Each month we highlight a certain item in Profoto’s rich assortment of Light Shaping Tools. (If you want to browse through previous articles, click the Light Shaping Tool of the Month banner on the right.) This month we talk to Ab Sesay about one of his favorite tools: the Magnum Reflector.
Ab is a commercial advertising photographer based in New York. After more than ten years in the industry, Ab has shot pretty much everything, but it’s often people photography that gets his creative juices flowing.
In addition to freelancing, Ab also works as Creative Director at Profoto US. As such, he is sometimes asked to shoot with a particular Light Shaping Tool to show its unique effects and benefits. The image in this article is the result of one such assignment, and the tool in question was, of course, the Magnum Reflector.
“The assignment was simple,” says Ab. “Show what you can do with just a single Magnum. My response to that was to do a shoot where I’d try to imitate the effect of the late summer sun when it’s about two hours away from setting – low enough in the sky for the light to have some direction, but high enough to still be at full intensity.”
Why is the Magnum Reflector suitable for that purpose?
“Because the Magnum produces a hard and powerful yet homogenous light that is very even from the center to the edges. It has a large sweet spot with an even gradual falloff. In fact, when used together with the normal ProHeads or Acute/D4 Heads, the light it produces reminds me of what you would get from a Fresnel lens. The Magnum is also very efficient, it increases the output with an additional f-stop, and its deeper shape is great for reducing spill light in the studio.”
Apart from the obviously important light quality, what other benefits does the Magnum have?
“Well, I find it to be very portable. It’s also great in situations when you need an assistant to follow you around with a light on location or in the studio.”
Do you ever use the compatible accessories?
“Yes, I use the optional Grids whenever I want to narrow the focus of the light.”
In this case you used the Magnum for a fashion/beauty-oriented shoot. What other situations do you use the Magnum for?
“I sometimes use a rubber band to attach a diffuser to the Magnum. I then put is really close to the object or subject and use it for product photography and portraiture. This creates a much softer light, but the light still keeps some of the basic characteristics that I love about the Magnum, such as the punch and the even spread. I also find that the Magnum is useful in pretty much any situation in which you are trying to imitate direct sunlight.”
Is there anything someone who has never used the Magnum should know about it?
“Yes. The Magnum is so powerful that when focused properly it can melt the plastic on the back of a monitor after about 30 minutes from a distance of two feet (0.6 meters). You should be careful when using it on still life sets – even if you’re just shooting with a normal modeling light.”
Thanks Ab. Last but not least, do you have any tips and tricks on how to use it to its full potential?
“Like any other Light Shaping Tool, you should test it and get a feel for it. Sometimes we concentrate too much on technically knowing what the tools can do, when we should in fact just focus on developing a natural feel for them. For instance, like with any parabolic reflector, it’s not just the size of the light source that comes into play, but understanding how the light source can be focused and how that affects the quality and characteristics of the light. It doesn’t really matter how much you read about it. You have to try it out for yourself to get the hang of it.”
Learn more about the Magnum Reflector here.
You can see more of Ab’s work on his website.
You can also follow him on Twitter or Instagram as “absesay”.