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Make Complicated Things Simple!

Today we are joined by International Fashion Photographer Robert Fairer, who recently took his new Quantum Omicron LED Ring Light on a tour of the world’s fashion capitols. Robert has been shooting backstage at the fashion shows of New York City, London, Milan, and Paris since 1996. Technology has evolved over the course of his career and since going digital Robert shoots around 50,000 images a month. Given the nature of his work, the chaotic surroundings backstage at a fashion show and rigors of traveling the globe Robert needs a flash with good quality light, TTL capability and the tough construction. Thank you for choosing Quantum Robert, and thank you for this glimpse backstage.

Over the years I have been contracted to various international magazines and since 2001 to Vogue USA.  My challenge has always been to make high quality, glossy images that can be run as center book fashion editorials.  This is made harder by the fact that I am not in charge of the cramped, unpredictable and fast-paced conditions that I face backstage where the main concern is to make the show run smoothly and often a photographer is viewed as an irritant and possibly a liability!

The last thing I want to be thinking about is my equipment – it just has to be compact and work properly while I concentrate on composing the image and looking for the next “moment” without being in the way.The Qflash T5d-R has been my workhorse . We use a 2 light set-up with a TTL front light and a manual edge / backlight which works brilliantly. The 2 light set-up creates drama in the usually bland, badly lit space backstage and makes the image look “expensive.”

I still like to look for new techniques to set us apart and give us an edge. I always felt that ring flash would be perfectly suited to my style of photography. Unfortunately the available TTL or automatic ring flashes were not very powerful and the larger, studio ring flash could not operate TTL which is crucial for me backstage.

When my assistant told me about the Quantum Omicron I thought he was teasing me. Quantum’s LED Ring Flash seemed perfect for my needs! I had been waiting 12 years for this!! I was struck by how lightweight and well constructed the unit was, however the supplied bracket just didn’t work for me at all. We were able to improvise by cannibalizing another bracket. We drilled a few new holes and ended up with a perfectly balanced compact solution.

The few test images I shot of my assistant proved that we didn’t need to read the instruction manual (destruction manual?) as it was just like my other Qflashes, so we headed out to our first show to road test the new toy.

First impressions: Incredibly comfortable to hold in the hand, well balanced, light and easy to maneuver through a crowd.  I was shocked by the recycling speed.  Perhaps I am doing something wrong with my regular Qflash, which shoots around a frame a second. The Omicron shoots around 3 fps, which is revolutionary for me.  There is a reassuring “correct exposure” confirmation beep and all the exposures are spot on.  Love the LED’s coming on to help with autofocus.

When we process out these first images the one thing I particularly like is that the feet and lower legs are being illuminated properly despite the black contract carpeting at the venue.  This has long been an issue with regular flash where the fall-off at the feet requires some extra computer work to balance the light when the floor is dark.  The quality of the light is crisp, yet soft and forgiving.  At full length (8-10 feet) it enhances the details in the clothes so you can see the texture, and if you move in closer for a head shot it has a way of smoothing out the skin tones which is very flattering.

I decide to do a few more trials on shows throughout the day and soon I have decided that I can use the ring flash for virtually all the shows.  However, as I mentioned earlier, I use a 2 light set-up backstage, so the genius thing for me about this ring flash is how versatile it is over my old system:  I can use it as a true ring flash which gives and edgy feel to the images; I can use it held to the side of the camera which is more like a traditional flash; I can turn down the power and use it a soft fill-light from the front with the second light acting as the key light.  With all these options (and a few others in-between) I have a whole range of lighting possibilities which I can vary to suit the overall vibe of each designer’s show.

Moreover, you can use it as a continuous light source for both video and photography which is ideal for me to shoot a close-up of a shoe, a piece of jewellery, or even get a shot of the eye makeup.  Again, using the light on or off the camera can give you a great lighting variety but as it’s not the strongest of lights it is better suited for close up work in photography.

50,000 frames later I can see how reliant I have become on the Omicron. There is certainly a place for it in any photographer’s kit who has to deal with fast moving and changing environments – reportage, weddings, events.  The TTL gives you the freedom to concentrate on capturing the moment and the versatility of the light means that you can easily create different lighting styles with this one source.

It is definitely my “go to” flash when I need to make complicated things simple!

Thanks, Quantum.

Robert Fairer
www.robertfairer.com