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Budget "studio" lighting?
Mr Kris
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p.2 #1 · p.2 #1 · Budget "studio" lighting?

Reasonably priced kit with two strobes here:

They're better than the price might imply. Kind of a soft, matte, rubberized finish to them and sleek looking. Just did 150 portraits with them this past weekend. I already had support gear such as C stands and an Elinchrom Deep Octa and a 71" umbrella I used for fill- but you could sub in cheaper modifiers to begin with. I'd get a cheapo big umbrella for fill and a smaller reflective umbrella for a key that still provides some directional modeling.

Jun 14, 2017 at 02:37 AM
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p.2 #2 · p.2 #2 · Budget "studio" lighting?

ChaseD wrote:
...The "models" would be herself/employees ...

I was hoping to see Coco You really should have said this in the original post. Maybe then I wouldn't have gotten all the your a clueless idiot, a top model is always needed posts

...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.

Without knowing anything about her clientele it's hard to say, but I doubt it. Have you ever heard of throw-a-way-fashion?

Jun 14, 2017 at 05:25 AM
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p.2 #3 · p.2 #3 · Budget "studio" lighting?

I've spent a few thousand dollars playing with lighting gear over the last year, and here's my take:

-Godox gear is very nice, and is sold in the US by Adorama rebadged as "Flashpoint", as well as by Cheetah Stand. However, it's probably budget-busting in this case if you go beyond their Speedlites. Yongnuo is also solid. As far as cheap strobes go, I'd be careful about certain brands due to color consistency and reliability. Paul C. Buff's Alien Bees line is a classic cheap strobe, with the 320ws AB800 routinely selling for $200 or less lightly used. However, you need 2 lights, so that's out for a $500 setup.
-Everything is made by the Chinese, and rebadged. I bought a set of speedlight flash gels from Adorama for $30, only to find the *exact* same thing without the brand name on Amazon for $11. And have repeated this mistake for various other modifiers.. as well as grip stuff.
-Unless you have big, heavy lights or modifiers (you won't, in this price range), cheap stands are just fine
-Keep it simple with modifiers, because they can easily be a little.. crazy. I'd aim for a combination shoot-through/bounce umbrella in a large size, maybe an umbrella softbox, and a grid/snoot setup. Don't skip color correction gels.
-Don't fear speedlights, especially in this price range. You'll likely use one at a slightly higher power, and with an external battery pack, I wouldn't be worried about recycle times. They're convenient and cheap for a variety of reasons that I'll explain shortly.

So, here would be my comprehensive shopping list (with explanations where appropriate, and assuming that you're shooting Canon- shooting Nikon or some other brand would require minor changes, so feel free to ask). This is a 2-light setup that's relatively compact, will produce quality output all day long, and can be easily extended in the future.

I've presented 2 options ranging from $382 - $515. Both have the same grip (2 light stands, umbrella swivels, white backdrop + stand) and modifiers (gels, honeycomb grid, 43" convertible umbrella, 47" umbrella softbox with grid). The difference is that the $382 option uses fully-manual/non-TTL (still radio-controlled) Godox flashes, while the $515 option uses Yongnuo flashes on the Canon RT radio system (supporting TTL). In both, I have budgeted for an external battery pack. Budget an extra $20-30 for a reflector if you don't already have one, I would consider that pretty much essential.

---------- Stands/Background/Grip - $101 ----------

CowboyStudio 2x 7' Stands with Cases - $28
Totally adequate for holding a speedlight and the modifiers we're looking at here

2x Umbrella Swivels (needed to mount hot shoe flashes on light stands) - $17
These are on the cheaper side of what you'll find, but still metal. Other types will be fine too.

Gaffers Tape - you'll need it - $10

Basic seamless white backdrop - $14
These.. are what they are. I never saw the benefit of expensive white or black backdrops.

Basic background stand and case - $32
It's not heirloom-grade, but it's 30 bucks, comes with a case, and will keep your backdrop off the floor.

