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Budget "studio" lighting?
  
 
ChaseD
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Budget "studio" lighting?


Hey guys, I've been tasked with helping a friend of mine outfit a studio of sorts for product photography for her boutique women's clothing store. She will mostly be taking shots of models wearing her clothing and accessories to use on her online store. At my day job we use an impressive set of profoto strobes for the same purposes on a commercial scale, but they are a bit out of my friends price range. We are looking at keeping the budget around $500 if at all possible, used is fine, and the kit does not need to be portable, wired is fine. I'm most familiar with speed lights and high end strobes, but I don't know a whole lot about the entry-mid level price range. I would appreciate any and all recommendations that you guys can give. Thanks!


Jun 09, 2017 at 03:17 AM
leethecam
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Budget "studio" lighting?


One of the biggest issues with cheaper strobes is stability.

They may be fine at full power but if you're reducing power then exposure and colour can vary between shots, and that is going to be an issue if you're doing any sort of volume, (particularly if you've multiple strobes as they'll all vary differently at different times).

Speedlights don't have a huge amount of power, but if the products are small this may not be an issue - although if you're shooting macro then the need for high f-stops becomes bigger. For clothing though you'll need a bit of power to get everything in focus, (assuming these are product style shots and not arty style) and again by the time you've reflected with a brolly and got a suitable distance, you may find speedlights just don't cut it. (And firing them at full power all day may be too much for the little blighters).

I'd advise stretching the budget. Go for one decent strobe and a large white brolly if your budget is low. You'd be amazed what you can do with such a simple arrangement. (Choose your brolly carefully, they don't all give the same results).

And invest in a reflector. Or a large polystyrene board (4"x6") that you can leave at the store as a bounce reflector.

As you know, there's a reason your day job studio uses Profoto. Nothing is for free, so expect differences when you spend less. Good second hand is certainly a good idea. (Pity you're in the US, I could have sold you my Bowens kit... )



Jun 09, 2017 at 07:26 AM
Mark_L
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Budget "studio" lighting?


Bowens would have been the choice if you were over here. Otherwise for the US look at Paul Buff.

Still, $500 for lights, stands and modifiers is too tight imo.



Jun 09, 2017 at 09:35 AM
tcphoto
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Budget "studio" lighting?


If the equipment budget is $500, I can only imagine what the models, make up and hair will be paid. Let me guess, she'll be shooting it also? I'd suggest renting until she can afford even marginal quality. I can't wait to see the results, update us on what happens.


Jun 09, 2017 at 01:06 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Budget "studio" lighting?


What camera will she be using? What lenses does she have? What will she be using for studio space? Is she in Kearny as well? Does she have any flash equipment at all? Is she trying to set up an online catalog where people buy online or is she trying to give a representation of the kinds of items she offers?

If it is catalog type work it will be very hard to purchase proper lighting, even used, for $500. A lot of it depends on the shooting space.

If her goal is more editorial, I suggest a different approach, which would be shooting environmental photos during the golden hour. For that work, here's a possible outfit:

Westcott 5-in-1 50" reflector - $60
Yongnuo Speedlight Transmitter - $75
Yongnuo Speedlight - $113
Westcott Rapid Box - 26" $170
60" Umbrella -$40 (to be used instead of Rapid Box in certain circumstances)
Light stand (or as option monopod + assistant ) - $50.00

Total: $508

This is all new prices. This would be versatile for shooting in shade and/or shooting early or late, balancing ambient and OCF. There's no need for a flash meter, it's easy nowadays to just chimp to balance.



Jun 09, 2017 at 01:36 PM
Paul_K
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Budget "studio" lighting?


As the budget is limited, and since it doesn't have to be portable, my suggestion would be to go for a moderately strong studio unit, a big umbrella, a lightstand, and a big reflector

I eg saw a 250 Ws Bowens Esprit unit for US 149.99 on eBay
Add a lightstand, a big umbrella and a reflector (saw those mentioned going for resp. US 50, US 40 and US 60 = total US 150) and you're set to go

Used to shoot models with a similar set up (instead of a studio flash used a 1000W halogen lamp, and an extra large polystyrene reflector) for years back in my early, poor photography student, film shooting days






You can use a old fashioned cable to trigger the Esprit, or get a simple 'dumb' radiotrigger (since you can't change the settings remotely, no need for a smart one)wireless trigger ) for an additional US 15 or 20 instead if you want to go for remote triggering

