Need advice on home studio equipment

Designer

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Consistency of flash color temperature is something that used to be a big problem, apparently, with cheap Monolights. ...

I think that today this issue has for the most part been rectified,at least in the better-made units that cost $100 or more.
I added that note because I do have a cheap monolight that does change color a bit when I decrease the power. Only one, and never again.
 
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Barb King

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Hi to anyone following this thread! A few people asked that I report what equipment I decided on, so I thought I'd do that. I'll post test shots once everything arrives. Thanks again to everyone who offered advice; it really helped me figure out where to start researching. I chose:

1 Godox TT600 Speedlight - Because it's portable and has HSS, so I can use it in case I need a super high shutter speed for f1.4 shots or objects in motion, or if I'm on the move.
1 Godox Xpro-N TTL Wireless Flash Trigger - Necessary to take advantage of the HSS and control all the lights.
2 Godox SK300II Studio Strobe - So I'll have 3 total lights to play with. I chose the same brand as the TT600 for compatibility with the controller.
-- These are not portable, and they do not support HSS. The TT600 will have to be used for all my outdoor and high speed shots.
-- But these have 150W modeling lights! And a Bowens mount for compatibility.
2 Stands for the Studio Strobes
3 - Bowens mount Softboxes 24 x 36
1 - Soft honeycomb grid
1 Bowens mount converter for the TT600
1 Gray backdrop, 6 x 9, and mounting station (I researched how to turn gray background into black or white or any other color--I'm excited to try this!)
1 Conical snoot (also Bowens mount) and color filters for fun.

Shockingly, all of this added up to be only around $500. And I feel like I have some good quality, powerful equipment that will allow me to experiment and explore many possibilities.

It'll take a few days for everything to arrive (and for me to learn how to use it), but I will come back with some sample pix.

Thanks again to everyone for weighing in! This forum is so nice. I'm excited!

Barb
 

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I hope very much that you enjoy your new equipment and that you are able to make some very fine photos with it.

I just did a quick bit of research into the Godox SK 300ii lights.yeah those look like pretty good lights and for $109 each with the built-in wireless receiver, you got a pretty good deal. I noticed that the lights offer 40 different power levels from full power to 1/16 power, which is really nice for extreme fine-tuning of your light level. Simpler lights used to go Full power, half power, Quarter power, 1/8 power, and 1/16 power which as you can see is only five different power output levels.

I think you'll probably find the gray is a good background color,and you can probably "lift it up" to pure white by lighting the main subject with about 1/4 power light, and by firing the other SK 300 at the background at roughly somewhere between full and 3/4 power
 
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smoke665

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(I researched how to turn gray background into black or white or any other color--I'm excited to try this!)

I don't remember seeing anything about you having a light meter that reads both Reflective and Incident. You can set your lights by guess but, it's a whole lot easier and faster with a meter.

Turning an 18% gray background black or white involves adjusting light on the background so the "reflected" meter reading goes up or down. It takes 4 stops either way. If you're interested I compiled a chart from the Dean Collins Chromozones method. You can down load a PDF copy of it here Dean Collins Chromo Chart.pdf

For example using the center grayed column if your "reflected" reading from the background reads f/11 for 18% gray, then adjust your background light to get a "reflected" reading of f/16 for a 36% gray background or a "reflected" reading of f/8 for a 9% gray background.

Where this becomes a problem is if you have ambient light or spill from other lights on the background. That's part of the reason for the separation between the subject and the background.
 

JoeW

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It's been a while since I've priced stuff like this but I'm kind of stunned you got all of that for $500. Good shopping.
 

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I'd like your advice on a good set up with lighting and backdrop, which would 1. ) provide what I need to take professional looking photos indoors, 2.) be complete in itself without any natural light and 3.) be somewhat portable, so I could easily put it away when I wasn't using it to save space.
I'm a big fan of pack-and-head systems, which can be had quite cheaply these days. I've seen complete 4-head Speedotron Brownline systems, with stands and umbrellas, for $400 on evilBay.

The disadvantage is they are less portable than so-called "moonlights," which each plug in separately. But they are generally more powerful, and you can "dial down" the whole pack, instead of going around to each moonlight when you want to change the total output.

The advantage of used Speedotrons is that they are pretty indestructible, unlike newer stuff that has a lot of plastic that shatters into a hundred pieces the first time a stand goes over. It also means there are some real bargains on beat-up-looking, but still serviceable, equipment.

