Grip Tools: Q&A
We got a couple questions about tripods. Some about like what brand tripod, but I think like overall like what do you look for in a tripod?
So I have Manfrotto tripods and heads. I, years ago, bought a heavy duty version of the tripod and I was on a flight a couple years ago and they lost the bag and then they ran over it with a truck. And it was, oh no, it was legit ran over with a truck. And it was pretty heavily damaged and so I took the opportunity to buy a new tripod and I bought like a lighter version, the carbon fiber. Only because this head is already pretty heavy. I think my tripod weighs about as much as this head. And when I travel head comes off the tripod, tripod goes in the suitcase, this stays with me. This is more expensive than the legs. So this is what I take care of. And fortunately when I was traveling when they ran over my other tripod I had this with me. So just keep that in mind. But when I'm plunked down with a camera and I have this and sometimes I've even go...
t a ring flash mounted on the light, which adds a whole other element of bulk and weight, it's just heavy if I have to kind of move it around. And so it's just all about maximizing efficiency for weight. And so the carbon fiber saves a couple pounds and I think it's really especially nice to have. And unless a baggage truck is gonna run over it or you're gonna throw it out of like a three story window you generally can buy a nice one and it'll last for a really long time. So that's my preference. And there's all kinds of different mounts that different people like. Some people prefer the slower, more methodical, more architectural ones, or the ones that screw and move and all good. There's also ones that have like a grip handle on it, which kind of works the same way to this. It's just really a matter of personal preference, whatever you're most comfortable with. Yeah.
Margery asks, I use softboxes for lighting portraits, but have some problems with glare on my backdrops. Could you explain how you might use black foam core or some other type of flag to reduce glare on background when you're shooting?
So I think what she may say is just light spill, light spill on the background. So let's say I've got this light, kind of, sort of, I'd maybe angle it a little bit more this way, at my subject. It's lighting me in this particular case, but you don't want it on the background. So you take the flag and you can either feather it on, so it's just almost to your subject, or you can bring it a little bit off and you can kind of see how I'm making a shadow there a little bit on the wall. And you can use it as a way to block that fill kind of out of the way. And so think of it almost like barn doors, but they're off the light. So you can change what that modification looks like. And when the flags are closer to the light the flag is bigger like in terms of the light source, but when it's further away it becomes smaller. And so you can kind of see it where this makes it really big, but as I move it closer it becomes smaller. So just, it's a relativity thing. Yeah?
Looks like we have a question.
So I notice that your Black Pro-Mist is a screw-on to the camera lens itself and then your other system slides in. Can you talk about the advantages of that? Is that for vignetting?
And can you get a Black Pro-Mist that slides in.
Sure. So this particular system, the reason why I like this particular system is I think A, it's just really pretty, but two, it has the best optical quality that I've found for ND filters. The thing about NDs is they're susceptible to vignetting around the edge, they're susceptible to loss of image quality, and they're also susceptible to color cast. And so I basically set out, I said what's the way I can do an ND without sacrificing visual fidelity? Like that was my goal, and so I found this. And so that's why I like this system. They sell NDs, they have a built-in polarizer, I think they maybe have one more, but they don't have that whole range of every possible filter that you can ever get. And they do have a holder. And a lot of times, like you can buy that, 'cause it's a standard size, it's 100 millimeter size, and so you can buy different filters for the system, even if they don't make it. I don't 100% know if they do a Black Pro-Mist in a slide filter. I don't 100% know if they do or not. But the slide ones are always a lot more expensive and I had bought this first. And so this is about 60, 70 bucks. And then I didn't have this system when I bought this. So that's why. But because it's the same filter mount, like this screws onto the lens first and then they're all screw within a screw, so this screws onto the end of that if I wanna to use it that way, yeah.
We got one, Michael from online is asking about variable neutral density filters. Can you talk about that?
Yeah, yeah. So that's a very good questions. Variable ND filters are great for this. They give you a lot more flexibility, you have to carry way less stuff, but they are a lot more expensive by comparison. Especially when you start getting into the ones that have the best image quality. So you can buy a relatively inexpensive ND filter that'll give you like a few stop variability, like go to a three to a six. Those are maybe 70 or 80 bucks. They're really susceptible sometimes, depending upon the brand you get, they're susceptible to color cast and really bad vignetting. The more expensive ones, like there's a huge jump. Like the cheap ones are 70, 80 bucks, the expensive ones are like over 400. Those are the ones where you start getting into much better image quality. And so it just becomes a matter of cost and how important that image quality is to you. 'Cause if you were doing this ever once in a while and you're just, maybe you need like just a way to achieve it without worrying too much about loss of quality, yeah sure, go for the cheaper one. But if you are really trying to pick the best possible quality version of this you can you're gonna have to sink a little bit more money into it.
Just speaking of money, like for a beginner, what would be your essentials?
