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  1. #31

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    I don't work with hot lights, but I've been working with strobes now for about three or four years. There is definitely a learning curve with them, but you can get great results with them. A flash meter is a definite must. I have a Sekonic 358 and have gotten great results with it. I actually get better more consistant exposures with it than using natural light and a standard light meter.

    If you are going to do interior work more than just occasionally, I recommend a couple of lights - I have two 500 watt strobes and a 180 watt and they seem to work very well for me. I normally use soft boxes for front/side lighting and not for back accent lighting.

    The nice thing about strobes is that you can use older lenses that don't have shutters. I use a Heliar and an Eidoscope quite often without a shutter. After getting the set up and pose as I want it, I turn off the modelling lights and darken the room somewhat, take off the lens cap, fire the shutter with a remote trigger, and put the lens cap back on. The flashes greatly over power any ambiant light in the room so having the lens cap off for a second or so doesn't make have any apparent impact to the image.

    Regarding the classic portrait lighting set up with a main light and a fill light, there are a lot of photographers out there that preach it's the best way to light portraits. However, I've been studying the work of George Hurrell lately and he rarely if ever lit his subjects that way. Keep an open mind and try new things.

    Hope this helps,

    Dan
    Dan's website: www.dandozer.com

  2. #32

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    Hi Ymc, I've gone through a similar evaluation over the last two years, starting with portraits of friends and family. I'm now actually getting a few paid sittings a month, so I'm pretty happy with how it is going. I've worked with both children and adults. (in my experience kids get used to the flash quickly). Here are the main things I think I've learned:

    Number of lights: for one person (and usually two), one light and a reflector or two is fine, maybe even best. For groups of three or more people you must have at least two lights.

    Type of lights:
    I started out with a color-adjusted continuous flourescent softbox, like: http://www.briteklighting.com/cool-f...nt-lights.html
    The good side is: they give beautiful light, they are not hot on the subject, you can see exactly what you are getting, and you can use your in-camera meter.
    The down side is: that they are not very bright (not powerful enough for ISO 64 film), they are a pain to set up, and your subject is always under the glare of a continuous light.

    I moved to using a Strobist-style setup with off-camera flash units. (Google "strobist" and you will learn lots about this approach).
    The good side is: very inexpensive, very portable, very versatile.
    The down side is: still not very powerful, you must use a flash meter, and it's hard to visualize the light because there is no modeling light.

    Now I use a monolight, or a combination of monolights and off-camera flash. (I also have a flash-only Strobist-style setup that I take when travelling.)
    The good side: plenty of light, very versatile. Monolights also have "modeling lights" (low-powered continuous lights) that help you visualize the lighting.
    The downside: More expensive, bulkier to store and transport than off-camera flash.

    Modifiers: You always need a modifier on your light. A big softbox or octobox gives the most flattering and versatile light. Umbrellas are cheaper and easier to deal with, but I don't like their light as much. Often I'll use a softbox as the key, an umbrella as the fill.

    Metering: With strobe lighting you MUST have a flash meter and learn to use it. After a while, though, you get the hang of it and can get your lights set intuitively. Now I often bring a small digital camera and use that as my flash meter and proofing tool, just as people used to use Polaroids in the past.

    Manufacturers: Since I've pieced my kit together over time, I've now got a mix of manufacturers, with some cheap components and some quality components. If I were starting over, I would probably get all my gear (mono lights, modifiers, triggers) from Alien Bees. They have good gear, good prices, and a good reputation.


    My recommendation for someone starting a home studio would be Alien Bee monolight, softbox, flash trigger, and reflectors. You need a basic flash meter as well (easy to find used). Play with that for a few months, then add a second light, like a slaved off-camera flash with umbrella, or another Bee.

    hope this helps,
    V.

  3. #33
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    Best "How-To" film for home portrait lighting . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by ymc226 View Post
    I'm interested in taking portraits of my children, nothing professional.

