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.
Tota Light from calumet
"EVERY film and paper is good .......... for something"
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:
Site with lots of good single-light information
Last edited by felipemorgan; 01-08-2005 at 01:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Extra information
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.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
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.
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.
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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.
Originally Posted by Gene Johnson
"I am an anarchist." - HCB
"I wanna be anarchist." - JR
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.
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.