Looking to purchase first lighting setup. Need Help!


TPF Noob!
Apr 12, 2009
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Hey guys,

Here's my deal. I'm a working fashion model with a lifelong love of photography. I got tired of being in front of the camera and started experimenting, coming up with some really cool stuff. I even had a picture published in a magazine. Problem is, I really only have focused on photographing outdoors.

Thus, my problem: I want to start trying to shoot fashion/portrait type stuff. I don't have a really fancy camera (Canon Rebel Xs), so I don't know if some of the packages would work with my equipment (flashes, triggers, etc.). I just don't want to waste money on something I don't need, when I just want to experiment with some indoor lighting stuff beyond the home depot pickups I have been messing around with so far.

Any advice would be amazing!

Budget would be as close to $500 or less. My problem is, I have no experience with off camera flash, so I'm not even sure what hardware would be necessary to fire the speedlights (trigger? etc.). Sorry if these are way remedial questions, if you have a link to any good sites about this I'd be happy to read up.

And thanks again for the replies!
I'll just go ahead and put this up. It's only a matter of time.


The best online source of information about flash photography, hot shoe flashes, light technique and theory. Check outthe Lighting 101 and 102 sections.
Tirediron is right here. A simple but effective set up would be getting a stand, the appropriate clamps/brackets, the flash, and some modifiers. I just bought a stand for $80, the brackets and everything for about $40, already had the flash, and my next choice is getting a softbox for $80 and an umbrella for $40 and I'm set. Might need some Pocket Wizards though....

Look at the work of Zack Arias, this the setup he uses most (if not all) the time and he creates some great photos from it. He just uses 1 light.
Welcome to the forum.

There are plenty of options...but it's hard to know which will be best for you...and while your budget will get you started...it's not a whole lot to work with.

Your camera is fine. I don't think you have a PC port...so if you don't use a hot shoe mounted trigger, you could just use a hot shoe to PC adapter.

As suggested, do some reading at Strobist...and check out THESE KITS for a basic 'off camera flash' set up.

However, if you plan on only shooting 'in studio'...then you might want to forget the 'off camera flash' route and go with actual studio strobes that plug into power outlets and have plenty of lighting power. You may only be able to afford one good light for now...but many will tell you that it's best to start out with only one anyway.
Hi there,
I don't mean to high jack the thread, but I too am looking to set up a small studio. One day I think speedlites are the way to go since my studio will be about 18 X 20. The next day I think strobes are the way to go because I work with kids & need a fast recycle time.

Is there an answer or other items to consider? (I'm talking a similar budget range $5-$600'ish for lighting).
Well I will throw my 2 Cents in here.
The strobist is great and with lots of good tips and ideas, but in your initial post you made note of wanting to shoot fashion.
I will say this and many will disagree but hot shoe flashes are not enough for fashion work. They do not have nearly enough power or the right light modifiers.

If you want to shoot fashion you will need to look at a moonlights or packs and heads. An Ideal budget for these would be around $500-$1000 per light. That budget may include stand and light modifiers. It is OK to start with one light and builds from there. There are many things you can do with one light.
One day I think speedlites are the way to go since my studio will be about 18 X 20. The next day I think strobes are the way to go because I work with kids & need a fast recycle time.

You do NOT need high power to get good exposures!

People so often forget the power of knowledge. ;) :)

If I am at full power becuase I *need* it and have no choice:

- What is stopping me from bringing up the ISO 1-2 stops (ISO 400 is very clean on most dSLR cameras!)? That 2 stop increase gives me the ability to go down 2 stops on the power setting of the flash (from full to half... from half to 1/4) and from there, I can shoot all day with less than 1 second recycle times.

"But my camera sucks and I don't need 2 stops, if I could get one stop, I would be happy, because even at 1/2 power my recycle times are under 2 seconds which is way more than enough!"

- So, add one more speedlight! I am doing this right now on my softbox... and it is ridiculously easy... I am taking a 6 inch piece of 1.5" wide metal stock... cutting 3 holes in it... in the center hole, my brass thread for the lightstand goes in there. In the 2 holes on either side, I bolt in 2 hot shoe adapters that will hold 2 speedlights. With nothing more than 2 more holes and 2 more hot shoe adapters, I could make it hold 2 more speedlights, 2 facing up and 2 facing down. This will fit in a medium or larger softbox or work with any umbrella size too.