    Looking at the B&H website regarding Smith-Victor lighting kits (they seem reasonably priced), I am uncertain what types of kit I should consider.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search...824+4294205295

    There are tungsten, quartz, lights with umbrella reflectors . . . so many choices to boggle the mind.

    Just how many lights do I need and what type?
    Dear ymc,

    You can create some really great home portraits using even the simplest and cheapest of lighting equipment. The only question is: How to use them?

    You may think I'm joking, but the best method for establishing simple and good home portrait lighting I've ever seen is a technique that General Electric used to promote back in the late 1940s - early 1950s created by their Don Moeller, to help sell their flashbulbs and flood lamps. They called it, the "Triangular Lighting Formula" (or sometimes, "triangle lighting"), and it works great. Here's a quick peek at it:

    http://www.digitalstereoscopy.com/tydings/t121f2.JPG

    It is described in greater detail in a film currently viewable on youtube, called, "The Family Album - 1947":

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7REEie4J4Wc

    Certainly, the film is dated, hokey, and a bit long, but it hammers-in a basic lighting formula that's useful even today in the "digital age", with certain lights —either for amateurs or professionals. As you watch the film, you might want to copy down the some of the infomation therein, in case it disappears from the web ... this formula isn't so easy to find, so well described!).

    By the way, the film shows the real and original Triangular Lighting Formula, not all the similarly-named schemes that you'll find all over the web (which primarily deal with interview lighting for video), so-called "triangle" just because they use three lights.

    If you employ the method you see in the film, you're almost sure to get some good portraits.

    Best,

    Christopher
    Last edited by Christopher Nisperos; 10-28-2014 at 07:50 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #34
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Christopher is definitely someone worth paying attention to when he gives advice on studio lighting!
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  5. #35
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Before spending a single dollar on a lighting outfit, I'd recommend (if you have something available to you locally) taking a six week, eight week or even longer lighting class. The idea is to get a solid understanding of lighting patterns, styles, and equipment, and reinforce those lessons through guided practice. It's one thing to watch a video online and try to repeat it, another thing entirely to spend three hours a night for eight weeks with someone walking you through it. Your instructor will have all kinds of lighting gear to try out, so you can get a feel for what works for you.

  6. #36
    frank's Avatar
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    To begin with, start with one light, a mono bloc flash with modeling light, on a stand, shooting into or through an umbrella. Place the light close to the camera on one side, and slightly above the camera. Buy a flash meter to get the proper exposure. Done. Evolve from here.

    The umbrella diffuses the light by making the light source bigger.

    I would strongly advise NOT buying multiple lights to start out with.

    Use a bare wall as a background to begin, then eventually get a background canvas and stands.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails image.jpg  
    My blog / photo website: http://frankfoto.jimdo.com/

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by ymc226 View Post
    Thank You Lee,

    I think the LED idea is very interesting and affordable given the "newish" technology. It is definitely a consideration.
    No.... no. Not for color anyway. The color rendering of LEDs is still just "wrong" until you get into very pricey units. They just suck the life out of skin.

    I'd second the "start with one light". Either a monolight (strobe) or a hot light that can use an umbrella, and get a cheap umbrella. Get two stands, one with a boom arm. Hang diffusion fabric over it (just get a white curtain that's sort of "mesh" ish... and hit the fabric store and get 2 yards of white "rip stop" nylon. Experiment with a white-mesh fabric vs. the thicker ripstop). Clip foamcore to the other stand (cheap reflector - pro studio have piles of foamcore) and learn how much you can do with one light and a reflector.

    There are two kinds of umbrellas - the translucent kind you shoot the light "through" which diffuses it, and the reflective kind that the light bounced off of. They're cheap, get both. The bigger the umbrella, the softer you'll be able to get the look.

    Consider a sandbag or two if your stands are lightweight - it's easy to tip a stand over when you have a big umbrella or diffusion on it.

    There are about three zillion lighting tutorials on the web. Look through them and see what strikes you.

    Work with a manual-capable digital camera first - instant understanding of what's going on without waiting for film and trying to suss out and recall what you did. (I know this is APUG, but digitals are great teaching tools).

