Studio lighting tutorial

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Bobby Ironsights, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. Bobby Ironsights

    Bobby Ironsights Member

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    So, my studio/workshop got robbed, and I'm starting over.

    Does anyone have any recommendations on studio lighting for portraiture, or suggestions what to read?

    I'd like to do studio portraiture starting in 35mm and moving to 4x5 when finances allow, but I really have no studio lighting experience.I took photog. at uni but we never really covered artificial light in a practical way my hero is Karsh and I'd like to make my current living room into a portrait studio and use my bathroom as my darkroom which worked before. I'm lucky I live alone.





    Thanks for your time and responses,
    Robert
     
  2. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    So sorry to hear about your studio...sucks big time, man...

    It is hard to do better, both price and performance wise, than a set of used speedotron strobes. I have a D402 pack with 2 heads that I bought a couple years ago back when I was a sophomore in college. I don't use them as much as I used to (just graduated, at home while I gather my life together before moving...have access to my father's ProFoto 7As...) but they are really banging lights.

    Just be careful when disconnecting/connecting a head to a pack and make sure that the pack is powered off and discharged...otherwise a nasty shock is in store for you.
     
  3. Fast14riot

    Fast14riot Member

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    David Hobby's blog, Strobist.com is great place to start with artificial lighting. Also, check out AdoramaTV on youtube for short videos on specific subjects within studio lighting. But, learn to reverse engineer a shot you like, this will tell you more about how to achieve a look you like. I use some old cheap MedaLights and various speed lights for now.


    -Xander
     
  4. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Well, you have some rather conflicting requirements. I would suggest reading the strobist.com blog and a book like "Light: Science & Magic" first to get an idea of what sort of modifiers you're going to need to achieve the look that you want. The classic options are softbox and umbrella, but you probably want fresnels for the Karsh look. Fresnels (big flat stepped-surface lenses) are commonly found on continuous lights because they're so efficient (and continuous lights are not!), but they work equally well with flash.

    Using your living room as a studio is pretty easy for modern-style bright portraits but it isn't really compatible with the Karsh look (lots of specular highlights, low key, dark backgrounds) unless you also go to a lot of effort in blocking out light not coming directly from your strobes (wall and ceiling bounce). Big black drapes will get you there though.

    For 35mm, you don't need much light at all. A couple of moderately powerful (100Ws) hot-shoe flashes with basic modifiers would be quite sufficient, plus you can get TTL operation from them with the right cameras. 4x5 requires a huge amount more power: as a rule of thumb, the amount of light you need is proportional to the film area if you want to maintain a particular DOF in the final print. 4x5 has 12.5x larger area than 35mm, which means that to get the same DOF at the same ISO, you're looking at about 2500Ws of power. Of course, most of us just shoot with less power, bring the lights closer, choose a shallower DOF, etc, etc.

    Personally I shoot (mostly 6x7 and 4x5) with a pair of Bowens monolights: 1000Ws and 500Ws (frequently, just one); that's enough power for most purposes and certainly enough if you're doing low-key very-specular Karsh-like light. It's way too much power for 35mm though unless you want to shoot Pan-F with 3-stop filters or something.
     
  5. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    For something simple and old-fashioned, check out Mortensen's "Pictorial Lighting"; stuff done with 1-2 inexpensive hot lights. For strobes, I have some cheap used white lightning monolights.

    Karsh made nicely lit portraits. If you get a chance to see some actual silver prints of his stuff, it's worth checking out!
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi there


    sorry to hear your stuff was stolen.

    kind of piggybacking on what jp498 suggested ...
    you might also check out online-stuff by classic portraitist joe zeltsman
    http://blog.kitfphoto.com/Zeltsman/
    not sure how classic you want to get ...

    i have some inexpensive monolights and softboxes i have cobbled together over the years
    as well as lowel lights ... but to be honest i would get rid of them all if given the chance
    ( and i had the money ! ) and get a few smith victor lights. they ARE hot lights, not strobes ...
    sometimes it is much easier to see what you are doing with lights that are on all the time than it is with strobes
    and sometimes the look of the image is a little different with hot rather than stroboscopic ...

    good luck !
    john
     
  7. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    That's one of the reasons I would recommend monolights, like White Lightning or even ALien Bees. Since you aren't tied in to a central power pack, you have a lot more flexibility in both the placement of the lights and the power settings for each head. I have 5 WL Ultras that I have been working like dogs for 10 years. In that time I've only replaced one flash tube and sent two heads in for new capacitors (which PCB replaced for a trifling $50 each). They are totally reliable, and PCB will always take care of you.

