Monday, May 11, 2015

One Flash Portrait with Linco Boom Arm

Over the weekend, I took a quick portrait of my son to commemorate his First Communion.  In this post, I will discuss my lighting setup.
For this shot, I was originally planning to use two lights, but things didn't go exactly as planned.  First, I found that the original venue I had in mind was being used, so we lost some time looking for an alternative venue.  Then, after I found another spot and set up one of the lights, my son had to go to the restroom.  My wife was at home studying, so with two kids in tow, we left the lights and hurriedly searched for a restroom.  Meanwhile, my kids were growing restless, as the promised time for riding their bikes was dwindling and coming up against supper time.  I'm sure moms and dads here have had similar experiences.  Anyway, I decided to modify my plan and simplify the setup.
I used only one light.  The key light would be the ambient light (open shade).  The flash would be used as a shoulder light, and at the same time, it would be reflected back to give a little glow to the face.  For the shoulder light, I didn't want to have to clone out the light stand, so I used a boom arm.
Linco Boom Arm

The boom arm I used was the Linco Zenith boom arm.  I got this to replace my old boom arm, which was cheap but a hassle to use. My old boom arm had a 2-piece clamp that held the boom arm in place as well as attached it to the lightstand. Adjusting the angle of the arm or sliding it meant that I was also loosening the clamp on the lightstand. Besides, each time I set it up, I had to look for the right-sized hole for the boom arm and the right hole for the light stand. Very annoying to use.

The boom arm I got was this one, except that mine didn't have reflector holders.  I like the design of the Linco boom arm for several reasons:
- More compact. This boom arm is just as long as my old one but this one has 3 sections while my old one only had 2 sections, so the Linco arm is easier to carry than my old one.
- Set up is much easier. There is a hole for a standard light stand tip. I just insert the light stand tip into the hole, make sure it is all the way in, then twist the knob to lock.
- Separate knobs for adjusting the angle or sliding the boom arm forward/backward or tightening the lightstand mount. I can do any of those (or extending the 3 sections) without loosening the others.

I had seen the other reviews for this boom arm on Amazon where it was heavily criticized, so I was worried that the boom arm couldn't hold its angle. But I got one anyway just to try because I have had several Linco stands that were all very good and my old boom arm was too frustrating.

When I tried the boom arm out, I was pleasantly half-surprised that it was able to hold its angle. Here is the boom arm with a Yongnuo YN-560III speedlight attached (with batteries). I didn't even use a counterweight (the bag shown is empty).

I did have to make sure the boom arm was fully inserted in the lightstand, and I had to ensure that the clamp for the angle was tightened. The mechanism for controlling the angle has grooves (see pic below) to prevent it from moving once tightened. The grooves are plastic so I made sure that before tightening, the grooves were interlocked. It would have been nice if they were metal but my old one used plastic grooves as well and I don't think it would be possible to get metal grooves at this price point.

Lastly my unit included an extra lever so I could use either that or replace the 2-finger knob for controlling the angle.
The lighting setup
I attached the boom arm to a light stand, connected an umbrella holder to the end, attached a Frio coldshoe to the holder, and attached a Yongnuo YN-560IV.  I added a grid to the YN-560IV to minimize glare.  I put some water bottles in the included sand bag as counterweight.  As expected, the boom arm held its angle.  In fact, after tightening, it didn't swing around even though there was a strong breeze blowing.
For the reflector, I used a 40-inch x 60-inch foldable reflector, using the silver side, placed opposite to the shoulder light.  (In the actual portraits, my daughter was holding it at an angle perpendicular to the flash.)
To trigger the flash, I used a YN-560TX (reviewed here), which can remotely adjust the YN-560IV.  The pair performed flawlessly.
I used the Samsung NX500 (reviewed here) with the 50-150 2.8 OIS lens (to be reviewed).
I exposed for the ambient.  In manual exposure mode, I set the shutter speed to the sync speed (1/200 for the NX500).  Because we were in a shaded spot, I was able to use f/2.8 (for shallow depth of field) without a neutral density filter.  ISO was 125.  I chimped the flash, at 1/2 or 1/4 power IIRC.  In retrospect, it would have been nice to have a neutral density filter to intentionally underexpose and hold more highlight detail.
Here is the shot without the flash, and with the flash:
without flash
with flash and reflector
Here are some more shots (all of them are SOOC):

From setting up, bathroom break, and taking the pictures, it took about 30 minutes. 

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