DON'T MISS: Italian conceptual portrait photographer Sara Lando is coming to the US to teach in Atlanta (8/16) and Baltimore (8/23). Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Follow Up: Choosing Big Lights

Last winter, I blogged about the thinking behind choosing big lights.

There were a lot of loose ends, not the least of which was my purchasing AlienBees partly as a way of putting off making a final choice. How it all sorted out, after the jump.
__________


A little background: I had narrowed the choices down to AlienBees, Elinchrom and Profoto, the rationale for each of which is linked above.

I bought a bag of AlienBees lights and mods both to learn what gear I really needed at a low cost, and to test them out for possible long-term use. By making use of the multi-unit discounts on accessories, I was confident that I could get most of my money back out of them if I wanted to.

In the end, while I was happy with the value for money I found myself wanting on the light quality and consistency. I waited and waited for the long-delayed Einstein monobloc. But in the end they came too late for me.



So I bit the bullet and bought Profoto Acutes. And there has definitely been a learning curve -- complete with some surprises.


Disclosure:

Right off the bat I'll mention that MAC Group US is the US distributor for Profoto, and also an advertiser on this site. Given that could create a conflict of interest, here's the deal:

First, I made it clear to them that their presence on the site would not be a factor in choosing a brand of lights. After all, they could jump ship tomorrow -- replaced by YongNuo for all I know.

Nor would I accept any "long-term loaner" gear, which most definitely exists with the more visible photographers. Not dissing those who do, but I try to run this site as straight-up and objective (WRT my personal experiences) as possible.

Further, I bought the Acutes retail and made sure I got a price that would be available to other photographers. I say this both to avoid confusion, and because knowing how and when to buy Profoto makes a big difference in the final price.


Buying Smart

It is no secret that Profoto tends to have one special or another running at various times in the calendar year. And I worked that to the best degree possible. I bought an Acute2 1200 value kit and two AcuteB 600 generators. With the special on at the time, that gave me enough bonus bucks to add an extra battery cassette, magnum reflector, ring light, soft ring reflector, grids, etc.

(The 40th anniversary special is gone, but they are running a 20% off deal even as I write this.)

Even so, Profoto reached so deep into my pockets that I am pretty sure we are legally married in some states. But I was able to combine the purchases and the special deal to decrease the pain by about 30%.


Road Test

Several months in, I have started to get to know them pretty well. In fact, the Earth Treks shoot in January was the last job on which I used the AlienBees. I have been using Profotos ever since for those shoots which call for big lights.

Going in, I saw cost as the biggest downside and everything else being an upside. Those preconceptions turned out to be mostly wrong.


Likes

First, the quality of the light is just gorgeous. And on top of that, I can "zoom" them for a wide range of light shapes from the standard reflectors. (You can see much more detailed into of this, here.)

Second is the consistency. Lock everything down on a tripod and fire it ten times. When you scan through the pics on the back of the camera, they all look exactly the same. Dead accurate and very consistent. That may not sound like a big deal, but I could never do that with my ABs.

Meh, but you can correct the variances in post, right? No big deal.

True -- sometimes -- and only if your scene is lit by one flash, with no ambient contribution. Add some ambient light (and/or multiple flashes) and those color variables will come back to bite you in the butt.

It didn't help that both my D3 and the ABs tended to shift red. They compounded each other in ways I sometimes could not fix.

My SB-800s have always been rock solid in both intensity and color. And I can combine them with the Profotos without a second thought. They are all spot-on, and play together very nicely. Maybe that is the case with the Einsteins now, but that improvement happened too late for me.

Lastly, the Profotos are built like tanks -- even in the less expensive parts of the product line. Fortunately, that has not been at issue for me yet, but I can assure you it will be soon. I know myself too well.


Dislikes

I thought it would be price, first and foremost. But once I took into account that I would be using them for many years, the math works out great. With what I bought and how long I expect to use them, the tab is gonna run between $1 and $2 a day. That's less than a coffee habit -- or in my case, a Diet Mtn. Dew habit.

So somewhat surprisingly, I ended up being at peace with the price. But I can always find something to complain about…


Too much power

You must be joking, right? Nope, no joke.

