Basic Home studio lights

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by cophotonut, Jan 15, 2003.

  1. cophotonut

    cophotonut Member

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    I would like to buy a basic set of lights to shoot a new baby. The grand parents are far away and have asked for new photos weekly, shich has led my wife to think that we need a small home studio. I , however, know nothing about studio lighting. Can some tell me if there is a godo baisc kit or should i buy these seperately. I have a mamiya c330/220 and 2 canon 35mm (elan7/rebel G)
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    What's your budget?

    There's no reason you can't do this with natural light, if you've got a good source of window light.

    Photofloods are an inexpensive way to get into studio lighting, and you can do a lot with two or three lights and a few reflector cards.

    If you are looking at strobes, Photogenic has some kits that include two or three lights, stands, an umbrella, and a few basic reflectors for not too much money.

    On the used market, one of the better deals out there is in old Norman equipment. This was the industry standard for many years, but has been somewhat outmoded by new systems that are more efficient, lighter in weight, safer, and that offer finer control of light output. That said, the light they produce is as good as it ever was, and the equipment is very rugged, and it's still made, so you can always buy accessories for it or expand, and there's lots out there on the used market. I just added another 2000 W-s Norman pack to my system for $300 from a rental house that was unloading 10 of them at once.

    A good Norman starter kit would be a P800D 800 Watt-second pack with two LH2000 or LH2400 heads with 5" reflectors, two stands, maybe a short background light stand, a reversible umbrella (either use in the normal way or shoot through), one set of 5" barn doors that can also hold diffusion material, and a few large sheets of white foamcore as reflectors. That would give you a soft light source as a main light and a second light as a background light, and you could use the reflectors for fill.
     
  3. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  4. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    You can also do a lot with just one light. An Alien Bees B800 with stand, reversible umbrella and soft case will run you around $300.00. Very good value and packs a nice whallop.
     
  5. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    What I always tell people who ask me what kind of studio lights to buy, is to get monolights. They are strobe lights where the head and the powerpack are all one unit. They are by far the easiest to use and to make lighting adjustments. As people have already stated, Photogenic makes great ones.

    The problem with a power pack and separate heads is that some of them are far more difficult to tweak your lighting. If you want to add just a little more of a mainlight or a little less background light etc, they are far harder to adjust the ratios.

    I would suggest, to start, one Photogenic powerlight( say 600ws). Then get a piece of fomecore for a reflector. I would also suggest a softbox instead of an umbrella as they control the direction of light better. With this setup there are not many situations that you can't photograph. Used Photogenics on ebay are about $300-$350. So for less than $600 you could have a light, softbox, 2 stands.(one for the reflector) and you are set. You probably will need a flashmeter also and they are available used .

    Michael McBlane
     
  6. fparnold

    fparnold Member

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    With strong available light, or good natural light, you can use the Mamiya with Delta3200 (or 800 color print film), and still get very enlargeable pictures. This setup allows you to move freely, and to always have an eye on the target, rather than the blackout effect of the SLR, and the feeling of tracking them through a peephole. However, this is from a person who is an obligate eyeglass wearer and likes the large GG, so take it with a grain of salt.

    You can improve your success rate by slowing down your baby. An old trick which I've used, and passed on to friends who agree that it works well, is to put a piece of invisible Scotch tape on their finger. The camera won't see it, but they'll be fascinated for quite a while. Zone focus, and watch for a good expression.
     
  7. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    I also suggest the alien bees route. I have one of their B800s in addition to a white lightning light and it's just wonderful.
     
  8. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    The cheapest way to fly is to use a couple of flash units .. Vivitar 283 or 285's - or something like those - with slave triggers.

    I am not a fan of monoblocks for a number of reasons.. they are heavier than the flash units cabled to power packs, and every ounce counts when they are on the end of a boom. Monos are far more difficult to adjust when they are buried in a softbox ... unless one uses something like the White Lightning Remote Controller.

