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Archive 2013 · Portable Speedlite Setup Suggestions

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Portable Speedlite Setup Suggestions

Looking for advise on a portable Canon Speedlite studio setup. Current equipment list:

- x2 600ex-rt
- Canon st-e3-rt
- 24-70MKII
- 70-200L MKII
- 50L

I am going to add one more 600ex-rt speedlite to the above setup. Have done some continuous lightning setup in a studio environment with multiple 1000/600w studio lights, diffuser and form boards. So, been taught about Rembrandt, short, broad, mid, low and high key lighting. But, I have no experience with beauty dish, soft boxes or umbrellas.

Did some googeling around, here is what I may add to my current setup:

- Westscott rapid box 26" with beauty dish attachment
- X3 Manfrotto 001B light stands with umbrella adapters
- X1 Westcott 2011 43-Inch Optical White Satin Collapsible with Removable Black Cover

Don't think the my listing is going to cost much, somewhere between 300 to 400 max.What do you think? According to strobist 101, the best starting point is just plain old shoot thru white umbrella with light stands. But white shoot thru does not contain light spillage, am I right? Just want portability, quality of light, able to manipulate the direction and of course the quantity. Lastly, what do feel about the craftsmanship of Westscott stuff? Do they last? Do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks muchly.

Edited on Jun 26, 2013 at 01:57 PM · View previous versions

Jun 26, 2013 at 07:01 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Portable Speedlite Setup Suggestions

What you are thinking about buying are good choices for a speedlight based solution. Umbellas create more spill, and indoors that contributes to the overall "spill fill" factor in a small reflective room. That cause and effect can be a good thing if trying to shoot a low ratio shot (light shadows) on a light background but can create problems controlling the shadows and mood for a higher-ratio darker shadow lighting strategy; smaller softboxes as key lights with centered fill are a better choice for those.

That's why in portraiture you'll find yourself wanting to use a wide variety of modifier types and sizes. If going from H&S to full length to keep the pattern and character of the lighting on a face the same you'd need to move the stands further back (to get them out of the shot) and then increase the size of the modifier (to keep the apparent size and character of the light the same) and raise the key light higher to keep the angle of key light relative to the face the same as it moves further away. As the modifiers get further away and larger you run into the power limitation of speedlights, especially outdoors where the basic requirement is exposing the sunlit parts under clipping then matching the power of the sun with the flash. With speedlights that's like taking a knife to a gunfight.

I've long been a user and proponent of speedlight solutions but went down the same path you are heading -- trying to make them into studio lighting for portraits -- and concluded I was better off with two sets of tools each tailored to different tasks: speedlights on bracket / stand for "run and gun" PJ shooting and casual portraits and a set of four studio lights for the more serious static portraiture.

The advantage of the studio lights are modeling lights for placement, power and instantaneous recycling, and the fact studio modifiers are designed to be used with bare bulb sources and mount more easily on monolights. Depending on what monolights are selected they are also cheaper. I bought four AB800s which are still only $280 ea. Beyond type of flash head you put on the stands the logistics of hauling and setting up is the same so if your goal is doing serious portrature it's an approach I would suggest at least you pause and consider before throwing all your money at 100% speedlight based lighting for studio style portraits. Many do it based on advice from Strobist, but even Mr. Hobby eventually realized there and better tools and apparently now shoots with battery/inverted powered monolights in many situations.

You can find examples of the range of things I've shot with Canon speedlights and tutorials on how I do it on my web site: http://photo.nova.org

Jun 26, 2013 at 12:36 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Portable Speedlite Setup Suggestions

shutter_bug wrote:
...what do feel about the craftsmanship of Westscott stuff? Do they last?

I don't have any experience with the Rapid Box, but I've used other Westcott products for decades, and I like what I've used a lot.

Many people aren't aware that F. J. Westcott has been since 1899 a maker of umbrellas. Not photo umbrellas, but the kind used when it's raining. Someone at the company came up with the idea of using one as a photo accessory, and the rest is history.

shutter_bug wrote:
...X3 Manfrotto 001B light stands with umbrella adapters...

They're more expensive than the Nano stands, but you might want to consider at least one Manfrotto or Avenger boom stand. I have two Manfrotto 420B Combi stands, and find that there are times when they work much better than vertical stands, and they can also be used as vertical stands when that's a better choice.



Here's a photo showing my Westcott Apollo soft box and one of my Manfrotto Combi stands:

Jun 26, 2013 at 02:52 PM

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