I like to work in close. And even dialed all the way down, the 1200 pack is too strong to do so without dropping down into the "sensor dust" apertures if you are not diffusing the light. They bottom out at 37.5ws, which is the equivalent of a little more than 1/2 power on an SB-800.

This is good in one way -- I will tend to use the Acutes as a main light and add in some SU-4'd SB-800s as accent lights. And in that sense, half power on an '800 as a hand-off point is just fine. But I still want to be able to go way lower.

My fix was to buy some sheets of Rosco neutral density gel. I got a 20x24" sheet of 1/2-, 1-, 2- and 3-stop ND gels. Now I can dial the Acutes down as far as I want, and then some. Using the ND's, I can light with an Acute head in a reflector and grid at three feet away and shoot at ISO 200 and f/2.8 if I want.

It's not an elegant solution, but it works well and for very little money. I can get the high-quality, low-quantity light while working in very close.

Profoto, of course, gives you this ability right out of the box with the D4 generators. But I am saving myself for something truly special before I go selling my extra kidney. (Mama always told me to wait, and that I would know when the time was right.)


No More Sliders

The asymmetric, multi-head power packs can be tough to figure out. I am still learning that stuff, and it is a bear compared to moving the power-level slider on an AlienBee.

They even include a sticker for the side of the pack which helps you to learn to equate the multiple switch positions to watt-seconds, which kinda reinforces the clunkiness. For the record, I felt the same way when I had to memorize my multiplication tables.

Again, Profoto can solve this with a D4 pack. Just get out your wheelbarrow and fill it up with money -- problem solved.

Actually, I considered the D1 monoblocs, as they do have great power range and adjust in .1-stop increments. I just thought the glass dome as an add-on was not an elegant solution to the fact that they really did not make full use of the Profoto light shapers right out of the box.


My Power Solution

I am sure I will get more comfortable with the asymmetric power distribution ratios. But for now I am treating each of my three packs and heads like combo monoblocs. That solves my intuitive power setting woes, and the ND gels give me great range below the stock bottom limits of the Acutes.

Also, I picked up a cheap auxiliary/backup set: A 600ws plug-in pack (600e) and two heads from a dentist on eBay. At the $999 "buy it now" price, I could not resist. It came with reflectors, cords, two soft box rings, and two flash head extension cords. That extra gear gave me a lot of flexibility and backup for not a lot of money. I did the happy dance that day.

(We'll see how smart I was when I find out how much time was left on the flash tubes…)

Oh, and one more money-preserving tip: I swapped in inexpensive inserts in the speed rings of my Paul Buff soft boxes and they now work great with the Acutes. Thanks to JoeyL for that idea.
__________


I have several shoots in the can for and prepped for On Assignments over the next month or so. For those which call for big lights, I am still in a learning curve with the Profoto Acutes. As I go, I will be walking through my various screw-ups, hair-pulling, etc., in those posts.


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55 Comments:

Blogger lightcomposer said...

I own none of the above-mentioned lights. I use a mix of SB-900s and a pair of very old, built like Ft. Knox, Novatron M500 monolights. You said you had considered Elinchrom, curious as to what criteria you used in making the decision to go with the Profoto vs. Elinchrom?

May 12, 2010 8:08 PM  
Blogger David said...

The variability and solidity of the mount, for one. Or, I guess that's two.

And FWIW, my first big lights were Novatrons, too!

(c. 1980's...)

May 12, 2010 8:13 PM  
Blogger John said...

Its going to be interesting to see your posts using the Profotos, but I guess what didn't get from this post, if your Profotos are too strong for a given project, then why wouldn't you just use your speedlights?

Is it a recycle time issue? Quality of light? power, ooh ooh power? (Tim Allen impersonation)

May 12, 2010 8:48 PM  
Blogger Jan Klier said...

While the power switches are definitely less intuitive to start with than a linear scale, they do have one advantage: they work in even stops. So once you have your first reading and you need to go up or down a stop, you know exactly what to do and no re-metering is required. Once you get used to that, it's a real saver.

Also of course the controls are always easy to access as opposed to mono blocs that are mounted high or in weird angles.

May 12, 2010 8:48 PM  
Blogger alexfry said...

Base ISO of 200 on modern DSLRs really does seem to be causing issues with the bigger heads..

