What do I need for a minimal at-home set-up?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by beginnerme, Mar 14, 2009.

  1. beginnerme

    beginnerme TPF Noob!

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    Hi, I would appreciate it if anyone can give me an idea of what I should purchase in order to get the very basic set-up in terms of lighting for baby photography. All I want to do for now is take pictures of my 15 month old daughter at home. I love photography but I have no formal training. I want to practice on my own and maybe one day I can photograph other people's kids.
    So I see there are a lot of choices out there. Flash, strobe, softbox, umbrella, reflector, meter...etc. What is the difference between a flash and a strobe? is umbrella better than softbox? What wattage is ok without being too expensive?
    I must also mention I am broke (I quit my job to stay home with my daughter). We're on only one salary and my husband doesn't see my photography as a possible future income, therefore I cannot invest too much in equipment. I have been looking on e-bay. They have some really expensive and some kinda' cheap lighting options.
    What do you guys suggest?
    Thank you all so much for your input.
    Roxanne
     
  2. rufus5150

    rufus5150 TPF Noob!

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    What color are your walls?
     
  3. DeadEye

    DeadEye TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    First do lots of reading (its free) . I will say window light ( Its free too ) and a reflector ( just about anything white can be improvised "ie.~sheet hung on chair backs) Info is the best tool for anything.

    D.E.
     
  4. beginnerme

    beginnerme TPF Noob!

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    My walls are a very pale sandy/peachy color. The problem is My livingroom where I plan to do my make-shift photo shoots is very dark. I do need some sort of studio lighting.
     
  5. rufus5150

    rufus5150 TPF Noob!

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    I was going to suggest one of the canon branded rotatable flashes and bounce off the wall using ETTL. The peach will add a color cast that will have to be dealt with. The problem with studio lighting is kids that young move. A lot. :)
     
  6. beginnerme

    beginnerme TPF Noob!

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    Please forgive my ignorance. Like I mentioned in my original post, I have no formal training, hence not a lot of knowledge about the different equipment names. What exactly is a rotatable flash and what is ETTL? What do you suggest I read to learn more about equipment and their different uses? Sorry to ask all these questions but I don't know anybody who knows about photography and I need to pick your brain to learn more. LOL
     
  7. rufus5150

    rufus5150 TPF Noob!

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    I may have mixed this post up with another in my head. What type of camera system do you have?

    Higher end hot-shoe flashes have heads that you can rotate in order to bounce off of all manner of walls.

    Btw, the terms 'flash' and 'strobe' can be used interchangeably.
     
  8. beginnerme

    beginnerme TPF Noob!

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    Ahhhh...I see. Well I have a Canon XT, very basic. I have the lens it came with which is an 18-55mm. So you think I should get a hot shoe flash instead of a sort of softbox?
     
  9. rufus5150

    rufus5150 TPF Noob!

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    Soft boxes aren't cheap, plus you'll need a way to trigger them (radio controller, etc). You can trigger them with your on board flash but then you have to make sure your on-board flash doesn't flash on your subject.

    Soft boxes and any sorts of off-camera flash will need to be mounted on a stand of a some sort and some way to trigger them. They only cover a limited area and light falls off quickly so you need to be pretty nimble with the settings on your camera. Someone else might be able to chime in with how to evenly light a room where you can grab a good image of a toddler anywhere, but the only solution in my head involves multiple strobes (with umbrellas for maximum spill). Softboxes are also stupid expensive and umbrellas can be a pain with a curious child.

    The ETTL-II technology of the Canon cameras (nikon and pentax have an equivalent, I'm not sure who else does or what it might even be called) allows you to take any of their hot-shoe flashes and properly expose for the situation. This is not always desirable from an artistic point of view, but for capturing good, well exposed images, it's hard to beat for accuracy.

    The reason I mentioned a swivel head is because it makes it very easy to keep the flash attached to the camera and bounce the flash off walls.

    My daughter was just past two when I bought the 580exII flash for my XTi. I used it on-camera and bouncing for almost 6 months with great success, though it did have a bit of a learning curve (with my 10' white ceilings, bouncing off wall or ceiling, I generally had to set in manual iso100, F4, 1/200 and the flash compensation on the flash unit to +2/3 to +1). It worked swimmingly well. Here are some links for images I took bouncing it off walls and celings (not all of these are great on the post process, btw):

    http://www.toddmckimmey.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/new_flash_1_4x6.jpg

    (this isn't a stellar example because I was too close to the wall and thus the harsh shadows, but it does show it's performance for stopping motion)
    http://www.toddmckimmey.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/crazy_hair_door_2x3.jpg

    http://www.toddmckimmey.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/zoe_pen_4x6.jpg

    (this was bounced off a different ceiling, 11' high and arched)
    http://www.toddmckimmey.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/emma_feeding_doll_4x6.jpg

    The flexibility this allows is that you can move around and follow them and once you get it working the way you want, it's pretty much brain dead. Point, shoot. If you adjust the aperture downward for a narrower DOF, the flash will adjust itself. Seeing that you only have the kit lens, you might need to use ISO200 for 5.6 at the 55m end (with a 580, the 430 is less powerful).

    But don't let me alone try to sell you on this. I just want to let you know the success I had because I was in the child-chasing situation. ETTL-II has its limitations (though you can pop any of these flashes into manual mode) in that it restricts some of your creative options. They are expensive and, at least with the 580, are very heavy. Cheap strobes are plentful out there and for the price of a 580 or a 430, you can buy a handful of smaller strobes and modifiers.

    The strobist website has a lot of information on lighting outside of the ETTL space:

    http:/strobist.blogspot.com/

    Hope someone else chimes in with some possible solutions just so you can see a balance of ideas. I was a big fan of ETTL because of the kiddo-chasing, but it may not be for everyone.
     
  10. anubis404

    anubis404 TPF Noob!

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    Well, I don't really have anything to say that wasn't covered above. I'll just recommend some equipment.

    For lenses, a 50mm F1.8 is a cheap and a great lens for portraits. For lighting, I would go with 2 Vivitar 285s and 2 cheap umbrellas or home built deflectors. 2 should be sufficient. I don't know much about wireless triggers, but I know you'll need them.
     
  11. beginnerme

    beginnerme TPF Noob!

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    Thank you so much guys. I am starting to get a better idea of what I need. I guess in the end my budget will determine what I will be able to get.
    Sad part is, reading all your advice I'm realizing I really don't know enough about photography to take good photos or to decide what I need.
    So....is there an online course or hopefully a free website where I can learn more about photography and how to use my camera's settings?
    Thank you again. I am so happy I joined this forum.
     
  12. benhasajeep

    benhasajeep TPF Noob!

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    Have a look at Strobist.com , start from the beginning.

    You can get very good results with flashes. But strobist is a very good resource for educating people about flash photography. Lots of good information available there.

    Don't worry about being new to photography. You can practice all you want for very little cost (electric for computer and battery charging). And since you said the subject is 15 months. You have a captive subject to practice with. :mrgreen:
     

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