Review: set.a.light 3D Makes Learning and Seeing Light a Piece of Cake

Lighting is one of the most complex topics in photography. There are literally hundreds of light shaping tools and countless scenarios they apply to. No wonder many photographers are reluctant to learn lighting, despite it being one of the core skills any photographer should have. One of the best ways to learn to light is […]

Review: set.a.light 3D Makes Learning and Seeing Light a Piece of Cake

Lighting is one of the most complex topics in photography. There are literally hundreds of light shaping tools and countless scenarios they apply to. No wonder many photographers are reluctant to learn lighting, despite it being one of the core skills any photographer should have.

One of the best ways to learn to light is by far getting in the studio and experimenting. Albert Warson recommends starting with a bare bulb and a friend on a chair. There’s a lot a bare bulb flash can do. Yet, true creative freedom comes only when a photographer is well versed in all light shaping tools.

Being able to recognize and apply the exact light shaping tool that’s needed is paramount to a successful image. Of course, that knowledge can only be created by experiencing the light shaping tool over and over again. While some have access to rental houses that store everything from a Profoto Hardbox to a white umbrella, others may not.

One way to learn light without going to great lengths is by 3D visualizing it. set.a.light 3D is a program for both Windows and Mac that does just that. However, does it live up to what it promises, and are the visualizations really accurate? I took the trial version of set.a.light 3D for a spin and found out.


  1. Ability to control flash output
  2. Adding custom lights(incl speedlites and permanent lights)
  3. Creating a custom studio space
  4. Reflectors, flags, and diffusion fabrics
  5. Different camera+lens combinations
  6. More than 50 different light shaping tools (incl gobo effects)
  7. Color gel effects
  8. Color temperature effects
  9. Different model posing options.
  10. Ability to build sets and develop complex studio settings
  11. Exporting light setups for real-world use

Getting To Grips With set.a.light 3D

The UI is quite complex and there are a lot of different features to pay attention to. However, there is a trove of YouTube videos that its developer, Elixxier, made that show how to setup up. With their help, after a few rounds, it becomes quite intuitive to use set.a.light 3D.

Upon launch, you can choose to name your project and where to store it. Afterward, you’ll be prompted to pick a studio space you want. The ability to create custom studios is very helpful when it comes to pre-visualizing results and checking if that particular studio has enough distance and space for everything that’s needed.

Given that wall colors can cause a tone shift in the whole photo, there is even the option to select different color walls in the studio space. Sure enough, a red ceiling will shift everything towards red. The ability to control small intricate details such as that is a huge benefit to photographers looking for accurate pre-visualizations of their light for a job


Once you’ve set up the studio you can move on to getting lights, models, and the set ready.

When it comes to models there’s a selection of different ages, skin tones, and nationalities.

Afterward, there are over 25 different hairstyle options, a few hair color options, as well as different outfits to choose from. To top that off, eye color, skin hardness, tone, and makeup are also present. Overall, there is a lot of control over how the model looks. Anything from what underwear they have to how closed their eyes are.

The posing mode allows to dial in the exact pose the mode should take. Each joint has a 3D control option plus there’s a different mode where you can select a body part of the model and move it as desired, this mode will also move relevant body parts making for a much more natural pose when compared to the 3D-joint movement.

Light Shaping

Plenty of light shaping tools are available. They can be used in combination with grids and gels. What is more, softboxes can have their inner and outer diffusers removed. The parabolic modifiers that are available don’t feature a rod moving function rendering them a little unnecessary as the main benefit of parabolic light is the ability to focus it as desired.

You can also cut, diffuse and reflect light with tools available in the Helper section.

Different permalight options are available with plenty of branded lights to choose from: From a small ring light or Spekular tube to Arri M90 9000W light.

Performance and Optimization

Here is the computer setup I tested set.a.light 3D on:

  • 15-inch 2019 MacBook Pro
  • 2.6Ghz 6-core Intel Core i7
  • 16GB 2400 MHZ DDR4 RAM
  • Radeon PRO 555x 4GB
  • The feed is shown on a Dell U2720Q 4K monitor at 60HZ 30-bit.

Here are normal CPU loads with Word and a few other programs running in the background

Once set.a.light is opened, that changes

Overall the program is a bit laggy on the current setup, once you are a few lights, props, and more, it tends to slow down. Although it’s nothing unusual it still suggests that you may want a very powerful computer in order to run set.a.light 3D seamlessly.

Real-life Comparison

set.a.light is feature-packed and those features are very useful. They claim that radiation behavior is emulated from the real-light data that they developed. However, how well does set.a.light simulate what real-world results look like?

I used 3 different light shaping tools to test that: A 3’ Octa, a bare bulb flash, and a large white umbrella.

Bare Bulb

This test is a bit odd, mainly because there is no bare bulb option in set.a.light. This does come as a surprise to me, as bare-bulb flash is often used on location and in-studio when bouncing light for the soft quality.

The shadow edges are very well reproduced, with little differences between them. The major difference is however in shadow depth. Having used a white background, albeit mine is more reflective, I was still expecting some bounce back to the model. Instead, the shadows are pitch black on set.a.light. Naturally, when using a white background, there is color cast from it. Take this for example:

3ft Octa

The 3ft octa gave very similar self-shadow edge quality as well as the thrown shadow quality. The thrown shadow or the one you see in the background is diffused and egg-shaped as would be expected. The columella shadows have the same quality as well. As for catchlights in the eyes, they are accurate, albeit the nose shape altered it.

165cm Umbrella

I like to joke that I don’t own enough light shaping tools. I clearly don’t. There is only a 180cm and a 150cm white umbrella. I chose the 180cm version, as it is closer to the truth in my opinion. The greater the size of the modifier the less difference there is. For example, a 165cmm and 180Cm umbrella will produce similar quality light when compared to a 60cm and 75cm softbox. The percentage difference between the two values is smaller.

The thrown shadows are quite different, which leads me to believe that set.a.light is not too great in this single case. The penumbra(shadow edge) width is also considerably wider with set.a.light. Although one can claim that this is simply due to size differences, I would disagree.

Who is set.a.light 3D for?

set.a.light 3D is overall a great app that delivers mostly accurate results. I see myself using this for pre-visualization for certain commercial assignments. This also comes as a great teaching and coaching resource.

Often, when I converse with photographers on light, art, and more, I end up showing my work where instead I would prefer to show a real light setup, break it down and really dive deep into how it works. set.a.light is also for beginners, it allows to play around with different lights without taking too much effort or time.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I had a positive experience with set.a.light and this is something that I will be adding to my fleet of nifty photography apps. I suggest picking up the Studio version as it has more capability than the normal one. set.a.light clocks in at $183, making this a chunky but worthy investment.

Credits: Model: Nkoli Mireille, agency: Face Model Management Hungary, hair and makeup: Karina Jemelyjanova, retouch: Zahar Bakutin, and styling: Emese Nagy.

Source : Peta Pixel More   

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GoPro Hero 9 Black review: All action hero

Video and still photography quality won't match a flagship smartphone, that's for sure, but GoPro more than makes up for it by offering a camera you

GoPro Hero 9 Black review: All action hero

The name GoPro is synonymous with the words 'action camera'. Without the former, the latter would likely not exist in the same way.

But despite that - what with the advancement of smartphone video camera capabilities and improvements over the years - the GoPro has seen its relevance and subsequently, its popularity, reduce.

So how does GoPro continue to develop while trying to stay current? All the solutions to that problem could lie in its most powerful camera to date: the Hero 9 Black.

Familiar, yet new

  • Dimensions: 71 x 55 x 33.6mm
  • Microphone (with water drain)
  • Waterproof to 10m (33ft)
  • Built-in mounting 

Anyone even remotely familiar with how GoPro products tend to look will immediately recognise the Hero 9 Black. It has all the hallmark features of a GoPro - even if this is the biggest Hero design change since the Hero 5. It's not quite as big a jump as Hero 4 to Hero 5 was, but it's still big. In terms of size that is: it's the largest standard single-camera Hero GoPro has released to date.

In a way, it was the Hero 8 that paved the way for this size increase, by doing away with the need for any cases for mounting. Instead, the mounting arms are built into the underside of the Hero 9 camera - and that means you don't need to worry about whether or not the camera will fit in any specific cases or on particular mounts or handles. You just screw it directly onto any of them using the standard screw pin. 

The reason that's such a big deal is that it's made it possible to improve so much of the hardware, both in terms of practicality and in internal power. Namely, there's a bigger battery - but more on that later. 

As well as that larger size, the other big new Hero 9 feature is he colour screen on the front. Rather than just be a basic monochrome screen with information on your current shooting settings, it actually shows a preview of what you're shooting so - if you want - you can shoot vlogs facing the camera lens and frame them without any guesswork. 

Sure, it's not as easy to frame as when using the bigger widescreen ratio display on the back, but it's certainly more useful than the previous data-only approach of its predecessors. 

Apart from that, it's very much the same as other previous Hero cameras: there's the red button on the top for starting a recording or shooting a photo; then the power/mode button on the left (the one you press-and-hold to switch it on, then tap to cycle through the shooting modes). 

What's interesting is that GoPro has made the water-resistance more efficient in the latest model too. Underneath the mode button is a 'drain microphone', which his designed to help drain any excess water out of the camera. It's not that it's not well sealed already - the camera is waterproof to 10 metres - it just helps expel water that seeps in and sits around in the camera body if it's got in through the mic or speaker grille.

One nice new touch we enjoy is the red LED light on the front - just above the screen. It flashes brightly, and is sat right in the middle, so you can easily tell when you're recording. 

The Hero 9 feels substantially more durable compared to previous models too. There's heft to it, but the door on the side feels sturdier, with a stronger clasp and hinge, while the buttons also feel more clicky and easier to use. On the whole it's just that bit more solid. 

Like the Hero 8, the 9 is also designed to be adaptable and more suitable for those who might consider themselves more than just a casual action camera user. For these pros there are additional mods you can add on, and they include lights, flip over monitors, a shotgun mic and an ultra-wide lens with advanced horizon levelling.  

What's it like to use? 

  • Touchscreen interface
  • HyperSmooth
  • Voice control 

The best kind of technology is the kind that does all the heavy lifting for you. And with the Hero 9 that's been a major focus point for the company. That's led to features like the advanced HyperSmooth feature - which combines both electronic and software-based stabilisation to create super smooth footage - just works. Once switched on, its effect is actually quite incredible. 

We used our GoPro to film the in-car segments of our Pocket-lint 2020 Awards video, and used it to film some on-robot footage for a robot vacuum promo. What it does in those instances is brilliant. 

There's little to no camera shake at all, but more impressively is the fact that the footage automatically pans smoothly when you turn quickly, or - in the case of the car - stop at a junction, before turning a corner or joining a roundabout. It doesn't shake or shudder, but crops a little into the footage to then give itself space to move smoothly.

The touchscreen on the back is relatively simple to use once you get the hang of it. There are on-screen icons for enabling features like the HyperSmooth boost, or enabling higher frame rate for slow-motion, or changing the 'digital lens' (or crop/focal length). 

At the bottom of the display you'll find the long pill-shaped tab for opening up shooting resolution/frame-rate setting. You can choose from presets, or create your own. And to get to your photo and video gallery, all you need to do is swipe up from the bottom of the display. 

Swiping down from the top of the screen gets you access to settings like enabling voice activation, onscreen grids, or just getting to connection and device settings (for instance if you want to change the beep volume or connect to your phone). 

Perhaps the most important improvement with the Hero 9 is the battery life. At no time during testing did we feel panicked or limited by it, and that's not something that's been historically true for any GoPro. That larger size and larger capacity are a big bonus point here. Of course, if you're going to spend a long day out shooting, it's still worthwhile getting a spare, just to be sure. 

Video and photo 

  • 1080p up to 240fps
  • 4K up to 60fps
  • 5K at 30fps
  • 20MP stills 

It's in the photo and video quality where you'll notice the biggest difference between a GoPro and a smartphone camera. A big part of this is that the GoPro has a fixed focus, so struggles to focus on anything close to the lens - so it's no good for macro shots. Its low-light performance leaves a lot to be desired too. 

Indoors with dim light and even outside at night shooting with the enhanced night mode you won't get photos or video that looks as sharp, stable and bright as those from the modern smartphone's night mode. Things get a bit noisy and blurry when shooting photos in these conditions. 


In fact, when it comes to photography the Hero 9 is not all that hot. In good daylight, shooting wide shots outdoors, you can get nice pictures with vibrant colour and sharp detail. But all of that goes away once you're in lower light situations or trying to shoot something close-up. It just falls apart creating lots of image noise and losing detail. 

This is an action camera and therefore it's best when being used to capture motion where you need stability and where you need to capture as much of a scene as possible. And it's best in good even daylight outdoors. 

There's really no shortage of resolution and frame-rate options. You can go all the way up to 4K at 60fps or 5K at 30fps if you want, with digital lenses that can switch you between narrow and wide views. 

For slow-motion shooting you can switch to 1080p and have it record up to 240fps, shooting at either 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio. The variety of options is virtually endless. So whatever kind of action footage you want to shoot, you can.

Our only criticism of the resulting footage is at times there's a sense that the colours are a bit over-saturated and contrast is too high, while bright spots and highlights often look too bright and overexposed. We don't expect GoPro cameras to be perfect in that regard though, but quality doesn't quite match that of decent smartphones, so the real benefit of having it is its durable build and making use of the epic HyperSmooth capabilities. 

Source : Pocket Lint More   

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