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Archive 2012 · Beginner Lighting Kit question
  
 
1szfitsAL
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


I want to try my hand to get better at portrait photography. Currently I don't have any lighting gear at all.

I would like to get a continuous lighting setup. I took a look at B&H and like amazon and other cheapos. i would like to have a 3 light setup..1 key, 1 fill and 1 background and maybe use a reflector here and there to replace a light when needed.

Any suggestion for affordable gear? I shoot with a D90

Any differences (negatives/positives) for the below items. I am looking for why one is better than the other. Needless to say I am a super noob to this (I do know the difference between soft boxes and umbrellas though)

just need some decent light sources for the $. Thanks in advance

ex.
Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003WLY24O/ref=s9_simh_gw_p421_d0_g421_i2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=00BBGW8738CR0CG3P9D9&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846

B&H
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/414532-REG/Impact_FL_500_KII_One_Light_Umbrella_Kit.html



Jan 10, 2012 at 07:09 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


See: http://photo.nova.org/Window/ I apprenticed with and learned lighting from Monte Zucker who at the time shot all his formal portraits with nothing more than the indirect light from a north-facing window and a reflector. That experience taught me it wasn't necessary to have a lot of gear to get good lighting.

If as my tutorial suggests you can in a short time master the basics of shooting flattering full-face, oblique and profile views of face via window light and the skills you learn about posing the face to the light to reveal it's 3D shape naturally in the 2D photo then moving around the face with the camera to find the most balanced and flattering facials will transfer easily to any artificial lighting tools you need. More importantly you'll have a good baseline for comparing the results you get with artificial sources.

Continuous lights might seem like a good idea because they are cheap but you will find yourself working around their limitations such as low intensity and long exposure times. Also cheap short term solutions are quickly outgrown and in the long run it's better to by quality gear you will not outgrow even if it means you can't get everything immediately.

For example if you take my advice and use the window to learn the basics you'd be able to get by just fine with a single $225 Alien Bee AB400 studio light equipped with a softbox to duplicate the window lighting. From that start you can build on that foundation by adding additional light.

But unless you plan to specialize in portraits you are more likely to get more bang for your buck with a pair of speedlights than studio lights.



Jan 10, 2012 at 07:56 PM
1szfitsAL
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


Thanks appreciate the info.

I will try it out post back.

could you also tell me the difference between those 2 kits I posted. Just so I understand? Besides the obvious cheap vs more quality. What aspects of those 2 kits make them bad/good



Jan 10, 2012 at 08:49 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


I'd be very wary of a kit that offers two stands, two umbrellas, and two lamp heads for less than $60.00. That seems too good to be true.

The problem with both of those kits is that there is only one bulb in each unit. That means that there is no way to adjust the light output; so the only way to vary the amount of light on the subject is to move the lights closer or further from the subject, and that can have a negative impact on the quality of the light. Moving a light further away makes it relatively smaller compared to the subject, which results in a harder light; moving it closer makes it relatively larger, creating a softer light.

"Hard" and "soft" don't refer to brightness or to contrast (although you may see a few people mistakenly use the terms that way), but to the way the border between highlight and shadow appears.

A better way to adjust the power of continuous fluorescent light heads to to have more than one bulb in each head, and to change the number of bulbs lit. That will, of course, raise the cost of the heads, but you get what you pay for.

Even with multiple bulbs in each head, the light output of continuous lights is much less than the power of strobes, because the strobes store the energy going in and release it all at once in a very short burst. Most portrait photographers use strobes for that reason; more light can mean being able to use smaller apertures and faster shutter speeds.

Strobes adjust their output in various ways, but they almost always have four or more "stops" of adjustability without having to change the light-to-subject distance.

If you do want to get some continous lights, though, there are units available that can be used for portraiture. Monte Zucker, whom Chuck mentioned above, did so later in his life, and other well-known and not-so-well-know photographers have done the same.

The Wescott Spiderlite series are a high-end model line; solidly built by an established company, and priced to match:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/510181-REG/Westcott_4853A_Monte_Zucker_Deluxe_4.html

A relative bargain can be had in the Impact Octacool line:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/761605-REG/Impact_IMOC9SB2J_Octacool_9_Fluorescent_2_Light.html

I definitely agree with Chuck, though, that you should learn the hows and whys of lighting before you start buying gear; you'll save a lot of time and money by not buying things that won't do what you want them to do.

I also agree that if you don't already have at least one Speedlight, that should be your first purchase; they're small, reliable, and flexible, and a nearly indispensable part of most photographers' kits.

Edited on Jan 10, 2012 at 09:57 PM · View previous versions



Jan 10, 2012 at 09:21 PM
1szfitsAL
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


Thanks Brian much appreciated!

I am going to try the window trick and would you have any suggestions to speedlights. I use a Nikon as posted above. While researching it appears I would want a TTL one for adjustability of power?

really i like to shoot my child in our home during all periods of the day. I indirectly used the window trick often but never thought to use a deflector to offset the shadows created by the light and also went wrong on using a direct sunlight window.



