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Elinchrom: The famous five

Posted on Mar 1, 2023

Simon Burfoot,  pro photographer, explains why the powerful Elinchrom FIVE is making light work of great flash photography

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“I believe a good flash image is one where it’s hard to see that flash was used; it complements the image rather than making it,” says Simon Burfoot, professional photographer and all-round lighting guru. “Outside on a bright, sunny day, for example, you get very hard, dark shadows, so I’m not going to use a big diffused light source; I’ll use a small light source to make a hard, specular light. It’s easy for somebody to illuminate an image, but to illuminate a subject within the image, that’s the art side, that’s getting control of the light.” 

Burfoot has been controlling light for longer than most. He’s established himself as an expert in his field, as the one professional photographers call when they need advice. He needs kit that he knows is going to deliver, which for him means Elinchrom. “One of the reasons is because they went for exposure and colour consistency above fast flash durations,” he says. “Elinchrom’s Full Flash curve technology in all of the older units and present-day Pro HDs is very robust and very consistent. Whereas the FIVE, the ONE and the ELB 500 – the more modern units – now feature re-engineered IGBT circuitry, which is essentially speedlight technology that has been made more robust in the accuracy of power.” 

Accurate power and colours are a must for discerning photographers using flash, which is why Burfoot considers these crucial to success, along with understanding how many lights to use and where to position them. “I find a lot of people tend to light too low, pick the wrong modifiers or use too many lights,” he confirms. “If I use four or five in a set-up, each one will do its own job – each will be a continuation of another, and it won’t overlap too much. I set one light up, get it exactly where I need it, then add a second or a third – whatever I need to do. But understanding what those lights are doing is the most important.” 

Naturally, Elinchrom has a full suite of lights and modifiers that will enable you to realise stunning effects. Burfoot is a particular fan of one unit and thinks the Photography News audience will be, too. “The Elinchrom FIVE is versatile. It’s battery-powered and gives 450 full-power flashes from a single charge,” he explains. “If you put on a power bank, you’ll almost double that number. Generally, in the English weather, you’re never going to need full power. I can get nearly 2000 shots out of a 500W head.” 

Alongside these impressive stats, Burfoot likes the LED modelling light, which doubles as a continuous light either for video or as a fill – plus the power range, which is particularly relevant for today’s photographers. “It’s got a seven f/stop range going from seven to 522Ws, and that’s adjustable in third- or full-stop increments,” he says. “I’ve spent most of my career telling everyone to buy as much power as they could possibly afford. These days, it’s more important how low the power goes. Everyone is buying fast-aperture lenses to shoot at the widest setting.” 

The FIVE has Active Charging, too, which means it can connect to any USB-C power source and continue to be used as it recharges, regardless of the level of power left in the battery. “It’s also compatible with Elinchrom Skyport – from the early versions right up to the current day,” confirms Burfoot. “It’s a manual flash, but allows you to have HSS and TTL capability as well with the dedicated Skyport Pro. It also has a built-in Bluetooth Bridge, so you can sync it to Elinchrom Studio software. Plus, it will interrogate any other unit in the vicinity running on the Elinchrom system to inform you of where firmware is needed. 

“When it comes to lighting, people can sometimes get lazy,” Burfoot concludes. “Just being a bit more thoughtful about what you do will pay dividends for your images.” Perhaps that thoughtfulness should start with what lights you use.

For more head to elinchrom.com

Originally featured in Issue 104 of Photography News.

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