Sure the Esprit is an oldie
However, I have over the years 'collected' (bought at a certain point in time, and by the time they are replaced with something would have made so little money if sold, I just held on to them as 'back ups') a number of other Bowens oldies like a 500Ws Monosilver, a 400Ws Monolite E and a 1000Ws Esprit (my current 'main units are more recent Gemini 500's)
Admittedly those 'oldies' are 'slow' (recycle times between 1 and 1,5 seconds depending on the power setting), use simple bulb modeling lights, and are some are incompatible with the Esprit/Gemini S mount light modifiers
But after all those years they still keep working, despite, or maybe thanks to their simple electronics (no LED's or high end electronics adding extra risk of breaking down)

Edited on Jun 09, 2017 at 09:56 PM · View previous versions



Jun 09, 2017 at 03:00 PM
milkod2001
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Budget "studio" lighting?


I like advice dmacmillan is giving but maybe instead of Westcott Rapid Box - 26" $170 get another Yongnuo Speedlight - $113 and some cheppo $50-60 octabox with honeycomb grid. Two speedlights will give her much better light options. Backdrop would be another $50 if not more on top of everything if she need it.

If she is not in rush keep checking used equipment sometimes are people getting rid of the whole setups for next to nothing when they are fed up with photography business.




Jun 09, 2017 at 05:00 PM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Budget "studio" lighting?


What she needs is a look book. They have a long established look.









?w=640&h=960
The above photos can be done in a white hallway with an ON camera flash bounced into the back wall.

Here' an article from a fashion magazine showing multiple shots of Andrej Pejic and a portable out-door studio https://jovenyfabuloso.blogspot.com/2011/07/andrej-pejic-for-eleven-paris.html

I, like most people, am a Canon shooter, so I like Canon Speedlites. Canon 580 EX II can be found used for under $200.00. I'm sure that Nikon SB 800 can be found in the same price range.

This type of work isn't about the photographer, or the model, it's all about selling product—nothing else.



Jun 09, 2017 at 06:12 PM
milkod2001
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Budget "studio" lighting?


c.d.embrey wrote:
What she needs is a look book. They have a long established look.
https://cdna.lystit.com/photos/2013/03/07/loeffler-randall-white-heddie-sandal-product-1-6589732-858505474.jpg
https://wolfeyebrows.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/joie_016_1366-1366x2048.jpg?w=640&h=960
The above photos can be done in a white hallway with an ON camera flash bounced into the back wall.

Here' an article from a fashion magazine showing multiple shots of Andrej Pejic and a portable out-door studio https://jovenyfabuloso.blogspot.com/2011/07/andrej-pejic-for-eleven-paris.html

I, like most people, am a Canon shooter, so I like Canon Speedlites. Canon 580 EX II can be found used for under $200.00. I'm sure that Nikon SB 800 can be found in the same price range.

This type of work isn't about the photographer, or the model, it's all
...Show more

I guess that depends what is the price of products you are trying to sell. For cheapo products one flash against the wall will do just fine...



Jun 09, 2017 at 11:07 PM
milkod2001
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Budget "studio" lighting?


c.d.embrey wrote:
What she needs is a look book. They have a long established look.
https://cdna.lystit.com/photos/2013/03/07/loeffler-randall-white-heddie-sandal-product-1-6589732-858505474.jpg
https://wolfeyebrows.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/joie_016_1366-1366x2048.jpg?w=640&h=960
The above photos can be done in a white hallway with an ON camera flash bounced into the back wall.

Here' an article from a fashion magazine showing multiple shots of Andrej Pejic and a portable out-door studio https://jovenyfabuloso.blogspot.com/2011/07/andrej-pejic-for-eleven-paris.html

I, like most people, am a Canon shooter, so I like Canon Speedlites. Canon 580 EX II can be found used for under $200.00. I'm sure that Nikon SB 800 can be found in the same price range.

This type of work isn't about the photographer, or the model, it's all
...Show more

Model is actually the most important. You can grab some random person from street and get average pictures but professional model can strike you many poses, expressions which will lead to pictures which will sell. No matter how much you spend into lighting, no matter what is person wearing it is the model who will make it look good or not.



Jun 09, 2017 at 11:20 PM
 

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c.d.embrey
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Budget "studio" lighting?


milkod2001 wrote:
I guess that depends what is the price of products you are trying to sell. For cheapo products one flash against the wall will do just fine...


Prét-á-Porter, a.k.a woman's ready-to-wear. The look is fairly standard across price points.