I've done a bit of stuff with both Profoto Packs and D1 heads and in both cases I've really wanted less power..
I simply cant work in the apertures I like without ND (which I is rarely a problem so I never have any so im SOL)

If I was to buy some I'd be looking at the D1 250 Airs, purely because I don't want too much power..

May 12, 2010 9:19 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Very true on the power setting confusion Dave. I'm still trying to work it out myself. I too opted for the Paul C Buff softbox option, alas the SP Studio systems adapters that are like $20 are no longer available which leaves you looking at the rather overpriced official Profoto adapter at $120! Not so...go to Calumet, they have their own brand for $80. Not as nice a price as the SP studio systems but you gotta take what you can. Now, what about powering these things in the field? I know you tweeted me about using the Honda generator, which I did with great success but I sure would like to see some further info/opinions on that!

Cheers

Paul

May 12, 2010 9:38 PM  
Blogger dataz722 said...

I had actually just dug up your big light showdown earlier today and read through it again. I was going to ask what you ended up doing.

May 12, 2010 9:41 PM  
Blogger Dave6163 said...

Very cool write up. They sound very durable and can put out some nice light. No sliders what is a VAL to do?

Dave6163

May 12, 2010 9:46 PM  
Blogger J.N. said...

I have almost the identical set-up as you described except for the 600e. I have the 2400 pack, 2 AcuteB 600, ringlight, soft ring reflector, magnum reflector, extra cassette, etc. I use my AB's for background/hair lighting.

My 2400 pack, is too powerful, so I also bought sheets of ND. At one point, I had to cut a sheet of ND for my ringlight because I couldn't get it low enough. I was having trouble with the asymmetric settings. Now I use my ringlight with my AcuteB 600 since I can power it way down.

Now I await for you to do some shoots with your power kit and I hopefully I can learn new ideas to use my lights better.

May 12, 2010 10:16 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Congrats on the choice. Just did the same thing, switching from WL to Profotos. BTS, where did you find the inexpensive speed ring inserts? B&H is still waiting for them. Thanks.

May 12, 2010 10:25 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Pavlica said...

For one I don't think anyone would think you would sell out by representing something you do not agree with. I have only been capturing images for about 4 years now and I run White Lighting strobes 1600 and 800 along with a speedlight or two with reflectors and for what I do that gets me by. I would love to have a set of Acutes but the budget does not work at this time. I have used them in my schooling and yes they are great but for me the ease of use on the White Lightings just seem perfect for me. Your info continues to impress me and I have to say I get a bit sad when you go a day with out posting. Cheers to you and if you are ever in the Twin Cities Let me know, i'll buy you a Dew.

May 12, 2010 10:27 PM  
Blogger brettmaxwell.blogspot.com said...

Interesting. It would seem the Einsteins really would have been a good match for you, with consistent color and power down to 2.5ws. But I imagine the profotos will hold their value pretty well if you decide to switch!

May 12, 2010 10:49 PM  
Blogger bconfer said...

I've been using my Dynalites for 12+ years and haven't even replaced a flashtube yet (knock on wood). So yeah, the ROI is solid with these units.

Also, same as you, even dialed all the way down, I've almost always got more power than I want. Not sure if it works with the Acutes, but I often plug two strobes into the pack and then drape the cloth from a black umbrella over one of them- net result of reducing the total power down by 1/2 again.

May 12, 2010 10:59 PM  
Blogger Roland said...

diet mountain dew? really david.. i thought you were cooler than that.

May 12, 2010 11:10 PM  
Blogger Douglas said...

Curious why Profoto over Elinchrom.

And if the Einsteins were out in time for you would you have picked them over Profoto?

Doug
Seattle

May 13, 2010 12:30 AM  
Blogger David said...

@Douglas-

Asked and answered, above.

And as for the Einstein, it probably would have at least delayed a switch. BUt I would not have been able to answer until I had spent some real time with it.

May 13, 2010 1:07 AM  
Blogger Vibrant Photography said...

Add some of the new LiFE battries to your AcuteB and you have an even lighter pack. D1 tempts me at the moment, on Monday a battery pack is going to be announced officially for them.

May 13, 2010 3:28 AM  
Blogger seenew said...

