lighting equipment, help me decide

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by nsupanda, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. nsupanda

    nsupanda TPF Noob!

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    I've been doing on-location (mostly outdoor photography) since I started this adventure. I have been asked to do "party pics" for a company Christmas party. I am very excited to do this and it's sort of going to be like prom pictures (couples standing in front of a backdrop). I have never used lighting equipment and so I want to buy some ASAP so that I can be comfortable with it by mid-December (I know, I will have to practice quite a bit since I am lacking time).

    I have been looking at B&H's umbrella kits. I am not willing to spend a lot of money right now because I mainly want to practice before I invest too much.

    Would you suggest flood lights or flash lighting for this? I already have a Canon 580x II flash for my camera, but I'm interested in studio lighting now. Here are some of the ones I was looking at:

    Photoflex | First Studio Two Light Portrait Kit | DP-FSPTKT

    Smith-Victor | FL-110 2 Light Attache Flash 200 W/S Kit | 401512

    Photogenic | Two Umbrella and Stand Kit | 926621 | B&H Photo

    Please give me any information and constructive ideas. I really appreciate it!
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I would suggest none of those kits.If yuo want two lights and umbrellas, then I'd buy two of these kits at $129 each, with free shipping. FP320K Flashpoint II 320A Monolight Kit, 150 Watt Second, One Monolight Kit with Stand and Umbrella.

    The problem with the Smith-Victor one you link to is the cost and the features: non-user replaceable flashtubes and monolights with two power settings, Full and Half. Not enough flexibility.

    The basic two-umbrellas with stand kit looks "okay", but you still need to fill it with two speedlights. I honestly think that beginners shoot better with "real" monolights or studio flash heads that have modeling lamps in them, so that they can literally see where the shadows fall.

    If you wanted to, you could purchase only one monolight and umbrella, and use a shoe-mounted flash as on-axis fill light. FIll light works quite well when it is directly on axis with the lens, and right above the lens doesn't get any closer to the lens axis!
     
  3. Big Mike

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

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    I'd suggest going with flash/strobe lighting and staying away from 'hot' lights. Reason being is that with flash, you don't really have to worry about slow shutter speeds giving you blurry photos.

    I can understand your wanting to test the waters with cheap equipment...but if you are going to use your lights going forward...you are going to end up buying better stuff anyway so it would cost you more to buy the cheap stuff now.

    Now, when talking about flash/strobe lighting, there are two main types. Small 'flash' units and studio style lights. Flash units are nice because they are small and they run on AA batteries or small battery packs. So you can be very portable and shoot wherever you want to. Studio strobes are bigger and heavier and need to be plugged in (although, you can run them off of a battery pack if you don't have a power outlet).

    Studio strobes will likely be more powerful than flash units...although, your 580EX flash unit is probably as powerful as most cheap studio strobes.

    HERE is a two-light kit with flash units, stands umbrellas, radio trigger etc.
    HERE is a two light studio kit.

    For the type of shoot you are talking about, I'd suggest three or four lights. A main light, a fill light, a background light and maybe a hair light.
     
  4. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    More and more photographers are going to a minimalist, highly portable lighting set-up using speedlights exclusively rather than studio strobes.

    Be sure your business liability insurance is current if you use continuous lights. They get hot and can easily burn people.

    Studio strobes that have to be plugged into a wall can constitute another hazard, tripping. Of course, that's one of the reasons gaffers tape exists.

    Visit www.strobist.com for info on a minimalist lighting set-up or get Krik Tuck's book Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography.

    I'm with Mike: a three or four light set-up is about minimum forportraiture.
     
  5. nsupanda

    nsupanda TPF Noob!

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    I just saw a youtube video about using my Canon 580x II and an umbrella mount to make the studio lighting. It looks simple enough, do you think one umbrella will do the trick (for now anyway)?

    Mike I really appreciate your suggestions, but they are a little too pricey for me right now, especially since I don't know what I'm looking for. I'm trying to stick to <$250 if possible. I understand what you're saying about paying more now rather than later though, and I agree with you 100%. I'm just weary about spending too much money on something I have no idea how to use.

    Here's another question... what does the sync cord do? I'm assuming it is connected to the camera and tells the light when to flash... am I right? You guys must think I'm the biggest idiot, but I've got to learn somehow!

    Anyway, what do you think about me using my 580x II and mounting it to the umbrella stand and using only one umbrella? Do you think that will be sufficient lighting?

    I enjoy all your ideas and comments, keep them coming if you can!
     
  6. nsupanda

    nsupanda TPF Noob!

