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Archive 2016 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?
  
 
PanS
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


Hey FM, I'm trying to use and shape light to my advantage more in my portrait work. By taking my flash off my camera more.

I see many photographers using three or more flashes together off camera with smaller modifiers such as Rapid Boxes to diffuse light.

I was wondering if it a better alternative might be to purchase a 500W portable strobe and a large modifier? In theory, since the light source is larger, will it create a more even light on a subject?

I know that both trigger&flash systems and strobes and battery pack can add up over a grand or more easily.
Thanks for your help.

((outdoor))



Oct 11, 2016 at 05:38 PM
voidsherpa
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


Single light is much more practical to me. Less batteries to swap, simpler triggering, more robust, etc.


Oct 11, 2016 at 07:18 PM
some_film
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


If you are doing portraits and your choice is three lights versus one light, I'd choose three lights. Three lights is so much more versatile/flexible. I've used two SB-800 speedlights inside an Apollo Mega (a 50x50 softbox) without problems for example, so you do not necessarily need a studio-type strobe with a larger modifier. What I typically use on location is four speedlights, two umbrellas and a small box of grids/snoots, sometimes plus an assistant holding a reflector.



PanS wrote:
Hey FM, I'm trying to use and shape light to my advantage more in my portrait work. By taking my flash off my camera more.

I see many photographers using three or more flashes together off camera with smaller modifiers such as Rapid Boxes to diffuse light.

I was wondering if it a better alternative might be to purchase a 500W portable strobe and a large modifier? In theory, since the light source is larger, will it create a more even light on a subject?

I know that both trigger&flash systems and strobes and battery pack can add up over a grand or
...Show more




Oct 11, 2016 at 07:45 PM
Paulthelefty
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


What you pick should be decided more based on your location(s)... if you are mobile most of the time, speed lights make a lot of sense. If you are in a studio, then a nice mono or even a power pack and heads is simple and powerful. Once you learn your system, you can do some pretty amazing stuff that can make others wonder how you did it. I use three speed lights for wedding receptions, and it works great. I would not want to try and manage monos for that, and I don't need the power.

Do your research, ask lots of questions, and buy one extra as a back up.

Paul



Oct 12, 2016 at 12:41 AM
nolaguy
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


Hi Pan,

You can really begin anywhere you like. Setting aside speedlight vs strobe for a moment - you can do a lot with a single light and a reflector but eventually you'll want more lights for more control.

Speedlights can be as expensive as strobes or you can choose some of the less expensive brands many rave about these days. Lots of discussion about Godox, etc on the wedding board.

And over time you'll want a variety of modifiers as they each have their role and purpose - but you can begin with inexpensive umbrellas and even use white bed sheets if you want huge, diffuse light. There are many do it yourself ways to rig lighting if you get a little creative (or search YouTube).

The DIY route may not be what you want your clients to see but realize that light doesn't really care much about the difference between sophisticated diffusion material and three bed sheets from Walmart.

Triggers can be very cheap Chinese makes that many swear by on up to PocketWizards or RadioPoppers or Nikon's on-camera triggers that can vary each light's power from the camera, etc.


To me one fundamental question is do you want to start building your long term kit and buy pricier stuff one step at a time or do you want flexibility sooner rather than later (i.e. go inexpensive) so you can experiment with more and different setups in the near term?

I took the long way round and began with a large Lastolite reflector, two Elinchrom monos/triggers/softboxes and as you say, it was close to a two thousand dollar beginning into studio lighting which meant I didn't buy any other lights for about a year.


What you may want to do is find a few images - examples of portraits you want to be able to replicate and add them to this thread. Everyone can be more specific in their comments if they have an idea of how you want to get started as far as results go.


Regards,

Chuck


Quick addendum that I recently did a gig in a French Quarter ballroom mixing 2 monos with 2 speedlights. One mono was set up with a tight grid to create a spotlight effect, the other with a 7' socked umbrella to flood the space with soft light - and the two speedlights were bare for fill and for the starburst in the background of certain shots. Point being, don't stress over how you get this rolling, you'll probably end up mixing it all in many situations so little will be wasted.


Paulthelefty wrote:
...and buy one extra as a back up.


Oh yeah - another speedlight sat in the bag and two other monos stayed in the truck.





Oct 12, 2016 at 01:01 AM
Michael White
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


I have five speedlites and two elinchrom quadra lights one a and one s head.they play nice together I use the 580ex2 and 580ex speedlites first then either the quadra or up to three 550exs.