"Oh, and one more money-preserving tip: I swapped in inexpensive inserts in the speed rings of my Paul Buff soft boxes and they now work great with the Acutes. Thanks to JoeyL for that idea."

P. Buff has the best softboxes in town as far as rapid set up and tear down goes. Where can I find out more about using my AB modifiers with any future profoto/elinchrom purchase I make?

--

As a side note, I'm a senior at SCAD in Savannah (you have a lot of followers there, by the way) and the school has all the Profoto kits you could want-- I regularly shoot with 6 or more heads on two or three 2400 packs (we just got a lot of new new Acute2's).
I was sort of doing what you did, testing out the Bees-- but I got a little bit too into it and now I've got 3 B1600's, the ABR800, and all kinds of modifiers.
I'm graduating in two weeks and it is starting to sink in that I won't have access to our 5-story (!) photo department any longer and so I'm trying to figure out if I should just go ahead and stick with the Bees or save for Profoto..

I suppose we're at similar levels of understanding each brand right now (though I must admit I think I've got a few points on you in decrypting the method of controlling the Acute 2 packs) but I just figure you've been in the industry longer and might have a better idea of what I should do.

I focus mostly on portraiture but I'm no stranger to product or fashion, either.

Wow, this has turned into a blog post of its own.

Haha, keep up the great work!

May 13, 2010 4:19 AM  
Blogger Steven Noreyko said...

David,

Can you post a link to your source for profoto speed ring inserts?

May 13, 2010 5:03 AM  
Blogger James said...

If you're earning a living and depreciating gear over 5 years then I know price is much less of an issue, but I'd still cringe at paying more for a replacement tube than I spend on a complete monobloc.

James.

May 13, 2010 7:32 AM  
Blogger Dustin said...

Can David or anyone else in the comment thread answer what case is pictured that he's using to haul all that equipment? I've got a very nice Tenba air case right now that I use with my Profoto gear...with no wheels on it. Definitely looking for something similar to what's pictured I think. My back thanks you.

May 13, 2010 8:30 AM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

It's hard for me to understand the 'quality' of light you speak of. Is this something we can actually see on a low res jpeg?
Excellent post David,thanks!,
Debbi
My Paul Buff's have a slight red cast as well

May 13, 2010 9:10 AM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

Dustin
Click on the case picture and David tells you .It's a Prophoto case

May 13, 2010 9:42 AM  
Blogger Raleigh Beringer said...

Thanks David for the write-up. Unfortunately Pro(anything) is well out of my price range, but I have been looking at the AB's drooling for a while now. I do have a sorta related but mostly not question.

Would you rather see flashes get more powerful, Sync Speeds get faster, or Bottom end ISO limits be decreased? I can think of good and bad points to all of them but I think I would opt for ISO and or Sync Speeds.

Your Thoughts?

May 13, 2010 9:53 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

@Dustin,

that is the new Think Tank Photo Logistics Manager. Just google them and you will find it listed under rolling bags. Rob Galbraith has a review as well.

May 13, 2010 10:16 AM  
Blogger Basswork said...

David,

When you posted your quick look at the Einsteins someone asked in the comments about the quality of the light. I've been checking that thread to see your answer. If you could comment on that at some point, it would be appreciated.

May 13, 2010 11:02 AM  
Blogger Gus said...

David, you didnt mention that the AcuteB 600 packs drop all the way down to 9ws. They are excellent for low power output to balance with ambient. At such low power settings you get tons of pops even with the older battery and the recycling time is super fast.

May 13, 2010 11:19 AM  
Blogger David said...

@Basswork-

I have not given them much mileage, but they seem to be consistent in the color mode. They are limited by the static mount and the PCB reflectors, which I do not like as much as the Profotos.

@John-

Mostly wanting access to those fantastic light mods - especially for my key. Thus, the NDs in close.

@Paul-

They do not appear to be discontinued, only delayed. Apparently this has happened before.

@Roland-

Not merely regular Mtn Dew. Diet Mtn Dew. Doesn't get any better.

@Seenew-

Ha. I agonized enough over my own choice. I am not gonna make yours!

@Steven- Doesn't matter, they are all out of stock until SP-Systems gets off of their butts and makes some more. Just search SP Profoto Ring and you'll see most of the people who currently do not have them.