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    Here is the video I watched.
     
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  7. Patrice

    Patrice No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    One umbrella with stand for your 580 and a decent reflector with stand might work ok. Some use whiteboard as a reflector but I've found that a proper photographic reflector to be a bit more efficient in reflecting light. Give it a try first with what you can scrounge up at home just to get a feel for what might work for you before you spend any cash.

    Pat
     
  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I think you might want to study a bit more about lighting equipment, using resources like the strobist blog site. A lot of people are learning about lighting using the minimalist, strobist style setups, but one thing to consider is that buying expensive,dedicated flashes like 580 EX-II's as $420 EACH is kind of cost-inefficient. The strobist site began when an experienced,working professional photojournalist decided to relay how he used portable speedlights for location lighting jobs for newspaper work, on assignments that often lasted 20-40 minutes,and where AC power was never a given,and quick work,done with the ultimate in portability was paramount. You OTOH, seem to have a small photo business, and I doubt you are shooting under publication deadlines.

    here's the way I see it, economically:FP320 Flashpoint Model II 320A Monolight, 150 Watt Second Strobe, 120 Volt

    Low-cost monolight features: 150 watt-seconds, Guide Number 118 at ISO 100, in Feet, at full power. $99.95 price. An AC-powered, 3 pound monolight, with a BUILT-IN 100 watt modeling light AND a built-in umbrella mount (a $19 to $40 value right there). Stepless, dial-controlled power from Full to 1/8 power. Replacement flashtubes are $29.95, replacement modeling lamps 100 watt are $8.95, barn door set is only $29.95, set of four grids in 10,20,40,and 60-degree for $64.95

    Canon's 580 EX II flash is roughly the same power; the typical canard with this $420 battery-powered speedlight is to list the Guide Number for this flash as "190" in Feet at ISO 100, but that's a deceptive practice, since it represents the flash's power output at a narrow beam spread for a 105mm lens; with a beam spread comparable to the 7 inch reflector on the FlashPoint monolight, the 580 EX II's Guide Number at the 35mm zoom setting (covering 50 degrees) is a mere 118. Surprise! Surprise! The FlashPoint 320 at $99 and the 580 EX-II at the same beam spread have *the same* Guide Number. Add $19 to $40 for a decent umbrella mount adapter for each 420 EX,and the cost goes to $440 to $460 PER LIGHT.

    If your work involves shooting for more than 5 to 20 minutes, AC-powered lights become a better solution. The modeling lamps give your camera a huge boost in light for focusing indoors. If you need four lights, four FlashPoint 320's cost $400; four 580 EX's cost $1680, plus another $80 to $160 to buy umbrella/stand mount adapters to press a speedlight into a role it was never really designed for.

    Considering the low,affordable cost of say the FlashPoint monolight, you could buy a $345 Tronix Explorer pure sine wave inverter and power four monolights off of the AC grid for a cost of $750 for about 500 full-power shots using all four lights at the same time. At a cost of around $1,000 less than doing the same thing with four battery-powered 580 EX speedlights.

    In my opinion, the strobist approach makes sense for newspaper shooters and quick run-n-gun work where shooting times are minimal, and setup and breakdown time and BATTERY-powered,small flashes make it worthwhile, but I think for 3- and 4-light setups, and for a family portraiture type business, monolights both cost less, and work better,and look more professional. Plus, I think modeling lamps help beginners position their lights better,since they show both catchlights, and shadows and hot spots BEFORE the shot is made. If you have 2 months to learn, I would never suggest the strobist approach as being the best way to learn.
     
  9. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    If you are serious about on location shoots 600watt is minimum you want
     
  10. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Actually, it's not. The 580EX II's GN is something like 58 when not zoomed out. It's only putting out about 40-50 w/s as do most all speedlights. What you pay for is the features and the build. It can act as a master, weather sealed, metal hot shoe, adjustability in 1/3 stops, etc...

    Why? I've seen people do it with multiple cheap speedlights as well as 200 w/s and 400 w/s monolights.
     
  11. zerofourtwo

    zerofourtwo TPF Noob!

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    I'm going to have to disagree, i've been shooting grad portraits, engagement photos, couples, parties, etc. with multiple Alien Bee B400s which are a 400watt second strobe and have had no problems with either correctly exposing the image, stopping motion, etc.

    I personally recommend Alien Bee studio strobes and battery pack for shooting on location.

    www.alienbees.com
     
  12. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    320w/s. Power doesn't have as much to do with stopping motion as does flash duration.
     

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