interfit photographic

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.

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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.




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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.

What does that modifier look like?

I had a few spare minutes yesterday (New Year’s Eve), so invited a friend and her daughter over to make some photographs with a variety of light modifiers. Here are the results of the 28 configurations we tested.

All photos lit with an Interfit Photographic Honey Badger strobe head. All photos metered to f/6.3. Subject seated about 2 feet in front of white seamless paper. All lit with the single light with no reflectors or fill light. Camera was set to “daylight” white balance (yes there is that big a difference in skin tone between them) and the only post-processing on the images was to crop them to a square.

Here is the list of modifiers used and some notes:

  • Interfit 48-inch deep parabolic softbox with both diffusers in place

  • Interfit 48-inch deep parabolic softbox with only the inner diffuser

  • Interfit 48-inch deep parabolic softbox with no diffusers (open face)

  • Interfit 48-inch deep parabolic softbox with 20-inch black foam-core disk blocking the middle of the light (looks like a ring light)*

  • Neewer 36-inch parabolic softbox with CheetahStand focusing rod with the flash head pulled all the way in to the softbox

  • Neewer 36-inch parabolic softbox with CheetahStand focusing rod with the flash extended to the opening of the softbox

  • Neewer 36-inch parabolic softbox with CheetahStand focusing rod with the flash extended to the opening of the softbox and a 20-inch black foamcore disk blocking out the middle of the light*

  • SPSystems 28-inch folding octabox with both diffusers in place Light boomed over camera on axis with lens

  • SPSystems 28-inch folding octabox with only the inner diffuser

  • 22-inch Speedotron beauty dish centered over the camera with diffusion sock

  • 22-inch Speedotron beauty dish without the sock

  • 20-inch metal dish reflector centered over the camera

  • 20-inch metal dish reflector with a diffusion sock on it

  • Interfit Deep Zoom reflector at camera left

  • Interfit Deep Zoom reflector with its diffusion sock

  • Interfit Deep Zoom reflector with 10-degree grid

  • Interfit Deep Zoom reflector with 10-degree grid and diffuser to show that the diffuser negates the effect of the grid

  • 7-inch metal dish reflector

  • 7-inch metal dish reflector with one sheet of #261 diffusion

  • 7-inch metal dish reflector with two sheets of #261 diffusion

  • 7-inch metal dish reflector with 10-degree grid

  • Interfit 2x3-foot softbox pointed directly at the subjects

  • Interfit 2x3-foot softbox feathered in front of the subjects

  • Interfit 2x2-foot collapsible softbox (which comes with the Honey Badger and has a recessed front panel)

  • 2x2 softbox with a flat front (old and apparently yellowed with age)

  • Interfit 65-inch** Silver Parabolic umbrella with the head pushed almost all the way into the umbrella

  • Interfit 65-inch** Silver Parabolic umbrella with the head pushed in (focused) and a 20-inch black foam-core disk blocking the center of the light

  • Interfit 65-inch** Silver Parabolic umbrella with the head mounted on a separate light stand about 5-feet in front of the umbrella

    * see the photo below
    **measured across the opening, other companies call this a 7-foot or an 84-inch as they measure around the back arc of the umbrella

The black foam-core disk was used in an attempt to make the lights act something like a defocused Broncolor Para. The sliding focusing arm in the 36-inch para was for the same reason. But looking at the photos, I think that I like the big 48-inch Interfit Parabolic Softbox in any of its configurations (2 diffusers, inner diffuser, no diffuser).

Some photos for clarification

Strobe head mounted on a separate stand 5 feet in front of the Interfit 65-inch Silver Parabolic Umbrella

Strobe head mounted on a separate stand 5 feet in front of the Interfit 65-inch Silver Parabolic Umbrella

Black foam-core disk blocking the center of the deep parabolic softbox

Black foam-core disk blocking the center of the deep parabolic softbox

Cheetah “Chopstick” lets you position the flash head inside the softbox, sliding it closer to or farther from the back of the softbox to focus the light

Cheetah “Chopstick” lets you position the flash head inside the softbox, sliding it closer to or farther from the back of the softbox to focus the light

The Interfit Line of Studio Flash Units

High quality, good customer service, reasonable prices

The Honey Badger and the Badger Unleashed

The Honey Badger and the Badger Unleashed

This blog contains affiliate links. If you purchase items directly from Interfit Photographic USA using my discount code, cornicello10, I will be compensated for the referral.

I was first introduced to the Interfit line of lighting gear at WPPI in 2017. I visited their booth to find out more about the LED panels they were distributing at the time. I was impressed with the people I met and came away from the meeting more interested in their studio strobes, which I hadn’t been very familiar with before. I kept in contact with Interfit over the next few months and signed on as one of their Creative Pros in June of 2017.

Along with the quality of their products, I was impressed that they have US-based operations in California and Georgia and that I was able to meet their staff not only at large shows like WPPI, but also at regional events. Their CEO and lead engineer both attended Glazer’s Camera PhotoFest in Seattle, for example. While I have not had a reason to contact their customer service department, I have heard a number of good stories from satisfied customers.