Oct 12, 2016 at 02:33 AM
PanS
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


nolaguy wrote:
Hi Pan,

What you may want to do is find a few images - examples of portraits you want to be able to replicate and add them to this thread. Everyone can be more specific in their comments if they have an idea of how you want to get started as far as results go.

Regards,

Chuck

Thanks Chuck, I never thought about working like that but perhaps you and FM can give me some guidance.

This is what I had to work with, this is what I tried, how can I achieve what I want with proper lighting and what might I need for this scene.



- So in this instance, I went to Saint Joseph du Royal in Quebec but I forgot my SB-700.
- I liked the architecture and framing of the shot so I framed my shot and had my talent stand where I wanted her to. I exposed for the background instead of exposing for the subject and losing data blowing out the background. I pulled the maximum shadow detail from the RAW file.
- I'm not quite happy with the result, it will take a lot of post process to fix.

What might I need to fix a scenario like this with light so I'm not spending hours trying to fix this in LR/PS?



Oct 12, 2016 at 03:15 AM
nolaguy
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


Pan, this particular shot isn't something I do often so others will have better input I'm sure. My assessment:

-- The area affected by the shadow portion of the image is massive. It would be quite a feat to light it all to match the background building and tree;

-- From an editing standpoint, the shadow area is a dream and easily masked and adjusted without overexposing your background; but...

-- That's not really your basic question as I understand it. You want to be able to accomplish the desired result with light, not in post;

-- I don't think speedlights are powerful enough to bring up this foreground evenly in an efficient fashion. If I had this assignment I'd bring 4 or 6 strobes 600ws or better and a lot of lightstand flexibility but even then it would be quite the task, for me at least - and the ambient light would have changed by the time I got it all set up

-- On the other hand, if your vision for the shot didn't require even illumination across the entire shadow area - say you just wanted your subject lit with a soft falloff around her, a very diffused strobe could do it - not sure about a speedlight. My guess is with a speedlight (even boxed) the light would be too localized - primarily because of the huge, even expanse of shadow. I could be very wrong;


All that said, while I did see the "outdoor" tag at the end of your original post, I was not imagining this type of shot as your objective. Great that you posted it as I'm sure it will lead to different and greater insights than my initial reply.

For example:

PanS wrote:
I was wondering if it a better alternative might be to purchase a 500W portable strobe and a large modifier? In theory, since the light source is larger, will it create a more even light on a subject?


Yes, a five or six foot diameter octabox fairly close to the subject creates a lot of light wrap and feels much less directional. But in the scene you presented, you might not be able to get the strobe close enough to the subject (and it still be out of frame) to bring about that effect. At sufficient distance, all light becomes intensely directional - witness the sun.

C



Oct 12, 2016 at 06:12 AM
PanS
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


nolaguy wrote:
Pan, this particular shot isn't something I do often so others will have better input I'm sure. My assessment:

-- The area affected by the shadow portion of the image is massive. It would be quite a feat to light it all to match the background building and tree;

-- From an editing standpoint, the shadow area is a dream and easily masked and adjusted without overexposing your background; but...

-- That's not really your basic question as I understand it. You want to be able to accomplish the desired result with light, not in post;

-- I don't think speedlights are powerful enough
...Show more
I think the scene I presented was the most extreme example shot at 28mm.Perhaps I was a bit too hopeful, but I do try to gather my entire subject's body in an image quite often.

I have similar examples taken at normal focal lengths 40 and tighter which could allow me to hide a flash or strobe just outside of focal view.



Will I still be able to wrap my subject comfortably in a scene this tight with a 5' octabox mono?

I did try to use my on-camera flash just to test it out -- I found it was not very flattering.







Oct 12, 2016 at 12:54 PM
story_teller
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


HI Pan. The example you shared with the background at 1/1000th @ f2.8 means you're in high speed sync or hypersync territory. Using Nikon FP on the SB-700 will reduce the power of the flash and you'll have to place the light closer to the subject, plus the modifier will take it down another stop. One of the first things I would try is to make the background an equivalent exposure of 1/250th at f5.6. That would get you back to normal flash sync range where you can use the full power of the speedlight or strobe. Filling a 5ft. octabox with a single speedlight would also be difficult.

I have both speedlights and strobes. They both have advantages in certain situations, but I find it time consuming to put multiple speedlights in a single modifier to gain power. One single, more powerful light is better in terms of time, reliability and operation in that situation. I like multiple speedlights where I need key, hair light, background, etc. or to gel a light or two for color.