Okay, so these, really important. You can buy packs of these, Home Depot, like you can buy these, they're not expensive. You should absolutely have gaff tape. This, I went many years without using, but I do think they're super useful. Cinefoil you should absolutely have. These are the things that are like the most versatile. Cinefoil you can do a lot with. Miscellaneous clamps you can do a lot with. For location I think this is a great, great thing to have for how cheap it is. I mean, you can, like I said, 40, 50 bucks you can put one of these together. When you start getting into the other specialty filters like I think the ND is really useful, you don't need it, but I think it's helpful. Sandbags are one of those things that I didn't talk about, but also supremely important. Weight, safety. Sandbags are also the heaviest when they are on the tallest leg. Because as soon as you put them on the bottom leg and half of them are touching the ground they become a lot lighter. But when they're suspended in the air on the heaviest leg they are the heaviest. And sandbags also come in different sizes, so like this here is meant to be a counterweight on an arm. So you'd hang this off the edge to balance the light that's sticking way far off. And so those are really important. And again, you can buy basically the empty bag, you can buy them, and you go fill it up with dirt or rocks or something, and pretty inexpensive. Light stands, C-stands are important. I think getting some flags is really important for control. But again, you don't need it. Foam core is great. You can go to the art store and get a small version of that and it's a few dollars and it's very, very effective. So that would probably be my go-to, is just things that are the most versatile. So I think things like tape and Cinefoil and some basic clamps, and some standard ways that you can block and manipulate light are gonna really open up your ability to shape light either on location or in studio. Yes?
You touched on this a little bit, but with the advent of high speed sync on some of the strobes do you see that changing your use of filters in the future?
So I don't have high speed sync with the system that I use. So based on the camera and based on the photo system I don't have it, so it's not even an option for me. But I've found that in the past it never really hindered me, because I was able to get around it using the same technique with the ND. A high speed sync system is great, but it's not necessarily the most cost efficient way to achieve maybe the exact same result. And so what it has enabled me to do is avoid an issue that other people go oh man, I want a high speed sync. I'm like well, what do you want it for? I want shallow depth of field. Well, great, this also works as a solution. Not that it's the end all, be all, 'cause high speed sync also has the ability to freeze motion. But if you are looking to freeze motion it's great, if you are looking to just shoot with a more shallow depth of field this is also another option for you. And so it's just, it's a different way to go about it. It also gives you the ability to create light if you were working completely continuously. So if I'm not using strobes at all and I'm just using continuous light, if I am shooting this way I can more easily transition into motion. And so there are definitely times when I've done a still shoot, but there's also been a motion component. And so it transitions really easily to motion. And so all I have to do, and this is how I've done it in the past, I'm like all right, my key light's a strobe, which is freezing motion. Great, no problem. I get the still images. All right, now we're gonna do a video component. Great, change that out to a continuous light. And then you're shooting at the 1/60 of a second, so it makes zero difference, and you can get video that matches your still perfectly. And so I think it's a much more versatile way to go about it if you are incorporating a video element into the shoot as well. So like I basically, I did this and I took my phone out and I just started kind of like messing around with it and it looks just like it. And so it's just a matter of how much flexibility do you want in the material.
How do you transport all of your gear?
Okay, so there are different, different circumstances depending upon where you happen to be. So in certain places you can get away with, if you can travel minimally, you can throw it in the back of like an SUV. And so I live in New York, I don't own a car, Uber SUV. And you can fit a lot in an Uber SUV. They're not always the happiest when you show up with a lot of stuff, but you tip them a little bit extra and you get on with it. But it really depends on that. So I try to make everything as, which is why you make the lighter tripod, you do stuff like this, you can travel lighter if you need to. And so I'm a big believer in trying to make it as compact as you can. Like I've got a snowboard bag, I'll throw in a pole, a background, a modifier, and then I've got maybe two rolly suitcases with camera gear, and I can actually go to a location and I can fit it all in a regular car. On the other end of the spectrum, let's say you're doing a huge, huge production, you are commonly renting vans, like actual cargo vans, and then you have to deal with the whole logistics of freight elevators and freight entrances and all of that kind of fun stuff, 'cause you can't usually just walk into the front door with a lot of these things. But I think for both of these shoots we were at, I'm gonna guess and say two cars full of gear. Right, is that right, two? Yeah, two cars full of gear. Not counting like my camera bag and stuff, so just production gear. And I do bring more stuff than I intend to use just to play it safe. But on bigger production stuff if you're shooting somewhere else you can regularly, it's a production cost, so it's part of, it's the client's responsibility to handle it, you just have to logistically figure out how to make it work. And there are people, God love them, called producers who handle this kind of stuff, so I don't have to if I can help it. And you just say, hey, all right we have to logistically figure out how to get all of this stuff from one place to the other, good luck. (audience laughs) And you know, they're doing, they're doing, they're doing the work, so it helps alleviate a little bit. When you have to do it yourself it tends to be a little bit more of a high stress thing. But I've done both and you know, produces are not cheap, so when you get them you gotta be, you know, you're lucky to have them.
Kelly asked, can someone please explain, and I'm assuming she means you. (laughs)
Yeah, that makes sense.
When to use blue filters? I've used CTOs many times, but I'm stumped by the CTB.
Yeah, opposite of when you're matching a strobe to tungsten light. When you wanna make a tungsten light look like natural daylight, that's usually, the probably one of the more common ways to do it. So it's opposite of that. It's usually making tungsten look closer to daylight or closer to strobes.