I've started to notice that one thing a lot of photos I'm stylistically drawn to have in common these days is the use of continuous lighting with one or more HMI Fresnels, occasionally in conjunction with daylight. Given that this type of setup would set me back tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, it's not something that's particularly feasible to just pick up or even rent to play around with.

I'd like to start experimenting with this sort of lighting, but I'm not exactly certain what route to take. I see that profoto offers 2 fresnel modifiers, but they come in at $1500-2000 each, plus an additional $500 for barn doors which seems just a little ridiculous. Perhaps there's some way to jury rig another fresnel lens to work with a flash head that someone's familiar with?

I'm not certain something like a 650 watt Arri Tungsten is going to give me enough light to work with as even if I shot on a tripod at 1/60 I'm still losing ~6 stops of light vs. an equivalently powered strobe. I guess bumping ISO up to 800 or 1600 and losing 2-3 stops probably wouldn't be the end of the world.

Suggestions or any experiences working with something like the lower wattage Arri's for photography, particularly something like fashion or portraiture would be greatly appreciated.

  • Stumbled on ebay.co.uk/itm/… while investigating what your question was about... Seems lime a lot of light(s) for little money - but I obviously don't know what I'm talking about (literally). – dav1dsm1th Dec 15 '13 at 18:42

There are lower-cost off-brand alternative Fresnel boxes, such as this one, but I'm not prepared to vouch for any of them. It's not that the optics are critical or anything of that nature; Fresnels are kind of sloppy in any case. It's more to do with cooling, especially when you're using modelling lights. Unlike (most) softboxes, Fresnel boxes are pretty small, so the air inside can heat up rapidly when you're using modelling lights, operating at high power quickly, or both. (And the Profotos aren't that bad, if you compare them to, say, the Broncolor Flooter.) To be clear: I'm not saying they're bad or dangerous. They may be perfectly fine. I'm just not prepared to state for the record that they throw good light and won't lead to overheating problems.

Thing is, though, you really just want the quality of light that a Fresnel gives you, not necessarily a Fresnel unit per se. And you can get close enough for jazz with a gridded reflector of the right kind. If you're a Profoto user, I would suspect that you can get pretty much the effect you want using a Magnum with grid and barndoors or a Telezoom. For closer-in applications where you want a large soft-ish spot and quick fall-off (the classic Hollywood look), you might find that a small gridded beauty dish will get you where you want to go.

If you're shooting slow and modelling lights are not a worry, you can easily jury-rig a small Fresnel using a resin lens from Edmunds Optics. If you can find an old tungsten or arc Fresnel unit, you can probably have it altered easily enough and get a more authentic wide-ring Fresnel look, or simply use the lens. You simply need nested boxes and a way to adjust them, and you can cannibalize a third-party speed ring as a flash mount.

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