I started my relationship with a pair of S1 strobes. In August of 2017 Interfit released their Honey Badger line of strobes. I added those to my studio along with some of their modifiers. In early 2018 they introduced a line called Studio Essentials that included a 200Ws Value Flash head and an LED monolight. Their latest release is the Badger Unleashed battery powered strobe heads. 

Here is an overview of each of their studio strobe offerings.

FLASH HEADS

Interfit S1 battery or A/C powered strobe

Interfit S1 battery or A/C powered strobe

clean, clear, easy to use controls on the Interfit S1

clean, clear, easy to use controls on the Interfit S1

S1 - Interfit’s most powerful strobe at 500 watt-seconds. It uses S-mount accessories (as do all of their strobes). It has a built-in handle to help adjust the angle of the light on a light stand. It is battery-powered with the option of plugging it into an a/c wall socket. Controls on the back are clearly labeled and easy to use. This flash offers high speed sync (HSS) and TTL exposure control when used with their dedicated Canon, Nikon, or Sony remote triggers (the receiver is built into the strobe head). The S1 uses IGBT technology to offer very short flash durations at the lower end of the power range. The modeling lamp is a 10-watt LED, which is equivalent to around a 60-watt incandescent bulb. The low wattage helps make the battery last longer. There is a glass diffuser dome covering the flash tube and modeling lamp for protection and for even light spread inside of the light modifiers you use with the flash.


Interfit Honey Badger studio strobe

Interfit Honey Badger studio strobe

Control panel on the Honey Badger

Control panel on the Honey Badger

Honey Badger - The bright yellow strobe offers 320 watt-seconds of power and has a 60-watt daylight color balanced LED modeling lamp that is as bright as a 300-watt incandescent lamp. As it is an LED, it does not get hot, so no burnt fingers changing modifiers as you would with other strobes with incandescent modeling lamps. In addition to the standard S-mount for modifiers, the Honey Badger also accepts pop-up modifiers and comes standard with a 24-inch square softbox. This strobe is all manual and has a very fast recycle time. It is compatible with the dedicated remotes and the generic remote that works with just about any camera with a hot shoe. Controls are clearly marked and easy to use. A radio trigger receiver is built in. There is a glass diffuser dome covering the flash tube and modeling lamp for protection and for even light spread inside of the light modifiers you use with the flash. The Honey Badger is my go-to light for most studio situations.


Interfit Badger Unleashed battery powered studio and location strobe

Interfit Badger Unleashed battery powered studio and location strobe

Control panel on the Badger Unleashed

Control panel on the Badger Unleashed

Badger Unleashed - This is the new cousin of the Honey Badger, though it is also a mini-S1. It is 250 watt-seconds (which is only one stop less than the S1, or power level 9 out of 10) with a 15-watt LED modeling lamp. Like the Honey Badger, it offers S-Mount and pop-up modifier compatibility. The Badger Unleashed is IGBT controlled and offers high speed sync (HSS) and TTL automatic exposure control with the dedicated remotes for Canon, Nikon, and Sony. It also works in manual mode with the generic remote trigger. The Badger Unleashed has a short flash duration to help freeze motion and recycle time is 1.5 seconds at full power. This light can power down to 1 watt-second for those times you want to work wide open with your fast lenses or just need a little kiss of light to augment your scene. The battery is rated for over 400 full power flashes per charge and recharge time is around 90 minutes. Extra batteries are available, too. There is a glass diffuser dome covering the flash tube and modeling lamp for protection and for even light spread inside of the light modifiers you use with the flash.

The new battery-powered Badger Unleashed from Interfit Photographic is now available. I took one out for its first spin this evening. Check it out here.

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash

Control panel on the back of the Studio Essentials Value Flash

Control panel on the back of the Studio Essentials Value Flash

Studio Essentials Value Flash - This is a compact and light weight “starter” flash with 200 watt-seconds of power. It has a built-in radio receiver that works with the $20 remote trigger. There are kits available, including the $300 two-light softbox kit which I use to light the Egg Chair as part of my Chair Series photos. This includes 2 strobe heads, two 20x28-inch softboxes, two light stands, a remote trigger, and a carrying case. A similar two-light kit with umbrellas (but no carry case) is only $200. These lights use a 75-watt incandescent modeling lamp and there is a built-in handle to help adjust angles. Operation is all manual with an easy to use control panel on the back of the strobe heads. Recycle time is 2 seconds at full power. Power can be dialed back 5 stops to 12.5 watt-seconds in 1/10th stop increments. Modifiers attach via the built-in S-mount. A very good value for $99.99!


Accessories

The new Nomad portable battery pack is a sine wave inverter with two A/C outlets and a USB charger port. Additional batteries are also available for the Badger Unleashed and S1 lights.

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Interfit-nomad-2

MODIFIERS

Another thing that endeared me to Interfit is their collection of high quality and reasonably priced light modifiers, most of which come with a fabric grid included. Here is a list of the modifiers I use regularly. Scroll down for some example photographs.


