Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Pixapro Portable Beauty Dish


Mark W Ratcliffe recently introduced me to the Pixapro brand of lighting and modifiers. Even though I'm a long standing Elinchrom fan & user, based on Mark's feedback I've taken delivery of a Pixapro 60 cm silver portable beauty dish.

Until now I've used a rigid Elinchrom 44cm beauty dish which I bought from The Flash Centre early  in the 1990s - it's still going strong with the interior being resprayed matt white periodically. I've not taken this on location much as it has a bulky fibre board transit case.

The Pixapro 60cm portable beauty dish was a revelation - it comes ready assembled in a clever carry case which includes a matt silver deflector, front diffuser with a circular black mask and a very effective fabric egg crate grid. For this image the beauty dish is effectively a circular soft box,with the front diffuser in place. The mask on the diffuser gives a perfect circular catchlight in the eyes. 

It is also a multi-modifier or 8-in-1 modifier:
1.  Beauty dish with either concave or convex deflector - I suspect I'll also use it with my Elinchrom Deflector Set!
2.  Beauty dish with either concave or convex deflector, with egg crate in place.
3.  Hard reflector without deflector in place.
4.  Hard reflector without deflector in place, with egg crate in place.
5.  Soft box with deflector.
6.  Soft box without deflector.
7.  Soft box with deflector, with egg crate in place.
8.  Soft box without deflector, with egg crate in place.

Location

I chose a rural barn location because of the ambient daylight which falls away quite sharply giving me control of the local light with my camera shutter allowing me to darken the background.


As you can see, it's a barn; bales of straw, old feeders and even a camper van. Where possible I now work on location with C-stands from Kupo Grip as they offer ease of use, versatility and most important stability. OK they're heavy, but plan your locations and transport carefully and you'll not have to carry them too far.

Exposure

To control the ambient light, which incidentally was heavy grey cloud and very diffuse, I increased my shutter speed by a couple of stops allowing the light from the flash to dominate the scene.  What it doesn't show here is how cold poor Lulu was!


The above frame shows the ambient exposure before the flash was added. The ambient light also provided fill to the shadows.



The overall feel to the frame was a little cool, I favour warm flesh tones so modified the colour temperature of the Quadra A head with a LEE Filters 206 1/4 CTO gel. This was held in place with nothing more exotic than a couple of wooden clothes pegs, also known by some of us as C47s!

For a portable beauty dish the Pixapro is of sturdy construction with hinged arms not dissimilar to those used by Elinchrom on their Rotalux range of modifiers.


Straight out of camera with only minor processing tweets in ACR, including white balance to 5300K. There are areas of the image which I dodged and burned in Photoshop, shown below.


Post-production notes:

1. Burned in to reduce detail.
2. Whites of eyes lightened, pupils and irises darkened along with eye lashes.
3. Skin gently smoothed with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and layer opacity reduced.
4 & 8. Edge of hand & sleeve burned in as it was a paler tone than Lulu's face.
5. Left sleeve too bright for my taste so burned in.
6. & 7. Tones too bright, I wanted to concentrate more on Lulu, not straw bales so burned in by means of a layer which was under exposed by a stop or so and then masked through with a layer mask.
9. Distracting detail burned in via layer mask.

Ears can also be problematic due to translucence or even being pale and creating a paler area which draws the eyes away from the point of interest.

When I dodge and burn I tend to do so much as I used to when printing in a darkroom, only now I use a 50% grey adjustment layer with the Blending Mode set to Soft Light. This suits my style of image processing as I can lighten (dodge) or darken (burn) at will, non-destructively and even create subtle vignettes and draw attention to the model.





A we moved the light we met with uneven ground which is where the C-stand with a sliding leg allowed me to keep the riser vertical stable. I favour 20" C-stands as the short riser gives a low centre of gravity when my Quadra pack is suspended from the thumb bolt by a couple of lengths of paracord!


Thoughts

85mm ƒ/1.8 at ƒ/2.8 on a Canon 5DMk2 full frame sensor. Creating a dark or black background is something trained and experienced professional photographers have done for ages. All that's needed is an understanding of exposure, the Inverse Square Law and the right location or backdrop. Creating an image is not about camera settings or copying a technique plugged by another photographer but practicing the right skills, over and over again and adding your uniqueness to your images. Adapting the locations and lighting to the model, subjects or requirements of a client. This comes with practice over time.

Supplier List

These suppliers are known and trusted. I would not list or recommend otherwise.

Pixapro lighting, studio equipment and modifiers
Yang Wu is the man.

The Flash Centre - Elinchrom flash & more
Brian Collier at the Birmingham UK branch is a top man, as is Simon Burfoot.

LEE Filters - lighting gels and camera lens filters

Kupo Grip - lighting grip C-stands and more
Nick Allen-Miles is the man!

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.