From inexpensive http://www.hm.com/us/product/72325?article=72325-A

To more expensive https://www.armaniexchange.com/us/mini-dress_cod34702280jn.html#dept=drsssjmp

To very expensive https://www.celine.com/en/collections/fall/ready-to-wear/rtw/22P797555.02GK.36



Jun 10, 2017 at 12:14 AM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Budget "studio" lighting?


milkod2001 wrote:
Model is actually the most important. You can grab some random person from street and get average pictures but professional model can strike you many poses, expressions which will lead to pictures which will sell. No matter how much you spend into lighting, no matter what is person wearing it is the model who will make it look good or not.


You ain't gonna get Coco Rocha for this kind of work.

And you don't need her for this kind of work. All you need is a live mannequin—no expressions needed.

What started out as a simple DIY shoot for a designer, has now turned into an expensive shoot with top models



Jun 10, 2017 at 12:42 AM
rico
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Budget "studio" lighting?


I'm as thrify as the next man, but $500 won't do it. Fashion with one light is possible, but takes more time and more gear to set up, so get two bare-bulb strobes. Do I need to state that continuous lighting is right out? You also need a heap of V-flats, large reflectors, and sweeps of white and black. Studio needs to be color neutral from floor to ceiling. My walls are white, and a vital part of fill generation:



Bare bulb for fill, 13" dish (Profoto Magnum) as key, 1200Ws total. Same space with black sweep:



Magnum as key, hard Speedlight for frontal fill, Speedlight for accent, and plenty of stray light for ambient fill. In general, you need lots of large white surfaces for high-key lighting, and for the flat "catalog" lighting favored by ecommerce and Macy's print catalogs.



Jun 10, 2017 at 02:45 AM
tdlavigne
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Budget "studio" lighting?


c.d.embrey wrote:
What she needs is a look book. They have a long established look.
https://cdna.lystit.com/photos/2013/03/07/loeffler-randall-white-heddie-sandal-product-1-6589732-858505474.jpg
https://wolfeyebrows.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/joie_016_1366-1366x2048.jpg?w=640&h=960
The above photos can be done in a white hallway with an ON camera flash bounced into the back wall.

Here' an article from a fashion magazine showing multiple shots of Andrej Pejic and a portable out-door studio https://jovenyfabuloso.blogspot.com/2011/07/andrej-pejic-for-eleven-paris.html

I, like most people, am a Canon shooter, so I like Canon Speedlites. Canon 580 EX II can be found used for under $200.00. I'm sure that Nikon SB 800 can be found in the same price range.

This type of work isn't about the photographer, or the model, it's all
...Show more

"Product photography" generally means ecommerce, which is different from a lookbook. Technically yeah...you can shoot your ecom natural light, but then consistency is going to be an issue as the day goes on, and inconsistent ecom/product photos = all kinds of fail and a bad look overall for the clothing line. I suppose it's possible depending on the studio, how many looks you're doing in a day, how quick you are, and how many days you can come back and shoot at that ideal timeframe for repeatable images.

I'm not a fan of the white wall/on camera flash (or one strobe high with a high output reflector) look for ecom, but it still pops up fairly often (think Terry Richardson but for product photography) It'd also be the cheapest route, as all you need is a decent speedlight with a fast-ish recycle, or one strobe (Einstein?) and a light stand. That would all greatly depend on the style of wardrobe though: NastyGal/Revolve? Could work. J-Crew/Banana Republic? Would look odd to say the least. But that's my vote though, either do the one light/white wall look (besides, paper and backdrop stands wouldn't fit in the budget anyway) or tell her to pony up more $$$

At the very least when I shoot ecom, or the clients that retouch for shoot it, there's generally a key light with either a 36" or thereabouts octa, fill from the opposite side of camera and usually 2x3 - 4x6' softbox, and 2 strobes on the background to aid in blowing it out. I don't know of any lighting unfortunately that's cheap enough for 3-4 strobes and 3-4 softboxes, stands, and triggers.



Jun 12, 2017 at 09:14 PM
tdlavigne
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Budget "studio" lighting?


c.d.embrey wrote:
You ain't gonna get Coco Rocha for this kind of work.

And you don't need her for this kind of work. All you need is a live mannequin—no expressions needed.

What started out as a simple DIY shoot for a designer, has now turned into an expensive shoot with top models


I'd have to disagree again; model for ecom/product photography is very important. If you just need a live mannequin you might as well just....use a mannequin. I shoot ecom fairly often, and I've shot with newbies (new faces and Instagram "models") and experienced girls. The experienced/skilled ones know their angles, know where the light is, can stay on their mark, can have whatever look the client wants (usually confident with a hint of flirty or something similar) and knows a range of poses and is able to change in/out of the wardrobe quickly so as to maximise the number of looks we can do in a day.