With 2 lights, I can cut power from full to 1/2 and get the same exposure. If it is 4 lights, I can cut the power from full to 1/4 and have the same power as 1 speedlight at full. The price of a Vivitar 285 is under $90 and makes this very cheap.

Once I complete the project, I will post the pics of my really poor DIY skills... lol (maybe by tomorrow).

What if you mix and match both techniques?

- Raise ISO to 400, use a 2nd flash... you could have both flashes at 1/16th power and get identical exposures, and at that level you are looking at not only fast recycle times, but around 600-800 shots before even needing to replace the batteries!

I will say this and many will disagree but hot shoe flashes are not enough for fashion work. They do not have nearly enough power or the right light modifiers.

I do not disagree, not at all (surprised? lol)

If you want to start doing things like overpowering the sun or making shots outside and need F/16-F/22 on a bright mid-day sun outside, you *do* need the big guns, however, that doesn't include just fashion, but anything.

I can do fashion outdoors in the late afternoon or evening with a single low end weak strobe and it will look fantastic, but is it what you need or not? That depends. :) As far as modifiers... there exists no modifier for a high end light that either doesn't already exist or cannot be made on the cheap with a little imagination and have it work on a battery powered speedlight.

Also do not forget portability. Using the big guns is NICE, I know from personal experience, however, if you are out in the bush or local park, electrical plugs are scarce, which obliges you to use large batteries. These, in general do not last anywhere near the amount of shots that a speedlight does. A Vagabond battery pack (at a nice little additional cost of $300 per battery!), will give you around couple hundred shots if you are using only ONE light off of it (stay away from full power, it drops fast!), before you need to spend 8 hours recharging it. That is also a consideration.

I am not saying one is better than the other, EACH has it's place, but knowing what is needed to accomplish the shot... both in how to work the equipment and what is needed... is part of knowing how to make the right choice for your needs.

Unless you are getting PAID for your work, it is really hard to justify spending $1500 for a mid-range level lighting kit. Do not even think low level of lighting... at that point, speedlights *are* better. :)
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I suggest Alienbees, white lightning, etc. I would stay away from the headache of speedlites. I have and use both, and if you are in a studio situation, monolights are much better, more powerful, more reliable than 4 speedlights in a softbox. LOL

For now, get one monolight and an umbrella and one reflector for fill light.
I suggest Alienbees

Anything but.

Sorry, but it is a well known fact that Paul C Buff lights (all of them) all suffer from visible changes in white balance at different power levels. This is especially very apparent in shots if you have 2 ABs and one is at (let's say) 3/4 power and one is at 1/4 power... the 1/4 power side is all nice and PINK. You cannot address this in post as when you correct the white balance on the pink side, the other side goes blue.

Go do a search on the internet... you will find hundreds of posts about this... and there was even a post from Paul C himself saying he was aware of it and not interested in addressing it.

Now, even other lights like the Elinchrom ones do this too... but only about 1/10th the amount that the ABs do... and thats a lot becuase the changes are not visible.

Photogenic has been around for over 100 years (founded in 1903), and I cannot find ONE post about them having such issues. I emailed them and they responded that to their knowledge there is no white balance change at any power level from minimum to maximum and that if I found any such issue, they would gladly accept my returning them for a 100% refund. That is why when I get the high powered ones, I am pretty set on a Photogenic pro level head to start off with. They also have models with integrated Pocket Wizard support, so if you are like me, and own PWs, you do not need to purchase another unit... you can get a strobe with one built right in, if you want.
I am not seeing any color balance issues with my alienbees at all. And I have been shooting them at drastically different power levels. I guess i am just lucky. LOL Every person that I personally know likes their bees. Even shooting one light at 1/4 of the power as the main has not caused me any issues at all. I think the internet stuff you are reading is just like 99.9% of the other garbage online....folks tend to only post the negatives. i did lots of research before I purchased mine and even personally talked to a couple of folks that used them. What it came down to for me was....option "A"- Alienbees or option "B" over $10,000 worth of lighting.

I am not arguing with you Jerry, and I 100% agree that all mono's will have a degree of color temp change. But in all honesty, I cannot see it on my bees. maybe over time they will shift? not sure.

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Lighting generally evolves into a personal style. Do not feel that you need to be locked into anything. Try a couple of SB 800's or Alien Bees to get you started. The gear will not go to waste. As lighting style develops so will your gear.

Fully investigate any lights before buying. Triggers can get tricky. And of course there are a lot of myths about Alien Bees. Also consider the price of future modifiers. You should budget for light stands, foamcore, and modifiers.

Love & Bass

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