Portrait Set Up

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by PhotoTyler, Jan 8, 2005.

  1. PhotoTyler

    PhotoTyler Member

    Messages:
    112
    Joined:
    May 23, 2004
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm only 16, and just getting started in the "making money" aspect of photography, but I'm thinking of trying to set up a little portraiture studio in my house, and something that would be portable too. A lot of my parents' friends are starting to ask me if they can have me take a family or single portrait of them for some reason or another.

    What do you guys think is some of the stuff i should make sure i look for in lights and such? I'm thinking about a kit perhaps? I'm looking to spend under 150 dollars, because i'm on kind of a tight budget as a teenager.
     
  2. rbarker

    rbarker Member

    Messages:
    2,222
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Location:
    Rio Rancho,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My suggestion would be to look for used WhiteLightning strobes. They are quite durable, and have decent output for the expense. Even the older "coffee can" units would be suitable in your situation. A softbox is nice, but you can achieve similar effects with shoot-through light panels that you can make yourself. A two light kit will get you started, but 3 or 4 will provide much more flexibility.

    The key issue, IMHO, is to find a brand that suits your needs, and then build on that system over time - rather than having a mish-mash of brands. That way, all the accessories will fit. At least with WhiteLightning they will.

    And, good luck with your endeavors.
     
  3. PhotoTyler

    PhotoTyler Member

    Messages:
    112
    Joined:
    May 23, 2004
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  4. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    That $150 limit is going to be tough. I think I'd try for something like a couple of used Vivitar 283 Flash units, and Wein "Peanut" Slaves. The 283's are Thyristor controlled, and would provide a fair amount of flexibility and automatic exposure.

    Light stands - to put them in the right place would be another problem. To stay within budget, you might need a lot of Gaffer's Tape - DON'T use duct tape, unless you enjoy one hell of a messy collection of residue.

    The LEAST expensive light modifiers are ordinary handkerchiefs draped over the flash tubes - avoiding the thyristor sensors. They 'soften" well. The next step up would be umbrellas ... but they'll cost $30 or so each.

    I might also suggest white foamcore mat boards - from your local Art Supply store for use as reflectors.... for "fill-in".

    Good luck!!
     
  5. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

    Messages:
    4,677
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Location:
    Italia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Those look like hot lights in the link. You might want to do a google search on hot lights to decide if they fit what you want. But 250 watts might not be much light.
     
  6. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Seems OK, if you limit yourself to Black and White. Color would pretty much require "Tungsten" balanced film .. or the proper color correction filters. Otherwise ... you might investigate your local Home Depot and see what you could do there.
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,547
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    tyler

    that set up looks good, simple lighting is all you need, as you start experimenting you will get the hang of what you need and purchase wisely for your specific setups.
    Good luck and start making some money.
     
  8. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,464
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Montgomery,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Many folks have started with sets like this & grown from there.
    You could also start with clamp on reflectors or work lights from the local home depot/big box store The 500 or 1000 watt lamps with stands would probably cost around the same $$$, may give a little added height & you have the advantage of finding replacement lamps locally.
    The lamps that come with the kit are 3200 K, so if you intend to do color neg you'll also need an 80A filter to correct color.(same for the worklight).
    Also the work lights themselves are going to be physically smaller.
     
  9. rbarker

    rbarker Member

    Messages:
    2,222
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Location:
    Rio Rancho,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hot lights vs. strobes is really a matter of personal taste, but I'd point out a couple of things:

    1. 250 watt bulbs don't put out a lot of light, exposure-wise, plus you'll need filtration to balance for daylight color films, making exposures even slower,

    2. they are hot, and potentially dangerous when working with kids,

    3. although the output isn't much for photographic purposes, they are still very bright to the subjects, and often "uncomfortable" - thus, potentially affecting expressions and how long people are willing to pose,

    4. photoflood lamps don't last very long, are somewhat fragile when transported, and are fairly expensive to replace (compared to household bulbs).

    But, if you decide to go that way, be aware that similar inexpensive reflector fixtures can be found at your local hardware store, often as clip-on lights. I'd suggest checking those prices first. The little stand adapters (ball head with 1/4" socket) are commonly available. Also, be aware that these are about the only types of lights that use 1/4" stands - almost everything else that you might eventually get uses 5/8" sockets.
     
  10. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,547
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    To Ralphs point , you will indeed find the hot lights slower, but

    Hot lights impart a sheen to skin due to the heat that is sometimes desirable with some applications for portraits.
    As well , with hot lights you are actually seeing the lights and their effect on your subject. I think this is a very valuable learning tool as it allows you to see.
    Modeling lights on strobes , unless you spend big bucks will not allow you to have this learning curve.
    My lights for still life , are much like the ones tyler has shown. I paid 39 dollars for three lights, I use 250 watt enlarger bulbs with them and this set up works. Is my work for commercial purposes acceptable > No < but for what I do it is totally ok.
     
