Newb interested in taking portraits at home instead of Sears


TPF Noob!
Feb 11, 2009
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Southern Indiana / Louisville Metro
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I am new to DSLRs but have always been a photo bug. I now have a Nikon D80 with 18-200 3.5to5.6 Nikon lense. I am very happy with the setup. I don't have an external flash yet (I like the SB600).

My fiance is interested in having studio portraits of the five of us at JCPenneys or Sears in the near future. I'm interested in taking the opportunity to try this ourselves with the new setup.

What is the minimum additional equipment I'll need to make this happen? I understand I'll be experimenting with backdrops, lighting, etc. and know it may take a lot of trial and error. But, I took a basic DSLR photo class last month and now know the basics.

Do I need a couple inexpensive softbox lights? Should I obtain the fixed 50mm 1.8 nikon lense to allow in more light? Any information is greatly appreciated.

You will want a SB600 or two, light stands, umbrellas, backdrop and holder, and possibly a better IQ lens, like the 50 1.4. Then you will need alot more help with the actual setup.
that kit is pretty expensive really.

Can pick up a couple of flashes for probably 100-120USD, then the rest for maybe another 50-60 (certainly no more than 100).

I bought my setup ( two flashes - SB20's, umbrella, 2 stands, holder, cactii ) for a total of probably ÂŁ120.

ideally SB24's or 26's ( or the vivitars ) would be better but the 20's I got would work fine for what the OP wants.

@OP because you'll be running things manually, as you want to control the light yourself, it doesn't matter whether flashes are dedicated. Using PC cords and/or cacti style triggers you lose any TTL capability. ( expensive triggers retain it btw ) I use my SB20's ( Nikon flashes ) with pentax gear ( and even my 50 yr old Yashicamat ). What's important is an ability to set the power of the flash. The SB20 has about the minimum for this ( 1/16 through to full power in about 6 steps from memory ) better flashes have more power and more settings.
You don't mention if you have a tripod - you don't want to put your camera on the ground, right? That's another few hundred dollars.

In the end I'd probably end up going to wherever for professional prints because it's much cheaper than buying essentially an entire basic studio portraiture setup for one set of shots and then you'd be done.
It all depends on how you wish to define 'portrait'.

First, be a sweetie and gracefully agree to your fiancee's wishes. That will remove all sorts of time pressure and will most certainly not bust the budget. [Life is good when the Lady in your life is happy -- Rule 1 of a successful relationship.]

Next, consider what you can do with your existing gear. Your Lady defines 'portrait' as a formal 'Sears' or studio picture. Not a thing wrong with that. But it is also possible to define 'portrait' differently. A portrait can also say something about the person pictured. The old phrase is, 'More than just a likeness.'

Perhaps you can photograph your Lady and close friends in a setting other than the studio. Perhaps you can photograph them in a light, a setting, a pose, an outfit -- in short, in a way which says something about them other than just providing a visual likeness.

For that, you need creativity and not [necessarily] more gear.
It all depends on how you wish to define 'portrait'.
My 'portraits' are done outdoors in natural light and natural backgrounds with a $200 camera. I have gotten far better results than the hundreds of $$ that my wife has spent in the first 7 years of my child's life at "professional" studios (Walmart, Sears, JCPenny's, the school pictures. Even the $5 Walmart portraits were better than the actual photographer shot school portraits.)

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