@Gus-

Indeed. And I do use them that way, but only have to B600s.

May 13, 2010 11:31 AM  
Blogger jfife said...

It's been a long time since you were recommending cereal box snoots and cautioning newbies about the cost but necessity of PWs. I think you might be entering into an era where most of your readers will not be able to follow.

May 13, 2010 1:03 PM  
Blogger David said...

@jfife-

There is nothing wrong with a cereal box snoot. I have taken many, many photos with them, and still use them on occasion.

All I have ever done is to blog about my own path as a photographer and to try to teach people that lighting is accessible and should not be intimidating.

I would suggest that you use the gear that is within your comfort zone, whether that is based on size, weight, power, ease of use, cost or anything else.

It has been my experience that you can use a very wide variety of tools to light. What matters is that you bring a little know-how -- and a lot of creativity -- to the process.

-d

May 13, 2010 3:15 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

. . . "Likes - First, the quality of the light is just gorgeous." . . .

I've read and heard this many times. What the heck do you and all the others who use this way of describing strobe light mean??? Compared to what? Is there some magical degree of Kelvin that makes PF lights "gorgeous"? Is there special glass used for the flash tube? Is the flash tube filled with a special kind of "gorgeous" gas? Would I be able to see ANY diff between a PF shot and an AB shot, and if so, what would that diff look like?

I thought a short burst of 5500 Kelvin is just that - a short burst of 5500 Kelvin. Flash is Flash . . . right? I'm really dumbfounded by the term "gorgeous light" - help me out.

Thanks for the post.
Ron

May 13, 2010 4:22 PM  
Blogger Neuffy said...

This isn't a perfect parallel (indeed, there are significant and notable differences), but it has some similarity to Reviewer Creep as published on The Online Photographer.

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/05/reviewer-creep.html

May 13, 2010 5:10 PM  
Blogger PatrickFallon said...

Hi David,
With regards to "too much power", another possible solution for you might be to shoot above your camera's max sync speed. I have only done this a few times but it does work and it also reduces your strobe's effective max output and also (really cool) to shoot with the aperture more open/less depth of field. Although I use it to sync manual strobes at higher than otherwise possible sync speeds. I use a D3 and SB800 and PWs to do this (in my case with a Lumedyne P4XX action pack 400ws strobe). Put the SB800 in the hot shoe and make sure auto high speed FP sync is enabled, plug the PW into the flash's PC sync terminal. Set the camera to your chosen sync speed (say 1/1000) and away you go. When you trip the shutter the flash triggers the PW at the right time and the exposure captures only the fall-off of the strobe so it is weaker output. Note the effective power output of the flash is different at different sync speeds to you need to get to know how it works with your gear.
Keep up the good work! Patrick

May 13, 2010 6:43 PM  
Blogger Morgana Creely said...

Are Bowens not available in the US? They never get a mention in comparisons of big lights. I love mine, they are reliable and consistent. :)

May 13, 2010 6:45 PM  
Blogger David said...

@Morgana-

I may be wrong, but I do think that Bowens are more of an EU thing than a US thing. They sell them over here, but more people seem to use them over in Europe.

@Ron-

I cannot speak for everyone, but I will try to quantify it for me. One, it is white. My AB's tended to be oversaturated in the red range (and also a little in the yellow) which gave me fits with skin tones.

Again, just one flash, and you can work around itin post. But multiple flashes or flash and ambient, and you start to have multiple variables and that was a pain.

I did not realize how good I had it with my SB-800s, which are also very consistent and color correct.

Second on the light quality is that the tube and modeling bulb are unified behind the same frosted glass. That makes them damn near exactly the same in terms of light output WRT position. This is something that the Einstein has brought to Paul Buff's line, and with good reason, IMO. That was an irk with me.

This is very important in this particular case, as (and, third) the reflectors move along a calibrated scale, giving your very different throws from the same mods.

I will admit to being more into light than most, and I feel like these flashes are designed for people who are picky about light. I like that.

May 13, 2010 8:24 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

David,

All I can say is good choice... I was wondering how this would turn out.

I've used the Acutes on a number of occasions, renting to this point, as I've got to know them better... These are excellent tools. And I understand your point about sticker shock.

