What lights for a main and back light?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by aliciaqw, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. aliciaqw

    aliciaqw TPF Noob!

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    DH is going to build me a small "studio" in the garage (he likes projects and I like projects that benefit me...haha).

    I'm mostly going to practice portraits of my family members. I think I'm going to have one main light with a softbox or umbrella, use a reflector for a fill light, and then have a hair/back light.

    What kind of lights should I get? I want to stay within a few hundred dollars.

    If there is a thread like this already posted, feel free to post a link. I tried a search but was unsuccessful. Thanks!
     
  2. Big Mike

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

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    If you are going to be shooting people, then I'd suggest some type of flash/strobe lighting, rather than a continuous type of lighting.

    There are plenty of 'cheap' studio strobe kits floating around on the internet. I don't know much about them, but for the most part, they look cheap and their low price doesn't inspire confidence.

    HERE is a decent one-light studio package. A couple lights will probably be over your budget, but that might be better than buying something cheap and realizing that it work work for you in the long run.

    Also, when setting up your garage studio, I'd suggest situating it sideways to the door so that you can open the door and have a large source of natural light coming into the side of your set.
     
  3. aliciaqw

    aliciaqw TPF Noob!

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    I was looking at those Alien Bees after reading so much about them online. I think I'm going to go with one of those.

    I'm hoping a reflector will do for now for fill. Maybe I will hold off on a backlight and just invest a little more into quality.
     
  4. Big Mike

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

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    Also, many people will tell you, it's often best to start learning lighting with just one light anyway. As you know, you can easily use a reflector for fill, so it might be much more simple to stick with one light until you actually need a 2nd light.
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I would suggest looking at two of these 150 watt-second FlashPoint 320A monolights, which come with 10 foot air-cushioned light stands and a 40 inch convertible umbrella, for $139 with free shipping. The price is hard to beat, and these have user-replaceable flash tubes and have been sold for going on 10 years now. http://www.adorama.com/FP320MK.html

    As far as a garage studio setup goes...I'm of the opposite opinion as Big Mike; I think you really want to shoot the length of the garage and forget about natural light for the most part, since in a typical garage (a 2-car garage) the camera-to-subject distance when photographing across the short dimension of a garage is very short, and that often forces you into using unflattering short focal lengths, which causes a lot of problems with background control and makes shooting full-length photos a major PITA, with focal lengths dropping into the very ugly 18-35mm focal length ranges, and also forces you to shoot with your subjects close to the background, which again, causes problems. So, for a "typical" garage studio setup, I think it's better to have it arranged so that the backgrounds are at the entrance or garage door end of the garage, and you can position the camera at the "house" end of the garage, so that you can get the camera as far away from the subjects as possible, so that you can use telephoto lens lengths to control backgrounds.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2010
  6. Big Mike

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

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    All good points.
    I was picturing the garage I had at my previous house, it was pretty much square, so there was no length to be gained by putting the door at the front/back.
     
  7. keith foster

    keith foster TPF Noob!

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    In your garage set up you can probably move your backdrops from one wall to another depending on what you are shooting each time.

    One of the things that I quickly learned is that even a pretty large garage becomes pretty small when you start setting up a studio and no matter how big my space is there will come times when it just isn't big enough.

    You will have a lots of fun with a couple of lights and a backdrop. Looking forward to seeing your 1st shots.
     
  8. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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  9. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    Although I think Derrel's description of a "typical 2-car garage" is outrageously funny since there are, just about, as many different types of garages as there are houses, I definitely agree that you should set up your background at the end of the long side.

    If you garage door (s) is in that dimension, I would set up the background at the opposite end. Simple reason: if you want to use a longer lens than your garage allows (and daylight is not a problem), just open the door and move away from your background.

    Now, to answer your actual question. ABs are great as starter strobes. You mention a few hundred dollars. How much is that exactly? No matter what, you can start with one, make yourself some reflectors and start experimenting. If you have a flash unit, you can use that as your second light for a while.

    Unlike Big Mike I don't believe in starting with one light only. Unless that is all you can afford. With just the one strobe you will quickly run out of possible set ups and get frustrated. I started with 3 and a bunch of reflectors (mostly home made) and that soon became NOT enough.

    If you can afford more than one, go for it. Don't get a dozen either as, if you get more serious, you will figure out the problems and limitations of AB strobes. 3 of them, you'll be able to use for quite a while even if you do get more serious.

    Have fun.
     
  10. aliciaqw

    aliciaqw TPF Noob!

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    Oh wow, thanks for all the info guys! I'm really excited to get things movin'! We just started looking for a new house to buy so the garage is going to be temporary. DH said I can have a room to do whatever I want with-- and of course it's going to become my "studio"-- even if in the end it's just for taking pictures of my baby boy :)

    Would I be better off getting two of those Flashpoint monolites for $280-- or are the Calumet ones worth the extra $100?

    I'm assuming I could just experiment with how I want to arrange them as far as using one for key light and the other for either fill or backlight, right?

    Also, I read somewhere that you're better off not using a backlight on small children. How do you guys feel about that?

    I really appreciate all the advice! Now I've got to look into backdrops and those contraptions to hang them one. Ooohh, and maybe a trip to Home Depot or Lowes to get some flooring and a floor board. And I'm sure I can find some fun props at those discount stores like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc. This is fun!

    Any books out there I should read about studio lighting for portraits? I've seen a few but wondered if any come recommended. I don't even know how these lights work...lol.
     
  11. aliciaqw

    aliciaqw TPF Noob!

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    One more thing...

    Umbrellas or softboxes? Does it really matter if people are my subjects? I've read that umbrellas are bad if you're photographing shiny objects like bottles and glass.
     
  12. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Umbrellas tend to scatter the light a bit more than softboxes do.

    All umbrellas are round. You can get softboxes that are rectangular or square giving more control of where the light is going.

    Umbrellas tend to be easier to setup and are much less expensive than softboxes.
     

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