my mind.

Diffuser vs Baffle

Diffuser vs Baffle

Am I just the old curmudgeon who can't get with the new terminology? Or should we be more precise in our descriptions?

Loving that light!

A great pairing of lighting equipment

If you have been following me for a while you are probably aware of my love for the 60-inch Photek Softlighter II. I've had mine for 20 years and sometimes stray away from it to use some other modifiers. But then comes a day when I put it back into the mix and ask myself why I haven't been using it as much as I should.

You also know that I have come to embrace the Interfit Photographic Honey Badger as my go-to lighting instrument. But I have not talked much about using them together. Do to the design of the Honey Badger I think it is a perfect mate for the Softlighter. And later in this post I will tell you why. But first some photographs...

Yesterday I got to photograph some Elizabethan outfits from my friends at Period Corsets and I am very happy with the results. Hilary made the outfits and Megan was our model and makeup artist. We had two full outfits to photograph plus the undergarments (which are totally safe for work). For these I elected to light with the Softlighter from camera left and with a 1x3-foot gridded strip box from the left rear for a small accent. The fill "light" was a large sheet of white foam board on camera right (lighting diagram provided below)

Lighting diagram for the Period Corset photos

The Softlighter imparts such a wonderful glow on Megan with good overall coverage and nice falloff to the background. The background is 9-foot wide roll of gray seamless paper with a length of floor board molding from a local home improvement center resting along the bottom to finish it off. All of the textures on the background were added in post-proccessing.

My process for building up lighting for a photograph is to start with one main light and then add accents and fill as needed. In 90% of the situations the fill light will come from reflectors of some sort and not from a second light. Any additional lights will be for accents and will tend to come from behind the subject.

The Dynamic Duo
Now about the pairing of the Honey Badger and the Softlighter. The softlighter consists of a 10-panel umbrella and a diffusion panel that goes over the opening of the umbrella. The diffuser panel has a heat-resistant elastic sock in the middle of it that goes around the lamp head to hold things in place. I prefer to use lights "bare bulb" in the Softlighter. That is, without a reflector on the light which might narrow the beam and not fill the Softlighter as much as possible without the reflector. In the past this could be an issue with studio strobes employing a 250-watt quartz-halogen modeling lamp. Those lamps get HOT HOT HOT. And if the sock on the Softlighter was to slip forward a bit it could come too close to the light resulting in a bit of smoke and a really foul smell. I suspect that if left in contact long enough it would set the sock on fire. Yes, I know this from experience. 

Enter the Honey Badger. This light has a ring around the face of it for attaching slip-on accessories such as the 24x24-inch softbox that comes with the Honey Badger. This black ring works perfectly to hold the Softlighter's sock in place. Of course, the Honey Badger has a 60-watt LED modeling lamp, so while being brighter than the 250-watt quartz lamps on other lights, it remains relatively cool (around 85-degrees F) and won't set the sock to smoldering or burning.

The Interfit Honey Badger with the mounting ring on the front

The Honey Badger with the Softlighter diffuser held in place by the mounting ring

The diffusion panel attached to the umbrella

The elastic sock slipped forward and came into contact with the glass diffusion dome on a strobe head with a hot 250-watt quartz halogen modeling lamp

As an Interfit Creative Pro I can offer you a 10% discount on any equipment purchased directly from the Interfit web site. Just use the code CORNICELLO10 at the end of the checkout process.



The Interfit Combo Boom Stand

I first saw this new Combo Boom Stand from Interfit Photographic at the WPPI trade show and was immediately intrigued. So much so that I ordered one as soon as I got home. And yesterday I got to use it on a location job where it really saved the day.

The outside location. Lit by the skylight augmented by an Interfit S1 strobe with the standard 7-inch metal dish reflector.

The outside location. Lit by the skylight augmented by an Interfit S1 strobe with the standard 7-inch metal dish reflector.