    As for learning, polyglot mentioned Light, Science and Magic which is one of the best lighting books, ever. Marc Hauser's Bold and Simple
    taught me a lot about lighting for portraits.

    The main thing is to get a reliable setup -- two lights is a great place to start -- and just get to work. Make tons of portraits and you'll learn quickly, especially if you're willing to just shoot digital for a while. The instant feedback really works wonders. Any time I shoot MF or LF portraits, digital is my Polaroid.
     
  8. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    Also, grid spots will give you a more specular Karsh look if you can't find/afford fresnels. It's not perfect but it's the best approximation with strobes.
     
  9. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    Keep in mind that Karsh did use hot lights.
     
  10. MDR

    MDR Member

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    If your hero is Karsh use hot lights or use a fresnel attachment (e.g. from Bowens for Bowens strobes)for strobes. Hot lights are still the fav tools of some photographers Roversi likes them (uses strobes since he went digital), Peter Lindbergh uses HMI (can be substituted with Tungsten lights). Hot lights are often cheaper than their Strobe equivalents. Get a set of old Moles and you can get a good approximation of Karsh's lightning. The Karsh look is also a result of some heavy retouching. The best light is natural daylight (overcast) and some light modifiers after all a softbox is nothing but a desperate attempt to copy the light of an overcast day. I also agree with jp498 Mortensen's "Pictorial Lighting" is a great read and this guy really knew his stuff. I like Bowens Monolights and Elinchrom for their lower prices they both also have fresnel lens kits in their product range.
     
  11. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    The true masters of lighting were the studio photographers during the 30's and 40's. They produced the iconic photos of the stars during this time. There are samples of their technique scattered around the web. Search on the big name stars of this era for samples and photographers names. Photographers like Charles Hurrell and Clarence Sinclair Bull. There are some great books available too like "The Art of the Great Hollywood Phorographers."
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 15, 2013
  12. MDR

    MDR Member

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    I can recommend Hollywood Portraits by Roger Hicks and Christopher Nisperos (the discussed picture include a lighting diagram) another recommendation would be the reprint of Bernard of Hollywood Pin-Ups: Guide to Pin-Up Photography. I already mentioned William Mortensen's pictorial lighting but would add The command to look and The model (the later just of academic interest). Gerald is right the oldies from 1930 to 40's were the kings of artificial lighting
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    look for NYSOP ( new york school of photography ) coursebooks from the 20s-40s,
    they have EVERYTHING you will need to make photographs from the golden era.
     
  14. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I can also highly recommend Speedotron. I ue their brown-line series for 20 years now. it's very poerful but robust and reliable. once the set had a 2-year break, which can be fatal for electronic condensersbut started right up and worked as well as on the first day. I wish I could reduce the power further and set it in smaller increments, but ,other than that, just perfect and affordable!
     
  15. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Two good books on lighting:
    Neil Van Niekerk "Direction and Quality of Light: better portrait photography anywhere"
    Christopher Grey "Master Lighting Guide for portrait photographers"
    A very helpful video by Kirk Tuck at Craftsy is Studio Portrait Lighting
     
  16. Dan Quan

    Dan Quan Subscriber

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    This all-new DVD based on Dean Collin's original 3-Dimensional Contrast.

    If you are thinking B&W and want to experiment inexpensively but broadly and beautifully then get some shop lights of different shape and wattage, some with removable reflectors, along with some 24" wide Cinefoil / Blackwrap and a few yards of Tulle Fabric and some White Ripstop Nylon, make some V-Cards out of pre-cut Foam Core 28x40 sheets for easy folding, get some inexpensive stands as well as some manfrotto light stands with 3/8" screw top, a bag of Wooden Clothes Pins, some 2" Gaffer Tape and Spring Clamps, hand held mirrors and a few Heavy Duty Flex Arms and you will be able to do A LOT of really beautiful and fun stuff while learning to see the light you construct and have fun doing it.

    After you get a handle on what is happening and what the light is doing and why then you can apply that to all manner of expensive strobes and hot lights and modifiers, or simple window light, combinations of all three and others.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 17, 2013
  17. analoguey

    analoguey Member

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    I hope the Op's set up his new home-studio by now!
    This thread has some useful info on the books and lights :smile:

    Sent from Tap-a-talk
     
  18. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    get a good insurance this time.I'm talking Smith&Wessonhere! I hate bastards like that. my sister's was broken into twice and she doesn't feel safe in her own house anymore. that's the hardest part. some folks never recover from the experience. I hope you do. all the best.
     
  19. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    If you are doing studio work, you might check out the photographer Jack Mitchell. He recently passed away; but for 35 years he photographed many artists including dancers, and primarily in B&W. There is a DVD/video about him that's available thru his website.