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Aug 12, 2017
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Hi all!

I am setting up a photo studio for the sole purpose of photographing my clothing designs, which I sell online.

I need a very specific kind of lighting, in that it must reproduce side window light as closely as possible and will be used always to achieve the same effect.

I will be in a completely dark room, with a white backdrop and floor, and both side walls will be white as well.

I am attaching a few examples of what I have experimented in the past. all these have the quality of light I am aiming for.
I used to photoshoot in my home with window light. I moved, so then I had two different professional photographers take them, but I liked my previous independence so since I have the space I want to set myself up with a professional lighting situation.

Achieved in a studio with one large rectangular light on the left side:

Achieved with an enormous umbrella shape light on the left side, and two smaller lights pointing at each other behind the model (to make the backdrop look white, since it was a dirty grey cloth. the photographer digitally removed the background later)

Achieved with a small window right at the left of the model:

Same light as above, side window light

I would like some advise on what to look for when I purchase these lights for myself. I am oriented towards continuous lights as opposed to strobe ones.

thanks so much!
I disagree with you pretty strongly. The images you posted are not particularly attractive. They are harsh. They need softer light and fill light. I wouldn't even give continuous lighting a second thought unless you are shooting video. So I have no advice for you other than rethinking your premise..
Hi Fred,
I am not set on continuous lighting so that is open to advise, I dont really know the pro/cons.
The photography style works for me and I've been selling successfully online for years so I see no real reason to change that ;) Of course the better the quality of the image the better, however the strong contrast and depth of the images has worked great for me.

I am not set on continuous lighting so that is open to advise, I dont really know the pro/cons.
The photography style works for me and I've been selling successfully online for years so I see no real reason to change that ;) Of course the better the quality of the image the better, however the strong contrast and depth of the images has worked great for me.
Continuous con: low power, so more wattage is needed, causing more heat.
Flash Pro: Whiter light, will freeze motion, less heat.

Learn flash.

Also learn modifiers. Your ideal light coming from the side can be easily duplicated using a large gridded softbox. Your off side needs more light, so use another light or reflector for fill light.
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I would buy, or build, two or four 48 x 72 inch PVC frames, and attach white fabric diffusing cloth to those, and bounce styduio flash units off of those.

By using two 48 x 72 inch panels lashed together, you can form what is known as a V-flat. V-flats are very useful for what you want to do!! Especially in a room with white walls and floors and such!

Two, 150 to 200 Watt-second monolight flashes would be the best choice. Contuinuous lights suck for this kind of work, but can be used, but for the novice, studio-type electronic flash is by farrrrrrr the easiest and best. And affordable too. Besides, studio flash units also have continuously-on modeling lamps, so you can see to focus, and see where the light falls,etc..

Adorama Flashpoint 320M or slightly more powerful models....the 320M is like 160 Watt-seconds, amply powerful with ISO of 125 to 250 on digital. No need for battery-powered flash units, unless you truly NEED battery-powered capability. Otherwise, just plug into AC wall outlets, and use a power inverter+battery for outdoor work, if ever needed.

You could ALSO just fire one, or two flashes, off of the side wall, and create a simulated window light. Seriuously. Bouncing a 150-Watt-second flash off of a wall will create a huge "wall of light"!

Contiunuous lights? No. Not for this, continous lighting is going to limit model movement to frozen poses, no quick movements, and sloooooow shutter speeds, and plenty of blurred images, at speeds like 1/8 second or so.

Go FLASH. Seriously.
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What you don't say is: Clothing on or off the model, and whether you want clothing photographs or fashion photographs. ( Clothing photograph Fashion photograph ) Anyone can learn to take a clothing photograph, and Derrel's advice will get you 90% of the way there right off the bat, just a little practice and finesse required on your part. A fashion photograph on the other hand requires a great deal more creativity, equipment and work, but... it will set you apart from the 10,000 others selling dresses posed on clear body forms.
Note: I am steering you to the Flashpoint 320M monolights...not the 2.4- to 2.7- times more-costly Alien Bee 400 and 800 models which have greatly inflated model numbers to make buyers think they are more-powerful lights than they actually are, an old Paul C. Buff company trick. The 320 M is actually one stop more-powerful than the Alien Bee that costs 2.4 times more money!
First off Welcome to the site.

I agree with monolights over hot lights (constant on lights). Once set up you will not have to constantly adjust the monolights. If the model / clothes are in the same position. Very little changes will be needed. Since you are doing dresses you will want at least one long rectangular softbox. Or possibly 2. 1 for each side. One can still be a key light and higher in power.

