Thoughts on Peter Hurley kit? $5,500??

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by DGMPhotography, Jun 16, 2018.

  1. DGMPhotography

    DGMPhotography Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Peter Hurley is a pretty well known headshot photographer based in New York. I was interested in his lighting kit and saw that it's selling for $5,500!

    Westcott Peter Hurley Flex LED 4-Light Kit

    Does anyone have experience with this kit, or can perhaps suggest alternatives? Doesn't look too hard to make your own either. And thoughts on the lighting style itself?


     
  2. sergezap

    sergezap TPF Noob!

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    It's just a marketing and nothing more. Peter Hurley has used a Kino Flo setup, but it's a bit hard to sell a highly priced cinema stuff to the masses, so he is "using" this Westcott kit now. A bit less highly overpriced.
    Do you want a continuous light setup like this?
    2 strip boxes, 2 softboxes, 4 e27 cri 90 led bulbs from any manufacturer you like.
     
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  3. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Far as I can tell LED doesn't really offer much if any real gain for photographers. The quality LED setups that are worth owning are expensive and regular speedlites and studio lights offer all the photographer needs at lower prices (esp studio flash setups).

    LED really comes into its own for video work, where the continuous light which doesn't generate heat has a lot of benefits over traditional lighting that can build up heat over time. Though, again, my impression is that quality LED setups are still not cheap; however I would advise looking into them closer and see what is really out there. I've not really done a huge amount of research to be able to tell if this kit is worth it or not.

    It should be noted that portrait photography doesn't really need a named kit to be effective; the core resources have been pretty well established for years. A named kit will be tailored around the photographers specific style, so if that style works for you and you emulate the process it can be a simple one-purchase option. Though named kits are, as pointed out earlier, often a marketing ploy
     
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  4. mrca

    mrca No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think Hurley's set up is nothing but marketing of crap. The guy was a model who started a photo business with no photo training. His schtick is head shots with florescents arranged in a rectangle a couple feet from the subject and shooting through the 2 foot open center while the subject squints. It produces a 4 line rectangular catchlight around the pupil. I'm sorry, but the catch light in a headshot is in the most important part of the shot, the eyes, and it is hard edged, distracting and just plain weird. Unless you want to spend lots of time in post taking it out. Good luck. In addition to being ridiculously expensive, the florescent lights are low power and pretty much one trick ponies. You can do the same with strobes and 4 strip boxes if you like the freaky catchlights for a fraction of the cost and the strobes will do so much more than just headshots. Personally I think the shots are nicely lit, no cigar, but the catch lights are ridiculous. You often hear folks say they like a rectangular catch light because it looks like a window and even go to the extent to put tape on it to make it look like window panes in the catch light. I wonder how they feel about 4 lines around the iris? Personally, I like a circular catchlight, the sun is circular and it is a soft shape, no harsh corners in a soft shot or in a round eye but with no anachroid legs in it from an umbrella. I want the entire image to contibute to the feel of the shot including the catchlights. Just me. Also, with strobe modeling lights, I can control the size of the pupil, again an important element in the headshot. I wonder if the reason for the squint schtick is because his models are staring into bright continuous lights. Like staring into light from a bright reflector outdoors. I don't have that problem with strobe. Sorry, I don't want a beautiful lady squinting in her photo. Again, that's me.
     
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  5. pixmedic

    pixmedic The Mustached Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    that is way to much shizzle for not enough nizzle. your paying for that guys name on the box.
    overpriced and unnecessary. you could literally get that exact same effect using speedlights, but knocking a zero off the end of that price tag.
    granted, its more useful for video...but still overpriced.
    did you even look at the model in the ad? the catchlights? horrendous.

    but if you got moneys to burn, i say buy it and review it for us.
     
  6. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I'd buy that hasselblad before those dim lights.

    upload_2018-6-16_11-48-14.png


    1/60 at only f/6.3 -- tripod is a must here, and so is a very stable model themselves.

    Hurley's magic is all in his posing, his lighting has nothing to do with his popularity.


    also, LEDs are incredibly cheap and I bet the complete cost of that kit, minus the case, is $60. The size factor/portability is awesome, however.
     
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  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I think the thing you want to take away from Peter Hurley is found in his longer videos (like the 1-hour one B&H had him do) and in his experiences in photographing, and posing. There's a great temptation to think that the lights of an expert headshot shooter will bring to you some of the magic that the top pro extracts from them, but keep in mind that photographing people is more about the "soft skills" than about the hardware.

    His philosophy on continuous lighting versus electronic flash lighting is a critical part of the way he poses, and directs, and gives feedback to his sitters. Continuous lighting is...always on...strobes are...very specifically ready, then you have to wait for recycle...strobes POP! and are perhaps cumulatively tiring for many people...continuous lights are just...on...

    I do not think that speedlights give very good headshot/portrait lighting, because I want to see the COLOR or the eye,and I do not want that Holstein cow look, with big, dark, widely-dialated pupils, and no eye color...I think the best portrait,beauty,and fashion work shows the iris of the eye small, with a large, well-colored eye...I think 250-Watt modeling lamps in pro-level flash heads give the best results, because the subject's pupils are constricted, and thus have more eye color...a widely-dialated, big, black eyeball looks like ****, and that's what much speedlight work looks like to me, on headshots or portraits.

    SO.....BRIGHT lights cause the subjects pupils to constrict, and they can also give interesting catchlights on the eyeball's surface curvatures.

    Hurly's got some very valuable tips in his videos. tips on directing,and posing, and to a lesser extent, on lighting. I dunno...I worked in some busy studios in the late 1980's...the skill in much,much,much more in how you relate to people and how you command the session and how you direct,coax,cajole,elicit expressions and synthetic emotions from people when they are in front of the camera.

