Another lighting question - 2 light studio

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Parago, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. Parago

    Parago TPF Noob!

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    Ok I swear I tried to find info by using the 'search' function but I'm still clueless so I'm hoping it's ok to make another thread 'just for me'.

    Until now, I've been doing my stuff with one light only - I'm doing quite a lot of post work in Photoshop so it didn't really bother me. As I'm getting more and more work, I want to start minimizing the time I used to spend 'fixing' shadows and such so I've decided to add a second light source.

    Right now I am working with a Nikon D50 (will soon be replaced by a D300) and for light I'm using a AlienBee B400 behind a Medium Octabox, which I love dearly. I wouyld prefer the add-on to be an AlienBee as well as I've had very positive experiences with them.

    What I was thinking was, swap out the 400 for a 800, keep on using the Octabox with it, and use the 400 for eliminating 'the dark side' that happens every now and then, especially with moving subjects like kids..
    What to stick on it, though? Another softbox, a honeycomb grid, an umbrella? I'm at a loss and there's so much conflicting information out there that I'm starting to feel like an idiot.

    To clarify - I don't want a backdrop light per se, since I'm shooting a lot of kids (there's no way I can hide a backdrop light behind my subjects..) and if possible, I would like to avoid reflectors as well.

    How would you guys suggest setting up a two light studio that sees primarily children, babies, and small families (groups up to 4)?

    Thanks a lot.
     
  2. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You need to learn what those modifiers do.

    A softbox is basically like a big white shoot through umbrella but often more diffused and with no spill (unless you have light leaks).

    A grid of any sort is a modifier that helps you control the light. It keeps it tight and shooting at one point instead of blasting everything in the light's frontal arc, controlled by the reflector. It's good for highlighting certain features, and wouldn't necessarily be good for eliminating overall shadows.

    You could go with an umbrella, you'd just have to watch out for spill. You just need something that's soft and about 1-2 stops under the main light for fill is what it sounds like. That or a softbox. Price is what it comes down to. You can get a 60" umbrella for relatively cheap compared to a 36"x40" softbox.
     
  3. Parago

    Parago TPF Noob!

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    How about a BrollyBox ?
    And then, where would you position it? My main flash sits between me and the subject, a little off to the left, I guess you would call it 7 o'clock. Would the new light have to be at about 3 o'clock, coming in sideways?
     
  4. Big Mike

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

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    I'd suggest doing some reading on studio lighting and the functions of multiple lights.

    Typically, you will one light as your main (or Key) light. This is the light that primarily lights up your subjects and should be placed as to give your subjects some depth and shadow. 45 degrees would be a good starting point. For typical portraits, you want this to be a nice soft light source, so a large softbox, umbrella etc.

    Now, if this is your only light source, the areas that are in shadow, might be completely dark. This works sometimes but many times you will not want parts of your subject to be completely dark. This is where a fill light comes in. You use a 2nd light source to 'fill in' the shadows. You don't want it to be as bright (or brighter) than your key light...because you still want the shadow effect from the key light. The difference between your key and fill lights is your lighting ratio.

    Now, because your fill lights is used to fill in shadows, not create them...it's not as important for the fill light to be as soft as the key light (although it probably doesn't hurt). So for a fill light, you could use an umbrella, softbox, octabox...or even just the standard dish reflector. You don't necessarily need to put your fill light opposite the key light, since it's only filling in shadows, it could be at the same angle as the camera (or close to it).

    Of course, you could get creative and move the 2nd light to a position where it does create it's own shadows...the options are limitless really.

    Then there are background lights, hair lights, kicker/accent lights etc...

    It doesn't really matter what light accessories you use for your different lights...that will mostly be your preference and your style. It is sometimes hard to know what to buy, without having used different things. One consideration might be size and portability (not to mention price). A super large softbox would be great, but it's expensive and takes up a lot of studio and travel space. I use an umbrella (reflected) for my fill light because it's cheap and very easy to pack up. I use a softbox for my key light and although it's easy to set up, it's rather large (and delicate) to pack around.
     
  5. Parago

    Parago TPF Noob!

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    Thanks so much BigMike.. "Fill Light" is the word I was looking for. I'm starting to get the idea.

    My next question would be related to how to set up the second one as a slave (is that how you set up a fill light?) What parts do I need for that? Right now I'm working with the main light being connected to the hot-shoe on the camera.
     
  6. Big Mike

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

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    All Alien Bee lights (most modern studio lights) have a built-in optical slave...so that means that whenever one flash fires, it will trigger the other lights...no cords or other accessories required.
     
  7. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'm betting a lot of what he wants could be done with a single light source and a reflector. 320 w/s and a couple of good-sized reflectors are all that is needed.

    Also, pick up a book called The Master's Guide To Portrait Photography... has more answers in that to questions I *know* you will be asking as soon as you start shooting more.
     
  8. Parago

    Parago TPF Noob!

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    OMG even more reason to love them. =)

    Unfortunately, SHE doesn't really have room for a couple of good-sized reflectors - the second light will pretty much already be a pain to find room for plus I think (correct me if I'm wrong) I think having two lights will probably allow me to adjust a little easier to my moving objects than 'a couple' of reflectors would. Like I said, correct me if I'm wrong.

    Thanks for the book tip, I might look into it. And as for shooting more: I've been shooting quite a bit already, just not with more than one light source.

    Unless I'm able to get a larger studio I'm pretty convinced that the two light studio will be my maximum in regards to lights and so far I've tried to avoid taking that step (due mostly to limites space and a willingness to fix shots in Photoshop, like I said in my initial post).

    I'm going to start looking for sample set-ups of main- and fill light and then start playing around with that. I'm very excited, it's kinda like when I first switched from continuous light to strobes LOL
    Then all I need is for the D300 to get here and I'm a very happy camper.

    Thanks for all the help!
     

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