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Archive 2013 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro
  
 
crazyglue007
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Hi,

I was hoping the lighting sages here could help me with upgrading my lighting equipment. I have been shooting semi-pro for the last year. Most of my jobs are editorial (travel), interiors, e-commerce and occasionally weddings.

Some Facts:
I shoot mostly on location using natural light but for e-comm work, I use studio lighting.
I want to learn more about strobe to aid in natural light work too.
I am 5'5" and female, light weight means a lot to me

The things I have to light are:
- Hotel Rooms (I have seen people use strobe + light banks to great results)
- Full body shots of a person (model moving at .5 - 1 second per shot)
- Table top products

Camera equipment wise, I use Canon 5D Mk ii with a small collection of L lenses.

My current lighting equipment are:

Canon 430ex II
- Small folding softbox
- 43" umbrella
- light stand

Flashpoint strobe 320M (150 watt),
- a 24x32x17" photoflex medium softbox (huge pain to assemble)
- light stand

Triggered by a set of Calumet quad plus wireless triggers (I put it on the flash so it also triggers the studio strobe)

How should I upgrade this system with portability in mind? Ultimately I would like to have 3 lights for maximum flexibility. I also would like to achieve a setup with an overhead light plus two on either side for jobs that calls for super even lighting.

Should i invest in another studio strobes or another speedlite?

Speedlite
Pro: light weight, portable, easy to mount on boom, ETTL (tho I don't know how to use it)
Con: Not as bright as strobe, need separate wireless trigger, no modeling lamp (can't focus in the dark!!), carrying a bucket of batteries kind of sucks.

Strobe (Alien bee or Einstein)
Pro: more power, modeling lamp, freeze action
Con: bulkier, need power source (I am ok with this).

Also, should I invest in a bunch of pocket wizards (control lighting from one position) or should I keep buying those calumet wireless triggers? Or maybe something else??

Any advice would be appreciated

Edited on Feb 23, 2013 at 06:11 AM · View previous versions



Feb 22, 2013 at 03:40 AM
Wobble
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


I was in the same dilemma: buy pocket wizards and another flash or invest in the 600-EX-RT setup with the ST-E3-RT for essentially the same money. Santa was nice!!!

Take a look at Syl Arena's 600-EX-RT Overview:
Overview



Feb 22, 2013 at 05:20 AM
crazyglue007
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Hi Wobble,

Thanks for recommending the 600-EX-RT. It sounds super promising until I read that it doesn't seem to be as awesome with a 5D ii. Also as tempting as it is to have an all flash gun setup, I do wonder if it is really enough power? I do have to light up an entire room sometimes (for interiors) but maybe having three of them will be enough...

Also, how do people deal with not being able to focus in the dark without AF assist (since flash is off camera). I have read that some people use a flash light but I just can't imagine holding up my camera AND holding a flash light at the same time... Do they tape the flash light to the camera body?



Feb 22, 2013 at 04:14 PM
sleibrand
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


crazyglue007 wrote:
Also, how do people deal with not being able to focus in the dark without AF assist (since flash is off camera). I have read that some people use a flash light but I just can't imagine holding up my camera AND holding a flash light at the same time... Do they tape the flash light to the camera body?


Putting the camera on a tripod frees up a hand for the flash light.

Another advantage of strobes over flashes is that you can use the modeling lights to get enough light to AF. You do have to be careful about continuous use of the model light though as it generates a lot of heat.



Feb 22, 2013 at 04:41 PM
hugowolf
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


If you are not using ETTL, then there lots of manually set flashes out there that cost a fraction of Canon speedlights.

Canon's ST-E2 is useful for its IR focus assist, and you can often pick them up cheaply used. This would only work if your trigger has a hot shoe on top or if you are using he ST-E2 to trigger.

In the long run, I think you would be better off with studio flashes, of which it is hard to beat Alien Bees for weight. (Get a bag with wheels whatever.) Your locations all sound indoors, but if you do outdoor locations, you could add Buff's Mini Lith battery.



Feb 22, 2013 at 06:09 PM
crazyglue007
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Thanks Sleibrand and Hugowolf!!

The ST-E2 sounds like a good solution but at $224, it seems a lot to pay just for AF assist (no radio control). I do think you are right about the alien bees. I plan to pursue more e-comm work (bread and butter!) which means I will need to invest in some good studio strobes. Flashes are nice but not for 8 hr shoots. The last thing I need is the color temperature to shift as the batteries starts to drain. The alien bees are compact and well priced. I could maybe find a bag for them that could stack on top of my tenba roadie II.