    There's also the tripod-mounted camera versus hand-held dichotomy and how that affect s the session.

    Anyway...watch his videos, read his book...but don't drop $5,500 on those lights thinking that _those things_ have anything to do with the results you'd be able to achieve, because it's not about the hardware nearly as much as it is the interpersonal skills and your own knowledge of how to light people. YES, there is indeed some influence attributable to the type of lighting and the type of modifiers being used in a session, but the real success comes from refining the soft skills, the posing, the banter, the positive reinforcement, the timing, the non-gear-related aspects.
     
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  8. mrca

    mrca No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Derrel, absolutely right. The lighting is merely one piece of the equation that goes into making portrait. It must fit with the mood and theme of the shot. I think Bambi Cantrell said it well, expression trumps perfection but then Jerry Ghionis expanded it and said expression AND perfection trumps expression. The Einstein modeling lights are not only the 250 watts Derrel recommends, they are infinitely adjustable from the camera position allowing the size of the pupils to beprecisely dialed in with the modeling lights. But in a fast moving studio session, Derrel nailed it, a critical skill is being able to relate to the subject and extract genuine, expressions that reveal the real person. Now, Hurley specializes in actor head shots so expression is toned down in that genre. But the squint? Sure sometimes, but recently saw it on a womans photo. Made her appear unapproachable and snarly. If you watch Hurley's videos you will see how he relates to his subject. It is his style, not for everyone. I also agree about not liking large pupils that do not leave you much iris to work with. I think Derrel summed up what separates a professional portrait from one that isn't, not just lighting appropriate for the shot, but and expression and the timing to nail it. Einsteins also pop 10 times a second so there is no recycle time even on the large vagabond battery up to about 5 shots. The flash popping is a disadvantage when trying to get a shot not detected.
     
  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I had seen the videos before, advertising the Hurley-sponsored Flex Kit from F.J. Westcott, which is sold here, and one can see that one, single, 2-foot by 2-foot light in this system is $1,999...https://www.fjwestcott.com/lighting/flex

    A Made in China 24 x 24 inch softbox with a recessed front face,and a removable fabric grid, is around $79 or so,on average. Now...that's a lot of cash difference.

    You could purchase a ton of traditional studio flash gear and modifiers, and indeed outfit a studio, for less than the price of the $5,500 "kit".

    What I see from the Flex LED system is a very modern, new-fangled technology. The Flex system looks well-designed, high-tech, stylish, sexy, and so on. And it is very expensive! The questions I have about it are about modifiers,like eggcrate fabric grids, louvers, etc, and the lack of traditional options such as removable inner fabrics in white,silver,and maybe gold....these are FLAT, sheet-like lights...because of this, the traditional concepts like adding a grid to the front of a softlight: how does that work?

    When I watch the Hurley video with the model Chloe, the thing I notice the most is the soft,low-contrast light, and a sort of ugly,sterile lighting that reminds me of office fluorescent lighting. Look at the faces...his an hers...bathed in a glow from close-in, soft, almost shadow-free lighting. That kind of lighting looks vaguely odd and disconcerting to me.

    I totally agree with Hurley's idea about the eye pupils and the eye color being better with bright lights being shined on the subject's face...it gives good,rich eye color. But that can be done with a wide number of other lighting systems. The Flex mat LED system is a very expensive system; I am not sure if there are any others like it on the market today. I think it is hugely over-priced compared to traditional modifiers. The $79 24x24 inch softbox can be filled with a studio strobe that runs anywhere from $49 for an economy strobe, to $2,000 for a ProFoto monolight with battery powered remote TTL capability, or anything in-between. And there are lower-cost MIC LED mat options.

    There are now some MIC low-cost options:
     
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  10. mrca

    mrca No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Derrel, you are right about the almost shadow free light. I wonder how that compares to an AB 30" moon unit that attaches to their ring light. It too has an unusual catch light. The ring light produces a circle in the iris that glamour folks like, similar to the rectangle Hurley's lights produces but for less than $500 light and moon unit. I wonder if pulling subject 8-10 feet from right at the bg would minimize the shadow around the subject, the other signature of a ring light and perhaps eliminated with the moon unit. And the ring light isn't a one trick pony, it can be used for absolutely on camera axis fill, or off axis fill. With a grid, as a kicker.
     
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  11. DGMPhotography

    DGMPhotography Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Thanks for the thoughts everyone. I agree, way overpriced. And I have checked out some of his videos - his thoughts on interacting with the client are pretty good!

    I do like the idea of the continuous lights to dilate the pupil so you get more eye color. I think I might try to create that effect by using one of my video lights, and then use my flashes for the actual lighting. But I so very much want that half circle/crescent catch light. It looks so pretty to me! I'd love to have something like this: The Giant 48" Ring Light at WPPI - Chimera. You can cover up parts of the modifier to get different catch light shapes. And the size of it makes the lighting very soft and noticeable catch lights, which you can't get with normal sized ring lights.

    But again, stupidly expensive.

    I suspect that to get the light I want, I will have to build my own custom design.
     
  12. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    "Continuous" lighting that is perceived as "bright" will constrict the pupils, not dilate them.

    You can get the same effect with regular studio strobes that have a modeling light in them. Some are even adjustable.

    Unusual catch-lights, whether ring-shaped or rectangular, are just a gimmick, and as such do not add substantially to a portrait other than to help identify a photographer's "style". Copy his style or develop your own, but you should know why you are doing so, and not simply jump on the currently-popular bandwagon.

    Over-priced lighting gear is no better, and perhaps even inferior to that which is more affordable. Spend like a drunken sailor, then re-spend when the next fad rolls around.
     
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