Studio lighting tutorial
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,
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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
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 !
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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.
Originally Posted by Chris Lange
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.
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.
Keep in mind that Karsh did use hot lights.
"There are a great many things I am in doubt about at the moment, and I should consider myself favoured if you would kindly enlighten me. Signed, Doubtful, off to Canada." (BJP 1914).
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.