Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A restless mind… or maybe too much late night pizza has you laying awake in bed. You decide that if you can’t sleep you might as well do something productive, so you fumble in the darkness for your iPad for one more round of Angry Birds. You power up and are instantly struck blind by a beam of light so bright that it burns “slide to unlock” into your retinas. You squint, roaches scatter, wife stirs, “Damn, that’s bright.”
Sound familiar? This happens to me too often. Eventually, it dawned on me that, given the right context, the iPad screen is actually pretty bright. I know that for a fact because I measured it with my light meter (1/60, f1.4 at ISO800 from about 1.5 feet). You know once the light meter has come out of the bag, there’s no going back. Naturally, we needed to do a photoshoot using iPads as the light source.
Luckily, I have friends who are very generous with their time and electronics and was able to scrounge up nine iPads. I mounted them onto plywood using some cheap hardware store brackets. This gave me three lights consisting of three iPads each. The light from an iPad is quite soft and diffuse. This makes the light fall-off steep. Adding more iPads didn’t translate to more brightness, but did mean we could light a larger area. Since the ‘Pads would need to be used somewhat close to the subject to get enough exposure, a simple, portrait style shoot seemed like the best option.
Now before the haters start commenting let me first agree with you, yes, this is totally impractical (sidenote: most of my best ideas are often also my worst ideas). Nine iPads will set you back around $4,500. That amount of money can buy you a LOT of lumens in the form of a generic monobloc. This is not intended to be an exercise in excess, but rather a self-imposed limitation to help flex the creative muscles, and to make a point.
Think about it. One 60 watt bulb can put out more light that a truckload of iPads. And you don’t have to spend truckloads of cash to find a 60 watt. This whole making art thing is all about what you do with what you have. We just happened to have a bunch of iPads laying around so we went with that. Today’s dSLR sensors are sensitive enough that you could easily do this with some flashlights, headlights, headlamps, real lamps, or even – heaven forbid – real strobes! Now go forth and do!
Model – Miranda Hull
Make up – Michelle Gallagher
Hair – Joanna Montemayor
iPad Propagator – Josh Markle
iPad Wranglers – Derek Sine, Corey Jindra
Videographer – Tyler Faires
Miracle Worker – Lyn Rosten