Advice on studio lighting??

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by TP328, Feb 9, 2009.

  1. TP328

    TP328 TPF Noob!

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    hi- I am a portrait photographer and need some advice on setting up a new small studio, aprox. 10x15 feet. I just bought interfit coolite 5 continuous lighting. They are 2 soft box lights with a total of 500 watts. I feel that I am not getting enough lighting when I photograph. I am torn between adding more continuous lighting or going with strobe lighting. how do people feel on both continuous lighting vs. strobe. Do I add 2 more soft boxes or start fresh with strobes? what brands are recommended? thankyou for everyone's help
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    My personal opinion would be to ditch the continuous lights and go with strobes. Not having to worry about shutter speeds and blur for a typical portrait shoot is really great. Of course, that also gives you a lot more freedom for which apertures you can shoot at.

    As for brands etc...that will depend on your budget and what sort of quality level you are willing to pay for.

    I use AlienBee lights and they have been good for me. Elinchrom D-lites are in the same price range and get good reviews. I would avoid the cheap 'e-bay' kits.
     
  3. Don Kondra

    Don Kondra Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I've been fooling with continuous lights for about a year now and would have to second Mike's recommendation for strobes.

    I ended up with two CF main lights (4 bulbs per head) with 900/1200w each in home made softboxes and a home made top/boom light, two sets (8) of 45w and one set (4) of 85w CF bulbs from Alzo Digital.

    My Total continuous light set up cost less than $500 Cdn and for product shots I did like the "you get what you see", slow shutter speed is not an issue here.

    Once I tried strobes I was a convert and my continuous lights may not get used much...

    Cost is a factor though in what system you choose.

    One Alien Bees B1600 (640 w/s) and brolly shipped cost me $550 Cdn. I now have two heads and brolly's.

    Before I bought the Bees I purchased a ebay 2 x 200 w/s kit including stands and 24" x 36" softboxes for $400 Cdn.

    They are adequate for small product shots and/or fill and hair. The best thing I can say about the kit is it was a simple matter for me to turn a wood speedring to use the softboxes with the AB strobes :)

    FYI a Elinchrom D-Lite 400 w/s is $359 US. The Alien Bees B1600 640 w/s is $360 US.

    In hindsight, I wouldn't recommend anything smaller than 400 w/s heads.

    Cheers, Don
     
  4. TP328

    TP328 TPF Noob!

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    I want to thank you for your advice here, even though I was hoping not to have to spend the money. Now, can you provide some more advice. The D-Lite 4 is 400ws, do you think two monolights are enough or for sharp portraits are three needed. And since I have never worked with monolights before is placement fairly standard with one main light in front and fills to the sides at some ratio? Any information and insight for me would be really appreciated.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    All of this will depend more on your style and methods than what might be 'standard practice'.

    You can get nice portraits with just one light and a reflector (heck, even window light and a reflector can make for great portraits).

    The number of lights will depends what you want to do. A typical two light set up might be a main and a fill light...or maybe a main with a background light, using a reflector for fill. A three light set up might have main, fill and background or the maybe switch one light to be an accent/hair light. I have 4 lights and usually use them as follows: B800 as main with a large softbox, B800 as fill with white reflective umbrella, B400 as background light and another B400 as either background, accent or hair light.

    The placement of them will depend on how I want to light my subjects. There is no right or wrong here.
     
  6. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'll tell you what... I can do a VERY sharp portrait with ONE speedlight set to 1/4 power shot through a single white 43" umbrella. The light is not going to make the picture sharp, it is the camera, lens and processing, but how the photo is lit makes the picture what it is.

    [​IMG]

    First off, 10 X 15 is TINY for a portrait studio (the picture above was done in a 10 X 10 room and my back was to the wall as was the subject's). This pretty much limits you to head shots or at most 1/2 body shots unless you use a very wide lens that introduces distortions. Most of the time, you will not be taking protrait shots outside at 12:00 noon on the brightest most cloudless day of the year, it will be in the shadows or indoors in a place of lower light where you can control it to do what you need it to.

    Because of that, we do not need to spend thousands of dollars for high end lighting.. one should first learn HOW to control light. If you look at the strobist flickr site, you will find some INCREDIBLE pictures done with a single $80 battery powered off camera speedlight. Visit the www.strobist.com site, read LIGHTING 101 and 102 and start off with a single speedlight, umbrella and a light stand... use a long sync cord or a wirelesss solution and start from there. Grow the kit as your knowledge and needs grow.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2009
  7. Don Kondra

    Don Kondra Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Very true, there are a lot of options to consider.

    Don't mean to nit pick but something to consider is how you want the background and/or shadows to appear. In Jerry's example with one light the background, etc. is dark and there are no catch lights in the eyes, possibly simply because the subject is looking down but...

    This is Not to say there is anything wrong with the shot, it is simply a style.

    More lights can mean eliminating shadows and/or lightening up the background. Using a brolly or octabox will result in round catchlights vs square with a softbox.

    As Mike said, your "style" of shooting should guide your purchase of a light system.

    If all you plan to use the lights for is portraiture, you can get by with less power and more creativity :)

    Here's some inspiration for you - Models / FD fotografie

    Cheers, Don
     
  8. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nothing to nit pick at all about the catchlight... I told the subject to lower their eyes and look away from the umbrella on purpose. Now if I wanted, I could have either added a 2nd bare flash on the floor pointing up set to something like 1/64th or even "faked" the catchlights but I did not want them there in this instance, hence why there are none.

    I really like the look of a single catch light (not ringlights or huge umbrellas or softboxes visible in the eyes) most of the time, but not all the time in all cases... this was just one of those times. :)

    As for the background, its a simple #023 Botero foldable backdrop leaned against the wall and the subject about 2 inches away from it (camera left shoulder shadow visible). At 10 X 10, it was *tight*... lol.
     
  9. Don Kondra

    Don Kondra Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I meant "you" as in the OP but I did use your shot as an example.

    With each "style" comes a related set of equipment. Considering how you want the shadows, backdrops, catch lights, etc to appear can help to decide what you should be purchasing.

    As "you" point out Jerry, understanding HOW to control light means you don't necessarily need a bigger hammer to get the job done....

    Cheers, Don
     
  10. TP328

    TP328 TPF Noob!

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    hi all thanks to everyone for their help, i have a lot to consider now. I photograph a lot of children of different ages so I find I need a faster shutter speed and need more lighting. which direction of lighting do I go with is my main question I'm trying to solve now.
     
  11. Don Kondra

    Don Kondra Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Your first option is simple, upgrade your CF bulbs on your existing heads and add a top light.

    Check out Alzo Digital for larger bulbs.

    Then see/read if the strobist route will work for you..

    Cheers, Don
     
  12. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sorry Don, my misunderstanding. :)
     

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