As for backdrops, how handy are you? Electrical conduit or even plastic PVC pipe can be easily fashioned into stands, and if you have a sewing machine, you can get rems and blems from fabric stores at a steep discount and cut and hem them to the size you want. Another approach that I use (that will require something heavier than PVC) is inexpensive roll paper, which you then unroll as needed for a backdrop, and then recycle or fireplace when soiled.
 
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Barb King

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(I researched how to turn gray background into black or white or any other color--I'm excited to try this!)

I don't remember seeing anything about you having a light meter that reads both Reflective and Incident. You can set your lights by guess but, it's a whole lot easier and faster with a meter.

Turning an 18% gray background black or white involves adjusting light on the background so the "reflected" meter reading goes up or down. It takes 4 stops either way. If you're interested I compiled a chart from the Dean Collins Chromozones method. You can down load a PDF copy of it here Dean Collins Chromo Chart.pdf

For example using the center grayed column if your "reflected" reading from the background reads f/11 for 18% gray, then adjust your background light to get a "reflected" reading of f/16 for a 36% gray background or a "reflected" reading of f/8 for a 9% gray background.

Where this becomes a problem is if you have ambient light or spill from other lights on the background. That's part of the reason for the separation between the subject and the background.


Smoke665, thanks for your comment! Do you have any recommendations on light meters, by chance?
 

adamhiram

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Do you have any recommendations on light meters, by chance?
The one I see recommended most often, and the one I use, is the Sekonic L-308S-U. There are a couple variants, but this basic light meter will meet your needs for most studio work. They sell for about $200 new, and can be found for around $100-150 used.
 

tirediron

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Pretty much any modern, digital flash meter will be absolutely fine. Sekonic is the current 'go-to' brand (Mostly because AFAIK, no one else is making hand-held meters any more). I wouldn't bother buying a new one; find a used one on Craig's List or similar. I have several. My favorite is my old, but 100% reliable Minolta Flash V. I also like my Sekonic L-785 because it will trigger my Pocket Wizard flash triggers. I also have a Luna Pro F which is a deadly accurate meter, but older and analogue, so maybe not as sexy? If you are buying a second hand meter, make sure it uses an AA battery; many of them used expensive and/or oddball batteries such as the 'N', 'A' or hard to find button cells.
 
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smoke665

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(I researched how to turn gray background into black or white or any other color--I'm excited to try this!)

I don't remember seeing anything about you having a light meter that reads both Reflective and Incident. You can set your lights by guess but, it's a whole lot easier and faster with a meter.

Turning an 18% gray background black or white involves adjusting light on the background so the "reflected" meter reading goes up or down. It takes 4 stops either way. If you're interested I compiled a chart from the Dean Collins Chromozones method. You can down load a PDF copy of it here Dean Collins Chromo Chart.pdf

For example using the center grayed column if your "reflected" reading from the background reads f/11 for 18% gray, then adjust your background light to get a "reflected" reading of f/16 for a 36% gray background or a "reflected" reading of f/8 for a 9% gray background.

Where this becomes a problem is if you have ambient light or spill from other lights on the background. That's part of the reason for the separation between the subject and the background.


Smoke665, thanks for your comment! Do you have any recommendations on light meters, by chance?

Sekonic meters are a good choice the L308 is a straight forward si mple meter Sekonic L-308X-U Flashmate Light Meter you can find them used for half the price. The only downside of this meter is it doesnt have the ability to dial in exposure compensation. The older 308's didn't have aperture or shutter priority modes, but the newer ones do I believe.

The L478 integrates with pocket wizard. Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U Light Meter for PocketWizard System and like the ones up from the 308 have some nice extra features.

Whatever you get it's wise to get one that uses standard batteries like Sekonic
 
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Barb King

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Thanks for the recs!
 

JBPhotog

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One nice feature of the L-478 when doing flash mixed with ambient is that it shows percentage of flash vs ambient. This is nice when doing natural light with flash fill, in 10% increments.
l-478_percent.gif
 

adamhiram

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One nice feature of the L-478 when doing flash mixed with ambient is that it shows percentage of flash vs ambient. This is nice when doing natural light with flash fill, in 10% increments.
Wow, that sounds like a pretty cool feature. I'm curious if it's something that is actually useful though, especially for a 50% price increase over the lower end model. For example, if I am using mixed light I will typically get the ambient exposure by eye or using the camera's internal metering, then use the flash meter to figure out the fill flash power. I suppose it's nice to know how much of the subject is lit boy ambient light, perhaps to figure out if you need to correct for any color casts, but ultimately I don't know that I care that much what that mix is. Are there other reasons this information is useful?
 

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