Strobe lights vs umbrella cont.light vs softbox.Where to start for low budget first studio home kit?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by angelusagendi, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. angelusagendi

    angelusagendi TPF Noob!

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    Dear Pro photographers,

    I read many postings about the first Photo Studio Kit for the Beginners, and many of you don't advise cheap lights from Amazon etc. However, not everyone can afford pro lights right away. Yes, we should save for the better equipment, but in theory if we have the budget below 500$, what can be done to set up a nice home studio? I have a few questions and really hope you can help. This forum is just amazing, and your help so much appreciated.

    1) For the portrait photography (at home), why many people suggest strobe lights? Can one start the studio without strobe lights?

    2) Can one simply purchase 2 continues light umbrellas, 1 softbox and a reflector?
    Recently, someone did a photoshoot for me at a home studio with the set up I just described... The photos came out good.

    3) Are these options okay? Which one will be acceptable? (or even a combination of umbrella and softboxes):
    a) https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B005JN4KR2/ref=ox_sc_act_title_5?smid=A18O5I6QLTINL3&psc=1

    b) https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00K7VYJOA/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&psc=1

    c) https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B005NMTI8K...TF8&colid=2NTVXY8WL9YDK&coliid=I15T752KDAYHHV

    d) https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00FG5G0LM...lid=2NTVXY8WL9YDK&coliid=I2B1WDOOOGCFT6&psc=1

    THANK YOU very much.
    Angelus


     
  2. DriedStrawbery

    DriedStrawbery TPF Noob!

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    I too am looking for these answers.

    I did start off with just one umbrella with cover (so a softbox) and am using my speedlite in it with a remote flash trigger.

    Just started with it to get a feel and see what works and what more I need.

    I'll wait for responses from experts, but right now I feel unless I try with something small, I wouldn't know what is my exact preference.


    Sent from my iPhone using ThePhotoForum.com mobile app
     
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  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    FLASH will work 20 times better than those low-output, pigtail fluorescent tubes!! Seriously...with the continuous lights, people pictures will be a chore...think f/7.1 at 1/6 second at ISO 320...UGGH!!! Yeah, like maybe one-sixth of one second!

    Flashpoint II FP320SB2 Monolight Kit, 150 Watt Second

    FLASH has light that is on, to focus and see by, but has a powerful, FAST burst of flash, that can stop motion and prevent blury images.
     
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  4. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You can do quite a lot with speedlights and modifiers. (Softboxes, umbrellas, and other reflectors)

    Inexpensive speedlights cost around $100 each. Get two or three, and some umbrellas to start. Umbrellas are cheap.
     
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  5. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    It seems everyone that starts with continuous lighting has many, many problems and end up either just dealing with it or upgrading to at least cheaper speedlight flash or strobe systems.

    I had a large writeup about the different bulb types many months ago but in short,
    Continuous may say "500 watts". But you have to remember the bulb type. A regular light bulb or twisty flourescent puts out light in ALL directions. Thus only a small part of that 500watts is actually going towards the subject. So you quickly find out that you need longer shutter speeds to compensate because the light is much, much less; which is slower than needed for portrait. Then the bulbs (even LED ones, except for the ones that cost about $100 each) give out very distracting color thus WhiteBalance issues. Then light is spilled all over the place and any wall painted a different color may give an unwanted tint. Edit: I also need to add that you will probably be mixing Ambient (regular sun light) and the Continuous Light, which will probably give you weird skin colors.

    It's not about the light that your eyes see, but about the light that the camera's sensor sees.

    I won't recommend any continuous light EXCEPT for product photography. Any time "portraits" or images of people are of concern then one MUST have a shutter speed at say 1/125 or higher and then the lighting HAS to be strong enough and controllable.

    There are continuous lighting systems that are great, but FAR above your budget limit.

    For #2 .. of the "good" continuous light photo studio ... can you provide examples of what you define as "good" and exactly what the setup was ? Many can be "good" but then they start asking how to improve and quickly come across their lighting setup as the stumbling block.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2017
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  6. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Don't waste your money on those cheap continuous lights. As Darrel said they are way under powered. The difference between them and any type of flash is literally night and day.

