What Studio Lighting for beginners

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by nossie, Oct 15, 2007.

  1. nossie

    nossie TPF Noob!

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    Hello.
    I want to start practising taking portraits of people. I will start in my living room practising on my ever patient girlfriend.
    I haven't the slightest idea where to start when it comes to buying lights so I'm looking at this kit on ebay.
    Can some people with experience tell me if it will do to learn? How far will it get me? Is it good value for money? Are they strong enough or will I have to press it up against the persons face?

    I'm happier to spend less now and later upgrade to better gear when I know what 'I' want but that doesn't mean I will waste money buying rubbish to get started either.

    Throw your 2 cents in coz I'm eager to get started.

    Ray.
     
  2. nossie

    nossie TPF Noob!

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    P.S. What about meters? What do I need?
     
  3. Big Mike

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

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    Those lights are not very powerful...you would most likely be limited by them and end up having to replace them.
    The flash power is rated at 150 W/s....which isn't very much, especially when you are using something like a softbox. I'd suggest something with at least 300-400 W/s but 600-800 would be better.

    I don't know what is avaliable to you, across the pond but check out this site for some ideas. http://www.alienbees.com/
     
  4. sabbath999

    sabbath999 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As far as flash meters go, you really do need one as well... a good basic meter is $200USD.

    Yes, you can guess and get close, then fiddle around until you get a proper exposure, but if you have a person sitting around waiting for you to get the exposure right, chances are they are not going to be in the type of mood you are looking to set in your portrait.

    As usual, Big Mike is right on the money, these flashes are really limited in power.... and most of the on-flash accessories (softboxes and such) are NOT universal, so if you upgrade outside of the system you choose, they generally won't fit... which is why it is best to pick a well known system to start with. When you upgrade or add accessories, you will still be able to use your other equipment as well.
     
  5. nossie

    nossie TPF Noob!

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    Thanks guys so far.
    I've read all the "How to" books but no one dares to mention brands or model numbers. So what is a "well known system"? I've read up on the power and found 300-600w/s is alright for what I'm doing which seems to concur with Big Mike's suggestion, so I assume that's per head right? So maybe lean towards the 600 and make sure it's got a good power adjustment system. [some work in power steps like 1/4 or 1/2 power and other are infinitely variable right?]

    I know I need one of these. I don't mind spending for the upper classes on this because I'll probably only ever buy 1, so make it good and make it last. It's another thing I don't have experience with and I'm not sure about terms like "Incident meter" etc. So for this I want a tool for every job, indoors/outdoors/flash/daylight and so on.

    If you have a piece of gear that you're happy with tell me what it is and I'll go read up on it.

    Ray.
     
  6. Big Mike

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

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    You will need a light meter that is also a 'flash meter'. The one that I see recommended most is the Sekonic L-358 but the lower model, the L-308S may be enough for your purposes.

    Personally, I use a rather old flash meter that I bought on E-bay for $40. With digital, I only end up using it for my initial set up, then I use the feedback from the camera, to fine tune my exposure.

    As for brands of lights, I'm not sure, but the advice from sabbath999 is good. It would be best to use a well known brand so that you don't have compatibility issues down the road. Look around your area, maybe call photographers and just ask what they use. I assume that you will want to avoid ordering from too far away.
     
  7. sabbath999

    sabbath999 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Ok, I just read a GREAT beginners article on light meters in this month's (October) edition of ShutterBug magazine... it explains the all of the basics of metering (incidence vs. reflective, etc). If you can get hold of this somehow , it has many great articles on studio flashes this month.

    It shows two popular models, plus has a LOT of information on many different familes of flashes. I don't know who the biggies are in the UK, but some flash family names to look for are:

    Alien Bees
    Bowens
    Broncolort
    Interfit
    Multibliz
    Norman
    Novatron
    Photogenic
    Spedotron
    Vistatec
    White Lightning

    (just to name a few)

    As far as power goes, more is better, to a point... that point is you don't want to buy so much flash that you can't turn them down enough in tight spaces... generally not a problem with flash units that have 5 stops variable power ranges (or more), unless you get REALLY powerful flashes and put them in a really tight space. Even then, you can throw neutral density filters on them.

