Content Creators: Change Up Your Lighting Game!

We have all seen, and probably used, a ring light.
Basically, this gives you a shadowless light that may be flattering, although EVERYONE has been using this!
If you don’t believe me, have a look at the eye in a screen grab. In what we call a catchlight, you can see the ring light on the eye.
Not saying it’s bad, but maybe it’s time to change up your setup to add a bit more distinction to your content.
Joby has designed a full lighting kit for the smartphone creator with a new attention to detail: a background light.

It’s called the Beamo Deluxe Studio Lighting Kit! 

It’s a mouthful , so I’ll break it down for you.

Yep, most of time, people shoot with one light, and if you are making a vid that highlights a product, a more pro look is lighting the background for separation.
Now, this setup assumes you are shooting in a controlled space when you use the full set-up.
What do you get?

First of all, a main light with cold shoes around the rim to add on a mic, for instance.

It is also mounted on a hinge to allow for angle adjustments. I use features like things for product shots as well.

A stand that is weighted and has height adjustments, from 27″ to 37″.
A Joby phone holder, so you can place your phone vertical or horizontal, depending on your content. And as most Joby gear holders, it is flexible, plus it can attach to the pole of the light holder at your choice of height.

A background light that has a stand to adjust the angle, OR, use the standard ¼-20 screw hole to place it wherever on another stand. The light has choices of a ton of colors to help separate the background.

I do wish white was an option, but not on this unit.



OK, now that you have all of these items sorted, you will need a couple of more things:
Like a lot of us, I plugged both lights into separate phone charger batteries. They give you the cables with enough cable length to get to the power source easily.
With that knowledge, you can decide whether this is best on a set, or location.
My vote is a set (or wherever you shoot inside)
I have not checked on the power drain, but after reviewing these for hours, I was good with a 10,000-mAp battery on each.
To be clear, the lights are not battery powered, but easy to sort out.

On the control side of things, they designed the cable on the main light with a control hub with a good length so you can adjust the intensity, and kelvin (daylight/indoor) temp appropriately. It’s magnetic, so it stays where you want it to. Plus it has a sticky backing so you can keep it more secure on the base.

Just set your height, use a twisty or other cable tie to  secure it to the pole, and set the control module on the base if that’s your easiest access point,

On the background light, the controls are on the unit itself, so you will need to set by looking at you screen for best results.

The basics are this:
Quality of light on the Main Light is great. Intensity range worked well, as did the color balance.
Having 4 cold shoes around the light added a versatility for add ons.
The light stand, with the weighted base, is well made, and creates a solid set-up.
The phone holder is typical solid Joby quality.
Background light has a small stand, so you will have to find a flat surface to set it on. Thank goodness the ¼-20 is there so you can add another way to mount that light.

As mentioned, if you want to mount the background light in a different way, you can add a Joby tripod to customize your placement. Here you can see the stand removed, and mounted on a Joby mini tripod. I do have a bunch of these tripods, and have for years, as they are a great part of the kit.

I would recommend a wireless mic system, like the Ankerwork . What i like about the Anker setup is that it comes with iPhone and Android connectors that plugs right into the phone and place your mic on your person, or connect a lavalier. Of course you can also attach a mic to one of the 4 cold shoes, connect to your phone. I did a review on this earlier this year showing a variety of options to connect mics to a smartphone.

There are some things I wish this had:
White light option on the background light.
An included carry case to store or transport the set. It can be broken down easily, but saving the boxes it came in, may not be the best solution, although that’s what you have.

An overall solid addition to your lighting kit, and at the reasonable kit price, also a great option for your Zoom call lighting needs.
$100? Yep, righteous deal for your lighting options.

BTW, same price on Amazon, and BH, so you might as well get it straight from Joby

Change your light just to keep it fresh!

Maybe The Most Boring, Yet Critical Piece of Kit In Your Photographic Life

Sure, we all look at the latest camera bodies, glass, tripods, lights, bags (oh, the bags!) and more.
When it comes to your final output, what everyone will see, it’s about the tonal quality and color.
All of your post production adjustments are based on what you see on your monitor(s).
A little while back, I reviewed the Datacolor Spyder X colorimeter, and it has served me well.

When I am working on one monitor, that is.

