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Photos by Scott Bourne and Liana Lehua

I want to discuss the California Sunbounce system in the context of an actual shoot. So I’ll sometimes sound like a reviewer, and at others, like a teacher discussing the photography aspects. I think that’s the best way to give context to the situation. So let’s start by making sure we know what we’re talking about.

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Most photographers have seen reflectors. They are simple light modifiers that help define, shape and fill light. They rely on the existing light in any scene and simply reflect and amplify that light.

Scrims simply block direct sun and put the subject in shade.

California Sunbounce makes reflectors and scrims and we decided to put them to the test here at TWIP.

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We had Lisa Bettany on a recent episode of TWIP. She was in town for WWDC and agreed to model for us. We went to a scenic area along the San Francisco bay front and directly behind AT&T Park where the Giants play. We found a nice secluded spot to work at exactly High Noon! That’s right, we were working at Noon when the sun is at its highest point. Yes, I know – that’s horrible light. But in the real world, when you’re being paid by an agency to get a shoot done on deadline, you work when you have access to the model and it’s YOUR job as a photographer to figure out the light.

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Looking at this photo, you might be surprised to find out that it was made at Noon. But it was actually easy – as long as you remember one essential rule:

When shooting outdoors in high, direct sunlight, scrim and fill. Scrim and fill. I’ll say it one more time. . . scrim and fill.

While you may have been taught to fill hard sunlight shadows with flash, there is another way – scrim and fill. We took California Sunbounce’s Sun-Bounce Micro-Mini $121, Mini Sun-Bounce $395, Pro Sun-Bounce $517, and Sun-Swatter $706 to the shoot. My assistant quickly assembled the units, and that’s where the review starts.

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First, the gear is easy to carry. Everything comes in a nice carrying bag that will make it easy to transport and also offer protection against scuffs and scratches that can eventually make the gear less effective. While pop-up reflectors are easier to set up, the California Sunbounce reflectors are sturdier and more reliable. I’ll explain why in a moment.

When you’re shooting portraits at Noon – you’ll have to deal with raccoon eyes. These are caused by the dark shadows that form around the eyes because the sun is so high that the eyebrow creates a shadow below the eye.

To avoid this result, you can scrim (or block) the sun, which is a form of subtractive lighting. You can also fill by using a reflector to catch some sun and bounce it back into the impacted area, or, you can do both. And that’s what we did here using the California Sunbounce gear.

We could have used the SunSwatter to block the Sun making the open sky the new key light but it was too windy. So we improvised and used the Pro Sunbounce large reflector as a scrim and filled with the mini and micro Sunbounce as fill.

On a windy day, it’s VERY hard to hold a large reflector. The California Sunbounce gear has reduced that problem by putting a cross bar on the back of the frame that holds the reflective material. It’s easy to grab and more precise to point the light using this method. There are also four handholds that you can use to grab and point the reflector. These handholds are in fact cutouts so they offer the added benefit of giving you something to see through, whereas using a traditional round reflector, you can’t see where you’re subject is or where you need to point the light.

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Once you have the reflector in place, you don’t want it to bow because of the wind or high pressure that you exert to hold it in place. This is where the California Sunbounce gear really shines. The material is super stiff and strong. No worries about the product buckling in the wind here.

The reflectors are surprisingly lightweight given how rigid they are. The materials appear to be very high quality and seem like they will last.

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The California Sunbounce reflectors offer precise output with no dents, bumps, or wobble of the reflective surface. We found this valuable as we were able to aim the reflectors with great precision. For the black and white portrait, the assistant held the Sunbounce 40 feet away and precisely placed the light exactly where I needed it.

We found these reflectors to be very easy to hand hold. But they do mount to traditional C-Stands or other types of light stands. If you mount them, use the mounts supplied by California Sunbounce to guarantee that you don’t damage the tubes that stretch the reflective surface. Also, always use sandbags to keep the stand from moving or falling over. We tried using the reflectors tied to light stands and found that with typical sandbagging, they were as sturdy as can be.

CONCLUSION

The California Sunbounce gear is very high quality and as you may expect, it’s not inexpensive. It’s designed for professionals who need something they can rely on. The products are actually made in Germany and have a two year manufacturers’ warranty.

There’s no way to really do this stuff justice in an online review. You have to handle it to really see the value. The lack of shimmer…the ability to grab the devices with a simple handlebar…the hand-holds on the side of the reflectors, all make this a unique experience

For more information visit:
http://www.sunbounce-usa.com/

Join the conversation! 46 Comments

  1. In the last picture (which I think is great BTW) is she leaning against those rocks or was she laying on them and you were above her?

  2. In the last picture (which I think is great BTW) is she leaning against those rocks or was she laying on them and you were above her?

  3. No, Lisa Bettany makes it a unique experience!! ;-)

  4. No, Lisa Bettany makes it a unique experience!! ;-)

  5. Great review and tips. Pics of setup VERY helpful.
    Thanks.
    BTW, Lisa is gorgeous!

  6. Great review and tips. Pics of setup VERY helpful.
    Thanks.
    BTW, Lisa is gorgeous!

  7. Very informative and detailed. Not only did you show me more about a product I’m interested in, but you did it in an educational way.

  8. Very informative and detailed. Not only did you show me more about a product I’m interested in, but you did it in an educational way.

  9. Really interesting and informative review, Scott. This kind of story is very good for the likes of me who really are avid amateurs looking for good info. Keep it up!

  10. Really interesting and informative review, Scott. This kind of story is very good for the likes of me who really are avid amateurs looking for good info. Keep it up!

  11. Thanks for the tutorial. However, I’m not a fan of the ligh-from-all-sides approach. There’s no dimensionality to the portrait. The top one is washed out, while the bottom shot is a bit better. Am I off?

