Each month we highlight a certain item in Profoto’s rich assortment of Light Shaping Tools. Last month we talked to Knut Koivisto about the work he has done with the HR Lantern. The month before that, we interviewed Alex Giacomini, who was the very first photographer to get his hands on the new Umbrella XL. This month we talk to Tom Epperson.
An American in Manila. A surfer who loves architecture. An animator turned photographer. A commercial photographer with fine art exhibitions in New York. Tom Epperson is not an easy man to pigeonhole. We do know one thing, though. He favors the Softlight Reflector.
The Softlight Reflector was one of the first Light Shaping Tools that Profoto introduced. Today, it is one of our most popular tools, and the fact that photographers have renamed it ‘The Beauty Dish’ says more than anything about the light it produces.
Tom’s image is a perfect example of that soft yet directional light that spawned the nickname ‘Beauty Dish.’ The image was shot for an article in the Manila-based fashion magazine Mega, for which Tom’s wife Jenni moonlighted as guest editor and stylist.
“I used only two D1 monolights during the entire shoot,” says Tom. “One was equipped with the Beauty Dish, the other with a Softbox 2×2’ RF. The Beauty Dish was always my main light. The softbox was used for fill only. For this particular image I had the Beauty Dish relatively close to the model, maybe about a meter away, while the softbox was about two to three meters behind it. Hence the shadow on the wall.”
Yes, I wanted to ask about that…
“I must admit, it was not done intentionally, it was more like sheer good luck. But my wife said it looked great, and … well, you never argue with the stylist. I must admit, looking back on it, that it really made the shot.”
How come you decided to bring the Softlight Reflector to the shoot in the first place?
“Two reasons: first of all, I knew that I would be working in a confined space with a lot of breakables. Large umbrellas or softboxes would have created problems and slowed down the process. Plus I had no assistant that day.
“The second reason was that I had only just received the Beauty Dish, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it out.”
How would you describe the light it creates?
“I love the quality of the light in terms of contrast and the way it can be feathered off. The best way to describe it in one word is: crisp.”
What are the other benefits of using the Softlight Reflector?
“It’s very straight forward. You can instantly see the effects with the modeling light on. But most importantly, it provides great contrast, high output and a crisp light. It’s also easy to move around, and it’s not affected by the wind when you’re shooting outdoors. At least not as much as an umbrella or a softbox. It’s basically my go-to reflector when shooting portraits.”
Do you have any experience from using the optional grids, the glass deflector or the front diffuser that is available for the Softlight Reflector?
“I only have the grid at the moment. It’s great when I am looking to make it more dramatic, or to keep stray light from hitting the background.”
Thanks for you time, Tom. Is there anything that you’d like to add?
“Throughout my career as a photographer, and even as an assistant, I have used a variety of lights from different companies. The very first thing I noticed when I switched to Profoto was just how easy the products were to use, how the light actually seemed different, and how my photos seemed crisper. It’s kind of hard to explain, but you do notice the difference after years of shooting.
“I also remember the day I received my D1s. It changed the way I shot. I no longer needed to have my assistant running around changing power settings or turning the modeling light on and off. Now, it could all be done from the camera. If anyone has ever boomed a light, they know exactly what I mean…”
Written by Fredrik Franzén
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