The central position of the flash head within the Profoto Giant Reflector 180 means the cast of light if perfectly even from head to toe. Copyright Michael Roscoe.
Profoto has a range of seven different Giant Reflectors. These light shapers start at a sizeable 150cm diameter and go up to a gargantuan 3m across, weighing around 18kg. I tested the 180 model that weighs just over 6kg and has a silver-lined interior.
Before getting started, it is vital that the Giant Reflector 180 is properly supported. I used a trusty Avenger Super Wind Up 29 stand that weighs a hefty 35kg, thus offering plenty of ballast to ensure the £2000 light-shaper doesn’t topple over. Assembly is straightforward enough and
it is recommended that two people set it up, although I managed by myself in around five minutes. The Giant Reflector has a 180cm diameter, but once it is mounted onto a light stand and angled upwards it is worth noting that the ceiling height of the studio should be at least 3m to ensure there is enough space to get the most out of it, so that it can be operated and manoeuvred into the desired position.
It is compatible with all Profoto flash heads, and I used a D4 1200 generator together with a Pro Head that can be rapidly fitted and secured into place using the firm’s rubber collar and clip fastening, which is found on all of its light shapers.
The 180 has 20 braces making the same number of slightly different angled silver sections for the light to bounce off. The flash head is positioned exactly in the centre, which ensures a perfectly even and direct cast of light. (Profoto does not supply any third-party adapters as the collar and clip fitting ensures that the standard head is mounted centrally and this isn’t possible with other manufacturers’ flash heads.)
It is possible to adjust the position of the flash head in one of two positions by using or removing the extension pole. This will place it approximately 30cm or 53cm away from the centre of the reflector’s silver interior to make the illumination more punchy or diffused. Further control can be achieved by sliding the flash head backwards or forwards within the rubber collar to fine tune the angle of beam, so that the light can be more evenly spread about or else concentrated into the centre of the image area.
The light shapers are most likely to appeal to fashion photographers shooting models full-length. The 180 version delivers a very even spread of light from head to toe, so it’s ideal as a key or fill-in light. When used as front light it delivers on its promises with a rare quality of illumination, which can look punchy and crisp. A closer inspection of the cast light reveals that it has a well-balanced shadow definition that is sharp without appearing too diffused on the one hand, or too deep and distracting on the other. An added benefit is that it provides a distinctive catch light in a model’s eye.
When used to light a full-length model shoot, the catch light will appear as a perfect circle to add a really fine highlight in the eye. But when it is used for close-up head shots it may at first look like a ringflash with a black opening in the middle or a crescent shape, but further scrutiny reveals that the hole looks distinctly camera shaped, or may even display the outline of a photographer, due to the fact that you shoot in front of it.
The more familiar I got with the light the more possibilities it offered. Placed directly in front of a model with the angle of light parallel to the ground delivers a ringflash-like light with almost no shadows. But change the angle of the light to the side or above and it gives classic crisp and clean lighting with controllable shadow quality, depending on the position of the flash head within the reflector.
It’s simple enough to get a classic wraparound lighting effect in no time, however, after spending a little more time with it, the possibilities become more and more varied. It is good for lighting large building interiors or automobiles as much as fashion shoots.
It’s not cheap, but feels value for money, so I’d recommend hiring one first to experience at first hand the distinctive looks you can achieve. Profoto recently reduced its prices, while improving the quality of the materials, which it’s probably managed to do because of the Giant Reflectors’ popularity among high-end commercial photographers in Europe and North America. And it is sure to impress clients you’re no run of the mill photographer.
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