    If you are in the US or Canada, and since you specifically said you were going to do this "in home", and wanted to stay "under $500", here's my recommendation. Go with the Alien Bee B800 and the 47" Octobox as your start. Paul C. Buff - AlienBees B800 this comes with a PC cord to connect to the camera. Strobe, modifier, and stand less than $500. This will give you the starting piece of a studio kit that will grow with you in the future. Instead of throwing money at stuff you'll rapidly outgrow and not use again.

    You will be amazed at what you can do with a large softbox ando a piece of cheap white foamcore as a reflector.
     
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  7. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    Just search this forum for all the problems you can run across with continuous lighting
    here's 2 quick ones
    portrait problems, the answer is post #16 ==> Studio Lighting...Help
    here's product photog problems ==> Struggling with LED lamps and DOF...

    you can search and read about all these issues until you're blue in the face ...
     
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  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I think the monolight type flash (Flashpoint 320M for example) that has a quartz-halogen modeling lamp in it, plus the flash tube, is the easiest for the beginner to learn lighting with, because the modeling lamp gives an always-on preview (can be switched off too!) of what the flash exposure will be, where the shadows are falling, if there are catchlights, etc.. With a speedlight + umbrella, the beginner often places the light unit in a poor place; with the modeling light on in a monolight, the beginner can literally SEE the lighting effect. So, to me, the $99 Flashpoint 320M monolight is the undisputed choice as a low-cost tool for the budget-conscious shooter. Buy three of them at $99 each. Get some 40-42-inch umbrellas.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
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  9. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    as Derrel mentions you can get into a Strobe kit for much less than you think.
    This example is $370 USD 2 flash/diffuser/ stand kit from Adorama
    ==> Flashpoint 320M

    And the Modeling light is fantastic. I initially used speedlights but followed instructions from a mentor about angles and height of light to the subject based upon their angle, etc and learned a lot from that. But if you don't follow instructions like that to the "T" then you'll have all sorts of inconsistencies in relation to standard studio photography. But the modeling lights let you see what the shadows are like before you take any shots then review, much more handy.

    someone will recommend this site sooner or later ... Strobist

    edit: I forgot .. sooner or later you'll want a remote trigger system for it instead of using your on camera flash to trigger the strobes. It does add up as you want to improve, but saves you a lot from throwing away a continuous setup after a short time.
     
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  10. zombiesniper

    zombiesniper The camera takes the Pic. I just point the way. Supporting Member

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    Since I have recently done exactly what you are asking (with flashes not continuous) I will go over my experience.

    I started getting into lighting in Dec of last year by purchasing the following.

    https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B008S1W19Q/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    and

    https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0142KIVY0/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    This was an excellent start and I could have quite adequately learned a great deal about lighting with just this kit. I could still pull this kit out, use it and get near exactly the same images as I do with the equipment I have now.
    But I wanted something more permanent.

    So I bought....

    https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B001O111OS/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    This kit looked like what I needed and admittedly has done me pretty well in the last 8 months.
    But it does create a problem for someone that is new to lighting. The urge to use ALL the light because you have them. Trying to solve a lighting problem by turning on another light without understanding what the first light is doing is going to slow down the learning process.
    I did learn a tonne with this kit but it does have it's drawbacks.
    The backdrop framework. Light weight and not terribly sturdy. Okay for home use but it would not hold up to heavy use. I have since replaced it with a roller system.
    The muslin backdrop is actually the best part of the kit. I have some more expensive Cameron backdrops and the one in the kit is of similar quality.
    The monolights. They work as advertised and work quite well. They are all plastic and very easy to damage. Unlike a sturdier unit if you drop or knock over these....they're garbage. The modeling bulb is a weird two pin bulb and not the standard screw in. I have only one modeling light still working. These lights are only use as background or hair lights and will soon be replaced.
    The soft boxes that come with these do not come with any standard mount and are virtually useless on any other lighting system.

