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Big Light, Small Light

I admit it. I was addicted to big lights. 86″ PLM, even the deep octa. Big = soft. I like soft.

Yes, I used the hell out of my 22″ beauty dish. But have you ever tried traveling with it? Or thought about traveling with it because it sure ain’t gonna travel easy – it being steel and 2′ across. And heavy. And beat to crap. But that’s another story.

On a recent voyage across the sea I packed for big light – Deep Octa – but brought along the Elinchrome Portalite 15″ softbox as well.


A photographer buddy of mine and I were doing editorial location work. The first day we used the DO, but conditions in the UK were (gasp) a bit breezy and wet. I had shot the DO in a configuration using the translucent deflector and no baffles, with good results. But that is still a large light source. Plus, we didn’t exactly have a C-stand with us, and the DO, even with a Quadra head, is a lot to ask of a lightweight stand.

We opted instead to use the Portalite/deflector combination – sort of a square beauty dish – and skip the baffle (there is only 1 on the Portalite). It turns out that that sucker puts out some really beautiful light. The beam spread isn’t particularly wide, but is wide enough.

These shots of Ella-Mae show the results.

Here we had the light in a fairly common position to camera right, giving a loop lighting pattern. I really like the falloff and the control that we got.

The second image we held the light overhead (yet another benefit of a small modifier).

The light definitely does not wrap much, but I wouldn’t call it particularly poppy either. It still has a warm quality to it. I would say that we didn’t really miss much from using it as opposed to the DO.

And, as fill for head and shoulders, well, it’s just the right size.

I think ultimately we ended up with some big shots out of a small light source (sorry, couldn’t resist).

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