The potential downside of some 500Ws strobes is that some can't be turned down low enough for indoor use close to the face without leaving a hot spot. Where you go next will depend on what types of photography you're after. If you want to do a lot of shots where you need to overpower the sun, then maybe purchase a 250Ws, 360Ws or 500Ws system that can do HSS or Hypersync, but keep the SB-700. The 2-light combo plus a good reflector would give you a lot of lighting options.



Oct 12, 2016 at 02:10 PM
 

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BSPhotog
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


I think picking an appropriate flash ecosystem is important. Select a wireless system that allows for remote power control of both speedlights and strobes, so that you can build on whatever you choose. A lot can be done with a speedlight or two, especially if you can bring your modifier in close-ish. In your example above, you're just 2 stops from sync speed (assuming 1/250, not sure what you're shooting with). Getting 1/250, f/5.6, ISO100 is very doable with a small softbox, single speed light, and a reasonably close working distance. Even if you use a 24-30" speedlight octa, you can use it in close and clone it out. Heck, if you're planning ahead you can tripod your camera, take the shot, run and move your stand, and take it again. That makes the post processing a snap.

You mentioned multiple speedlights up top in your original post. This can be a good way to go as well, but it gets heavy and cumbersome if it is something you're doing regularly. Every stop of light you need to add means doubling your number of speedlights. I have two different brackets for 4 speedlights and, when loaded up with 4 speedlights and triggers, they are pretty heft. It works, but a single bigger light is more maneuverable. HSS was mentioned above, but I don't find that particularly useful unless you have a much bigger light than you really need and have lots of extra power to spare. You simply lose too much power to the process. Stopping down your aperture or using an ND filter to maintain sync speed is more efficient.

Back to your sample image, I think my solution in the field might have been to have the model move up the stairs so that the light from the left would illuminate the top half of her body, may have her turn her body 1/8 turn and her face more toward the light. It'd be harsh, but you can use that intentionally too. You liked the location, but didn't have the light. A bigger part of photography sometimes is looking for the light first and then making it work from there.



Oct 12, 2016 at 02:57 PM
PanS
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


story_teller wrote:
HI Pan. The example you shared with the background at 1/1000th @ f2.8 means you're in high speed sync or hypersync territory. Using Nikon FP on the SB-700 will reduce the power of the flash and you'll have to place the light closer to the subject, plus the modifier will take it down another stop. One of the first things I would try is to make the background an equivalent exposure of 1/250th at f5.6. That would get you back to normal flash sync range where you can use the full power of the speedlight or strobe. Filling a 5ft.
...Show more Thank you for the input, especially about bringing down my aperture to keep flash in sync speed. At 2.8, the backgrounds aren't being blown out into butter so stopping down won't ruin the image.

I'll definitely get a back up speedlight because I often shoot events (but I find more enjoyment in portraits!). I can experiment with that and see what I can create with this.



Oct 12, 2016 at 05:32 PM
PanS
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


BSPhotog wrote:
I think picking an appropriate flash ecosystem is important. Select a wireless system that allows for remote power control of both speedlights and strobes, so that you can build on whatever you choose. A lot can be done with a speedlight or two, especially if you can bring your modifier in close-ish. In your example above, you're just 2 stops from sync speed (assuming 1/250, not sure what you're shooting with). Getting 1/250, f/5.6, ISO100 is very doable with a small softbox, single speed light, and a reasonably close working distance. Even if you use a 24-30" speedlight octa, you
...Show more
I hadn't thought so much about a "flash eco system" before. Something where I can have my light working together does make sense and gives me more to think about. I may try cloning and tripod to composite the two exposed images together in the near future. A lot of information from your post, thank you.

I always try to find the light, I wish I could make the light work for me more though : )


One of the keepers from the set.



Oct 12, 2016 at 06:01 PM
Mark_L
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


Get a speedlight and a trigger and just start using it (you already have an SB700?)

Trying to predict what kind of lighting gear you'll want further down the line in learning lighting is pointless really. People end up using all sorts of different equipment even in the same genre of photography depending on how they like to work and the light they like.

With lighting, most people get way too gear obsessed at the beginning when they should just be learning. By all means try lots of things out like cheapo modifiers to experience them but don't go investing in expensive battery strobes at this point however fun it sounds.



