Starting off-camera lighting

Discussion in 'People Photography' started by Crushy, Apr 29, 2010.

  1. Crushy

    Crushy TPF Noob!

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    Hi everyone, I'm going to begin to set-up my own home studio soon and being very new to off-camera lighting I had a question. Should I start off the bat with two off-camera flashes, or just stick to one for now? I've been reading up on lighting, mainly at Strobist, and I'm understanding the techniques and everything, so I think I could probably handle two seperate light sources, but i'm no expert. Any advice?

    Thanks,
    Brian
     
  2. cnutco

    cnutco No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I do not see any speed lights in your sig. Do you have one? Have you used any before?

    I bought my SB600 a little while ago and I am still learning about it. So, I say get one a slowly work into it. After you buy one you may decide that you want something different. Just a thought.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2010
  3. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    your first Q should probably be what would be the difference b/n the two :)
    check out this website Portrait Lighting
     
  4. shmne

    shmne No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Honestly when I got my first flash I thought to myself "Oh this is going to be easy, I've studied hours on end, I've watched practically every video out there, I can spot good light when I see good ambient light, I've got lighting no problem"

    Then I used it.

    About a month later of constant use I was finally comfortable enough to shoot in small rooms where light was easily controlled. Now it's been a good year, and I've started to master a lot of little tricks with my one light. I finally feel comfortable enough to light with 2-4 lights in both controlled studio as well as outdoors.

    Once you master one light, adding multiple lights will be much easier. After all no matter how many lights you have it all revolves around essentially the same principles as using one light.
     
  5. Steve Reddin

    Steve Reddin TPF Noob!

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    I'd have to say I disagree with the above reply, multiple lights are not the same principles as one light, they are far from it.

    Starting with one light will only restrict you, not help you. If you have studied the various lighting options open to you, then you will know that for all but the basic broad and short lighting options, you need more than one lamp.

    Relying on a hot-shoe flash in addition to a single flash lamp won't be an option as, let's be honest, even the best hs flash isn't up to the level of a flash lamp no matter what tripod you stick it on and what umbrella you have it pointed into.

    If you are using your single lamp to burn out the background, that's your light gone and your subject is in darkness...or you give them that pasty faced look the hot-shoe lamps are fantastic at achieving.

    So, going completely against the grain of the replies, I'd suggest a minimum of 3 lamps is needed for proper pro-studio work, a minimum of two for lighting the subject (don't have to use them both all the time) and one to burn out the background when you want to. Once you are happy with this set up, then you can get as complicated as you want.

    Luckily, you don't have to freak out and spend your next six months mortgages on a Bowens esprit kit; depending on the size of your studio and the resulting guide numbers you may get away with some 200 watt lamps of a lower brand. I got my first set from viewfinderphotography in the UK and I can't see any difference in the light they give out to the top range brands.

    Steve
     
  6. shmne

    shmne No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    @Steve
    Not starting a fight here, just want you to understand what I'm trying to say because I feel it may have been taken wrongly. It is a very different world once you get more than one light, however learning how one light works on its own first is important. When you are trying to balance the use of multiple lights at a time you are focusing on too many aspects and not gaining the true essence of how light travels.

    Instead if you learn how to use one light well, the rest of the principles still apply to every consecutive light you bring in. After all, having more lights changes nothing other than the amount of light available. Using ambient as your main fill, bring in one light as key, and a bounce as additional fill so you can drop the background darker. You can't blow out your background but if you can pull it off well with one light, using multiple lights shouldn't be a problem.

    I know it is important to learn how to use more than one light, but why start off with more than you can handle? If you can't use one light, how will bringing in 2 more help out? If anything I see this as a hindrance, just the same way my film class started out with black and white with the thought of color coming in later.

    This is my school of thought, not saying either is right because at the end of the day as long as you learn how to use your lights well it doesn't matter what road you took. Just after reading what I wrote originally I really simplified it too much.

    And sorry, sometimes I feel the need to clarify what I'm trying to say since half the time I don't think out my post as much as I should :x
     
  7. Steve Reddin

    Steve Reddin TPF Noob!

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    @shmne

    Don't worry about the fight starting bit, I understand you're not.