---------- Flashes and Transmitter - Option A (Yongnuo/Canon + TTL)- $344 ----------
This setup assumes that you are using a Canon body. This is for 2 Speedlites, a wireless transmitter, and an external battery pack for one of the flashes. Yongnuo makes a bunch of other flashes, but these are the newest Canon-compatible flashes in their lineup. They use a modern radio trigger system, which is compatible with other Canon RT gear.

2x Yongnuo YN600EX-RT flashes - $236
I have 3 of the previous version of this flash, and they're actually awesome (not just for the money). I am assuming that you have access to NiMH rechargeable batteries, because you'll need them. These are modern flashes that work in full manual mode, and also have TTL + high speed sync. They're a crazy deal for what they are, especially compared to the first-party equivalents.

Yongnuo YN-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter - $81
This is the controller for the Yongnuo flashes, and works well within the Canon system. It's pretty great for what it is, and way more reliable than some other radio triggers I've used.

External battery pack for flash - $27
Compatible with the above flashes, and cuts recycle time in half. It makes sense to go generic here- it's a box for some AA's, and it's criminal what some other brands charge. An external pack is, for me, essential.

---------- Flashes and Transmitter - Option B (Godox non-TTL)- $211 ----------
This setup is camera-brand agnostic. This is for 2 Godox Speedlites, a wireless transmitter, and an external battery pack for one of the flashes. The other cool thing about these is that they are part of the Godox R2 radio trigger system, which includes a huuuuge variety of shoe-mount & bare-bulb flashes, as well as some really nice studio strobes.

2x Godox TT600 manual flashes + a transmitter - $184
These flashes are fully-manual (but will do high-speed sync), and a lot of people swear by Godox gear. Full manual may be just fine for a studio setting, depending on your needs. I've linked the package with the Canon-specific transmitter, but you can easily find the others. You need the right one for your brand in order to to high-speed sync (TTL is not present on these flashes), but otherwise they'll all work in regular sync mode. Transmitters are available for all major brands and should be about the same price. Get the one you need for your brand in case you want HSS or add a Godox TTL flash later on.

External battery pack for flash - $27
Same battery pack as above. I'm pretty sure it's also compatible with these Godox flashes, but didn't look into it that closely.

---------- Modifiers- $70 ----------
It's really possible to go spend a fortune on modifiers, but let's start with a basic yet versatile 2-light setup.

Gel setup for 2 speedlites - $11
One great thing about Speedlites is that they're so cheap and easy to gel (some starter gels are included in the above packages, but they're cheap and make a big difference, so spend the $11).

43" convertible umbrella - $20
43" convertible umbrellas kick out a nice, fairly soft light if used as a shoot-through, or something a little harder if using the silver reflective cover. Great for full-body shots, and exactly what you need to get started.

Cheap grid- ideal little hair light - $8

47" Umbrella Octagon Softbox - $30
I have the more expensive, name brand, otherwise identical version of this and have always been amazed at the quality of the output. Really soft light, packs down well, and easy to set up. This is an "umbrella"-style softbox and your flash sits inside it, which is one more reason to be glad that you have a wireless trigger + control system. Having to remove the front baffle to change the power on my (non-wireless) Alien Bees when used in this was a pain. Note that this is a big modifier, and the light that you use to drive this will probably benefit from one of those external battery packs. I've used a Yongnuo speedlite (with external battery pack) in this modifier a bunch of times and never found myself struggling with heat or cycle time issues.

grid for 47" softbox - $12
Get the grid for the above, it's cheap and changes the quality of light dramatically.

---------- Thoughts on Usage ----------
For a product setup against a white backdrop, I would probably use 3-4 lights. You could easily add another manual Godox TT600 to package B above for $70, or another TTL Yongnuo to package A for $117.

