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Product Review: Honl Photo Light Modifiers
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Product Review: Honl Photo Light Modifiers

Professional Lighting With Portable Strobes

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A few inexpensive strobes from any manufacturer, along with Honl Photo's light modifiers, can unlock creativity and take your photography to a new level. First, take the flash off your camera.


In days past, we had but three methods of lighting for photography: existing light, studio lighting, and a flash on top of the camera. Most anyone using their camera's flash knows both the flat lighting and red-eye.

Recently, some photographers started removing the portable flash from the camera (or camera bracket) and started using them as studio lights. The “Strobist” movement was born.

The advantage of portability and the relatively low cost of hot-shoe strobes is fostering this movement towards portable flash lighting. Small battery-operated strobes can be mounted on almost anything, using clamps and ties and also light stands--yes, the same light stands that were once used only in studios.

For a few hundred dollars, instead of thousands, a photographer can have a full studio in one or two cases--light stands, flash, umbrellas, radio slaves and other lighting accessories. David Honl has designed a series of accessories for Strobists, consisting of various light modifiers.

I recently had an opportunity to use the Honl Photo Starter Kit, which consists of the following items:

•    2 Honl Photo Speed Straps
•    1 Honl Photo Speed Grid - 1/4"
•    1 Honl Photo Speed Snoot Reflector - 8"
•    1 Honl Photo Speed Gobo/Bounce Card

Before I get into each item, let me give you the conclusion up front: If you are at all serious about going to off-camera flash, using Speedlights (or Speedlites) or any other portable flash, you'll want to add Honl Photo's light modifiers to your kit. Notice, I said "any portable flash" and not just Canon or Nikon. The Honl Photo modifiers are brand agnostic—you can use any brand or style of hot-shoe flash or any mixture thereof. Whether you use one or a dozen portable flash devices, you'll benefit from being able to seriously control your light.

The heart of the Honl Photo system is the Speed Strap which you attach to a flash. The modifiers attach to the Speed Strap with fabric fastener. I own four portable strobes and two of them came with fabric fastener permanently mounted by the previous owner. The beauty of the Speed Strap is you can remove it from your strobes without disfiguring them. Its non-slip inner surface keeps it in place when attaching and removing any of the modifiers (or multiple modifiers). The Honl Photo Starter Kit includes two Speed Straps, but you can purchase more as needed.

Besides the two Speed Straps, the Honl Photo Starter Kit includes a 1/4" Speed Grid, an 8" Speed Snoot Reflector, a Speed Gobo/Bounce Card, and a Honl Photo System Carrying Bag. There are more accessories available, which I'll describe shortly.

 
The honeycombed, 1/4" Speed Grid narrows the strobe’s beam to better focus it on a smaller area. I found it quite acceptable for isolating portions of my subject and give that section more prominence. Honl Photo also makes a 1/8" Honeycomb Speed Grid (left) which narrows the light even further (not part of the Starter Kit).

The 8" Speed Snoot (right) narrows the light even further to concentrate the light for dramatic effect.

 
Lastly, in the starter kit, is the Speed Gobo Flag/Barndoor/Bounce Card (left). This versatile accessory attaches to the Speed Strap with either the white side or black side towards the light. With the white side towards the srobe's lens, you can bounce the light on one or more sides of the strobe. With the black side towards the flash, it acts as a gobo, blocking the light from an area.

As I said before, there are additional Honl Photo light modifier accessories available to expand the system:

5" Shorty Speed Snoot
This is a shorter version of the 8" I mentioned above and can narrow the light, but not quite as much as the eight inch.

2.5" x 4" Filter Kit, 10 Color Correction Filters
Besides just shaping the light, Honl Photo also makes filter kits. This one includes the filters necessary to color correct the light, such as when using tungsten, fluorescent, or daylight ambient lighting and you want to change your strobe to another base or enhance the existing. This kit includes CTB, CTO and Full+Green gels with velcro attachments to fit the Speed Strap.

Honl Photo Filter Kit - Color Effects
Includes two each of five different colored Lee filters, which attach to the Speed Strap. While the aforementioned filter kit is useful for color correction, this kit is quite useful to add special effects using the included (two each) Yellow, Bright Red, Just Blue, Moss Green, and Heavy Frost Lee gels. There are also two 1/2 CTB gels included.

There are some other kits available which include various combinations of the individual items I've discussed here.

It wasn’t so long ago that we either used a battery operated hot-shoe flash on top of the camera or rented a studio with all the lighting gear. Those were our only options. The advent of strobist philosophy has not only freed us from the physical studio, but allowed us to take portable studio lighting anywhere we go.

The Honl Photo system adds the touch needed to expand our creativity in directions unheard of just a few short years ago, and has made professional lighting inexpensive and portable.

If you have been using either your camera's flash or stuck a strobe on the camera's hot shoe, you are not getting anything but flat, deer-in-the-headlights images. Moving the flash away from the camera will start you in the right direction, but the revolutionary Honl Photo lighting accessories can really unlock your creative potential.

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