starter lighting questions

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Captain Ahab, Jun 27, 2007.

  1. Captain Ahab

    Captain Ahab TPF Noob!

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    I have shopping for lighting and of course there are many many ways that can be taken. I like the idea of the "strobist's" methods using a flash on a stand with an umbrella for portability and creativity (especially outside) but also looking for lighting for portraits and some still/product shots. I see tons of strobes, soft boxes, starter kits, profesional kits yada yada... Most of the starter kits don't have near the wattage as the pro stuff. Will that make my shots suffer or will I just need to position a little differently to get the light I need? How about those curly bulbs that are the cool daylight bulbs? I see a lot of starter stuff that uses those-are they better or not that traditional strobes? There are $300.00 starter kits and then there are $1200.00 pro kits. What am I missing using a starter/budget kit? I know lots of questions- I would appreciate some input- Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Big Mike

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

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    When you are talking lighting...there are two main categories...flash (strobe) and continuous lights (sometimes called Hot Lights).

    There are pros and cons of each.

    Continuous lights are easy, you set them up and what you see is what you shoot and what you get. Also, they are significantly less expensive than strobes.
    On the down side, it takes A LOT of wattage from continuous lights to equal the power of a good strobe. This is important because with continuous lights you rely on the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed to make the exposure. The less power you have, the longer the shutter speed you will ultimately need. A long shutter is OK when the camera is on a tripod and you are shooting something that isn't moving...but if you are shooting people, a slow shutter speed will mean blurry images. Also, people don't like to have a bunch of hot lights on them for any length of time. Yes, the fluorescent lights aren't as hot...but it's still not fun.

    Strobes on the other hand, fire very quickly...much faster than the shutter in the camera. This means that the shutter speed doesn't even matter much at all for flash photography. The burst of light is fast enough to freeze motion, so you can get sharp shots of people and don't really need a tripod. Having more lighting power also means you have more flexibility with your set up. If you don't have a lot of power, your light may need to be very close to the subject...which is fine for still life and not so good for portraits. There are some beginner strobe kits buy often they are under powered and would be limiting.
    The down side of strobes is that you can't really see the result because it's so fast. A light/flash meter is often needed, although digital can make it possible for you to guess & test.

    So I guess it depends on what you want to shoot. For still life or product shots, continuous lights would probably be OK. For shooting people, strobe is probably the better way to go.

    Now...with strobes there are studio lights and 'hot shoe' flash units. Price wise, it's a toss up. Top end flash units are close to $500 a piece and you still need a way to trigger them off camera. Good Studio lights start at around $300-$400 a piece. The biggest difference is the power supply. Studio lights need to be plugged in and flash units run on batteries. Studio lights are also more powerful.

    Flash units are pretty versatile and can also be used on camera when you want to...but the (Canon 580EX for example) at $500 (CDN) a piece, is really expensive. The Strobist has some great ideas but he has many years of experience. It takes a lot of time & effort to get results like that.
     
  3. Big Mike

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

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    I forgot to add the usual recommendation. Check out http://www.alienbees.com/

    They have pretty good quality stuff for pretty good prices. They are going to be more expensive than what you see on E-bay...but "you get what you pay for".
     
  4. Captain Ahab

    Captain Ahab TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Mike, that helps-I guess that really I wont get to to do much double duty with lighting - what I mean is -at this point I want to try all kinds of stuff -portraits, still, etc and one particular set of lights wont necessarily do all things. Oh also, thanks for the help on the other thread today too. Later ( my real name is Adam)
     
  5. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The thing about wattage is more watts = more power and thus higher aperture. The only things that control strobes' lighting is aperture and ISO. Shutter speed has no effect as long as you don't go outside the sync range of the camera.

    So even with a simple $250 Nikon SB-600 you can easily shoot into the sun and make fantastic images. But conversely you'll be hard pressed putting the lights at the other side of the room and then photographing your subject at f/16. That said it doesn't cost as much either.
     
  6. Big Mike

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

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    Hi Adam,
    Well, you can do double duty with a good set of lights. For example, you can certainly do still life or product shots with strobes...I just wanted to point out that if that was your primary focus, hot lights might be a cheaper option.

    For this reason, I believe you will find that most pro photographers or studios use strobes because they are more powerful and therefore more versatile.

    I was trying to lay out the options for you...but if you want my opinion...I'd tell you to get some Alienbees. I have one and I plan to get more soon.
     

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