    I love my DynaLites... Light, compact and surprisingly powerful ... built-in slave sensors...
     
  9. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Ed:

    Since this thread started in January, we are probably talking to ourselves. Anyways here goes.


    The problem with 283s or any camera type flash is there is no modeling light. True it is possible to use them, but if someone wants a small in home studio setup and is new to portrait photography, he needs to learn lighting. This entails being able to see the light patterns and the quality of the light striking the subject.

    Having used most lighting systems at one time I still prefer monolights. As for not being able to reach the controls, they are at the back of the head and the softbox doesn't cover them. Every softbox system I've ever seen has a speed ring of some sort that keeps the softbox at the front of the light. As for weight, all the booms I've owned have a counter weight and it's never been a problem.

    I truly believe if someone tries to take portraits with some cheap, duck taped together jerry rigged set up they will soon become discouraged and move on. Certain elements need to be in place for a person to feel comfortable and to progress.

    When I was at a seminar at Winona School of Professional Photography back in the seventies they were discussing the use of two mainlights on the same side to get a heightened kind of specularity and one of the students said that he didn't have two mainlights. The instructor replied " Well boy, you had better sell your Cadillac and buy yourself some lights."

    We all laughed but his point was if you wanted to do certain kinds of photography, you need to buy the equipment to do it.


    Michael McBlane
     
  10. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    [/quote="blansky"]Ed:
    The problem with 283s or any camera type flash is there is no modeling light. True it is possible to use them, but if someone wants a small in home studio setup and is new to portrait photography, he needs to learn lighting. This entails being able to see the light patterns and the quality of the light striking the subject.
    I truly believe if someone tries to take portraits with some cheap, duck taped together jerry rigged set up they will soon become discouraged and move on. Certain elements need to be in place for a person to feel comfortable and to progress. /quote]

    If I remember correctly, the question was "How does one do studio photography as cheaply as possible?" It is certainly true that there are no modeling lamps on the small self contained flash units ... athough the idea of "small' applied to a Metz CT60 might be debateable. Modeling lamps are a convenience ... they help, although, more and more, I find that I depend on them less and less. My best "aid" is the Polaroid back ... even though I hate Polaroid film.

    Many Wedding Photographers slave small flash units, with good results - the old "flash on a stick trick".

    "Discouragement" ... that might well occur very rapidly ... considering the cost of the most inexpensive modeling lamp equipped mono- or power pack - lighting systems.

    "You can't learn without modeling lights... " ??? Uh, I don't know - that is quite a sweeping generalization .... Some of us DID, and I have no doubt that many of those trying to learn have the same capability. The ultimate "feedback" of the success - or failure - of the lighting set-up will come from the finished work.

    There is a funky, interesting, spiral bound book, "Jon Falk Presents Adventures in Location Lighting", published by Visual Departures Ltd., 1661 Third Ave, New York, N.Y. 10128 (or that is the last address I have for the publisher). It has been written by someone who knows a great deal of the real world out there, and yes, there is a LOT of advice dealing with "Gaffer"-taped (in the name of heaven, don't ever use duct tape!!!), and jury-rigged Vivitar 283's - and deals with the larger mono and power pack units as well.
     
  11. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Ed:

    I guess we can agree to disagree. However I didn't say you could learn without modeling lights????????. I said I wouldn't recomment it.

    I learned portraiture on some crap lights that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. I have used most light that are on the market (including Dynalites which I also love) but I wouldn't necessarily recommend them to someone who asked the question about a basic in home studio setup.

    A competent photographer could take a portrait with his cars headlights but that is hardly good advice to someone who need help starting out.

    The original question was a basic lighting setup, not how cheaply can I scab something together.

    I believe that one monolight, one fomecore reflector and a few hours spend study lighting and practicing with the modeling light is a better way to go that burning up polaroid film or shooting and printing some jerry rigged junk lighting setup.

    I also believe that the positive results that are achieved by spending a little money and doing it right will in the long run will save money.

