Light Shaping Tool of the Month: Zoom Reflector

Written by Fredrik Franzén on . Posted in Fine art photography

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©Chen Wei Li

©Chen Wei Li

Each month we highlight a certain item in Profoto’s rich assortment of Light Shaping Tools. We have previously talked to Alex Giacomini about the Umbrella XL, Knut Koivisto about the HR Lantern, Tom Epperson about the Softlight Reflector, Joao Carlos about the Softbox 3×4’ RF and Kristoffer Lönnå about the ProRing 2.

This time we will take a closer look at what one might argue is the most well-known Light Shaping Tool: the Zoom Reflector. The Zoom Reflector is a basic yet versatile reflector that is included with many of our packs. It is an all round tool that can be used for pretty much any shoot, and describing all of its possible uses would be an exhausting endeavor. Instead, we will settle for showing just one of its many applications. To do so, we sought the assistance of Singaporean photographer Chen Wei Li.

Tell us a little about yourself, Chen!

“I am a freelance portrait photographer who has a day job as a digital media planner with a global digital agency. Outside of work, my time is generally devoted to social dancing and photography. The photographs that you see in this article combine my two interests.”

Chen’s lighting set up

How come you decided to shoot dancers?

“Since picking up social dancing in 2006, I became interested in exploring why people dance. Like photography, dance gives people an opportunity to escape from the stresses of life. When I dance, I feel like I am in a world of my own and this became the approach to my project: capturing dancers in their own world.”

In terms of lighting, did you have any specific ideas on what you wanted to achieve?

“I wanted to create a stage for these dancers; a little world of their own where no one is around to judge their dancing. Because the dancers were in a dark room, lit only with the modeling light, they could not see me or my crew, and thus felt free to project the expression that I was looking for.”

What equipment did you use?

“I used a Profoto Pro-8a and two ProHeads, each one equipped with a Profoto Zoom Reflector. Using the Zoom Reflector, I was able to control the spill of the light and create the rounded spot light that you see on the ground.”

How did you set the lights?

“I hooked one of the ProHeads onto a boom stand and pointed it downward as my key light. This created the circular spotlight on the ground. To the right of my Hasselblad H4D-40 was a second ProHead with a Zoom Reflector. This was used as a fill light to lighten the hard shadows. For subjects with long hair, I pointed a third light source (normally a speedlight), behind them on the right, as a rim light.”

Why did you use the Zoom Reflector?

“The Zoom Reflector is extremely versatile when it comes to controlling the spill of the light. In creating a spotlight in my shot, I was able to adjust its size by moving the Zoom Reflector back and forth on the ProHead. Due to light fall-off from the top, I needed to throw some fill light into the shot, so I zoomed in and narrowed the spill. This allowed me to concentrate the light only on one particular area of my subject.”

I know that you refer to the Zoom Reflector as the most “underrated Light Shaping Tool.” Care to elaborate?

“Many photographers choose the largest softbox or the Softlight Reflector for most of their shots. The idea of using a reflector never crosses their minds. But the Zoom Reflector by itself already produces good-quality light. In addition, it lets you choose between narrow, standard and wide beams. Also, being a reflector, it is extremely easy to carry around on the set and can be stored away without taking up much space. Unless I require a specific tool to achieve a special look, I’d be happy to work with the Zoom Reflector for most of my assignments!”

©Chen Wei Li

©Chen Wei Li

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