Lighting for home studio portraits
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.
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?
I bought a Dlite-4 kit by Elinchrom a while ago, with a similar attitude. They GREATLY outpower my skills in both quality AND number (2)..
How about one of your windows at home?
Seriously, that is what soft boxes are designed to mimic and the effect is easy to see before you shoot.
Studio lighting is fun, and I don't want to discourage your experimentation, but there is a significant learning curve and a lot of ways to do it as evidenced by the tools (lights and meters) available.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
I have tried using windows but usually I work all day and get home after dark. I am willing to experiment with whatever lighting system I eventually get.
How about this system: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ait_Three.html
Originally Posted by markbarendt
If they are only for home portraits have you considered using off camera flashes?
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I'm not a pro but I've done this a few times.
A basic studio lighting involves two lights. A key light and a fill light. A key light sits (usually) in front of the subject and gives broad lighting. A fill light sits to the side at 45 degrees or so and lights one side of subject's face to give more directional dimension. Often, key light is a box and fill light is an umbrella. (but doesn't have to be)
From there, you could add hair light or back light to separate the subject from background.
When you start doing this kind of stuff, you can no longer use camera's metering to set the exposure. You'll need a light meter as well so that you can expose correctly and set the ratio of key to fill correctly. (and know how to use it) Then, you need either a long cord or a remote to trigger the light if the kit is a flash, not a continuous light.
It would be a lot simpler if you just use a flash (regular flash) and bounce the light on walls or a ceiling. You could even buy a cord so that you can place your flash away from your camera. I'm not sure studio lighting equipment is a way to go for you.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
I second the off-camera flash option. You can upgrade that by getting umbrellas and softboxes which let you put a speedlite in them. Then you just use either PC cords or cheap flash triggers. Powerful studio lights you don't really need unless you need to work from range, larger groups, etc. and they aren't very portable, need power either from the wall or a big battery.
I like having two lights. One always seems rather harsh unless you bounce it off the ceiling but that limits your options to bounced diffuse light or deer in the headlights direct light. With the second light you can put a softbox from the other direction to soften the shadows which I find is quite pleasing.
You can add a third light later if you like and 3 is generally the most you'll ever need.
Ymc, I recently went through a similar process. APUG was very helpful and you'll find tons of threads that touch on this. A lot of the discussion around this stuff ends up weighing the benefits of continuous light vs. strobe, monolights vs powerpacks, how much power do you need, what formats do you shoot and how much area are you lighting. Based on my limited experience and assuming that you're going to shoot medium format single-person or very small group portraits, I'd say the most flexible kit you could get is a three light strobe set (one 800w/s, two 400 w/s). It's plenty of power for a small space, assuming you're not shooting large-format. Three lights is very flexible (two will suffice if funding requires). Monolights have less of a learning curve than powerpacks in terms of adjusting settings. You'll need a good flash meter. Accessories are another discussion.
Unfortunately, this stuff costs significantly more than continuous lighting. If you are patient you can find used gear at a reasonable price, but it will not likely be in the range you're looking at. I'm not saying you can't achieve everything you want and more with continuous lighting; I just know I was steered away from it in my research. Others may have more helpful information for you in that regard.
All the best,
"There is a time and place for all things, the difficulty is to use them only in their proper time and places." -- Robert Henri
Thanks for all of your suggestions. I will need to get and study books on studio lighting and investigate further. The flash option is more intimidating as I can't pre-visualize how the flash is going to affect the picture.
One question: if the studio lights are on the subject, why can't you no longer use camera's metering to set the exposure? Isn't the in camera meter measuring light reflected off the subject still?
With flashes they only fire for a moment. Your camera's meter only meters continuously, not for a momentary flash. Flash meters meter flashes.
With continuous lighting you can use your camera's meter but continuous lights usually consist of one or more 40-100w light bulbs which are completely useless and are a waste of money. You might as well set up a few of your lamps, assuming they're of the right temperature for your film.
Some strobes have "beauty lights/modelling lights" which are always on so you can see where shadows fall but they still won't give you the actual flash power. You need a flash meter for the actual power.
Cheaper than flash meters, some automatic flashes have sensors on them so you can dial the desired power and the returned flash will be used to turn off the flash so it doesn't blow out your subject. You can test flash these flashes to make sure they are getting a return, otherwise they will fire at full power.
Even with flash meters it can be hard to tell what you're going to get. A Polaroid back is good for advanced users on jobs so they can check for sure that the lighting setup is going to work. For your kids in the basement if the shot doesn't turn out you can just do it over again.