In December of last year I finally broke down and got my dream lighting setup (Available at B&H). While I’m still annoyed with Elinchrom, you can’t argue that that they make a great product. Great studio lights DO make a difference as you can see from some of the shots in this article (and they are just the tip of the iceberg).
The results I consistently get with the 39” Rotalux Deep OctaBox just continue to make me saw “WOW, did I do that?”. What’s more they really do a great job in camera as well. Hover over the two photos in this article to see the before shots with no processing and the after. As you can see there’s basically some skin softening and background brightening and that’s it. The sharpness of Canon’s hot 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM along with the great sensors on the 5D Mark II and 1D Mark IV create brilliant images that make wonderful prints on my Canon iPF6300 and Epson 4900 printers.
While my exact lighting layout varies, for these shots I had the Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Deep OctaBox camera left with the model facing into the octobox and a 27x27” softbox camera right. Directly behind the model I had a 14x35” softbox as a hair light which didn’t fire in the top shot due to a mistake on my part, and a bare reflector on a magic arm washing out the background with white. The front lights were powered with RX600’s and the rear were powered with Quadras. All were set to about the range of 4.0 (+/- 0.3) and the OctoBox just did its magic. I am using the hooded diffuser mainly because its such a pain the ass to add or remove that I’m too lazy to take it off. The advantage it offers is that the light doesn’t spill out so I don’t have flare issues so no flags are really needed.
If you are to the point where you are looking to make an investment in lights, I can say without question that mine work very well for me. You can read my article on my lighting setup to get an idea of what I have or you can order at B&H.
But What About Alien Bees, Profoto, Speedlights, etc…?
Lighting gear comes in lots of big boxes – be prepared and save those boxes!!!
The best photographers say light is light and they can get good results with a flash light if they have to. That may be true for them, but it isn’t for me. I have had decent luck with Alien Bees, but nothing even close to what I’m getting with my Elinchrom kit. Profoto makes what is arguably the best product on the market, but I like the digital doo dads of the Elinchrom kits I chose (and the portability of the Quadra's). The new Einstein's by Paul Buff are supposed to be great, but I haven’t tried them so I can’t compare. In the end I’m not religiously bound to one brand over another, so if you’ve had luck using other things then go for it.
I do know that these lights kick ass compared to all the hassle (and expense) was dealing with trying to use Speedlight's. They may be good for Joe McNally and David Hobby, but in mere mortals hands with only three (at $500 a pop these days) they just don’t give the light needed to do the caliber work you see here. I’m sure someone will beg to differ and show examples, but I’m happy to bow to their greatness and say give me my setup any day of the week.
What about Outdoors?
Intentionally Desaturated for Internet Explorer Per Client’s Request
Currently outdoors I’m using my 580EX II’s when possible, but if I need light as was the case in the large group photo above I’m using my Quadras on umbrellas which provide all the light I need to get the shot.
What about a Light Meter?
Been there, done that, didn’t care for it. I use my eyes and my camera settings. I know my lights so generally I just dial in on manual and go.
I struggled for a long time trying to decide if I should get studio lights and if so should I go cheap and get the Alien Bees or should I just go for it and get the Elinchrom system. I’m happy with the results and feel like my investment is paying off so I’m happy I chose the Elinchrom system. I’ve got a few gripes with it, but overall it’s working out really well for me. I’m confident enough with them that I think you’ll enjoy them too. Visit this special link at B&H to see a partial list of what I have in my studio (the most important items are included), and if times are tight consider using Bill Me Later like I did so I could take 6 months to pay with no interest.
I may get a commission if you use the links in this article to make a purchase. Thanks for supporting this blog by using my links.
I am not sponsored by Elinchrom in any way. I paid B&H’s list prices just as any other customer would do when I ordered my lights. B&H is a company I trust so I have no regrets about ordering online and saving myself a ton in taxes and big markups of the local camera stores. I have had a couple returns that went smoothly and without incident. B&H now has a 30 day return policy (effective June 1st) so you can have plenty of time to change your mind if they don’t work to your satisfaction.