Shooting Beauty with broncolor Para

This post is courtesy of LA-based photographer and retoucher Julia Kuzmenko McKim (@juliakuzmenko), and also appears on her blog Master Beauty. 

PARABOLIC REFLECTORS

[The Para] was almost like the best qualities of my light modifiers – a large Octabox and a silver Beauty Dish – were merged in this one light. Due to its large size, the soft light was evenly illuminating the model’s face and chest, but the shadows were still present and more prominent.

And my most favorite feature of the light produced by the Para was its brilliance! While there were a lot of evenly lit midtones on the model’s skin, I also had nicely pronounced highlights. So basically, Para 177 gave me exactly what I was lacking when shooting with the Giant Octabox and had to compensate for in post.

GETTING TO KNOW PARAS

When I got home after that test shoot and reviewed the images, I realized I found my new favorite light. I knew it was perfect for me, but since this would have to be a solid financial investment (Broncolor lighting and especially Paras are not cheap), I wasn’t in a rush to replace all of my lighting equipment just yet. Instead, I started renting Para 88 that is smaller in size  for all of my commercial shoots, falling in love with the light they create more and more.

The design of the Para relies on a fully-exposed flash tube that provides omnidirectional light to the reflector. Combined with the engineered curve of the reflector shape and the focusing rod, the result is a focusable and widely versatile light shaper.

To figure out my personal preference for the strobe position inside the Para, I experimented with the focusing rod and realized how versatile this unique feature makes this already wonderful light modifier: depending on my shoot goals I can make the light have more contrast or softer by shifting the strobe further out or deeper into the housing of the Para.

And the best part of it all is that both the softest and the hardest light that it produces look better than the light produced with my Octabox or the Beauty Dish, and you will see it for yourself in the test shots below.

Here’s what the changing of the position of the strobe along the focusing rod does to the light produced. I took test shots as I moved the strobe 1/4 of the focusing scale at a time.

I am a Broncolor Brand Ambassador, because I am in love with their products and quality. And now that I had access to Para 88, a Broncolor Beauty Dish and Para 177, I wanted to compare the light created by these light modifiers to figure out which one I like the best for my work, and here’s what I found.

FOCUSING FEATURE

Here’s what the Broncolor Para 177 light looks like at different degrees of focusing. In my test images the distance between the model and the light is about 2 meters or 6,5 feet.

Notice that when the light is fully focused (the strobe is pulled in and fires close to the back of the Para) there’s overall more light in the frame: on the model as well as on the background. Normally, when going from fully defocused to fully focused, I have to either lower the strobe power output or close my aperture down about 1 or 1,5 f-stop for correct exposure.

The highlights are more pronounced when the strobe is fully pushed in (fully focused) on the focusing rod. My personal preference is around the mid position.

PARA 177 VS. PARA 88 VS. BEAUTY DISH

And finally the main comparison that I wanted to see for myself was of the differences between the light produced by Para 177, Para 88 and the Beauty Dish. Both Paras focusing rod is at its mid position.

At the equivalent distance between the light source and the model’s face, as well as the same camera settings, this is what we got adjusting the strobe power output for correct exposure:

So to summarize, besides the pleasing look of the highlights and shadows that I have already mentioned above, the other heavy argument for Para 88 for me is that this light makes skin retouching easier and faster, and because I do my own retouching it is super important for me.

With all of this said, I am a firm believer in the artistic evolution and it makes total sense for me to purchase this light modifier after I return the loaned equipment – I see the value in this investment. If you are at a different stage in your beauty photography journey, you may not see or care for the subtle differences that I pointed out in my comparison images, and if that’s the case, you are definitely not ready for this light modifier, even if you can afford it right now. Take your time, explore your visual taste and lighting preferences further.

If you do see and appreciate the qualities of the Para 88 light, but are not yet a full-time photographer, or don’t have well-paying commercial jobs yet, begin by renting it for paid jobs or even for your own portfolio shoots. One shoot will be enough for you to understand whether or not this light modifier is for you.

And before I sign off for today, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I have been very busy lately, and I can’t complain because I am doing what I love – shooting for awesome cosmetics brands, getting to know the amazing people who make this industry so badass and fun. But I do miss writing, and I promise I will write more whenever I get a chance!

Good luck and till next time.

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