  12. Thanks for the tutorial. However, I’m not a fan of the ligh-from-all-sides approach. There’s no dimensionality to the portrait. The top one is washed out, while the bottom shot is a bit better. Am I off?

  13. @Scott Greiff no you’re not off – you just said it – you’re not a fan. It’s perfectly okay not to like it. I like it and it sells so I selected this approach. You can use a different approach. The key is to get that you CAN light something using just these devices even at Noon with the sun high in the sky. You could remove one reflector for a more modeled look to the light.

  14. @Scott Greiff no you’re not off – you just said it – you’re not a fan. It’s perfectly okay not to like it. I like it and it sells so I selected this approach. You can use a different approach. The key is to get that you CAN light something using just these devices even at Noon with the sun high in the sky. You could remove one reflector for a more modeled look to the light.

  15. Cool stuff here – I’l definitely have to keep it in mind as I consider adding more lighting gear to the toolkit. As to the image qualities, it is a matter of personal preference, and I think you actually hit on the best preference in your last reply Scott: it sells! That means the customer likes it! That’s the one that matters. Just out of curiosity though – if you had to choose between scrim and fill versus fill with flash (or portable strobes), which would be the more cost effective to purchase as part of a lighting kit? I would think the latter as it has more uses than just the scenario above. But, maybe there’s something I am missing – thanks for helping me fill in the gaps!

  16. Cool stuff here – I’l definitely have to keep it in mind as I consider adding more lighting gear to the toolkit. As to the image qualities, it is a matter of personal preference, and I think you actually hit on the best preference in your last reply Scott: it sells! That means the customer likes it! That’s the one that matters. Just out of curiosity though – if you had to choose between scrim and fill versus fill with flash (or portable strobes), which would be the more cost effective to purchase as part of a lighting kit? I would think the latter as it has more uses than just the scenario above. But, maybe there’s something I am missing – thanks for helping me fill in the gaps!

  17. Warning: NSFW. Sunbounce -> Solutions -> Scrim. And if that offends you, REALLY stay away from the German site.

  18. Warning: NSFW. Sunbounce -> Solutions -> Scrim. And if that offends you, REALLY stay away from the German site.

  19. That is a historic pic. The last time Scott will be seen with the white lenses.

    Nice tutorial.

  20. That is a historic pic. The last time Scott will be seen with the white lenses.

    Nice tutorial.

  21. @Joe yes sorry I should have mentioned that Sunbounce has some nudes on its German website. This warning will either reduce or increase traffic that direction :)

  22. @Joe yes sorry I should have mentioned that Sunbounce has some nudes on its German website. This warning will either reduce or increase traffic that direction :)

  23. @Scott, I keep forgetting the “shoot what sells” mantra. That’s probably why you’re the pro and I’m not. :) I do really like the article and it is very informative. The additional tidbits of wisdom also help. Thank you for that.

  24. @Scott, I keep forgetting the “shoot what sells” mantra. That’s probably why you’re the pro and I’m not. :) I do really like the article and it is very informative. The additional tidbits of wisdom also help. Thank you for that.

  25. I thought these looked familiar. I follow a couple in Germany on Flickr and here are some sunbounces in action:

    Making of...

    Big reflection

  26. I thought these looked familiar. I follow a couple in Germany on Flickr and here are some sunbounces in action:

    Making of...

    Big reflection

  27. @StephenCupp she’s laying against the rock.

  28. @StephenCupp she’s laying against the rock.

  29. One word of caution when using bouncers though. It’s very easy to ‘erase’ a nose with wrong lighting, making your subject look like E.T. spent a week at camp Dove. You may not see it right through the lens, so check your preview.

  30. One word of caution when using bouncers though. It’s very easy to ‘erase’ a nose with wrong lighting, making your subject look like E.T. spent a week at camp Dove. You may not see it right through the lens, so check your preview.

  31. Neat.

    (Now, what could I do with a roll of tin foil and a flashlight?)

  32. Neat.

    (Now, what could I do with a roll of tin foil and a flashlight?)

  33. Is there a trick to it? When ever i reflect direct sunlight to a subject it seems to be to light and the subject starts squinting. How do I avoid that?

  34. Is there a trick to it? When ever i reflect direct sunlight to a subject it seems to be to light and the subject starts squinting. How do I avoid that?

  35. I love this sunbounce Reflectors. I use them all time.

  36. I love this sunbounce Reflectors. I use them all time.

  37. Great review and tips. Pics of setup VERY helpful.
    Thanks.

    http://www.lemaire-immobilien.de

  38. Great review and tips. Pics of setup VERY helpful.
    Thanks.

    http://www.lemaire-immobilien.de

  39. [...] McNally har en trevlig artikel där han berättar litet om hur han arbetar. TWIPphoto berättar om att använda reflektorer istället för blixt. En post på flickr om hur du kan ljussätta vid interiörfoto. Tio tips om du ska fotografera på [...]

  40. [...] McNally har en trevlig artikel där han berättar litet om hur han arbetar. TWIPphoto berättar om att använda reflektorer istället för blixt. En post på flickr om hur du kan ljussätta vid interiörfoto. Tio tips om du ska fotografera på [...]

  41. Thanks for the tutorial. This kind of story is very good for the likes of me who really are avid amateurs looking for good info. I love this sunbounce Reflectors.!

  42. Thanks for the tutorial. This kind of story is very good for the likes of me who really are avid amateurs looking for good info. I love this sunbounce Reflectors.!

  43. Sunbounce ist das beste Tool in Reflektor bereich. Vor allem die Vielseitigkeit ist great.

  44. Sunbounce ist das beste Tool in Reflektor bereich. Vor allem die Vielseitigkeit ist great.

Comments are closed.

About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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Reviews, Shooting