    So please feel free to give your advice and I will give mine. The person posing the question can feel free to do what he pleases. I have no vested interested in what kinds of lites that he buys. I am merely giving him advice based on 27 years experience as a portrait photographer, and don't wish him to have to relive the mistakes I made when I started out.

    Michael McBlane
     
  12. BobF

    BobF Member

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    I agree and disagree with both of you as I learned with a combination of 283, Metz 45, photo floods and even construction lamps from time to time. I got by and did some good portraits. I now have pack and monolights with modeling lamps and really wish I had had them in the early years. The modeling lights make it so much easier and eliminate a lot of guessing or wasted film.

    But......If you need to go cheap with a a couple of taped up 283s (gives a lot of light!) you can also set up a flood lamp right beside the flash to act as a modeling lamp. Leaves a lot to be desired but can be workable and better than nothing for the financially challenged.

    Even my modeling lamps don't do a real good job of imitating the flash output so everything is a compromise.
     
  13. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    True - you weren't quite that intense in "advising against". I mis-interpreted the "absoluteness" in your reply. I've *gotta* quit trying to write when I'm tired and under stress. My apologies.

    I go back to the days when #5 flashbulbs were in use, and capacitor discharge flash units were the cuttting edge of lighting. It was a wonderfullly sophisticated trick to "bounce" to soften the light. All studio work - well most - other than those who had direct access to Croesus and could afford "electronic flash units" - was done with #2 floodlamps ... aptly named "Hot Lights" when used in an attic loft in August.

    My first efforts with "mutiple flash" units were magnificent improvements over the single flash, bounced, reflected and whatever ... nothing like "discouraging results" that would drive me from photography. I am confident that the neophyte who "Cheaply scabs something together" or tries a "jerry rigged junk lighting set up" (rather sharp characterizations ... I'd prefer "innovative"), would still be immediately impressed by that improvement. "Save money in the long run" - well, OK, but I think a spare flash unit is a good thng to have anyway.

    While I wouldn't WANT others to relive the mistakes I've made over the years either - I wouldn't want them to miss the myriad bright 'discoveries" that accompanied them.

    I did not mean to give the impression that I wade through many, many polaroids - I don't. I think I have a few more or less "standard" setups I use as the occasion requires - and check camera-synch operation, exposure, lighting ratios (more or less), stray reflections ... I don't know what all ... with the Polaroid back.
    One more useful tool - without question in my mind - is a good "flash meter".

    One other useful instruction tool - and I do this where I get my hair cut - at the same hairdressers my wife visits... loyalty to a girl who started on her own by visiting our house, some 40 years ago... Is to study the photography in the "hairdressing publications" and the Fashion magazines. The eye has some of the same reflective properties as a spherical Christmas tree ornament... and a through a study of the patterns reflected there, can reveal a great deal of information about the lighting setup ... one can see umbrellas, soft boxes ... occasionally the reflection of the photographer in front of a very large softbox..
    Most of the photographers in these publications have *one* particular set-up that they use a LOT ... and they can often be identified by the unique eye reflections.
     
  14. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I've noticed that I use the modeling lamps less and less. I think their effectiveness is liminted by the different response of the human eye to light levels, contrasts, and color balance - and the "automatic correction" of human perception.

    We have wonderful built-in correction systems - for example, under *low* temperature lighting - as from a candle or fireplace - colors still appear to be "right". While we can determine something about the shadow patterns, and densities from "eyeballing" under the modeling lamps - a Polaroid will be far more accurate ... although FAR from perfect. The final "test" is in the finished print/ transparency. From there we should, can, and WILL "process" the information internally and learn. Eventually, everyone will more efficiently "calibrate her/his perceptual process and establish links btween the modeling lamp images, the Polariods", the finished works, and the way it looks to the eye.

    Stillman Clarke was right - "To improve in photography, shoot and shoot, and shoot some more. It *will* come. It will."