Maybe we work with different clients though, just my 2 cents...I think a skilled team (makeup, stylist, model, and a client that knows what they want) is paramount to a good shoot.



Jun 12, 2017 at 09:21 PM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Budget "studio" lighting?


tdlavigne wrote:
I think a skilled team (makeup, stylist, model, and a client that knows what they want) is paramount to a good shoot.


My take is that she has so little money, that she is becoming her own photographer, lighting assistant, MUA, stylist, etc. Maybe I'm wrong—but with the $500.00 budget to purchase flash, modifiers and stands, I sorta doubt that she'll pay a MUA $500.00 a day.






Jun 13, 2017 at 01:34 AM
tdlavigne
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Budget "studio" lighting?


c.d.embrey wrote:
My take is that she has so little money, that she is becoming her own photographer, lighting assistant, MUA, stylist, etc. Maybe I'm wrong—but with the $500.00 budget to purchase flash, modifiers and stands, I sorta doubt that she'll pay a MUA $500.00 a day.



True, but you never know lol. I've had people ask me to shoot their commercial job for trade (lookbook shoot), then when I politely declined I was told I was missing out because they had a pair of girls from a local agency that were getting $800/day (still cheap, but at least they were getting paid) and hair and makeup as well. Assuming they were paying the low end rates for the creatives as well, and the studio rental (they were shooting at a place I was familiar with) they were in for at least $2.5k before asking me for a handout.

I wouldn't be surprised if the $500 is only for lighting/equipment and there is/will be $ set aside as needed for the talent. That being said, I'd again recommend the single speedlight either on camera or off camera with a light stand and some cactus triggers or the like. Natural light is also an option if there's only a handful of looks and she's got decent window lighting and can reshoot if necessary to finish.

My min suggestion to her if she can just save a little more would be get some used Speedotrons. Case in point there's some near me locally right now for $300 for a 1200w pack and 2 heads. Used heads (102) go for ~$100 so she can get 1pack, 3 heads, a couple cheap stands, and a basic 36" octa for ~$500. Save a little more for paper and a backdrop stand, and some cheap triggers (maybe another $200) and she'd be in ok shape. But that's stretching it...ideally she'd have a c-stand, a 4th head, spare flash tube, reliable triggers (used PWIIs?) and another softbox...oh and sandbags. I think if she had $1000 to invest she can be in ok shape, but that'd be up to the OP to convince her that it's an investment and a worthwhile one at that. She can either go cheap, and get poor results, which does a disservice to your brand and products, or go cheap and get so so results but have that gear fail prematurely, or just suck it up and spend the money and get something that'll last longer than the brand most likely.



Jun 13, 2017 at 02:57 AM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Budget "studio" lighting?


tdlavigne wrote:
True, but you never know lol ... or just suck it up and spend the money ...


Any way, she can't afford me. If this was a consulting job, $500.00 wouldn't even buy lunch




Jun 13, 2017 at 07:30 AM
Mark_L
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Budget "studio" lighting?


milkod2001 wrote:
Model is actually the most important. You can grab some random person from street and get average pictures but professional model can strike you many poses, expressions which will lead to pictures which will sell. No matter how much you spend into lighting, no matter what is person wearing it is the model who will make it look good or not.


Agreed. No matter what you do and how much gear, good hair and good mu you have it will never look like fashion unless you have a proper fashion model.



Jun 13, 2017 at 02:22 PM
ChaseD
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Budget "studio" lighting?


Thank you all for the responses and advice. You guys are correct in assuming that she would eventually want her employees or herself to take over the photos and editing. The "models" would be herself/employees. Don't get me wrong, they are all attractive people, but far from models. Somewhat of an odd situation for sure. I agree that $500 isn't a whole heck of a lot to work with, but I'm thinking it could yield passable results. We aren't talking high fashion studio work or anything like that. Just enough to accurately represent the product. Whether or not it's going to bring in the clientele that she is hoping for, I don't know. Perhaps we need to sit down and have a more serious chat about what she is expecting, and what she really has to spend on photography and marketing. Her storefront seems to do extremely well - I imagine a proper photography budget would pay off big time for her in the long run with online sales. I've attached photos of what they are hoping for right now, and what I think they should work towards.





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dreams




Jun 14, 2017 at 01:40 AM
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