I just picked up an Acute 2400R set off of kijiji locally... Often the best way to get this kit is to be patient and buy "gently" used.

May 13, 2010 8:54 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

David,
Bowens are available in the US and Canada but mostly sold as Calumet Travelites (Monoblocs).
-C.

May 13, 2010 11:43 PM  
Blogger Michael Quack - Visual Pursuit said...

Back when you posted about the switch I did not understand why you outruled Hensel so hard. Looking at the Lithium Porty it will give you the same functionality at a much lower price with a much easier interface compared to the profoto. And it is more lightweight on top.

There would be no need to learn the interface, it is selfexplaining.

Actually to me the profoto interface is a constant annoyance.

To me a flash power pack should rather have the interface of a kalashnikov than that of an Atlas V rocket control center.

May 14, 2010 1:59 AM  
Blogger Morgana Creely said...

Thanks David; the two most common brands that I've seen around here [in Oz] are Bowens and Elinchromes. I've not seen Prophoto or Alienbees in any of my regular haunts.

May 14, 2010 4:29 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

I'm kindof disappointed. David, you've spent years cultivating a virtual cult of "strobists", folks learning to light on the super cheap....then you bust out and purchase $7000 worth of light. How many true "strobists' are going to fork out that kind of money? Hmmmmm, then you complain that you can't dial it down enough. Have you sold out? Has success corrupted you?

May 14, 2010 7:38 AM  
Blogger Ty Mattheu said...

What a ride for you, Dave. Did you think, say 6 years ago, that you would be rolling Profotos out of the bag to shoot models in Dubai? I bet not. You've earned it, you know. And you should enjoy it.

But a word of caution -- don't forget the magic. You're legion of fans never followed you because you knew more about lighting then anyone else on the web, but because you got us. You understood where we were. We didn't know what the hell we were doing, or where to begin to do it any better. You taught us how to use duct tape and cardboard to make fantastic images -- and then you MADE an image with duct tape and cardboard.

AND THEN THEY PUT IT IN THE PAPER!!!

I mean, that REALLY pressed home the point that we didn't need to spend $7000 on gear to realize our little shutterbug dreams. You showed us how the impossible was -- well, possible.

I am a strobist success story. Two years ago, I discovered your site. At the time, I didn't have a clue what to do, but knew what I wanted to do. To be published -- somewhere.

Today -- wow. It seems like I am shooting everyday. I just finished a string of 16 straight weeks of freelance work being published in the local paper. Last month, I shot my first feature, and the lead photo ran double truck in a regional magazine with a circulation of over 100,000. Someone called ME and asked me to cover the Kentucky Derby for them.

Even my wife stopped taking my kids to Pennys for their birthday photos (my biggest victory.)

And Dave, I owe much of that to you. Not only did you show me how to do it, but you helped me to understand that I COULD do it. And I will always be indebted to you for that.

But things change. You are growing, and we can't hold you back. The writing is on the wall, anyway (literally). Reading the comments above, it's obvious that your following is slowly morphing from the "dude with camera" set to the seasoned pro. I see several comments from Profoto users -- three years ago, Dave, you didn't have 10 readers who could spell "Profoto" :) (present company included.)

So my advice to you. Be mindful of the brand, what got you here. Its ambitious to think that you can be there for the guy with a flash, 15 ft of sync cord, and a brand new D5000, and be there for the D3 and profoto crowd -- all at the same time. They really are two different audiences. But I think you know this.

If there is anyone talented enough to serve these two masters, I will bet its you.

If you can't -- if its the big guys now -- I wish you the best. The little fish will miss you, but one of the greatest things about your success is the imitators you have spawned. There's plenty of good advice out there now for the guy with a speedlight and a dream, and that should take some of the sting out of losing you to the Leibovitz crowd.

Just don't try to be all things to all people -- I don't think it will keep you happy.

Anyway, enjoy the new lights -- I can't wait to see how they work out for you. I'll be watching, as always, as a new challenge unfolds -- how to recreate your look with a bag of eight speedlights..... and a cereal box.

Peace, my friend.

May 14, 2010 1:02 PM  
Blogger Tim N said...

