Ian Spanier Blogs Tutorials for Photoflex

March 4, 2013

By Jacqui Palumbo

All photos © Ian Spanier

Spanier lit his subject for Danskin activewear in bright, challenging conditions with one light and his intuition.

Photoflex has been manufacturing lighting equipment since 1985, and has also provided valuable lighting knowledge to photographers since its inception. New York City-based photographer Ian Spanier recalls the Photoflex StarLite continuous light he started out with sixteen years ago, which is still in working condition among his collection today. Because his lighting knowledge was self-taught, it was important to Spanier to find valuable resources, which he found through Photoflex’s Lighting Lessons. Now, nearly two decades later, as a professional advertising, editorial and portrait photographer sponsored by Photoflex, Spanier has taken a role as a source of information by guest-blogging on their LiteBlog.

Spanier draws from his own experience, and selects topics that are useful to photographers at any level. “I try to write about something that may be of interest to both young and experienced photographers alike,” he explains.

His posts center on efficiency without sacrificing quality: in “One Light is Enough,” Spanier outlines how he photographed different subjects using only one light. For one shoot, he recreated “North Light,” the type of light made famous in portraiture by Irving Penn, using only a large Photoflex OctoDome. Conversely, he shows how he used the same OctoDome behind a different subject to blow out the background without needing white silk to do the trick. Spanier’s small OctoDome saved the day on a shoot for Danskin where the sun was too strong and his budget was limited. Spanier shot between buildings in a shady area using only one light to achieve the desired look. He also uses the small OctoDome in tight quarters when there simply isn’t room for an elaborate set-up. Spanier likes to challenge himself to use only one light when possible. All too often, photographers these days think they need tons of equipment to make a good image,” Spanier writes in his post. “This line of thinking can get real expensive, real fast.”


Above: Ian Spanier recreates “North Light” with one light.

In another blog post “The Two-Minute Shoot,” Spanier shares a lighting set-up that delivers fast, quality results when the clock is ticking. Several years ago, while on assignment for Muscle & Fitness, Spanier was asked to photograph the Florida Gators NCAA College Football team during a practice session. The athletes were pulled after training sessions one by one to shoot with Spanier, and he needed to take quick shots that maintained a consistent look and quality of light. “When shooting athletes, time is essential,” he writes. “Many of them will not give you much of it, and even when they do, being quick keeps them happy. If I want to get more out of my subjects, there’s no better thing I can do than to be fast and efficient.” Spanier set up a small Photoflex HalfDome with a strobe, and a key light above it in a small OctoDome. He finds this set up takes “remarkably” little effort to get a great shot from each subject, and has translated it to corporate shoots and other projects where time is severely limited.


Above: “The Two-Minute Shoot”

Spanier was simply a customer years before he was sponsored by Photoflex, and he said he was initially drawn to the versatility of Photoflex’s modifiers. His small OctoDome has gold and silver inserts, two separate baffles and a grid for the front of the modifier. “It gives the user so many combination options to affect the look of the light,” he says. “I almost always have that bank in my kit, even if I don’t plan to use it.”

In his upcoming post, Spanier will document how he built a lighting rig with Photoflex’s portable TritonFlash lights to stay mobile while photographing a group of athletes competing in a Spartan Race while they tackled obstacles, mountains and fire pits. He hopes that his blog posts will resonate with photographers the way that Photoflex lighting lessons resonated with him. “It’s the little details that count,” he says. “If one can pick up a new trick, or even be inspired to modify an idea to make it their own based off something in the blog, then it’s accomplished the right intention.”

To read Ian Spanier’s blog posts in full, with full descriptions of his light set-ups, visit the Photoflex LiteBlog.