I have 2 flashpoint 1220m's and 2-320m's that I now use most of the time. I do have some less expensive 150ws lights from ebay from years ago. Suprisingly all 3 still work. I have a 30" x 60" softbox I would use for the key light. A second light for fill (or possibly a reflector). And a third light for backlighting (or a reflector). If your budget allows it. A 4th light for the background.

Look up 3 point and 4 point lighting.

You will not need radio triggers or any fancy equipment with the flash points (or lights of your choice if they have optical triggers). Since you will be inside the optical slaves will work just fine. One light will need to be connected via a sync cable, or your on camera flash will need to be used to trigger the optical sensors on the monolights. Or you could connect all your lights with sync cables.
Listen to Derrel!!!

I know continuous lighting sounds easier to work with, but trust us when we say that flash is better suited to your situation. Especially if you want to capture the movement of your clothing. Having the model spin or hold her skirt up and release it right as you click the shutter works better with flash. If you're not using flash, you can get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze that movement, but you need TONS of power and light. With a flash, you can use a more reasonable shutter speed and completely freeze the fabric in midair, with little to no movement blur. It's the way of capturing both the movement and the texture of the garment at the same time. That's the reason that all professional fashion photographers use flash. They may have some continuous lights set up for fill light, but they always use flash as their main light for the scene.
Thank you so much to everyone!!! I am finally going over all the info you sent and making my purchase, cant wait to start playing with them!
Ok so after much deliberation, and evaluating from my entirely ignorant perspective, I have decided to go with this kit. I plan on building the large rectangular fabric frames after I am set up and have experimented a bit, playing with the white walls as reflective surfaces as well.

I live in Italy and I cannot find the recommended Flashpoint 320M anywhere here and prefer to order it within this country, so i had to look for an alternative.

From what I can tell these Bowens flashes are a little more powerful then what Derrel mentioned (250W x second or am I understanding wrongly?), but I will be able to adjust the intensity and it may be useful to have the bit of extra because I will be shooting in entirely dark conditions and I often have black garments to shoot.

Any comments on my selection before I pay? What do you think of the umbrellas that come with the kit, will they be useful at all for my needs? I have read some great reviews and am very hopeful! Cant wait to start playing! My winter collection needs to hit my website ;)

again thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my questions, it has been invaluable in helping me dip my toe in the new world.
Moderately expensive for what you get: two, 400 Watt-second monolights, if I read the specifications correctly, non-battery, non HSS, basically rather common feature set. These each use a 250-Watt modeling light system , which should provide bright and powerful continuous light for previewing the lighting effect, and for focusing and setting up lighting schemes. These are name-brand Bowens lights, so they ought to last for a long time. Annnnnnd, if you have to, you could shoot photos using the continuous modeling lights if needed or if desired, OR with the flash bursts.

I personally LIKE 250- Watt modeling lamps for electric wall current use; they are generally MUCH brighter than lower-spec'd modeling lights like 100 Watt- or 150-Watt modeling lamps are. For using on a battery&inverter in the outdoors, lower-Watt modeling lamps can be useful if you must use the modeling lights or simply want to use them.

Is there a downside? They cost from twice as much to perhaps 50 percent more than lesser brand name lights, and you have only two lights, not three or four lights to work with to light both the locations and the models and clothes. Black fabric requires less light to look black than white does to look white and bright, so flash power is not really much of an issue, especially with ISO 100 to ISO 200 being the common digital ISO range for indoor work.

You are buying two, 400-dollar lights for a total of $800, not three or four lights for less money per unit. But you are getting name-brand, quality lights.
I ordered and have tested today for the first time!

I ended up ordering a single 400W flash, this one su

with a 90x60 cm lightbox.

I thought I'd try this solution to begin with because I am not sure I actually need two, and I can always add others gradually. The first photographer I worked with used only one flash and they were my favorite photos.

Here is a photo from today's very quick experimenting. The set needs some work on the floor and I need to play with the position of the model and the intensity of the flash a bit more before it's absolutely perfect but I am very happy with what I got at the first try.

You can see a bit of the set up, and the light quickly edited. I'm shooting in a mostly white and entirely dark room and I am aiming for a strong light/shadow contrast.

Thank you for your support, look forwards to playing more!

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It looks like you are off to a good start with your new lighting gear! One light CAN do a lot.

One of the critical issues is how close, or how far away, the light box is from the model. From closer distances, there is a high level of light fall-off in intensity; as the light box is positioned farther away, the light will be more-even in its level of lighting, across the frame. In the 10-15 foot range of light-to-subject distances, the light is relatively easy to work with, without a "hot" side and a "dark side" to the frame.,

Keep working on your setup and keep learning. Again, you have a good start here.

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