Circa 1992 we had a softbox hanging from the ceiling on a pull down arm, it was quite cool you could stretch it down move it about and when you were done you could retract it. Every now and then It would fall down and smash me in the head always in front of clients. Anyway the deal was 80’s Glamour was done the softbox and the soft vignette were in the trash and we started to shoot Natural light at the time (we were very progressive) we had big sheets of Poly boards (Polystyrene or Styrofoam) The movie industry have used them for decades also known in the industry as Beadwall. It was the era of Herb Ritts and Black n White magazine which back then mostly consisted of raunchy in your face Black n White nudes and 90’s Supermodels. We were evolving you see, that is the essence of being in business for 26 years and studio light was out. I built my brand on Natural Window light (One window – One Reflector) I reveled in it I mastered it, in any condition I could bend light and my settings to make it work.Very rarely do I have to concede to prevailing conditions, well before 3pm that is and lets face it winter light is a killer.
I tried constant daylights again in the early 2000’s when I was in a studio with smaller windows and winter hours were narrowing my ability to shoot before and then after lunch. I hated it. I never considered speed lights or strobes as the one simple truth was IT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE NATURAL LIGHT. The second truth (In my opinion) is when you shoot modern Glamour in Natural Light it looked fresh and beautiful when I would see a normal client (NOT a model – as in not Fashion) in flash light all I saw was 80’s Glamour! a stigma I had fought years and years to not only evolve and revitalize but relaunch. For over two decades I have enjoyed the fact that my only studio equipment was my camera and my Poly boards.
NB: All Home Depots sell Polyboards also sold as home insulation boards you can paint them you can vintage wallpaper them. They are huge 4 x 8 feet but they are light and versatile and they simply are the best reflectors in the world. I prefer the thick ones about 40mm. I have lived and worked in New Zealand Australia and the U.S and have never had a problem finding them although you may need to do a little research as it seems to be one of the most asked questions to me. On 28 days you can see a video of me wallpapering and painting Polyboards.
Vflats as they are known in the ‘Industry’ are made of foamcore or gatorfoam you cannot get these at an art supplies shop they only have small pieces the big sheets that are the same size as the Polyboards are sold at most Photography and Video wholesalers. They are commonly white on one side and black on the other and very thin. We tape them together to make a V. Very handy and free standing. I had never seen a Vflat till my first creativelive workshop up until then for 22 years I had only used Polyboards but the boys bought me some from the local camera shop Glazers and I used them for the first time, now I have both Vflats and Polyboards although I will not be ordering Polyboards in the future the Vflats are easier to move and store and they don’t make that dreadful squeek. This week I called my local EVS and asked if they sold Vflats the answer was yes $17.99 each I order 8 fresh ones to make four new fresh clean lovely Vflats it’s like having a blank canvas. They do not need to be painted they will buckle that are for reflecting and you can shoot in the Black V it’s one of my signature shots I love how it looks.
This is a perfect example.
It was not Felix’s work that first attracted me to learn lighting from him as I met him as an assistant to LaraJade I did not see his work until later, it was his incredible work ethic as an assistant completely there for Lara and then of course his pedigree. Felix has worked with some of the most Iconic photographers in the world and these photographers use lights in a way that most people only dream of. I challenged Felix to replicate my version of Natural light and boy did he. I am now the proud owner of a 250 Elinchrom Strobe with a 59″ Deep Dish Modifier and a Four bank natural daylight Kinoflo and a large Lasolite Scrim. My once spartan and minimalistic white studio space is now a forest of C-stands and sand bags and head hitting obstacles. For the last 6 months I have been shooting with all three lighting setups equally and frankly I am in love with all three for different reasons. More on that later, for now here are my setups enjoy Learn to Light on creativelive and here is a list of what I am using. Watch here https://www.creativelive.com/courses/learn-light
Links to products I purchased on Amazon:
Elinchrom’s 59 Inch Deep Inverse Octa This is the modifier Felix convinced me to buy and honestly I love it
Elinchrom’s 250W BRX Multi-Voltage Flash Unit Same with this
Kinoflo mine has daylight balanced bulbs I bought the four but honestly two is enough
I purchased the Scrim from Adorama remember prior to buying this I had used $4 yards of white polyester chiffon its cheap and effective just annoying to hang sometimes and I asked many assistants to hold it up over their heads for a long time.
I feel fully confident of the different lights and how they respond, also what looks best in each setup. I can replicate the light to mimic natural or with a simple turn bring in more direction and more of a fashion look. I have loved exploring and learning and experimenting. We need to consider cost and which light is going to work best for you in your space, the look you want and the budget as this investment is a big one but well worth it. Above all know that if you are not ready yet to make the leap or the commitment your studio can operate just perfectly with Natural light after all I always joked when others were showing off about their light equipment and they asked me what I used I always replied “Oh I use God light” hehe no one ever shot me down.