Oct 13, 2016 at 07:09 PM
rico
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


PanS wrote:
I always try to find the light, I wish I could make the light work for me more though : )

Indoor or out, flash is great because you create the light, not try to find it. On a larger scale, however, flash cannot compete with Mother Nature's sunlight and skylight which can light up a mountain. Your model in the shadow can be fully illuminated with flash, but the effect will be a pool of light and the stairs will remain dark. Yes, you can play games in post with selections, gradients and HDR, but that is a different discipline. In the fabulous world of artificial light, best to accept limitations and bend them to your advantage.

Since you're starting out, I suggest one light over three. With its extra power, a strobe gives you more options and encourages you to learn about reflectors. Bouncing light is a fundamental skill, and will lead to more advanced lighting concepts and modifiers. I have many hot-shoe flashes and studio lights, but usually operate with just one—and tons of modifiers.



Oct 14, 2016 at 12:11 PM
kaplah
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


story_teller wrote:
HI Pan. The example you shared with the background at 1/1000th @ f2.8 means you're in high speed sync or hypersync territory.


Or an ND-3 filter, which gets the OP into 1/125s, and which retains the range of the speedlight, and which is still plenty bright enough to compose and focus.





Oct 14, 2016 at 12:31 PM
kaplah
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


PanS wrote:
I wish I could make the light work for me more though : )



You can, once you start adding light.

Here's a great resource to get you thinking and experimenting:
https://strobist.blogspot.ca/2006/03/lighting-101.html



Oct 14, 2016 at 12:34 PM
Mark_L
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


rico wrote:
Indoor or out, flash is great because you create the light, not try to find it. On a larger scale, however, flash cannot compete with Mother Nature's sunlight and skylight which can light up a mountain. Your model in the shadow can be fully illuminated with flash, but the effect will be a pool of light and the stairs will remain dark.


On top of that, though you can balance out differences in exposure but the end result can be pretty unappealing giving a very unnatural green-screened look like you took a pic in a studio and composited it onto a background. Blasting things with loads of flash is in the same category as HDR in it's tastefulness.



Oct 14, 2016 at 02:20 PM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


Two simple points. In your first example, there is really no practical way to light this entire shadowed area with equipment anyone is talking about. It's too large, there are probably no locations to place the multiple heads you'd need to get even coverage over an area this large. I wouldn't even try it, which leads me to point two. which I was happy to find as I scrolled through this thread, your final example. It's a much better photograph, with light falling on your subject, rather than the steps around her. In this case, you placed her, or found the light in such a way as to make your exposure meaningful and possible. It's a better shot, and also one you can replicate as necessary with a speed light If you're trying to travel light, go with speed light(s) and find opportunities to employ them.

Having said this, two more points. First, you should consider the kinds of photography that you want to focus on, indoor or outdoor, and what it is that you'll need to light most often. That may help drive your decision. Speed lights are great, but if you need a lot of them, they add up fast. Don't forget that for every speed light you get, unless you plan to mount them all in one fixture, you'll need another light stand and other grips/mods, etc. Second, if I were starting out, I'd visit the Strobist website, and watch David Hobby's Lighting 101 as a place to start. He also has gear guides that may help focus your thinking.



Oct 16, 2016 at 03:18 PM
Konablue
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · 3 Flashes or 1 Strobe?


Unless you really need the portability of a speedlight I would strongly consider going with strobes. You can do a lot with just one 500w strobe and a 2-3 modifiers to include an umbrella.

In the second pic, a single 500-600w strobe with a large umbrella (or softbox) on a light stand would have worked well to light the subject with the stairwell in her immediate area being lit and light gradually tapering off as the stairwell ascends. The warm sunlit exposure on the castle is good so I keep that and simply dial in the strobe power as needed. You may have gotten away with using a speedlight in this case but it may have struggled with enough power to push through a large softbox.

There are some good strobes on the market today that priced very competitively to the camera brand name speedlights. Paul Buff Lighting is one to consider but there are others as well. You have an almost endless selection of modifiers with strobes and you need medium to large modifiers if you want softlight. Also, I find that strobes are very straightforward and simpler to use than speedlights since you don't have to navigate through a menu.

If you decide on strobes then you will want to get a small battery to power it on locations like this. The Paul Buff Vagabond mini is an excellent little portable AC power source. I use mine to power other things too such as my laptop, cell phone, a second strobe, and even a fan once.




Oct 17, 2016 at 06:25 AM
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