I want to get into strobes...

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by msbarnes, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    interested in venturing into this area. As of now I'm reading random articles on the internet, a few from strobists.com, and I'm browsing flickr. My sole interest is in portraits/fashion work but at the hobbyist level, not professional, so keep that in mind. I'm not trying to go cheap but I do not want to overspend. I'm thinking monolights, reflectors, modifiers, that type of stuff, with a starting budget of around 1k. Maybe less or more. I'm not here to seek advice in what I should get or which brands are better but just advice in figuring out what I want.

    A lot of information to digest and I'm nowhere near purchasing as I'm trying to figure out my needs/requirements. I might just end up going with cheap speedlights in the end of my research.

    1. Any good books in this subject? I know that there is a plethora of information on the internet but I prefer consolidated books with good information to flip through. I'd prefer books talking about configurations and combinations and use of modifiers. How to meter, and that type of stuff.

    2. Any good fashion/portrait photographers known for using simple lighting configurations? Avedon, I believe used one strobe for much of his work, correct? With a large umbrella? I'm not sure but that is what I read I think. Or maybe those known for popularizing some unique stylet? I'm not trying ti immitate but draw inspirataion snd see what can be achieved when strobes are done well. In general, my interest is in somethign natural-looking. I know available light is the obvious solution but artificial light can look very good when done well.

    I'm mostly trying to figure out what I like about strobes and how different looks can be achieved.
     
  2. Two23

    Two23 Member

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    I would look for a used (ebay) Alien Bees either B800 or B1600, lightstand, and softbox to start. Alien Bees are your best value. For a book, the textbook is "Light: Science & Magic."


    Kent in SD
     
  3. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  4. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    Speedotron packs are also a very good buy these days. I bought a D402 and two heads for about 200 dollars two years ago, and they've served me very well. White Lightnings and Alien Bees just don't do it for me, but then again I was raised on my father's Profoto 7A packs with a multitude of heads. I don't like monolights, much prefer a pack-head arrangement.

    Good modifiers and accessories are just as important as the lights. Don't bother with "light stands", they're lightweight pieces of shit in most cases. Go with used Avenger or Matthews C-stands with good knuckle arms.
     
  5. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    I just sold my alien bees for the same price I bought them for... And I used them for two years. They hold their value extremely well, great output, and their affordable. I highly recommend them.
     
  6. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Avoid Normans. They're dangerous. Seen too many plugs arc and one I saw a pack explode. When I was an assistant, I treated them with care. I always turned off and discharged the packs before swapping heads.
     
  7. F/1.4

    F/1.4 Member

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    You wouldn't catch me dead using Normans...wait...yes you would.

    I've used a pretty wide variety of strobes, and if youre really serious about what you do, unless is says speedotron, profoto, or broncolor on the side...it's not worth the time or money because that's what you'll end up with anyway.

    Profoto D1's are a great kit to get started with.
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I know an assistant had a Norman pack that discharged on him. It's like getting tasered. He should have dumped the pack after turning it off. I think they're illegal to use in the European Union.
     
  9. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    Thank you for your opinion. From my limited search I was thinking of starting Einstein E640 by Paul C Buff as one of my friends had recommended me going with that over the B800's because of the color shift at low voltages.

    I will consider the Profoto D1's.

    Sorry if this is a naive question but I am very unfamiliar with this stuff. I have interest in using strobes on-site. I know that Paul C Buff makes a Vagabond Mini Lithium, but is this device compatible with other brands? Do other brands offer a similar device?
     
  10. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    You can't go wrong with Profoto. Most European strobes are well designed. Cheaper strobes are dangerous and the color balance can be off. I own some very old Broncolor Impacts and they're well made. Another thing to consider pack and head system or monolights. Monolights are heavier because the power pack is in the head so they will be harder too put on a boom. Systems with power packs have lighter heads and easier to control the power output on each head from the pack. What I did was to build a strobe system piece by piece. A set of strobes can set you back some serious cash. Another type of strobe to consider are just regular flash units on light stands. They're lighter and cheaper. I've seen some great results with flash units.
     
  11. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    I worked with this guy back in the 90s, a big fashion shooter. He had all these Norman and Calumet packs that would just randomly go off like a gunshot KABLAM!! It was very disturbing. None of the assistants wanted to touch the packs and risk electrocution. :blink:
     
  12. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    Monolights have come a long way since the old days where they were huge, clunky beasts. I greatly prefer them to a pack and head arrangement, as the only cord that runs to the pack is a power cord, which is easily extended with a non-proprietary extension cord. Plus, the advantage of being able to vary the power of one head without affecting the power of another (something most packs still don't do unless you are dropping some serious cash) is a huge plus.

    For this reason I would also advise against speed lights. There is so little power and control that it's just not worth it. Modifiers are expensive and clunky to use. Add to that you can pick up a used monolight for about the price of a new speed light. I know some people love the whole speed light thing but it would just drive me nuts. Invest your money wisely and you will be happy for a long time.

    My suggestion is to start with two monolights, a couple of cheap umbrellas, some grid spots and maybe one soft box. Add a silver/white reflector and you are in business. I'm a White Lighting guy, and I just freaking wear those things out. They are amazingly reliable; worth every penny. I have made a lot of money with my five lights.

    As far as learning lighting goes, nothing beats a digital camera. That's your Polaroid. If you want to shoot a final version on film, you'll be very happy that you didn't spend four rolls to get the light just right.

    Lighting is the soul of photography. You'll be a much better photographer for all the time you invest in it.
     
  13. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    Wait, so when you say that the only cord that runs to the pack is a power cord, does that mean that it can't run off some sort of battery unit?

    A lot of advice on the equipement side, I'll be sure to look into the brands. Any advice on the reflectors?

    Also, which photographers were known for simple lighting. Off the top of my head I'm thinking Avedon and Penn. Any others?

    I have a digital Nikon D70 + zoom which I plan on using as my digital polaroid before shooting with my Rollei.
     
  14. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Mr. Smith is right

    I remember learning lighting using Polaroids. A digital camera is a great substitute. Strobes aren't a great tool to learn because there isn't a constant light. Get a set of inexpensive hot lights with a digital camera to learn how to light first.

    When using strobes, you must have a way to proof your shot. Modeling lights most of the time doesn't match the strobe.
     
  15. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  16. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    Sorry. I meant to say that the only cord which runs to the monolight is the power cord for that light. So, you can use an ordinary extension cord.

    With a central pack arrangement, each head has a cable that brings the power from the central pack (rather than being self-contained, as a monolight). You may have two or three heads running out of one power pack, which means that if the heads are at some distance, you will need extender cables for each head, which are proprietary to each brand of light. This gets expensive, and it makes location shooting problematic unless you have multiple power packs.

    In my studio, the monolights are mounted on rails, so I had my electrician pull a u-shaped circuit over the rails. That way, there is always a power outlet within three or four feet of the light. It would be nearly impossible to rig this up with a central pack and heads.

    Penn is a great choice for simple lighting. He used an intensely bright tungsten setup in a large box. It's simple, but dramatic.

    Avedon's setup depended on his projects. For his fashion, he used a strobe head on a stick, which his assistant would hold like a boom and move as the model moved. For his studio portraits on white, he used four lights on the background and then one or two for the main light. All of his "American West" portraits were done in open shade and then overdeveloped for contrast.

    Have fun!
     
  17. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    I use the Paul C. Buff Vagabond as a battery pack when needed. It's terrific.

    Silver/white reflectors are available on Amazon. Just bought several new ones for a whopping $12 each!
     
  18. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    attached is all i know about the subject.three-point lighting and bob is your uncle.