    Would I purchase this kit again if I had it to do over? No.
    I would have went with a single (maybe 2) better quality lights and a single soft box for each. The money spent is pretty much only renting the lights because they will fail and will have to be replaced.

    So I am now at the point I'm replacing my lights with 2 of these.

    https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B01HGRVPIK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    and since the current soft boxes wouldn't fit I had to get 2 of these

    https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B01HGRVPIK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    In the couple of weeks that I have been using these I can say that they are kilometres (miles for our US/UK brethren) ahead of the other lights and are the minimum quality I should have started with.

    It may seem counter intuitive to spend your hard earned cash on the more expensive kit but as is true in most cases the better quality kit is cheaper in the long run.

    If you were to look around you could easily get a decent backdrop frame, backdrop (paper or muslin) a couple of light stands, a couple of quality lights and a trigger set for under your budget.

    The last thing I will advise is look at the range of lighting offered by your prospective brand. It again is often cheaper to purchase monolights and flashes from the same brand since the triggers are normally compatible with both types of lights.


    I know Long read.

    Cliff notes read my purchase recommendations and save yourself some time and money :p
     
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  11. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Zombiesniper has given some good advice. I went through some of this last year as well. I was buying things without much forethought, till one day my wife said enough. She told me that she would only agree to further purchases if 1. I only buy what would do the job (made me sit down and decide what I wanted to shoot, where I wanted to shoot and how I wanted to expand in the future), 2.I could only buy pieces that would grow with me and become a part of my kit, 3. I could only buy decent quality products that would last. My only regret is that she didn't speak up sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of money and grief.
     
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  12. TCampbell

    TCampbell Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I don't recommend "continuous" lights - get strobes. If you recently won the lottery, get studio strobes with modeling (continuous) lights built-in. But on a budget... forget it.

    What's "nice" about continuous lights is that you can visually see the light on your model as you move the light around... left/right/up/down/closer/farther. You immediately see the effect. If you want one light area to have most of the light, but just fill in gently in another area, you can figure out exactly where to stick the light to get the effect you want. It's a nice "what you see is what you get" lighting setup.

    That's the theory, anyway.

    Now the reality. Budget-priced continuous lights really aren't very bright. You'll find you need longer exposures (much longer than with strobes). Sure, they make some really bright continuous lights... those aren't the cheap ones (and many of them really kick out some heat so now the studio is getting warm, maybe the model is getting sweaty (usually not a good look).

    Strobes, on the other hand, kick out the burst of light very quickly. They easily provide enough light. They don't generate heat. But of course you don't get to visualize the light (unless you have strobes with built-in modeling lights - the modeling lights are regular bulbs that let you visual how the light will be distributed, but they shut down just as the strobes fire so you're really lighting by strobe, but getting the effect you visualized using the modeling lights.)

    With strobes alone (no modeling lights) you'll need to take some test shots to work out the position of the lights. And you can even work out a lot of the lighting before the subject arrives. When I shoot food, I might shoot a bowl of plastic fruit placed in the spot on the table where the real food is meant to be.... just so I can work out the lighting setup. With food the tricky bit is many foods will change in appearance as they sit on the table so you want to work fast. You want everything pre-set as much as possible. But you can use a stand-in for most types of shooting to prepare the lighting before your subject arrives.

    On a budget.. get some speedlight flashes and some light modifiers.

    Soft boxes are preferred to umbrellas mostly because the the back of the umbrella is open so you get a lot of light spill -- and you may be getting light going places you don't want. The soft box has a diffuse front panel (like the umbrella) but the back is enclosed with a reflective interior... it's more efficient, you don't get light spill, and you ultimately end up with more control over the light.

    If you use speedlight flashes mounted "inside" a softbox, then it needs to be wired or radio controlled (you won't have an optical line-of-sight). But they do make soft boxes specifically designed for use with speedlights where the main unit is outside the soft-box and only the nose of the flash fires into the soft-box.
     
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