Tall and sturdy
I had two setups to photograph at a law office. The first one was outside on a very windy day. The wide leg spread on this stand really helped keep the light in place along with the help of a sand bag. I was able to get my light up about 12 feet (the maximum height of the Combo Boom Stand is just about 13 feet). Because of the wind I opted for a 7” metal reflector on the Interfit S1 battery-powered strobe instead of a larger modifier that would have turned into a sail and blown away in the wind.

Booming the light out over the table allowed me to get rid of the shadow on the left

Booming the light out over the table allowed me to get rid of the shadow on the left

The next set up was in a small conference room with a table in the middle that could not be moved out of the way. The four members of the team were going to be placed at the end of the table in front of a small alcove. With my light positioned next to the table it cast a strong and objectionable shadow into the alcove. I was able to quickly convert the light stand to a boom and position my light above the camera and above the conference table to get rid of the shadows. Again, I used a weight. This time to counterbalance the lamp head and umbrella. I cannot over emphasize the need to use the included weight bag (you supply the weights) on this or any other light stand and boom arm.

In addition to the boom arm capability, this stand has springs to cushion the 3 sections of the stand and it allows you to change the position of the light mount so it provides its own drop pin to position the lamp head so that it doesn’t twist on the end of the boom because of its weight. An additional feature is the knurled texture on the pin that gives the screw locks something to bite in on to hold the light in place better (see my previous post about modifying my Avenger boom arms to help prevent the light from twisting). The locking knobs and collars are generously sized and easy to turn.

This tall light stand easily converts to a stand and boom arm

This tall light stand easily converts to a stand and boom arm

Being able to let the light hang down keeps it from wanting to spin around the boom arm

Being able to let the light hang down keeps it from wanting to spin around the boom arm

The repositionabe spigot has a heavily textured surface to help hold your light in place

The repositionabe spigot has a heavily textured surface to help hold your light in place

Another option for positioning the spigot depending on your needs

Another option for positioning the spigot depending on your needs

All this comes at a very reasonable price tag of $99.99, and as an Interfit Creative Pro I can offer you a discount code for 10% off orders directly from Interfit by using the code CORNICELLO10 at the end of the checkout process. (This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase using my code.)

Now go out and light up your world!

The $300 portrait lighting setup

Lighting For The Budget Minded

This is a followup to my previous post about the Interfit Studio Essentials line of equipment. My friend David stopped by for a visit today and I asked him to sit for a quick portrait. For this I used the two light kit that comes with a remote trigger for your camera, two flash heads, two 20x28-inch softboxes, 2 speedrings, 2 light stands, and a carry case. A pretty nice setup for $299.99*. Each light with the softbox attached weighs in at less than 4 lbs, so will be easy to travel with. All I added for this photo session was a gray paper background and a 20x30-inch sheet of white foamcore from the dollar store.

I took about a dozen photos as David and I talked. The last photo turned out very nicely. I thought that the photo would make a great b/w study, so I cleaned up some fly-away hairs in Photoshop and then created the black & white conversion in Lightroom. 

Power to spare
These 200 watt-second lights put out plenty of light for portraits. I had the power level on the main light set to 4.1 (3 stops below maximum power) and was able to work at F/7.1 while still keeping my ISO at 100. The light was about 30 inches from David and pointed across his face (feathered), not pointed directly at him. The accent light from the right rear was dialed down to power level 3.0. At these low power settings the recycle rate on the flash is down to about 1 second. 

A great starting point
These lights use the industry-standard Bowens S-mount to attach modifiers so if down the road you decide to move up to the Honey Badger or S1 lights you can keep using the same speedrings and modifiers. 

How it was lit
Below I have included a diagram of the light setup and the original color image as captured by the camera.

Lighting diagram for David's portrait

Original image, straight out of the camera

*Discount available!

As an Interfit Creative Pro I can offer you a 10% discount on all Interfit Photo products that you purchase directly from the Interfit website by using the code CORNICELLO10 (all caps!) at the end of your checkout process. I will get credit for the referral and may be compensated for purchases made with this code.