    Try to get ONE lens of portrait length with a fast aperture... something from 60-100mm at 2.8 or 1.8 - you will never be able to understand depth of field if you can't play with the full range of DOF.

    If you go with a monolight strobe - try to get one with the Bowens mount (the method that reflectors and accessories attach). Bowens-capable cheap gear - chinese softboxes, reflectors, grids, etc - seem to be about 10 to 1 on eBay.

    Many people have dialed in their basic knowledge with a wig-head, the kind that's painted skin tone (not white styrofoam). Really, it is a great way to learn how light works on a face without someone suffering through your efforts for hours!

    And... shoot shoot shoot!

  8. #38
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    one light vs multiple lights for beginning, basic home portrait lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by frank View Post
    To begin with, start with one light, a mono bloc flash with modeling light, on a stand, shooting into or through an umbrella. Place the light close to the camera on one side, and slightly above the camera. Buy a flash meter to get the proper exposure. Done. Evolve from here.

    The umbrella diffuses the light by making the light source bigger.

    I would strongly advise NOT buying multiple lights to start out with.

    Use a bare wall as a background to begin, then eventually get a background canvas and stands.
    Hi Everybody,

    If a beginner is going to be using flash for home portraiture, I'd probably agree that a one light (into an umbrella)* approach would be the easiest and quickest way to get satisfactory results. However —being as the original question mentioned Smith Victor and bulb-type lighting— I'd still say that a beginner would be better off with at least a fill light (at the camera) and a main light. Plus —with the "triangular lighting formula" I mentioned—, a beginner doesn't need an expensive flash meter: the meter in the camera will work fine. As well, I'm gonna assume that anyone who comes here to ask such a question is out to obtain a better than average (ie; not, "flat" on-camera flash look) portraits where the flash is near the lens.

    As an experienced portrait shooter already knows, the main light is usually placed a little off to one side (or directly in front) and higher than the subject's head to provide relief or 'modeling' of the subject's facial or body features. By using only one light and placing it "close to the camera", a portrait would be kinda flat unless the light source was positioned relatively high in relation to the subject's face.

    *Even in the case of a simple, "one-monobloc-into-umbrella" set-up, it's usually wise to at least use a reflector on the opposite side of the face to provide some fill ... but even with a reflector, a subject can look as though they have a black eye on the shadow side of the face Therefore, here's a tip: I've found a way to eliminate this problem that is also the simplest way to create really, pretty good-looking home portraiture —if using flash— is this same umbrella set-up plus a weak, hand-held flash unit held directly over and very close to the lens. Its resulting shadow won't be seen on the background and the "geometry" (meeting of angles) of its light combined with that of the main light create excellent highlight brilliance on the convex contours of the subject's face (translation: a kind of 'roundness'). You get a nice feeling of relief on the subject, a bit different than a ring-light look because the light is the exact lens axis, but only coming from the top-side.

    The bottom line is —as much as I agree that it's important to keep things simple, especially for non-professionals or beginners— it's a good idea to surely learn the effect of one light-at-a-time . . . but use at least two (or with flash, at least a reflector .. but to kill the "black eye", a fill from camera position is better). If not ... why the heck would anyone bother with a home portrait set-up at all? Why not just stick to on-camera flash with a bounce or dome or something?

    Anyway —I'm curious . . . Has the original poster tried any of these tips (from any of us) yet? Sure would like to see some results!
    Last edited by Christopher Nisperos; 11-02-2014 at 08:56 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  9. #39
    frank's Avatar
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    I'd like to see some of your portraits too, Christopher.

    There is a pure simplicity of a large one light portrait.
    I've never experienced the dreaded black eye, even without a reflector, which you mention.
    Last edited by frank; 11-02-2014 at 09:04 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    My blog / photo website: http://frankfoto.jimdo.com/

  10. #40
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frank View Post
    I'd like to see some of your portraits too, Christopher.
    You should see his book: http://www.amazon.ca/Hollywood-Portr.../dp/0817440208
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

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