For my travel work (clients are mostly in central america), I will stick with using flashes (try getting through customs with a bag full of studio lights is a huge pain). I do get extremely tired in the heat so it would be beneficial for me to not have to run back and forth changing light output manually. Ideally if I could get three 600EX-RT, life would be swell. But that's not happening right now... maybe I can look into getting some used pocket wizards (I can also use them with the Alien Bees) and used speedlites?





Feb 22, 2013 at 07:05 PM
jefferies1
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


One way to get a unique look is to attach a LED bank ( $50.00 range on amazon) used for video to your camera via a additional mount. Hot shoe would have radio control for external flash using it. If you use a slow shutter you get the continous light look and strobe mixed. I like the look for some applications.

You can buy manual flash units. Around $70.00. Add a low cost battery pack for quick recharge and they will fire fast for hundreds of shots. Lots of batteries to re-charge. 8 in the pack and 4 in the flash. Add a good SB or modifier and that $70.00 flash works as well as a $500.00 name brand for most applications. Exception is in the dark where the IR is helpful. I carry 2 name brand with me for those events. 4 of the cheap off brands.

For mono lights, Paul Bluff offers low cost battery packs for strobes and remotes that change output for his line of products. Might be what you need for travel using higher power strobes at a reasonable cost.

For me I prefer studio mono lights but I don't do out of town work. Maybe do some on location shoots in my local area. No batteries to deal with. All the power I ever require. Easy to use very large modifiers which fit my needs. Also last a lot longer than on camera flash units. The flash tube burns out with heavy use. Canon 580ex is around $130.00 to fix using an outside repair shop and closer to $200.00 from Canon.



Feb 22, 2013 at 07:28 PM
sleibrand
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


If color temp is a concern for you, the Einstein's are worht a look. The AB's (and many low cost strobes) change color temp over the power range. It's not a problem with one light or multiples all set at the same power level - you'd just shoot a grey card.

If you use multiple strobes at different power levels, then you'd have 2 different color temps in the shot. Einstein has a mode for constant color.

A second recommendation for the VML. Very handy when shooting with no power or if you don't want extension cords (trip hazard).



Feb 22, 2013 at 07:30 PM
crazyglue007
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


The more I think about it, the more I realize I should stick to independent branded radio triggers like pocket wizards. It will allow me to work with other people's lights if needed. It can trigger flashes and studio strobes. My goal is to eventually shoot higher end commercial work one day. That means non canon work and probably in medium format digital bodies like phase one. The pocket wizards will be a better return on investment.

This also means I should really consider cheaper non-canon flashes for travel!



Feb 22, 2013 at 07:39 PM
crazyglue007
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Thanks again for all the great advice!! Jefferies1, you make a great point on the offbrand flashes. I will look into them. Can the pocket wizard change their power output from the transmitter or does it mean I do have to run over and change them manually? Having a video light installed is also a great idea. I actually bought one for a night time outdoor wedding reception once but I didn't use it because I was worried it was too bright and blinding. It also gave away my position which made people look less natural. Tho it's probably not a problem for products or for the posed shots.

Sleibrand, the VML looks AWESOME. I hate wires and I am constantly in fear of people tripping over my lights (even with the wires taped down). I shoot in New York and a lot of my clients have small studios so the less clutter, the better. Einstein's look great but they are more pricey... Maybe I get a couple used AB's for now, get more work, then upgrade to Einstein's once I have more money. I think AB's hold their resale value pretty ok? If I am going to buy used strobes, should I worry about anything?





Feb 22, 2013 at 08:04 PM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



cgardner
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


For many years I've used a simple but versatile speedlight solution: One flash on a bracket as a foundation of centered fill (no unfilled voids) with a single slave off camera. I did it that way first with manual Vivitars and since 2004 with a pair of Canon 580ex.

It might not fit all your needs but will address many of them with a solution you can carry in a shoulder bag with the bracket clipped to the top and stand in the loops on the bottom and allow you to leverage the 430exII you already own.

Here's a link explaining how and why I use it: http://photo.nova.org/CanonPracticalUsage/

I also have a set of four AB800s and larger modifiers I bought just before the Canon flashes but not shooting for hire I rarely drag them out of the basement studio; that would be too much like work.



Feb 22, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Michael White
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Before you buy anything do yourself a favor and read the following books The Speedliters Handbook, plus his new book, the three books by Joe McNally, and subscribe to KelbyTraining.com and sit thru the lighting courses there. That will teach you what you need for both equipment and experience.


