Photographing Food with the Elinchrom ONE
by Michael Sewell
Save 20% on Elinchrom ONE Heads and Sets.
Elinchrom ONE Review - Part 1 of 4
Read Part 2 - Elinchrom ONE on Location - Dance Shoot at the Beach
Read Part 3 - Automotive Shoot - ISO Bracketing with the Elinchrom ONE
Whenever I'm asked to review a piece of equipment, whether it's lights, cameras or lenses etc, I tend to use the equipment in real-world scenarios first. That basically translates as client shoots, because I find it gives me a wider experience of the equipment, rather than “This is what it is, and these are the specs”. I think we all tend to be more interested in what a new piece of kit can actually “do”, and how well it does it. This blog is the first in a four-part review of the Elinchrom ONE, so please keep an eye out for more posts in the coming weeks.
I received the Elinchrom One lights on a Monday afternoon, which gave me enough time to charge them and give them a brief health check, before taking them along to a food shoot for the Lavender Hotel Group the following day. They had revamped their wedding menu, which was to be rolled out across the group, and the images were to be used for their new wedding brochure, online marketing via social media and also their website.
I normally use Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL heads for pretty much everything, and I find them particularly suited to my lighting style with regard food photography. I generally use two lights, although I tend to have a third set up and ready to go, if I need to capture steam or need a little more fill on the near side than I can obtain with a silver card or reflector. The biggest advantage with the ELB 500 TTL is the small size and lightweight nature of the heads. They weigh about the same as a gasp of air or a feather. Okay, if we're being pedantic, they weigh 680gms including the cable.
When I shoot food, I have an accent light on the far side of the table, firing through an Elinchrom Q-Mount 18cm Reflector with an 18cm 20 Degree Grid fitted to create the specular highlights. It tends to sit on a small boom arm, to ensure the lightstand isn't within the frame. Because the ELB 500 TTL head weighs pretty much nothing, I don't need to consider counter balancing it with a weight, and it doesn't move under it's own weight either. I've previously had much larger heads swing forward or backwards due to their weight which is common for strobes that incorporate the battery within the head.
With the Elinchrom ONE weighing a little more than twice an ELB 500 TTL head (excluding the pack, we'll get into that later) at 1.5Kg and with me using the standard Elinchrom 21cm Reflector, rather than the lighter Q-Mount reflector, for piece of mind I chose to use a counterweight sandbag.
I'd left the Elinchrom OCF Diffusion Dome (which come free in every Elinchrom ONE head or kit) in place, mostly out of curiosity, which necessitated an output of 0.5 (equivalent to 9Ws). I normally have my heads powered down as far as they will go, with an output of 0.1 (equivalent to 7Ws).
In this shot, an Elinchrom ONE head was used as an accent light, placed on the far side of the dish, suspended slightly over the table and aimed so as the reflected light comes towards the camera. This creates the specular highlights which are necessary to make the image appealing.
The keylight is frame left, and high. I used an 80cm folding Octa by Lastolite, suspended using a Phottix studio boom arm. Normally, I have the output set to 1.0 (equivalent to 12Ws), but I had the softbox a little higher than usual, and I also had the OCF Dome fitted, so on this occasion the output was set to 2.0 (equivalent to 25Ws).
This was the basic setup, and you will note there is no counterweight on the keylight. As the head and box were basically over one of the stand legs, it wasn't really likely to go anywhere. The camera was set to drop the ambient sufficiently so as not to allow contamination from the much warmer (and somewhat mixed) lighting from within the room.
The camera was an Olympus E-M1 mkII at 1/80th sec f7.1 ISO400
This is to show the effect of the lighting and camera settings on the input of the ambient light.
And this is the result.
So, how did I find using the Elinchrom ONE for food photography? Absolutely fantastic. In hindsight, I'd probably not use the diffusion domes in this scenario, as they weren't needed. That was just for my benefit to see the effect on light output in a familiar setup and environment. What I did find was that these little portable strobes provided plenty of power for the assignment, even with the diffusion domes attached.
I mentioned earlier the weight difference between the Elinchrom ONE and something like the ELB 500 TTL pack system, and having to do a bit of a workaround in this setup. You may well be wondering why I wouldn't just stick with the ELB 500, as the head weighs next to nothing. This is true, but don't forget each ELB 500 TTL head needs a battery pack, and each control unit with a battery weighs 1.74Kg.
Yes, I could run two heads off a single pack, which would amount to 3Kg (funnily enough, the same weight as two Elinchrom ONE heads). However, the Elinchrom ONE heads certainly occupy less space, and for those of us that travel an awful lot, packing light and tight becomes very important, which is where Elinchrom ONE comes into it's own.
Finally, the battery life on the bulit-in Elinchrom ONE battery is fantastic, offering up to 725 full power flashes from one charge. In truth, I didn't come close to emptying the battery on either head in this shoot, but it's nice to know you have a long battery life to fall back on for more intense full-day shoots.