Jan 10, 2012 at 09:37 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


1szfitsAL wrote:
...would you have any suggestions to speedlights. I use a Nikon as posted above. While researching it appears I would want a TTL one for adjustability of power?


You can adjust power manually with almost all Speedlights and other flash guns (Speedlight is a Nikon trademark, but widely used by many for any flash gun), but iTTL has many advantages for quick shooting on the run, like getting those fleeting moments of family life. Although a bit expensive, a Nikon SB-800 would be my first choice if I were using Nikon.

I'm a Canon user, though, so if you go to the Nikon sub-forum here at FM you'll be able to get lots of suggestions for flash that is Nikon compatible at a variety of price points.

1szfitsAL wrote:
...i like to shoot my child in our home during all periods of the day. I indirectly used the window trick often but never thought to use a deflector to offset the shadows created by the light and also went wrong on using a direct sunlight window.


There's a certain "magic" to north light, but for the photojournalist one can't always pick his light so you have to work with what you've got. A Speedlight can really help there, because it can be used on camera as a key light to overpower the sun, bounced off walls and/or ceiling indoors to create a soft fill, and many other uses.

There's a book that I consider to be one of the best instructional guides out there today, and that is On-camera Flash by Neil van Niekerk. Although directed at wedding photography, most of it applies equally to anyone using flash to improve their lighting. I'd suggest this book as your first purchase, before buying a Speedlight even.

http://www.amazon.com/Camera-Techniques-Digital-Portrait-Photography/dp/1584282584



Jan 10, 2012 at 09:51 PM
 

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BrianO
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


BTW, Chuck wrote above about using a single strobe in the beginning to learn about strobe lighting, and that's a very sensible approach. One can always add more equipment as time goes on, but starting with one can help to build a firm foundation.

Profoto has a short video out that's a promo piece for their (very nice but very expensive) strobe line, but it can serve as an inspiration for anyone, in my opinion. Here's a link:

http://www.profoto.com/us/1-light-portraiture-tony-corbell-profoto-d1



Jan 10, 2012 at 10:24 PM
jefferies1
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


Both kits are way under power. 500 watts is nothing. Don't mix this up with flash using Watt seconds. Not the same thing. If going to invest in continous look for at least 1500 watts to 2000 watts of light output per unit. That is enough to actually shoot a portrait using high ISO and slow shuttter.
A unit like I described would be around $800.00. No savings and more cost than entra level flash.



Jan 10, 2012 at 10:51 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


jefferies1 wrote:
Both kits are way under power. 500 watts is nothing. ...If going to invest in continous look for at least 1500 watts to 2000 watts of light output per unit.


Light output isn't measured in watts, electrical input is. For a home studio, three or four lights of 2000 watts each could put a strain on the room's electrical system.

If one is using tungsten or halogen hot lights then 1500 to 2000 watts input might be required, but fluorescent lights put out more lumens per watt than hot lights, and so less wattage is required. For example, a 9-bulb X 28 watt CFL head uses about 250 watts, but puts out more light than a 500 watt photoflood bulb, and about as much as 1000 watts of long-life household bulbs.

I do agree, of course, that the two units in the OP's first post are not up to the task of portrait photography; closeup/macro shots, maybe, but not main or fill lights for people.



Jan 11, 2012 at 04:02 AM
1szfitsAL
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


jefferies/BrianO can't thank you enough for the time you put in your posts. All of this insight is truely appreciated. Well i will start with the indirect sunlight and go from there.

Gardner
in your first post the window example shows the camera and the reflector on the same angle which would mean I would have no choice but have my reflector in the background of the subject. now a big reflector like a white sheet or wall would work well but what about one of those reflector sheets people use that would be rather less than desired background image? Whereas i think I am going to get a white sheet and wrap it around a few 2x4's that will be big enough to fill a background but I was just curious




Jan 11, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Imagine l
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Beginner Lighting Kit question


I have not read the other posts, however, especially with Digital, where you can see the results immediately, I would go with strobes. The reason, you don't need to worry about movement, lamps blinding the subject, you can dial down the output etc. I was thinking the same way you were at first. I talked to Dodd Camera in Cleveland, our local pro store and they suggested strobes. I initially went with some lower cost chinese imports... waste of money, troble with parts, cheakly made etc. I am a memeber of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) and listened to a video by Scott Kelby, which was fantastic and I then bought some Elinchron strobes I believe they were BXRi 500 WS and took my first shots using a large Elinchron Softbox and and beauty dish and also a Canon strobe just off camera for fill. I did these for my cousin in laws graduation and she said they turned out better than the professional she went to. The nice thing about the Elinchron lights is that you can control the power right from your camera using their device. I ma NOT affiliated with Elinchron wharsoever, but I really like their products. The other thing you might want to consider is shooting tethered. You can do this in Lightroom 3 or the new 4 Beta, which you can download free right now. You have a wire from your camera to your computer running Lightroom and you can see the picture on the monitor the minute you shoot it, so you can make adlustments to the output or where to place the lights etc. for thr best looking shot. There are also some good books and videos out there as well to view. Best of luck,

Ken



Jan 11, 2012 at 03:34 PM





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