Join me on Facebook
If you have questions about studio lighting please feel join my studio Portrait group on Facebook.


Interfit Studio Essentials

Looking for your first studio flash?

Interfit Value Flash
value flash with reflector

Hot on the heels of the Honey Badger strobe introduced in 2017, Interfit Photographic has come out with a new line of products called the Studio Essentials. Included in this line is a 200 watt second strobe head that retails for $99.99. Called the 200Ws Value flash, it offers a 6-stop range of power adjustable in 1/10 stop increments. The specs for the flash claim a 5-stop range, but the unit goes from power level 2.0 to 7.0. Testing the light with its 20x28-inch softbox at 3 feet my meter reads from f/2.8 (power level 2.0) to f/16 (power level 7.0). That is f/2.8 - f/4 - f/5.6 - f/8 -f/11 - f/16. Plenty of power for the home studio.

value flash controls

This light comes with a built-in radio receiver and a trigger for your camera is available for $19.99 (if you purchase one of the kits I write about below the trigger is included). The light also uses the industry standard Bowens S-mount for accessories (as do the Honey Badger and the S1 from Interfit). A standard 7-inch metal reflector is included. At this price point,though, it should be pointed out that the radio triggers are not compatible with those for the Honey Badger and S1 and work most reliably at shutter speeds of 1/125 and slower. The Value Flash does have an optical slave trigger so can be triggered by other lights in your studio setup up to the sync speed of your camera. High Speed Sync is not available

The Value Flash shares the ratcheted angle adjustment with the Honey Badger. This helps when using larger/heavier modifiers on the flash head. Even if the angle adjustment isn’t tightened down completely the ratchet keeps the flash from flopping over. It took me a little while to get used to and appreciate this feature. Now I find it quite useful.

Recycle time at full power is 2 seconds. Color temperature is 5600K at full power. Color temperature gets a little bit warmer at lower power settings. This is easily compensated for by adjusting the white balance in Adobe Lightroom or other raw converter. Exposure has been very consistent from flash to flash in my testing. These are very economical first lights if you are just getting started. And the optical slave triggering and use of S-Mount accessories means that you can continue using them as you progress to more advanced lighting units in the future. 

Oops! Don't touch the bulb with bare fingers!

Oops! Don't touch the bulb with bare fingers!

The modeling lamp is a 75W halogen lamp. And it should be mentioned here that you should never touch the modeling lamp with bare fingers, as the oils from your skin will boil on the lamp possibly causing the lamp to fail and even shatter. Use the cushioned wrap that the bulb comes in to hold and insert the bulb into the flash head when you set it all up. If you do touch the lamp you can clean it with alcohol on a clean cloth

Specially priced lighting kits

Now about the kits Interfit offers. There are three options. The first one is $119.99 and includes one flash head,  a 7’6” light stand, a 36-inch translucent white umbrella, and a remote trigger that sits in the hotshoe of your camera to fire the flash wirelessly. Purchased separately these items would sell for around $150.


The other two kits each include two flash heads. The umbrella kit comes with 2 stands, 2 translucent umbrellas, and the remote trigger for $199.99. And for an extra $100 ($299.99) you get 2 20x28-inch softboxes instead of the umbrellas, the remote trigger, the light stands, and a carrying case. The speedrings for the softboxes are included and you should know that to assemble the softboxes to the speedrings you should use the holes marked B1-B4 on the speedring for the proper shape and tension on the rods. The softboxes have flat front panels that make them good for both product and portrait photography. I find that flat front softboxes (no lip) cane be easier to control and feather and provide for nice straight edge reflections in shiny objects in still life photos. The softbox kit does not come with the 7-inch metal reflectors


