The RapiDome by Photoflex is a lightweight speedlight modifier which is changing the way I approach portrait lighting both on location and in the studio. I’ll explain why and I’ll even take you behind the scenes as I put it to the test.
The folks at Photoflex were kind enough to let me be one of the very first photographers to try out this new light modifier, and sticking with my policy of not promoting any gear that I wouldn’t use myself, I am about to purchase a second one for use in my portable lighting kit. I love this thing.
The RapiDome is the definition of why I choose Photoflex for light modifiers. This unit is versatile but not gimmicky. It’s not loaded with a bunch of “look cool” bells and whistles that drive up the price. This multi-purpose modifier is perfect for on-location photography because it’s lightweight and portable and it also works great in a studio setting for photographers who are shooting with speedlights.
And for me, that’s a big selling point. As speedlight technology is advancing I find myself using them more and more both in studio and on location. Since I’m primarily a portrait photographer, I like working with softboxes and beauty dishes. This RapiDome is a Beauty Dish and Softbox in one lightweight unit, which means less to pack and carry on location.
RapiDome Tech Specs
The RapiDome by Photoflex is a compact 25.5 in. octodome-shaped umbrella style system that allows you to quickly open and close the unit, while its shallow 10.5 in. depth lets you work comfortably in tight spaces. With a bright silver interior that will help you maximize the light output from your speedlight, the RapiDome’s primary design is that of a portable, collapsible Beauty Dish. The reversible deflector dish is designed to reduce the center hotspot and produce even light output from edge to edge.
Constructed of solid aluminum the RapiDome is lightweight yet durable. It is worth mentioning that the RapiDome comes with a three year warranty from Photoflex.
The cold shoe bracket is height-adjustable and rotatable, which allows it to be compatible with nearly all shoe-mounted flashes.You won’t need a speedring to use this unit. It also has a built-in adjustable light stand mount that fits stands up to 5/8ths of an inch.
Photoflex didn’t stop there with the design and function of the RapiDome. The RapiDome ships with a removable diffusion panel which can be used to soften the RapiDome’s light output with or without the deflector dish in place. You can gain even more control of your speedlight with the eggcrate grid for more dramatic portrait photography.
The RapiDome ships with the reversible deflector center dish, the cold shoe bracket and stand mount, diffusion panel, egg crate grid, and this durable carry case with shoulder strap all for a manufacturer’s suggested price of $159.95. They also offer a version with a stand for $184.95. BTW – the kit with the stand is a steal. For an extra $25.00 you get the RapiDome and the Photoflex Compact Light stand which is an 83.5 in. portable stand that collapses down to 21.5 in. and normally sells for $59.95.
I decided to take the RapiDome on location for my first test with it, so I went to a small patch of woods with the lovely Monae. I did the following shots at about 10:00am in the morning so the light wasn’t super high in the sky. I am using the canopy of trees as a giant scrim to create some nice even shade with beautiful sunny highlights peeking through.
You can see below that I have a LumoPro LP180R mounted on a stand with the RapiDome. I have the diffusion panel in place and the unit is placed above Monae and about 7ft. to the right.
In this spot with this setup, I created two different shots with my Nikon D810. The first with the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens. This shot was done at 1/100th of a second to allow for a hint of motion in the dress. ISO was 200 and aperture f/5.0 The flash was set at 1/2 power.
This second shot was done with a Nikkor 20mm f/1.8 lens and shot at ISO 200, 1/100th of a second at f/5.0. The flash was still at 1/2 power.
Then I changed to a different location in the wooded area and removed the diffusion panel. I moved the light closer to my subject and closer to the camera and switched back to the 100mm Tokina Lens and shot this portrait at ISO 64, 1/60 of a second at f/4. The flash was still at 1/4 power and you can see the more defined shadow without the front diffusion panel.
For a softer look, I placed the diffusion panel back on the RapiDome and without moving the model or the light I simply changed my ISO to 125 to get this look:
There is no right or wrong here; it is a matter of preference.
While I was working on location, I decided to try a very mobile solution. I removed the RapiDome from the stand, held it in my left hand with the camera in my right hand, and switched to a 50mm f/1.8 lens and shot this image below at ISO 200 at 1/100th of a second at f/4.5:
You can see in the video at the top of the page (or by clicking here) that I was able to be very mobile and move around. Fair warning though: if you are going to handle a camera with one hand, you need to pay extra attention- especially at a 1/100th of a second shutter speed- to make sure that you don’t have camera motion. In other words, don’t run out and try this just because it seems cool. Unlike some photographers, I don’t believe it’s a good practice to shoot with one hand on the camera and one hand in your pocket. This technique is useful in a pinch if you have to work quickly and with a minimal amount of gear. It’s not something I would recommend that you do as a rule or a habit.
Since I didn’t have that beautiful dappled sunlight in the studio, I went with three LumoPro LP180R speedlights.
In this first shot above, I have a Savage #62 Purple Seamless paper background, one strobe behind Monae aimed at the background, one strobe on camera left with a Rogue Flash 3-in-1 Grid and a purple gel to create the rim, and then one strobe in the RapiDome that is placed high on camera right. For this shot I removed the diffuser so that I would get a pretty rapid light falloff and then added a Walmart reflector on camera left to soften the shadows just enough to see her jawline and some detail in the hair. If you want to see how I set up this shot, check out the video at the top of the page or click here.
I chose a low camera angle and shot this with a Nikon D810, the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 at ISO 64, 1/250th of a second at f/8.
Now you know I always like to work my shots to see what else I might come up with. So in this case we removed the hat and stretched a small toddler’s tutu over Monae’s head. I made sure to hide all of her hair and then switched to a #20 Black Savage Paper Seamless background.
For the shot above I moved the Rapidome directly in front of Monae and above the camera and added a Walmart reflector underneath to create a soft clamshell lighting effect. I then took one of the strobes and aimed it directly at the black background with a purple gel attached so that I could get a subtle touch of purple in the background. I then took another strobe and placed it directly behind Monae and aimed it directly at the camera, also with a purple gel. This gives me the purple glow in the tutu. If you’d like to see how I set this up, check out the video at the top of the page or click here.
Now, I want to show you both of these shots side by side:
Notice in the first one you only see the colored makeup above her camera left eye. You don’t see the makeup on her forehead or on camera right. In the second shot you see all the color on both eyes and both sides of the forehead. BOTH shots have the exact same makeup. With a little bit of creative problem solving and two different camera angles, I was able to create two completely different shots with the same makeup.
One last variation to see if I could work this shot just a bit more… I removed the Walmart reflector and switched to black and white for this look:
The RapiDome by Photoflex is awesome for creating high-end lighting on the go and is versatile enough to be a great addition to any studio with speedlight strobes.
I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman