My New Toy – Photogenic Varibeam

I love the look of the old style Hollywood glamour photographers from the 50’s and love the lights they used. Yesterday I just found and purchased an old Photogenic – Varibeam Fresnel 1000 watt light to add to my collection of lights. It is great for getting the lighting used in the 40s and 50s Glamour shots. This particular unit has control to make a spot or flood on the unit. Then with the special Projection lens attachment you can do precise focused spots of light in beams hence ” Varibeam”. It is also great prop for retro Hollywood look. Weighing in at over 50lbs., it’s will not be part of our on-location arsenal.

Although, it’s not really about the equipment – it’s about how you use it. Painting with Light…. placing light where you want it, not blasting with a 4×6 softbox. Not that’s there is anything wrong with that, this style of lighting will separate you from the rest of the photographers.

I will be posting on this topic some more in the upcoming weeks. Here’s a shot taken using this style of lighting. By the way… it’s great for Black & Whites – just like the Hollywood Glamour of the past.

Hollywood Glamour

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8 thoughts on “My New Toy – Photogenic Varibeam

  1. During the process of updating the look and feel of the blog this week, I found a typo in this post and fixed it. Somehow when I saved the updated post, it change the date and reposted it this morning. Sorry if you have seen this before. If not, ENJOY.

  2. Hi Mike,
    I just joined your list and found this “Varibeam” Photogenic B & W of yours. First, it is just stunning! Then, I believe I have the same light. Apparently, in its hayday is was very popular and everyone wanted one(the light that is). I have never used it much because of not really knowing what to do with it. I guess I do now! I will need to play with it for exposure and focus with the fresnel part.
    Greg Lewis

    • Yes, it’s a very great light and produces a look you cannot achieve any other way… plus it’s a lot of fun to use. I was working on a personal project of some old photographs that were shot over 70 years ago and it is truly amazing what the photographers back then created with the tools they had available to them. They were true craftsman’s.

  3. Nice work Mike,
    been gathering old fresnels for myself and trying to learn old hollywood style.

    However, my problem is on background, I’ll never seem to understand f.e. this pictures curtain settings, nor what kind of material were used back on those days.

    Have you any experience what would match old ‘stage like’ curtains or what was your setup to archieve that background.

    • The background is a fabric type material that came from American Photographic Resources. I tried to find a link to the particular background, but apparently they have either gone out of business or their page is down temporarily. Here is the link to their website that I had bookmarked:

      This set-up was done using 5 tungsten continuous light sources. The lights used the background are Photogenic Mini-spots. These lights are a lot of fun to work with, and provide a will you with a look you can only achieve with his style of lighting. We use these lights a lot for Hollywood style glamour and when doing character studies.

      A couple things to consider when using tungsten continuous lights are:

      1. Make sure you get lights that have focusing capability.

      2. It it is also important to be able to control the output of the lights. For this particular light we had to purchase third party Rio stats
      to be able to control the output

      3. You will also want to lights that can accept barn doors. This is critical for light control.

      Here’s a link to the lights used for this set up:

      Here’s a pull back shot showing the lighting set-up from a similar shoot. Hope that helps.