Example Photographs

Interfit Badger Unleashed with Deep Zoom reflector and 10-degree grid

Interfit Badger Unleashed with Deep Zoom reflector and 10-degree grid

Interfit Badger Unleashed with Deep Zoom reflector and diffusion sock

Interfit Badger Unleashed with Deep Zoom reflector and diffusion sock

Interfit Badger Unleashed with 12x36-inch strip box

Interfit Badger Unleashed with 12x36-inch strip box

Interfit Honey Badger with 48-inch deep parabolic softbox

Interfit Honey Badger with 48-inch deep parabolic softbox

Interfit S1 with 28-inch folding beauty dish

Interfit S1 with 28-inch folding beauty dish

Honey Badger with 24x36-inch softbox

Honey Badger with 24x36-inch softbox

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash (two) with 20x28-inch softbox

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash (two) with 20x28-inch softbox

Interfit Honey Badger with 65-inch silver parabolic umbrella and diffusion sock

Interfit Honey Badger with 65-inch silver parabolic umbrella and diffusion sock

Badger Unleashed with 7-inch dish reflector

Badger Unleashed with 7-inch dish reflector

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash (two) with 20x28-inch softbox

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash (two) with 20x28-inch softbox

Honey Badger with 24-inch pop-up softbox

Honey Badger with 24-inch pop-up softbox

Honey Badger with 24-inch pop-up softbox

Honey Badger with 24-inch pop-up softbox

Interfit Badger Unleashed (two) with 36x48-inch softbox from camera left and 12x36-inch strip box at camera position for fill

Interfit Badger Unleashed (two) with 36x48-inch softbox from camera left and 12x36-inch strip box at camera position for fill

Honey Badger with 36x48-inch softbox as the background

Honey Badger with 36x48-inch softbox as the background

There you have it! Since getting into the Interfit line of studio lighting I have been able to retire my Dyna-lite, Speedotron, and Einstein flashes. Let me know if you might be interested in purchasing a Speedotron Force 5 monolight or Speedotron 202VF heads locally in Seattle.

Remember that you can get a 10% discount on any products purchased directly from Interfit USA using the code “cornicello10” at checkout.

Thanks!
John Cornicello











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!


Testing:
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.

Battle of the Round Modifiers

Does the shape really matter? Does diffusion help?

When you think of modifiers for your photo studio lights, what comes to mind first? Softboxes? Octaboxes? What about umbrellas? I will be at WPPI 2018 next week presenting about keeping it simple in the Interfit Photographic booth. I will be there on Monday afternoon at 1:30 and will primarily be talking about working with umbrellas. Think simple and inexpensive.

Yes, softboxes and octaboxes are everybody's favorites. But back in the "good old days" when I got started umbrellas were the go-to modifier. Some photographers were starting to build their own softboxes out of wood or foamcore, but there weren't any commercially mass produced boxes. Over the years it seems that umbrellas have fallen out of favor or have become 2nd class or even 3rd class options for modifying lights.

Like most everyone else, I've been using rectangular and roundish boxes for the past few years. But I have also maintained my relationship with one set of umbrellas, the Photek Softlighters in three sizes, 36-inch, 46-inch, and 60-inch. If I could only have one modifier, it would be the 60-inch Photek Softlighter. But having only one modifier is a scary fantasy notion, so let's not think of that any more.

How different are they from each other?

While preparing for my presentation I started thinking of the differences between the various modifiers. Do they really make that big a difference in comparison to their prices and their ease of set up and use? So I set up my tripod, and a remote shutter release this morning then started a series of selfies with a variety of round(ish) light modifiers. I grabbed these seven items and got to work: Westcott Apollo Orb, 36-inch Photek Softlighter, 41-inch silver metallic umbrella, 46-inch Photek Softlighter, 41-inch white satin umbrella, a 43-inch white shoot-through umbrella, and a 36-inch Paul C. Buff folding octabox (modified with a Bowens S-mount speedring). I mounted each of these in succession on an Interfit Honey Badger and you can see the results below. Use the slider over on the right side of the photos to drag left to reveal which modifier was used for each image. Each row is different modifier or different arrangement of the modifier with the full frame on the left and a close in crop on the face on the right to better see the catchlights in the eyes. Can you identify each modifier before dragging the slider?

I metered each modifier setup to read f/7.1 and kept the camera (Canon EOS 6D with Canon 100mm f/2 lens) on the "Daylight" white balance. As you can see, some of the modifiers have a strong influence on the color. The shoot-through umbrella was quite blue--maybe it doesn't have a UV coating? The Buff 36-inch octa was quite warm. The rest of the modifiers were much closer in color to each other.

Comparing the Photek Softlighter with and without diffusion

I was especially interested in seeing the comparison between the 46-inch Photek Softlighter on its own (without the diffusion panel), with the diffusion panel, and with 2 layers of diffusion panel. So here is that comparison. What do you think?

The image on the left below is the Softlighter with one layer of diffusion. The image on the right has two diffusion panels layered over each other.

So, how did you do on identifying each of the modifiers? Let me know in the comments here or join my lighting group on Facebook.

Thanks!
John