Does this mean you have to change the name of your blog??? I must say, the grass roots of your blog is the guerilla style of photography (using paper, rubber bands & speedlights, etc.) to get the best shot. Now that you have "big lights" in your arsenal means that it is not so strobist anymore.

May 14, 2010 2:30 PM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

$7,000??? I figured more around $20,000. A ring light alone is $1,000

May 14, 2010 3:29 PM  
Blogger mickeyjuice said...

Some people don't seem to get the concept that light is light, and it's how you use it that counts.

May 14, 2010 7:42 PM  
Blogger Eduardo said...

If you want to keep the ABs foldable softboxes but use them in your profoto setup (because it is a real pain in the @ss to assemble normal softboxes) you can use the redwing profoto adapter http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=details_accessories&A=kitInfo&Q=&sku=220958&is=REG and replace the one from AB with those in the foldable softbox. yeah they are 89 bucks but totally worthy if you are a one man army though for the sake of being eficient and avoiding swearings to fly in front of the clients. A note from those who reat there are adapters for almost any brand there so you can adapt the foldable SB to any brand that red wing offers an adapter.

May 14, 2010 10:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Dave, did you ever figure out a way to use such big lights with sb800-s in Master/Remote mode? SU4 is OK but the Master/Remote mode allows you to control power from the camera. How can one overcome the problem that the sb800 IR communication link triggers the big lights which in turn jam this communication and the SB800-s ends up not firing?

May 15, 2010 2:26 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

David, you do seem to be in a transition, however I don't see that as a negative thing. I see it as something that takes careful planning. I disagree with people who have commented that photographers on the cheap can't relate to where you are at because all of your original content is still available. I for one would like to see more of a blending of the two sides of the coin. A clear definition in your articles of how the same photo could be lit by bug lights and/or small lights and what you have learned over the years. I would also like to see you do more with your strobist 101 and 102 stuff. I envision an e-book or something with more of the then and now stories that we love so much from you. I would also like to see a re-envisioning of the strobist DVDs. I recently watched them for the first time, and after following your blog religiously for two years, and found I had a ton of questions about how your vision has changed from using a d-70 and sb-24's to traveling with a D3 and 6 sb-800s.
Sorry to participate in the hijacking of this thread, but I wanted to put in my 2 cents worth. Congrats on the new big boy lights, I look forward to learning much more about them.

One more thing to the commenter who referred to "reviewer creep." I read the article and I wouldn't call someone who purposefully avoided the sweet deal he could have gotten on those lights a "reviewer creep." Totally unfounded in my opinion!!!!

May 15, 2010 7:51 PM  
Blogger zeroplusplus said...

Big lights really aren't that expensive. Buff Einsteins are less than a Nikon SB900 and one can do so much more.

Gosh, all those modifiers that we can now attach to the big lights. This forum is about lighting techniques and setups. Now the readers will have even more options.

I might have gone with the D1 monoheads instead of powerpacks. For our commercial work it is much easier to dial in the power individually on each monohead...but that is just me.

You sure bought a lot of light.

Congrats on the new lighting tools!

May 16, 2010 5:05 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I teach 'Lighting P201' one night a week at The Art Institute, and have been sending my students to your site for 2 years under the mantra: you don't need to spend huge bucks to make beautiful light... you just need to understand how light works.


So as Ty above said so eloquently... 'don't forget the little guy'. Or if I may paraphrase, "remember to dance w/ the one what brung ya".

(We teach w/ all Profoto strobe equipment at The Art Institute, though I now use Elinchrom and Sunstar-Strobo after 20 years of commercial studio/location work.)

May 19, 2010 9:44 AM  
Blogger MasterOfGoingFaster said...

Thanks for the update, Dave. I'm enjoying your path from cheap light to fantastic light.

But it seems that some fear they may be losing you to the "bright" side. May I offer a suggestion?

After you complete a "ProFoto" shoot, consider a follow-up post on duplicating the shot in the old DIY style. In other words, challenge yourself to do the same shot with SBs, and home-made (or equal) modifiers. This would be really interesting and really drive home the lesson that its the light (and the thinking that goes with it) that matters - not the gear.