So if that is your case, or if you work only on a laptop, that option is a great call.
I have begun the work on an upcoming book, and using multiple monitors, I needed to have the color match across them all.

Whether it is the post production on an image, or the layout of the book, having consistent colors across them all was critical.

That’s when I knew that the upgraded DatacolorSpyder X2 Ultra was the unit that would serve the project best.

Sure, they look the same, but the guts and software are the upgrade that was required.

What you see in the photos above is the lens that sits on you monitor to read the color/light; the red lens above the datacolor name reads the ambient light, and the other image with the 2 parts shows how the unit is stored, as the 2 pieces clip together, as well as acting as a counterweight so when hanging the colorimeter over the screen it stays in place.

When I first took it out of the box, I was a little non-plussed, since it looked exactly like the SpyderX Pro.
Once I downloaded and installed the software, I understood the difference.
Made for a more professional workflow, this software interface had a different design.

So the Studio match was the main software I was after. Yes, the base model will let you calibrate more that one monitor, but the Studio Match is what I was looking for.

And it works great! Matched my main working monitors super fast.

So: Fast, easy to calibrate, and gives a reminder based on your needs. I go for a once a month reminder to re-calibrate, because, nothing is forever, and yes, monitors do age.

One thing to note is that both calibration devices have a lens on them to read the ambient light where you are working, ( you can see that pointed out above.) as that will affect your calibration.

Another critical feature on the Ultra is softproofing. If you print at home, have you calibrated you printer with the correct ICC color profiles? If you send out your files for printing outside your place, you want to know that the prints you get back, or drop ship to buyers, has the same color quality you crafted in your studio.
You can ingest your profiles and insure that the monitors are matched to those profiles. Make sure the product you are putting out, has the high standards your adhere to.

This additional feature of the Ultra is the proper investment to maintain the high quality of your vision.

I know the above may look like a lot, but the way the Datacolor software simplifies your process, and calibrates in 2 minutes, don’t worry.

You got this!

And it’s as easy as hanging the colorimeter over your monitor in a specified location, and running the program! That simple!

OK, you do have to adjust your monitors, brightness & contrast, as requested, to make the color profile the best.

Plus the Ultra is also perfect for video color correction. I have been in many grading (another word for video calibration) and the light in the room is set so what you see on the monitor is as good as possible, and adjustments you are making have that baseline.

Basically you need a baseline to be that starting point for all of your post production adjustments.
If you are working with the one monitor, or laptop, The less expensive Spyder X pro may be the perfect unit for you.

When you move to more robust and complex projects, and especially of you need consistency between multiple monitors, the Spyder X2 Ultra, with enhanced software, and capabilities is the one to buy.

And here is another take on why you should be calibrating your monitors:

#TBT The Story Behind The Shot #3

My VW bug was chugging its way up Telegraph Ave, like the little engine that could.
And it did!

That afternoon, on Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley, Talking Heads were doing a free concert.
As a new fan, it was not to be missed.

They did the hits, and in a very strange timing, they sang Psycho killer as we all found out that Mayor George Moscone & Supervisor Harvey Milk were murdered by Dan White, a former supervisor in SF.
Because of this tragedy, Diane Feinstein succeeded Moscone as acting Mayor.

The concert was crowded, and afterward and I found myself backstage. Don’t ask me how.
I ended up capturing this portrait of Tina Weymouth, the bassist.

A couple of years ago, there was a screening in NYC of Stop Making Sense, attended by Tina and her husband Chris Frantz, the drummer for Talking Heads.
I had my advance ticket, so I got a 16×20 print of the portrait to give to her on the night.
Decades later, the story came to a right conclusion.

Pivo Max – Your Solo Creator Multi-Use Tool

While at CES 2023, part of the goal is to see what’s coming out new, that could be of use to all of you.
When I saw this Pivo Max, I couldn’t wait to give it a go, and see if it performed as expected.

What you have, basically, is a base that has a bluetooth connection to an app, which allows you to track your movements while shooting. Your camera will move with you.

The thing that brought me to their booth and impressed me the most was the strength of the motor allowing the use of a mirrorless camera.


As a content creator, you know that you need to push out your work in a variety of formats.
The most common being the 9×16 Vertical for social/smartphones, and the 16×9 for platforms like YouTube.
You may have thought that you need to shoot twice, once in each format, or compromise the framing to lean towards one or the other.
The Pivo Max  does indeed have a strong enough motor to allow you to mount both a phone and a mirrorless camera to capture your content at one time.