Feb 22, 2013 at 11:41 PM
Gregg Heckler
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


You should look at the Elinchrom Quadra with a couple of A heads. Very light weight, super fast and powerful, and great light modifiers. Add Elinchrom Universal Skyports to trigger your speedlights for more versatlity.

Or add more speedlights and consider the Pocketwizard TT1 and TT5 system. While I shoot Nikon I have a mixture of both Speedlights and Quadra and it's a great mobile system.



Feb 23, 2013 at 12:52 AM
crazyglue007
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Hi Michael,

That's good advice. I will get the speedliters handbook. I do watch videos by Joe McNally and I have seen Kelby's training videos. I find them educational and much better than other "strobist" tutorials. I have to confess that in the beginning I was really turned off by most strobist videos since they tend to be of the "super dramatic dusk shots of half naked women standing in sunflower fields" variety. As if getting behind a camera = getting laid. Most lessons seem to be more about fulfilling adolescent male fantasies than about learning the beauty of light. (forgive me if this sounds cray, cray but it's definitely from a female photog's point of view and no, I don't shoot babies at f/1.2 :P

However with that said, I do need to get my game on with lighting. If I can't manipulate light well, I will always be limited in my work.



Feb 23, 2013 at 01:00 AM
crazyglue007
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Hi Gregg,

The Elinchrom Quadra looks like a DREAM! So small and so portable. I can really grow with these lights. Gonna look at them more closely (I can still plug them into DC right?). The price is a bit high but I am willing to pay for the muscles I don't have.



Feb 23, 2013 at 01:13 AM
crazyglue007
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


ok, I am seriously in love with the ranger after watching this video. now I just gotta sell a couple of kidneys

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7vgJaMqjOk



Feb 23, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Gregg Heckler
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Elinchrom just updated the Quadra with a Lithium battery so the prices went up. You also want to pop another $100 for the head adapter so you can use the larger Elinchrom modifiers as well.

The main advantage of lithium is less weight and more pops so its perfect working by yourself with no assistant or maybe no AC power available. Elinchrom and Profoto are wonderful systems to grow with.

As to your question about "I can still plug them into DC" I think you meant AC. The Quadra "is" a portable DC system so you don't need AC but you would recharge it using the AC adapter. This is the reason I suggested it as in your original post you wanted something portable. If you want an AC powered strobe you can always add one the like the Elinchrom BXRI 500 and trigger it with the same Skyport trigger as you do the Quadra.

But based on what you shoot I would start with a single A Head Kit like this one:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/907140-REG/elinchrom_el_10408_1_ranger_quadra_hybrid_lead_standard.html

And this: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/632667-REG/Elinchrom_EL_26339_Ranger_Quadra_Reflector_Adaptor.html

And this: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/611247-REG/Elinchrom_EL_Skyport_Universal_Radio_Slave.html

I can help you with modifiers also. I shoot a lot of events, product shots, and interiors.



Feb 24, 2013 at 12:46 AM
crazyglue007
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Hi Gregg,

Thank you SO much for your wonderful advice. After doing more research on the quadra system, I found a lightly used set for sale right here in the FM forum. It's a set of A heads with an umbrella and the octobox for $1700. I bought it today and I should get it next week. It uses the older gel battery. I know it's heavier than lithium but since I work in really heated environments, I am willing to trade the weight issue for battery stability.

I debated between growing a collection of speedlites vs. alien bees vs. elinchrom quadra. In the end, I think it's more important for me to invest in a system I truly believe in rather than settle for something I will always want to upgrade later. This is different for everyone. For me the quadra is more expensive now (tho I think I got a pretty good deal) but it will keep me happy for a long time. For example, I never regretted buying any of my L lenses because I have absolute confidence in them. If I take a shitty picture, it's definitely not because I have subpar equipment

So again, thanks for putting the quadra in my life!



Feb 24, 2013 at 03:22 AM
Gregg Heckler
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Congratulations. Depending how how old the unit is you may be able to upgrade to the new Lithium battery at any time you want. If it's too old it can be modified. But you probably won't need to unless you want to save a little more weight. Have fun with it you will love Elinchrom light quality.


Feb 24, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Allynb
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Lighting equipment upgrade question for semi-pro


Look on FM or Ebay for an STE-2 and 580 EX II flashes. I picked up 2 STE-2's for less then $125each.
Another thought. Buy the 580 EXII flashes and get the Yongnuo 622 triggers, they transmit Ettl II to the on-camera flash and then it transmits changes to the slaves. Controlled by the Flash menu in the 5D II. Now, you have the 600EX-RT setup at the price of a 580 Ex II. Works the same way. I use this setup myself.
Allan



Mar 14, 2013 at 12:05 AM





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