May 19, 2010 11:25 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Hi David,

I've found myself wondering many of the same things others have in this and other threads about big vs. small lights and how it relates to your blog. Maybe the questions are worth a Q/A post:

- For you personally, what first prompted the urge to get "big lights"?
- What are the primary benefits over small flashes? I assume price, modifiers and light shaping, portability, quality of light, modeling lamps, and overpowering ambient are all factors. Which are the most important?
- If modifiers is a substantial con for small flash users, could the dedicated low-budget DIY'er approximate nearly all the big-light shaping effects given enough ingenuity?
- What types of assignments would lend themselves toward one system or the other?
- Do you see yourself using (and continuing to post about) both, or leaning toward your new big lights?

In future posts, going into detail about the how/why of modifiers you use would be great! Also interesting would be your views on lighting a given assignment in either system.

Thanks for all the great info you provide! Keep up the excellent work!

Cheers,
-Jeff

May 19, 2010 11:54 AM  
Blogger djricepik said...

David-

I think the link to the Profoto Blog you were looking for is: http://blog.profoto-usa.com/?p=290

They upgraded their wordpress a while back and some of the links got a bit wacky.

Thanks for the plug!

DC Chavez
http://www.dcchavez.com

May 19, 2010 12:13 PM  
Blogger DwightP980 said...

I think a few of the readers need to lighten up a little, or perhaps I'm missing their point.
As I see it, David is explaining a tool, pure and simple, and how it works for him.
When I first joined this group I had one SB-80DX flash and a whole lot of want. Today I use three SB800's and the SB-80DX and a whole host of other equipment, and combined with ideas I've picked up off this site by both David, and a lot of the others members, I make it work.
I've used free light (the Sun), cheap light (flashlights) and Speedlights, in different combinations, all from information contained on this site.
Tonight I learned of another light tool and how it works for that user, sweet!

May 28, 2010 8:39 PM  
Blogger Lola said...

hi, I made a stupid mistake and bought the acute value pack thinking the small generator that came with it was battery power also for location lighting. I now realise that on top of the $4000 spent I need to spend another $1700 on a batpack to work the lights outside. Had I known this I would have bought a D1 head kit, which can be used straight from the wall socket and teamed it with a pro bat pack for out in the field. As it stands, I now have to lug the acute generator box everywhere, indoors, outdoors and then have the additional bat pack which it has to be plugged into. Can I ask David why you chose this set up over the D1s? I see the lamp heads are much smaller and compact, but also because the bulbs are exposed they are not as robust as the D1s and now with having to lug the additional pro bat packs or 2 acuteb600 generators for each light, it is probably the same in size and weight? can you please explain further? I am stuck with these acute bs now as I have shipped them straight to me from the US to the middle east.

February 22, 2011 1:05 AM  
Blogger David said...

Lola-

I am sorry you assumed that the Acutes were battery backs. I am sure your experience has been flavored by that initial position.

The Acutes were my choice for many reasons, some of which are detailed in the post above. Additionally, Profotos are the choice of rental houses around the world. Which, in addition to availability of extra gear for specialized shoots, is also a significant and ongoing validation of their build quality and durability.

That was very important for me, as I plan to have the Acutes for a long time.

As for the "exposed" lamp, I chose the Acutes over the D1s because of the protruding quality of the bulb and tube. This matches up far better with all of the Profoto modifiers, allowing a wide variability to the quality of the light by "zooming" the reflectors. That was big to me.

In fact, I think the recessed lamp/tube is the biggest knock on a D1.

If battery power would have been my primary use, I might have gone with Elinchrom. They have two very good battery solutions -- Rangers a Quadras. Ditto AlienBees, with Einsteins and the new Litium batteries, but they are not that widely available outside the US.

If you are going to be shooting outside a lot, I might suggest a 2k generator (USD $1,000) as an endless power source rather than multiple B600s. But please, PLEASE research them better than you did on the Profotos. Not trying to ding you here -- just noting that you bought the Acutes not even knowing they were not battery flashes. Grabbing a generator with this little knowledge could land you in trouble.

With a generator, you really should get first-hand info from people who have used a model you are considering buying with your exact flash gear. And the "clean-ness" of the power is an issue, too, so check on the pure sine wave stuff.

It goes without saying, but all of this goes double when you are having the gear shipped long distances.

February 22, 2011 12:20 PM  

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