It worked as expected! When I see products in a trade show, you never know how a production unit will behave. This did not disappoint!

Sure, you may say that anyone can mount both units and get the same.
But the critical difference when using the Pivo Max is the dynamic look when you add motion tracking to the equation.
By connecting via Bluetooth to the app, you can have your cameras track you by face, or body.
Now, if your content includes moving around a gym, in let’s say, a training video, or even a horse riding instructional this set-up will track you easily and make sure your shoot captures your vid.
Of course you can hire someone, to be the camera person.
This setup lets you shoot as a solo creator!
The tracking on this app is so good, it was tough to get a product shot as I moved around to get the right light! It kept following me.
I’m showing a specific set-up getting all content in 2 cameras at once.

The Fuji X-H2 has a flippy screen so I could see the framing on the camera, and then I used the phone in a front facing camera so I could see what was being captured there. Like I said, a one person set-up. We all know that the front and back cameras on a phone have diff resolution, but for social, the quality is good. The Fuji gets the 4K files.

To activate the phone I use the included remote control. The camera was activated on the body, knowing I’d be editing that first part out.

You can just mount your phone, or tablet, horizontal or vertical on the base, or a tablet, and keep it simple. Probably a way most people will use this.

Maybe you just want to live stream, and a less complicated set-up is best.
I would also suggest connecting a good wireless mic system to complete the system.
For this review, I was just shooting video, no audio.

OK, you have a dual capture set-up, a single capture set-up, and there is more.
With a remote control included, you can also control the base via the app, or even without the app!
So, if you want that 180º or 360º shot you can easily do that with the remote. Either direction.
You can also adjust speeds of any of those movements.

I have looked at this category for years, going back to something called a Swivl, which used a large bulky tracker that you wore. Unwieldy at best.

The tech in this may appear simple, and it may be. It just works.
If capturing content, as a solo creator, with the ability to add dynamism to your video with a moving subject, I highly recommend this Pivo Max.

It does all break down pretty small and the phone mount has a ¼-20 standard screw mount as does the base. I just screwed on the camera, and as you see, added a cold shoe adaptor to the phone base to complete my set up. The Max does not come with that, but I’m sure you have one in your kit. If not, a cheap add-on.

I do use a Zhiyun tripod adaptor so the bottom can live on the base, and the top lives on the camera. I didn’t have to remove my fave wrist strap, the SpiderHolster wrist strap, my wrist strap of choice/

This can also be a great tool for real estate sales

With this, an agent can give a virtual tour of a property. I think content creation is where we live, but that is just another use case.

The main base unit is rechargeable, with 10-12 hours of battery life. You can also charge your phone/tablet through the base while you record as well.
the remote uses 2 AAA batteries.

One thing I will say that you should look at your motion and see how how is all tracked.

In a closer , let’s say 6Ft distance, try to do smoother movements as the tracking is so good, it will stop and start moving as you do. No lag, but immediate.

There you have it! from the trade show floor, into a real world situation, the Pivo Max does exactly what it promised. It costs about $250, but I have seen it on sale for as little as $175 USD.


BTW, here is a video for another product on the line, with a motor best suited for a smart, not the full combo. You may want to look at the whole line to see which unit is best for you



# TBT Story Behind the Shot – Tragedy on Red River

(please note, there is a possibly disturbing photo at the end of this post)
I had just seen/photographed St. Vincent perform at Stubbs, and it was an incredible set.

Making my way out, it was on to the next venue to hear some new music.
While walking on the street, the camera’s exposure was set for whatever may be seen on the street.
There was a rope blocking the sidewalk, making us all walk in the street.
All of the sudden we hear a car’s screeching tires, bursting through the flimsy barricade with a police car in hot pursuit.
The camera came up to my eye, with the continuous shooting sequence in action.
The driver plowed through the crowd of these poor young kids, just trying to party and get to the next venue.
The things I saw, are etched in my mind forever, and I’m not sure about posting some of them here.
I know I saw a young woman bleed out, while being attended to by paramedics.
There was a facility close by that had dispatched medical support immediately.
This one shot has stuck in my memory as it reminded me of Kent State.

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