One of the big questions I get more often than any as a freelance photographer, particularly from the guys, is what gear I use. There are millions of photographic accessories out there to shape and manipulate light but I tend to prefer simple quality over finickiness. When I invest in a new piece of gear it has to serve a purpose and genuinely improve what I can offer clients in a tangible way.
Still, a new toy’s always fun. Recently I added a Bowens Luminair Octobank 140 to my arsenal, a reasonably-priced large ‘octobox’. Working with my rock solid Bowens Gemini studio lights, it’s a perfect solution for illuminating group shots, fuller-lengh portraits or as a very soft beauty light. Much rounder than a square softbox, it places beautiful catchlights the eyes and for that reason along I can see the Luminair Octobank becoming a go-to accessories for many portrait and commercial shoots.
One this blog you can see the Luminair Octobank 140 used outside on location in Bristol with local pinup model, Miss Jessica Holly. We made use of old rusty railway cars to give a feel of dustbowl Americana, even though it was a grey and freezing cold day. Using the Octobank on location in a slight breeze means an assistant is almost essential but I had my friend Lucy on hand to hold the light stand. Using such a large soft light on location certainly gave the images a certain something.
Bowens equipment is a key part of my equipment lineup. I’ve ben using the brand since 2005, still making regular using of the original three Bowens Gemini 500s. Despite being using inside, outside, on beach, in halls, in warm and cold conditions, they never put a foot wrong and their ‘simple as a kettle’ tactile controls feel like second nature. When working with more elaborate lighting setups simplicity is really important, especially when photographing people. You need minimal time spent with the gear so your main focus is always on your subject.
The Luminiar is a shallow design, which will make it useful for working in tighter spaces. I’ve quite used to working in small space such as tight office or domestic dwellings, so compactness is always a benefit for gear. It also two layers of diffusion for an impressively even spread of light without glaring hotspots. An Octobox is a ‘broad brush’ offering a very soft, flattering light with a pleasing wrapparound light fall off.
A British manufacturer, Bowens was one of key pioneers of studio lighting as we know and love it today. While cheaper copies have become available in recent years the reliability has proven second to none, which is why I went with the Luminair Octobox 140 over the knockoffs. Cheap softboxes can sometimes not be pure white leading to slight colour balance issues and simply don’t last as long. I’m of the old school mentality that’s it’s worth buying quality and using it for a long time than buy cheap and have the hassle of frequent replacement Of course, you don’t want significant gear issues when on a commercial shoot – as a photographer it’s your job to deliver no matter what.