Mastering the Moment with Erik Valind

Sponsored by Broncolor

Walt Whitman coined the phrase “Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” In photography, you often have to make your own miracles, constructing the moments of darkness and light to deliver a perfect exposure.

New York City-based portrait and active-lifestyle photographer Erik Valind is no stranger to constructing these moments. His approach to lighting is straightforward: “I’m not trying to over-light the scene—I want to get as much use out of natural light as I can first,” he says. After leveraging all the natural light sources in a given environment, Valind will then turn to his new go-to lights: the Siros from Broncolor. He uses one as a key light to highlight his subject(s) and the second as a rim light to illuminate edges.


A simple setup with the Broncolor Siros. Photo © Erik Valind

Location determines his choice of light modifiers. When shooting indoors, Valind employs a square softbox to mimic the look of window lighting, which could be visible as a catch light in the eyes of a subject. Outdoors, he’ll opt for either a 2.5-foot or 5-foot octabank. “They’re my go-to [lights] outdoors,” he says. “I jokingly referred to as a “cheater light”, because you can’t take a bad portrait with a 5-foot octa.” He chooses circular modifiers outdoors so catch lights have a sun-like appearance in his subjects’ eyes. The smaller, 2.5-inch modifier is used when he wants a “punchier” light source with more contrast and a harder edge. The 5-foot modifier is called on when he requires greater diffusion and a softer wrapping glow.


Before (natural light) / Photo © Erik Valind

For Valind, the fact that the Siros strobes come out of the box with an exposed flash tube has meant a world of difference when light shaping. Whereas some rival strobes take a speed light-like approach to flash tubes by recessing them to provide for a longer reach, the Siros’ exposed flash tube and frosted dome front cover are designed to more evenly fill a modifier. The difference is immediately visible in soft boxes, Valind says. The Siros won’t produce a “hot spot” or visible concentration of light in the modifier, whereas strobes with recessed tubes will produce a bright center light and then tail off more dramatically toward the edge of the modifier.


After (with the Broncolor Siros and parabolic reflector) / Photo © Erik Valind

Parabolic reflectors show off the virtues of the exposed tube even more. “If you put the Siros in a parabolic, you get a perfectly defocused ring light with 24 points that you can use to dial in, like a spotlight, or cast it wider and softer. When you try that with other strobes with a recessed tube, it doesn’t work,” Valind says.

The paras are Valind’s go-to modifier when he wants to bring out contrast in a subject that would otherwise be matted down by a softbox. “Clothing and textiles really pop with the para,” he says.

For Valind, the Siros’ other core strength is its versatility. “It has excellent color accuracy, which is important if I’m shooting color critical work like a catalog. But at the same time, it can bottom out at 4 watt-seconds, so I can use it in a variety of settings when I just want to balance out dim ambient light.” When he needs to capture motion or overpower the sun, he can crank the Siros to higher watt settings, up to either 400W/s or 800W/s, depending on the model.

“I used to travel with two different lighting kits, one with my speedlights and one with my strobes,” Valind says. “Now I can get away with one kit.”


 Blog written by PDN Pulse