The Studio Essentials line offers a lot more than just the Value Flash. There is also a variety of LED lights (which I have not tried yet, so will not be talking about here) and a number of other accessories such as light stands, background stands, backgrounds, and pop-up reflectors. Rounding out the collection is a set of S-mount light modifiers that include beauty dishes (22” and 28”), grids, a background reflector, a snoot and a set of barn doors that includes4 color gels (red, green, blue, yellow) and a 40-degree honeycomb grid to narrow the light output for $34.99. A similar set of barn doors from a “pro” flash company sells for $250 and doesn’t include any gels or grids. Speaking of grids, a set of 4 (10, 20, 30, and 40 degree) sells for $39.99 or in a set that includes a 7-inch metal reflector for $49.99. 

Interfit Studio Essentials Barn Doors and grid combination shown on the Value Flash head (sold separately)

Interfit Studio Essentials Barn Doors and grid combination shown on the Value Flash head (sold separately)

Interfit Studio Essentials Barn Doors with one of the included color gels shown on the Value Flash head.

Interfit Studio Essentials Barn Doors with one of the included color gels shown on the Value Flash head.

background reflector

The 22” beauty dish with a honeycomb grid sells for $89.99 or step up to the 28” version for $139.99. There is also a deep reflector with 3 grids for $89.99. One of my favorites int he collection is the 45-degree background reflector for $34.99.  Unlike most other background reflectors I’ve seen and used, this one has an open top for a nice graduated fall off and it also includes clips to hold color gels and it has a locking rotating collar on it to easily position the reflector.

All of the items in the Studio Essentials line are very reasonably priced and good quality. My only suggestion is that if you use 9-foot wide rolls of seamless paper or heavy canvas you should opt for the Premium Background Support. 

While on the Interfit site take a look at all of their modifier options. Interfit offers a wide variety of softboxes that are top quality for a very reasonable cost--plus most of their modifiers come with fabric grids at no extra cost.

The bottom line is that the Value Flash is a great starter light that you can grow with. As mentioned above, it uses the industry standard S-Mount so if you graduate to a Honey Badger or S1 set of lights the Value Flash can remain in your lighting kit for use as accent lights to complement the larger light units. 

As a member of the Interfit Creative Pros group I can also offer you a 10% discount on any Interfit products that you purchase directly from Interfit by using the code CORNICELLO10 (all caps) at the end of the checkout process (and yes, I may be compensated for referring you, so we both win). This includes not only the Studio Essentials, but all of the lights and modifiers on the Interfit site. Check them out for all your S-mount modifier needs.

Now go out and light up the world!


Umbrellas andSoftboxes and Dishes, oh my!

Choosing the lighting modifier to use for portraits

You have probably grown as tired of looking at me as I have. So this morning I hired my friend, Ny, to come over to help with more comparisons of light modifiers. For this series I used an Interfit S1 battery powered studio light and a variety of modifiers in different shapes and sizes. I photographed Ny with each modifier and with and without a white fill card on the shadow side of her face. The camera (Canon EOS 6D) was set to the Daylight color balance preset. You can see that some of the modifiers are very different in color temperature than others. The flash power output was adjusted for each modifier to give the same f/5.6 meter reading. Ny was seated about 4-feet in front of a white seamless paper backdrop. The lens was the Canon 85mm f.1.8 set to f/5.6 and ISO 100.

And without further ado, here are the test results.

Comparing the look of the 46-inch Photek Softlighter II with no diffusion (umbrella only), with a single diffusion panel, and with two diffusion panels attached. The softlighter is mounted on an Interfit S1 studio flash.

And for good measure, some full-length photos on the white seamless paper with the light at camera-left and no fill light or bounce cards.

Not the most exciting hour of photography for myself or for Ny. But very useful. If you find these comparisons helpful please consider helping to support this blog by purchasing my book Anatomy of a Studio Portrait or by purchasing lighting gear directly from Interfit Photographic where you get a 10% discount and I get a small commission if you use the code CORNICELLO10 (in all caps) during the checkout process.