    If you are looking to buy stuff to just "play around" with, you can always use the lower powered stuff for duty like hairlights and background lights after you later upgrade.
     
  8. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    Both the Sekonic L-308 and L-358 are good basic meters for flash and ambient.

    I'm more inclined to buy good second-hand studio lighting equipment than new. On your side of the Atlantic I would look for brands like Bowens/Calumet, Balcar and Elinchrom. On this side I would look at Dyna-Lite and Speedtron as well. I don't know what their shipping charges are like, but Mr CAD in Croydon always has a good range of equipment in. There's also eBay.

    When you are looking at equipment be aware that some manufacturers use 'effective watt seconds' (it's not W/s but Ws, by the way, and it is a unit of energy equal to a joule, symbol J) rather than true Ws. This makes their equipment look more powerful than it really is.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  9. nossie

    nossie TPF Noob!

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    FYI Buying anything in Ireland is painfully expensive so my first choice is to buy from the USA (typically from Amazon) and have it sent to my Mother in the USA, it is then relayed on to me (bypassing the 21% customs duty of course (which based on our pricing)).
    If I don't buy from the USA it's usually because of the 110 volt power requirements but happily lots of gear is travel friendly and made universal.

    Another boon is the 1 Euro = $1.41.

    This leads me on to the biggest reason which is the bizarre pricing difference between EU and USA on a massive range of products e.g. "Canon EF70-200L IS f2.8 USM" on amazon.co.uk is $2549 and on Amazon.com it's $1699 (+ free shipping & not including rebates) - Go figure!! You can find similar madness on adobe products etc. You can make these comparisons on www.Amazon.co.uk Vs www.Amazon.com

    So it's a high probability that the meter at least will come from the USA. The lights depends on power requirements & bulk for mailing.
     
  10. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    Which state is your mother resident in? If it is NY then try buying from Unique Photo in New Jersey. I think that Alien Bees are not available in 240 V, but they will take 50 Hz, so you could use them with a simple transformer (like the ones used for hand tools on a construction site). Probably not worth the hassle though.

    B&H sells 240 V Bowens monolights. Elinchrom have multi-voltage equipment. Browse the B&H catalog.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  11. nossie

    nossie TPF Noob!

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    I like to consider the value of tools carefully so as not to waste money. I'll happily use a thrifty biro for writing letters over a solid gold nasa designed space age cross pen. However I had a battery drill for $20 which wouldn't drill into soft butter so I had to pay $200 to be satisfied with something with a bit of tork from Bosch.

    Like many tools the cheap might not be worth the money so considering all things about the lights I'm leaning towards this Bowens 3x500 set as a primary, secondary and backlight. I understand it's a lot for a studio beginner but I do hope to work them and make them pay for themselves further down the line. Another feature I like is that they are also designed for portability and to run on battery power which I imagine will be helpful for location portraits.

    The Esprit Gemini 500Ws Three Head Standard Kit (Travel-Pak extra) is currently priced at £1240/€1777/$2547 on WarehouseExpress.co.uk any price savvy punters out there know of a better place to buy? I know that's a big chunk of change but I'm not made of money and can only reason such a purchase if I believe I can make it pay for itself. Like the cheap drill I don't want to waste $20 but like the cross pen I don't want to waste $2000 either.

    The Bees look good but the 110v requirement is messy and I'm surprised that the company doesn't provide for 240v, it's only a trafo that needs to be swapped out during manufacturing (sez Mr Knowitall).

    Any thoughts on this purchase would be helpful as decision time is approaching.:study:
     
  12. photogincollege

    photogincollege TPF Noob!

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    Im a big fan of calumet travelite 750's. I worked with them a little and there good not sure about the 110 to 240v thing though.
     

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