    I take your point about learning to walk before you can run, however I disagree that how a single light works on it's own is the same as two lights work together. If you learn using one lamp, and then introduce another, your principles of position, direction etc all change. To put it in the walking / running analogy, to me it's a bit like learning to hop on one leg and hoping that will help you to walk at a later date.

    I would suggest that ambient light should not be a factor in a studio, in my studio I've gone to great lengths to make sure it doesn't even appear, this is the only way I can get consistent results, otherwise I have to allow for too many variations in light from sun, cloud, twilight, darkness and the rest and I'd think this is counter to what you are suggesting about simplicity and not having to allow for many variants.

    So, in a nutshell, we've two completely different approaches to our work. If we were both the same there'd only be half the answers here, they'd all be the same and how would that help anyone develop?

    Steve
     
  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Brian,
    I think the experiences of both shmne and Steve Reddin are very 'illuminating' (pardon the obvious pun). Two different people,with two different approaches. I happen to agree with both of them! Both make good points. Shmne mentions using ambient lighting as fill-in light, while Steve has a studio that he can kill all ambient light in, so, different working methods, different approaches, different results.

    Over the last few years, the Strobist web blog has garnered a huge following, of people who use mostly speedlight flashes, but also what the blog's author David Hobby refers to as "big lights", such as studio monolights like Alien Bees, White Lightning, or DynaLite, or Profoto studio flash systems. There are other choices on the market too. One that looks intriguing is the Adorama FlashPoint 320A monolight, priced at $129 with a light stand and an umbrella, with free shipping. I am of the more-is-better school of thought,and tend to agree that three lights is where you want to begin...three separate light heads, and at least one large reflector, like a 42x78 inch white reflector with some type of system to hold it in position (two clamps,for example, or leg braces and a boom arms+ clamp system,etc).

    My feeling is this: modeling lights will help you learn better,and faster than shooting blind with speedlights. The Strobist way is, I think, better for people who already have pretty extensive experience in lighting using studio lighting gear. From what I have seen, beginners to lighting learn better when their lights have modeling lamps in them, because they can visually SEE what the light is doing,as the lights are moved around and positioned...which is a huge asset when setting the main and fill lights, as well as the hair and background lights. When you want to use three or four or five lights, a constant visual preview is very valuable; with studio flash units, there is that visual preview from the modeling lamps in each light head. I'm not bashing the Strobist ideals, but merely pointing out that studio flash vs speedlights have this one area of difference.

    With the Adorama FlashPoint 320 being such a low-cost flash, it is around 4x less expensive than a single Canon 580 EX-II or Nikon SB 900 speedlight....so, buying 4 or 5 of them would be within normal set-up costs of just two camera-maker flash units.
     
  9. ghache

    ghache TPF Noob!

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    i recommend you to get at least 2 flash
     
  10. Brad Hardy

    Brad Hardy TPF Noob!

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    I'm on the strobe team here. For a number of reasons, but here's my take in short...

    Speedlights are great. A very useful tool to have in your bag. But try and overpower ambient light outdoors at noon without the use of a good ND filter. I'm hesitant to say that, cause you do have some options in terms of overpowering ambient light, but you'll encounter problems before solutions. Also, you'll have a harder time acheiving great results in a studio environment. Notcie how I say "harder time" and not "impossible", there are some guys and girls out there that shoot studio stuff with flashes, but you aint exactly gonna see Annie Leibovitz fiddling with a bunch of sb800's and tripping over a tangled nest of sync cords.

    The most important argument here is QUALITY of light. I hate to say it, but a flash will NEVER produce light that can compete with that of a quality monolight. It's just not gonna happen.

    Finally, biting the bullet and dropping the d's for 3 good monolights will likely save you money in the end. Because if you go the flash route, you'll likely require more power later, and inevitably buy a few strobes. So my advice? Don't spend money that you don't need to. In terms of brands, I'll echo Derrel in suggesting any of the Paul Buff heads... If you're serious about lighting, and know that you'll be requiring the finest quality in the coming years, you may wanna take a look at Profoto (though your wallet will hate ya for it). :lol:

    Either way, I wish you the best of luck and happy shooting.
     

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