With only 2 lights available and a goal of producing a product shot, I would most likely accept that a soft, kind of flat light will be a necessary compromise- with a white backdrop, you'll probably want one light on that separately. So, with 2 lights, if I didn't want a gray background, I would probably just put the softbox on the model up front at a 45" angle, and light the backdrop with the second light behind the model. With 3 lights, I would have separate key (umbrella) and fill lights (softbox) on the model. With 4, I would either add a hair/rim light, or perhaps another light on the background if it needs to be evened out.

I would probably lean towards the Godox setup, between the two options presented here, but I am comfortable working without TTL. Their system has gotten really robust, and you could easily add something like the new inexpensive studio stobe in the Godox system (which includes a built-in wireless receiver that would be compatible with the other Godox flashes). I didn't recommend a full studio strobe up front because they're bulky, less portable, and more difficult to gel. While I shoot with a combination of lights at this point, I started doing serious work with just Yongnuo speedlites, and those were great for even relatively-demanding shoots.

For lighting the backdrop, there are some very inexpensive optical slave strobes that you may be able to use if you don't want to dedicate a speedlite to it. On that note, just about all studio strobes have optical slaves built in, so if you found a deal on something later on, you could slave it to the flashes without any difficulty.

Yongnuo also makes a cheap dedicated receiver for the Canon RT wireless system which is pretty cool. I've used this (with a YN-E3-RT transmitter and YN-600EX RT flashes) to add wireless TTL to older Canon flashes, or to just remotely trigger my Alien Bees AB800 (it's more reliable than an optical slave in certain cases, and I can switch off that light from the transmitter). I don't think that Godox has something like this, but they seem to make everything at this point, so who knows.

---------- On 3rd Parties and Radio Triggers ----------
Whatever you get, make sure that the firmware can be updated. Yongnuo is pretty good, but some of the other Chinese companies that have tried to reverse-engineer the Canon RT radio protocol have done a rather poor job of it. I have 2 of these Orlit/Jinbei RT 610 strobes, which are supposed to be compatible with the Canon RT system, but due to implementation differences between the Yongnuo & Jinbei systems, compatibility is not ideal. I have to use the (awful) Jinbei controller to control my Jinbei + Yongnuo gear- the Yongnuo gear will not control the Jinbei strobes. Everything is on the latest firmware.

Apparently, everything works fine with the official Canon RT devices, but I can deal with some compatibility quirks when the off-brand flashes and controllers are 1/4 the price of the Canon ones (and Canon obviously has no equivalent to the bigger strobes). Jinbei (sold through Adorama as Orlit) has some new transmitters coming out that I hope will be better- I really dislike the ergonomics of the current one, and find that it's not totally reliable (though it's better with the latest firmware- this is what I get for buying it as soon as it came out).

Godox uses their own protocol, which is solid (and cross-platform!). Their older flashes used the "R1" radio standard, which is not compatible with the current "R2"- however, they've released an inexpensive adapter allowing some of the older R1 devices to work on the R2 system. All of the Godox/Flashpoint gear I've mentioned in this post is R2. As I've mentioned a few times, the Godox wireless flash system is quite vast. There are a couple of real standouts once you move up the product ladder a bit (AD600, AD200, AD360 II). You may also see some Godox stuff rebranded as Neewer, Cheetah Stand, and various other trade names that will vary by region.

Jun 15, 2017 at 08:13 PM

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p.2 #4 · p.2 #4 · Budget "studio" lighting?

Thank you all for the recommendations. I convinced the lady I'm working with to spend a little more and do it right the first time. I picked up a set of DigiBees and an assortment of modifiers. Will keep you all updated as to how this works out!

Jun 30, 2017 at 06:43 PM

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p.2 #5 · p.2 #5 · Budget "studio" lighting?

I have been using one or two speedlights and a variety of light modifiers, mounted on relatively inexpensive stands for a while. I would estimate that my whole set up cost me south of $400. If you want something more up-market, there's a thriving community of good used lighting equipment that would yield great results for around $500 for a two strobe system.

Jul 07, 2017 at 07:18 PM

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