  11. mikepry

    mikepry Subscriber

    Messages:
    413
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Salem, Wi (B
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Tyler,
    I have a friend in MN that uses the Tota Light from Lowel and his work is beautiful. He sets it up in the corner and bounces it off the ceiling and uses posterboard as a fill. You could also aim it through a piece of white fabric or even a bedsheet for that matter. B&W is fine but for color simply get tungsten film.
    Good luck!
    Tota Light from calumet
     
  12. felipemorgan

    felipemorgan Member

    Messages:
    91
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2004
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Tyler,

    A LOT of fine portraiture has been made with a single light source, and I think this is where you should begin. $150 won't go terribly far, but it will get you started with the following basics:

    * A nice backdrop. This is something you could make yourself by painting a large piece of canvas or muslin. Unless you're doing really tight headshots, the backdrop is a significant visual element of the portrait and can enhance, or spoil the impact of the portrait.

    * A tungsten light source, AKA a hot-light. I would look at a Lowel Tota light, preferably used. These lights sell for less than $150 new, so I bet you can find a used setup for significantly less.

    * A light stand and light modifier, probably an umbrella for flexibility and economy. The light stand may come with the light, or a kit such as this one: For the money, umbrellas are probably the most useful and versatile light modifiers you can get, and they are very portable as well. The size of the umbrella is a personal choice, but remember the larger the umbrella, the softer you will be able to make the light, and it's easier I think to start lighting using a soft light source.

    * A reflector, such as a large piece of foamcore or light fabric.

    With the above setup, you have a few limitations and many possibilites. You will be limited, as other posters have mentioned, to tungsten film or B&W. And some subjects do find hotlights uncomfortable (perhaps no more than the harsh pulse of a strobe...). The strong advantage of hotlights is that you can easily see the effect of your light placement. For some ideas as to what you can accomplish with a single light source, the following links may help:

    Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
    Richard Avedon
    Irving Penn
    Steve Pyke
    Site with lots of good single-light information

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 8, 2005
  13. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

    Messages:
    3,221
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    S.E. New Yor
    For the least expensive entry into artificial lighting nothing beats photofloods.
    A socket, a reflector and a photoflood bulb. This was the path that many (including myself) financially challenged teenagers took when first exploring portraiture. Smith Victor makes some sockets and reflectors of various sizes. I'm sure that there are other companies too.
     
  14. PhotoTyler

    PhotoTyler Member

    Messages:
    112
    Joined:
    May 23, 2004
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Okay, i ended up going with that brand of hot lights, except a 3 light kit for around 145 dollars. I think this will serve me well, and i think the price was very nice. (i heart ebay). The tungsten won't bother me, since my portraiture for these people is usually with the 20D (people want digital these days). And if i'm shooting with my bronica, i'll just buy tungston film. I don't want to have to worry about batteries and charge time, and metering of flashes, i'd rather just have lights. I also already have a couple of umbrellas that i've been using for my vivitar 285's for portraits.

    Thanks for all the help though, its always so fast on here.

    -Tyler
     
  15. Gene Johnson

    Gene Johnson Member

    Messages:
    30
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2004
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    This will work. You'll be using 400asa film at about 1/25 and f5.6 On medium format this setup is quite capable of making lovely portraits. I much prefer hot lights to flash for this kind of work. You can augment this setup with a couple of clip-on work lights. You can buy a 4 pack of GE Reveal bulbs to put in the worklights for about $2.50. They're reasonably well color corrected if you're going to be using color. Great for hairlight, backlight, fill light, etc. Play with them. A lot. Look up everything you can find about George Hurrell. When it comes to shooting people, it's ALL about the lighting.
     
  16. Will S

    Will S Member

    Messages:
    717
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2004
    Location:
    Madison, Wis
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Can you recommend a book about George Hurrell that discusses his techniques? While I've admired his pictures I've never seen a source that talks about how he did them.

    Thanks,

    Will
     
  17. mfobrien

    mfobrien Member

    Messages:
    163
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2004
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, M
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think you made a good decision with the hot lights. I did recently augment my set -up with $20 AC strobes from Adorama. As for portraits, I was looking at a big retrospective of Steichen's work ( a huge book). He really knew light, and I doubt you'll find any of his shots used anything complex. Many photographers seem to think we need to blow our subjects out of the studio with banks of lights, softboxes, etc. Sometimes less is more.
     
  18. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

    Messages:
    1,691
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2004
    Location:
    Saratoga Spr
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Tyler -

    The simplest and perhaps best lighting is window light - and its free. The only downside is that's its availability is limited to nice days - forget nights and lousy weather.

    I've been using a Vivitar 283 with an unbrella, in combination with a reflector panel, for portraiture. That's about as simple as it gets for artificial lighting. I can shoot at f8 which gives me enough DOF with either 35mm or my TLR.