Power with Ease: Bowens 400/400Rx Kit is a Studio Starter

Bowens- The Power Behind the Picture

Casey. This kit makes it easy to dial everything in. 1-125 sec at f - 7.1 ISO 160
This is Casey. This kit makes it easy to dial everything in. The light is crisp, consistent, and even. All photos shot with Canon 7d Mark II and the 85mm f1.2 lens. 
1-125 sec at f – 7.1 ISO 160

If you are just starting a portraiture business, or just love taking portraits at home, studio strobes can be a big investment. If you have smaller space, or specialize in single portraiture, you probably do not need to spend thousands of dollars. The best bang for your buck is to get yourself a complete kit that is of high quality, without paying for features that you don’t need. This Bowens 400/400Rx kit gives you just that- the lights, stands, modifiers, carrying case, and even wireless triggering. As an added bonus, for a limited time, you get to attend a two-day seminar with award winning photographer Tony Corbell! This workshop provides real world experience shooting live fashion models and using great Bowens modifiers in a studio situation! The workshop is totally free of those that purchase this kit! More on that later…

Bowens 400/400Rx Kit
Everything that you need to get started.

The Bowens 400/400Rx kit is complete right out of the box.  No hidden costs here. This is everything that you need to start shooting portraits, product, or anything that you can find that will stand still long enough to get a couple of shots in. When I took it out of the box and it was synced and ready to go, I knew it was going to be no fuss and straight to shooting. That is how easy this kit is to use. Because, that is what we are all really after, more time shooing, less time messing around with gear.

Although, speedlights are still a favorite choice for a lightweight, portable solution for shooting on location, the luxuries of studio lighting really make a difference. The built-in modeling lamps let you see where the light is going to fall before you take the shot, saving you time and repeated test shots. That brings us to the benefits of having a studio set up. These strobes may not be as portable as your speed light set, but if you spend a lot of time in your studio, then it is optimum to leave your lights set up and ready to shoot. Leave your speedlights in your bag for location shoots, and have your studio lights ready to rock. Again, more time shooting, less time unpacking and setting up.

This Lumiair strip box allowed me to very carefully shape the light. 140cm x 40cm (55" x 15")
This Lumiair strip box allowed me to very carefully shape the light. 140cm x 40cm (55″ x 15″)

I wanted to shoot Casey on black and really bring out the contrast. Black shirt, black backdrop, all black everything. I wanted to control the light and keep it from spilling, so I grabbed the egg crate grid for the strip and the softbox. The softbox that I used was the 60cm x 80cm (23.5″ x 31″) rectangular box that is just the right size for a single person portrait. I also had the grid on the rectangular softbox that was up front.

I actually put an LP 180 to his behind his shoulder, camera right, to create some separation from the background. The power on the LP180 was set to only 1/32 power, and it was just meant to balance the hardness of the strip, set camera left. I was running all the lights at low power setting, barely at 25% on the Rectangular softbox, and just about 40% on the strip. The setup looked like this:

Light it up! The strip box camera left should be in a epical position, not wide and horizontal as shown in the diagram. That is the only way to orient a strip on this diagram, though.  www.lightingdiagrams.com
Light it up! The strip box camera left should be in a vertical position, not wide and horizontal as shown in the diagram. That is the only way to orient a strip on this diagram, though.
http://www.lightingdiagrams.com
You can see the softer light from the softbox to the right and the harder light from the gridded strip on the left. I really wanted contrasty light.  1-125 sec at f - 8.0 ISO 160
You can see the softer light from the softbox to the right and the harder light from the gridded strip on the left. I really wanted contrasty light. The light is a little too low on the arm tattoos, though.
1-125 sec at f – 8.0 ISO 160

For this next shot, I had him stand closer to the backdrop and change his angle to the camera. I moved the softbox on the right to be almost directly on his side. Having him closer to the backdrop allowed some light to spill on the black and turn it a little grey. I also opened up one stop on the aperture which allowed the bounced light to show on the backdrop. The detail on his tattoos have bit more contrast and the highlights are quite a bit brighter. Sometimes adjusting the aperture or changing the distance of the light can make a huge difference. It’s not always about more power, although these lights had power to spare.

Making the subject laugh when they looking all grizzly is the best. Pro tip- act like an idiot and say bizarre things. It works... if the subject knows you. Otherwise they might just run. 1-125 sec at f - 5.6 ISO 160
Making the subject laugh when they looking all grizzly is the best. Pro tip- act like an idiot and say bizarre things. It works… if the subject knows you. Otherwise they might just run.
1-125 sec at f – 5.6 ISO 160

Also, with the softbox at a more oblique angle to the subject, I no longer needed the speed light to illuminate the right shoulder. It’s a pretty different look, all by just changing the angle of the subject and moving the lights just a bit. No power adjustment on the lights at all. The video below of Tony Corbell below goes into the subtlety of light modification in much more depth.

This post can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the possibilities of two powerful strobes and some decent modifiers. Bowens’ Lumiair line of soft boxes and modifiers have a really nice build quality and feel as though they will last. They are  moderately priced, so they will not break the bank. They also have a wide range of reflectors and beauty dish modifiers that are quite well made.

With the built in radio, there is no other pieces to buy and you are shooting right out of the box.
With the built in radio, there is no other pieces to buy and you are shooting right out of the box.

The 400 w/s heads are also built well. Bowens did a good job designing controls and an uncomplicated design that is vey user friendly. I have felt some plastic-feeling strobe heads, with fragile buttons, and that is not the case with these lights. There is a ready beep mode that lets you know when the flash is recycled and ready to fire. Although, with 1.3 sec. recycle time for full power flashes, you will not need a warning- they will almost always be ready. As for the wireless triggers, the pulsar system worked like a charm. Synced right away and never failed. They even give you the battery for the unit that goes on your hot shoe!

Yesssss! We got him. Full blown cracking up. This is the good stuff. Big ups to Reggie Watts for this one. 1-125 sec at f - 5.6 ISO 160
We got him- full blown cracking up. This is the good stuff. Big ups to Reggie Watts for this one.
1-125 sec at f – 5.6 ISO 160

If you are thinking about diving into strobe heads, don’t want to spend all your lunch money, then this kit has what you need. But, you still want to know how to use the things, right? Not just where the power buttons are, but really how to use and control the light and use the lights to their utmost potential, right? Check this out… If you purchase this kit or any other Bowens Strobe kit, you are automatically registered to participate in a full lighting seminar with Bowens lighting specialist and all-around nice guy, Tony Corbell. This guy knows his stuff! Check him out in this in-depth video that shows some of the techniques that he will go into in the workshop…

This is a rare deal here, and we are very excited to have Tony Corbell and Bowens coming to the Learning Studio to show the real potential of a quality lighting kit and a little bit of skill. We firmly believe that the more comfortable you are with lighting the more fun it will be- and nothing is better than learning hands-on. Tony presents the the techniques in an accessible way that make it easy for everyone to learn to light like a pro.

Can't stop, won't stop. We did it. 1-160 sec at f - 5.6 ISO 100
We did it. We broke him. 
1-160 sec at f – 5.6 ISO 100

TJ Hansen

Photographer at MPEX.com

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