honey badger

Building the light

From the shadows come…

I have been working on a “headshot” project for a large company over the past month or so. I put headshot in quotes because they are using a wider view than a typical headshot. I am actually coming in late on the project. It started with one photographer traveling around the country to do the bulk of the photos (around 600 individuals). After that sprint they are finishing up with local photographers around the country to photograph new hires and do re-takes on some of the originals. That’s where I came into the project to finish up the Seattle office photos. As there were already more than 500 headshots done, I had to match the lighting from the previous photographer.


I was given a rough lighting diagram, seen here, of the five light setup and a few example photos to reference. But I still had to build up the light with the equipment I had available. And here I want to show what went into the build.

There are a few ways to build a lighting setup. Some photographers start with the fill light and build up from there. I like to start with my key light and add the fill and accent lights onto that. So, with that in mind, here we go…

s1 main light

I started with an Interfit Photographic S1 strobe in a Deep Zoom Reflector with a 40-degree grid coming in from camera left. The grid is being used to restrict the light on the subject so it doesn’t hit the background and cause a shadow on the right side of the frame.


The next light is an Interfit Honey Badger in a 7-inch metal dish reflector with a 10-degree grid. This light is placed directly over the lens and is concentrated on the subject’s face. Again, the grid is used to contain the light and not affect the background too much. I had a number of concerns about this light as I was sure that some subjects would be wearing eyeglasses. But with a little bit of angling the direction of their faces, it did not end up being an issue.


The third light in the mix is a 60-inch octa powered by another Honey Badger. This light is directly behind the camera, giving an overall fill and providing a base for the shadows. It doesn’t look like much on its own, but in the overall final image it becomes important.


The fourth light is from another Honey Badger pointed into a 60-inch Photek Softlighter without the diffuser (basically a large umbrella) from camera left to bring out the color of the background and to provide a space for the employee biography that appears with their photograph.


The final light in the setup is another Honey Badger in a 1x3 strip box with a grid. It is set up on a boom arm coming over the top of the roll of seamless paper. It is there to give a tiny bit of separation between the subject’s head and the background.


And finally, all the lights combined for the final image to be delivered. All of the power settings on the lights remained the same from the individuals to them all combined. I found it enlightening to see how they all came together in the final image after looking at how dark most of them were on their own.


Here is what the final setup looked like. The background is Savage Ultramarine seamless paper. About half of the photos were made on this color, and the remaining were photographed on Savage Slate Gray.

The yellow dot on the small extension arm is a tennis ball to make the arm more visible so a klutzy photographer doesn’t walk into it. The client specs called for all persons to be seated on an apple box. The second apple and the foot stool are there to position the feet and legs in different ways to give some variety to the photos.

LED Modeling Lights In Studio Flash

It's not about the watts!

With the announcement of the new Honey Badger studio flash from Interfit Photographic I've seen some comments about the brightness of the modeling light in these flash units. I think the confusion comes from using the term watts to describe the lights. Watts is a measurement of energy used and doesn't tell us anything about the brightness of the light. Please note that this discussion is about the modeling lamps, not about the flash power (which is even more confusing, but watt-seconds is a topic for a different post). I picked the Einstein for comparison because it uses a typical 250-watt modeling lamp and I had one available when I decided to write this. You can substitute just about any other light that uses the same 250-watt bulbs. Paul C. Buff has also recently released a new Alien Bee lamp head that uses an LED modeling lamp that has the same advantages as the Honey Badger.

The Honey Badger and the Einstein

The Honey Badger and the Einstein

LED modeling lamp on the left, quartz modeling lamp on the right

Mr. Heat Miser

In the past, studio strobes have used tungsten modeling lamps that could range from 25 watts to 300 watts or more. Some units use standard household bulbs. Higher end units use quartz halogen lamps. These share some common features. They are on the warm end of the Kelvin scale at around 2500 to 3200 degrees Kelvin (yellowish compared to daylight color). They are also very hot to the touch. I measured the 250-watt quartz modeling lamp on an Einstein flash with a laser thermometer and got a reading of 210 degrees F on the 7" reflector and above the scale on the bulb itself. You don't want to touch the reflector when the bulb is on or for a while after turning it off.

The cool kid on the block

The Honey Badger comes with a 60-watt LED lamp. The key here is LED. LED lights are much more energy efficient. The 60-watt LED puts out as much light, actually a little more, than the 250-watt quartz light.

Daylight balance LED Honey Badger on your left, tungsten balance quartz Einstein on your right. You can see that they are similar in brightness, but the Honey Badger uses 60 watts and remains relatively cool to the touch vs the 250-watt bulb that will burn you if you touch it or the modifier.

Daylight balance LED Honey Badger on your left, tungsten balance quartz Einstein on your right. You can see that they are similar in brightness, but the Honey Badger uses 60 watts and remains relatively cool to the touch vs the 250-watt bulb that will burn you if you touch it or the modifier.

Here are my comparison measurements of the Honey Badger and the Einstein:

250-watt quartz halogen modeling lamp
Tungsten white balance
Temperature over 200 degrees F (93.3C)
Modeling lamp metered at 39" (1m) = 1/15 second @ f/6.3 at ISO 100
Flash metered at 10-feet (3m) f/20 (640 watt-seconds)

Honey Badger
60-watt LED modeling lamp
Daylight white balance
Temperature 86 degrees F (30C)
Modeling lamp metered at 39" (1m) = 1/15 @ F/9 at ISO 100 (brighter than the 250 watt  quartz bulb)
Flash metered at 10-feet (3m) f/16 (320 watt-seconds)

Why LED?

Some advantages of the LED technology include the mentioned fact of it being a lot cooler and safer to work with (yes, I have had a small softbox catch on fire from the heat of the modeling lamp). It is easier to change modifiers without getting burned. You don't have to worry about accidentally touching the modeling lamp (even when it is not on) and causing damage to the lamp from the oils on your fingers. You can use the modeling lamp for a longer time period when using modifiers that enclose the light, such as a snoot, barn doors, or grids. You can use the modeling lamp for video without heating up the room. And on the Honey Badger you can turn the flash tube off via a switch on the back to make sure it doesn't accidentally flash when you are doing a video session. The lower overall operating temperature of the unit should help prolong the life of the internal components of the flash.

Get a discount!

If you are interested in purchasing Interfit lighting equipment I urge you to visit your local independently owned camera store who really needs your support. However, if your local dealer cannot get these for you, as an Interfit Creative Pro I can offer you a 10% discount if you order directly from Interfit by using the code CORNICELLO10 (all caps) when you order.  And yes, I do get a small commission if you use this code, thanks!