Elinchrom D-Lite RX One strobe mounted indirect on Westcott Parabolic Umbrella (White Interior)
It’s no surprise that when it comes to choosing your first strobe light, there is a whole lot of varieties available! In fact, there is so much choice that it can often leave photographer’s wondering which one will suit them best. This overwhelming feeling can lead to confusion and sometimes wrong choices.
The first thing I want to clear up here, because it’s something I am asked all the time. You DO NOT need multiple lights or the most expensive brands, or all shapes and sizes of modifiers, to create stunning portraits.
The majority of my work is created with a single strobe light, With the help of lighting aids such as modifiers, reflectors, V Flat’s and scrims, to create the lighting effect that I want.
So if you are one of those photographer’s who attempts elaborate strobe lighting setups because you think that you HAVE to. But really you hate every minute of it and you rarely achieve the results you want. Then I’m here to tell you to STOP and chill! Yes it’s true that fancy, multiple light setups are amazing and can create spectacular results – if that’s what you want and need for your work. But it is not essential! Especially when it comes to creating more moodier, dramatic, low key lighting. A single light will allow you full control of your lighting in a simplified way. Why complicate a good thing!
The elinchrom D-lite RX One is one of my favourite strobes. I love everything about this little beauty! With just 100WS at maximum power and 6WS at lowest power (that’s a 5 stop difference!). It allows me to shoot wide open at apertures of 1.4 -2.0 to achieve some dreamy bokeh. Something that can be difficult to do with more powerful strobes without adding lots more diffusion. And, if your working within the constraints of a small space, you will find even more benefits with this strobe. You can bring it nice and close to your subject without blowing out highlights/hotspots. It has a built in skyport radio receiver for both triggering and power control. meaning that you can control the power from the skyport transmitter on your camera’s hotshoe without having to faff about with the controls on the strobe head. Always a bonus during a shoot!
The ability to adapt the power of this light, along with the addition of elinchrom’s range of modifier’s allows you to create the most beautiful, even, soft light. Since soft lighting is my preference for my style of portraiture, this light has everything I need!
To top all of this off, the pricing point of the RX One makes it affordable for even beginner photographer’s. Also. since the RX One is compatible with all of elinchrom’s accessories, you can choose from a variety of top quality modifier’s to suit your needs. Honestly, what’s not to love!
Another helpful feature of the D’Lite RX One is the modelling lamp, which has 2 intensity settings or can be turned off completely if you prefer. A benefit of the modelling lamp however, is that because the light is coming from the same direction as the flash (see image below). It is helpful for visualising where the light and shadows are going to fall on your subject. I find this super useful when positioning my light.
Elinchrom D’Lite RX One Mounted Direct – Flash unit contains flash tube and 100W Modelling lamp
Just to be clear, a modifier is not a light source, rather, it is a device attached to your strobe head, to modify and diffuse the light. Modifiers come in all shapes and sizes from umbrella’s, softboxes, octaboxes, strip lights, beauty dishes… the list goes on. The purpose of each of these is to modify the light from the bare bulb of your strobe to allow you to soften and diffuse the light. Without some sort of modifier covering your strobe, the light would be harsh, contrasty and unflattering. But with the help of a modifier, you can soften this light and control it’s direction.
As mentioned above, the D’lite One is compatible with all of the elinchrom accessories, so you won’t be stuck for choice there! Your choice will all depend on your own style of portraiture and the space your working within. But keep in mind that the larger your modifier, the softer light you will be able to create.
The bare bulb of your strobe is effectively a small light source. Small light sources create harsh light. Think of this like the sun on a bright day! The sun is massive in its size but it is so far away from us that it becomes a small light source, this results in harsh shadows and bright hotspots. Now if the sun was covered by a blanket of clouds and thereby acting as a massive soft box in the sky, the resulting light would be much softer. The light is diffused by the clouds before it reaches its subject. The same is true for modifiers. A small modifier, such as a beauty dish, creates a more dramatic, high contrast light than say a large parabolic umbrella.
Elinchrom 135cm Rotalux Octabox and 180cm Westcott parabolic umbrella
The two main modifiers I use in my studio are the 135cm elinchrom rotalux octabox and the 220cm westcott parabolic umbrella. Both modifier’s produce a beautiful soft light because of their size but both work differently in how they diffuse the light. This is due to the way the strobe light is mounted, their shape and the layers of diffusion. With the Octabox, the strobe is front facing , i.e. the strobe points directly towards the subject. But before it can reach the subject the light has to pass through two layers of diffusion first. The inner diffusion panel is the first to absorb the full power of the flash. The light hits off that panel and bounces around in that space before then reaching the second outer diffusion panel and doing the same. Each layer of diffusion equates to approximately 1 stop. So that by the time the light comes out of the front of the octabox it is diffused by 2 stops. The diffusion panels also help ensure that the entire front of the octabox is as evenly lit as possible. This helps with maintaining a consistent colour temperature of light and minimises hotspots.
135cm Octabox with 2 diffuser panels
Strobe is mounted direct
Unlike the octabox, the parabolic umbrella diffuses the light indirectly (light is bounced of the back of the modifier). Coupled with it’s size and white interior it produces a soft and very diffused light. The light bounces off the back of the umbrella first. Then it spreads around the entire (massive!) interior before hitting the outer diffusion panel and finally the subject.
The light emitted from an umbrella, is less controlled than the octa and spreads further due to it’s size and shape. Because of this, more spill is a given. But this makes it perfect for lighting multiple subjects or larger scenes. Equally, depending on how you position it, the parabolic produces the softest light imaginable when used for close up portraits. It’s an absolute dream! Another great aspect of the parabolic is its weight. Being so huge you would expect it to be pretty heavy, but it’s surprisingly light! Making it possible to mount safely on a light stand or boom.
220cm parabolic umbrella (white interior)
The parabolic is surprisingly lightweight! And can be mounted safely on a light stand or boom
When it comes to lighting for fine art portraiture, you want to keep things as simple as possible. It is more than achievable with a single light source! The D’lite RX One is both an affordable and easy to use strobe that can produce outstanding results. If you want to achieve beautiful soft lighting, opt for a larger modifier so that you can diffuse and control the light as much as possible. However, with this, be mindful of the space you are working in. High ceilings are beneficial when using the parabolic so that you can lift your light high enough for certain angles.
Remember that studio photography is supposed to be fun! Experimenting is all part of the learning process! 😊