Beginner studio lighting kit

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by epicwelshman, Jul 3, 2008.

  1. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #1
    I'm getting into the idea of doing some studio-type photography, and am looking for an entry level but quality lighting kit. You know, couple of strobes, stands, umbrellas etc. I know next to nothing about it, therefore need your vast knowledge.

    It should be noted that I have a D40x and an SB-600. Neither of course has a flash sync. Is it worth going to quality [expensive] Pocket Wizard route, or what would you suggest?
     
  2. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #2
    You can get some good kits from Alienbees, or Elinchrome for around $1000. If you are savvy enough to find them used and local you can get them even cheaper. They will include all that you need.

    I'd say get the sync cord or get some slaves that pop when your flash pops. Pocket Wizards can be a bit expensive, but if you do go that route, you can find some good used ones but you'll have to get them quick since the "Strobists" will be eating them up.

    You might want to tell us your budget though, that would help us steer you in the right direction.
     
  3. epicwelshman thread starter macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #3
    Oh that horrible budget question. Ummm.... like... cheap? My next purchase is the sigma 70-200 2.8, so I really don't want to spend too much :)

    What would, say, $500 get me?
     
  4. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #4
    You can still work with that. This kit here is going for $250. I don't know too much about Impact but at that price point it could work for a month and you'd still get your monies worth.

    I am not too sure if it comes with umbrellas and softboxes but much of that stuff is pretty inexpensive, so much so that by the time you really get into lighting you'll have so many that you'll be giving them away.
     
  5. epicwelshman thread starter macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #5
    That's not bad actually, especially for less than $300. This is double the price, but seems like it might actually last. I dunno, I'm torn between paying more and getting quality, or simply paying less. Gee, that's pretty dumb isn't it :)
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #6
    If you've got 120V 60Hz, then you really can't beat Alien Bees. Depending on the size of your space and your requirements, three AB400's, stands, a grid, umbrella and large "brolly box" would do you well for a small space indoors. I'd go with AB800's if you may eventually want to go outdoors, though there's a two-year $25+difference trade-up policy. You can get cheap hot shoe to PC synch connectors off Adorama, B&H or anywhere else- around $5.

    I generally shoot with a softbox as key, a gridded hair light and an umbrella for fill. I've got one of the large AB brolly boxes for travel, along with the Vagabond II battery pack.

    You'll also want background stands and at least a couple of muslins. You can often find a black and white muslin set on eBay pretty cheap. That gives you high and low key, plus you can gel the lights with the white muslin for colors. When you go high key, the hair light loses the grid and becomes the background light. You can start with a sheet, but it won't look nearly as good.

    You can find cheaper stuff than the ABs, but it'll paint you into a corner power-wise, and won't be quite as good. The two-year upgrade option with the Bees means you can start with a light and a reflector or two lights on the cheap and work your way up.

    I also recommend getting a copy of "Light, Science & Magic"

    The "DigiBee" package is probably a good starting point- $600 and all you need to do is add the hotshoe to pc-synch trigger and background stuff. Then you can add an additional light or a flash trigger to the SB600 (too bad you don't have an SB800- SU-4 mode triggers off the flash, I sometimes use my SB800 as a second background light or for additional fill from the side.)

    Going with the brolly box and umbrellas will save you having to buy speed rings.
     
  7. epicwelshman thread starter macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #7
    I hate to sound ignorant, but what is 120V 60Hz? Is that regular North American AC power?

    Thanks for your advice guys, I really do appreciate it. So the DigiBee set, a hot shoe sync cord and I should be good to go?
     
  8. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #8
    Power output and recycling time.

    And yes, you should be fine.
     
  9. brendanryder macrumors 6502a

    brendanryder

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  10. epicwelshman thread starter macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #10
    I looked at the link quickly, and they do look nice. Problem is, I definitelywamt more than one strobe, which none of the kits have. Also, if I got into studio photography seriously, I'd want dedicated strokes like the AlienBees, rather than simple flashes. Do you know what I mean?

    Advice?
     
  11. brendanryder macrumors 6502a

    brendanryder

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    #11
    ya i do know what you mean. but you could always just get a package w/o a 285hv and use 580ex's or sb800's right? and then u can get soft boxes that allow u to insert the flash or make your own.
    IMO the off camera lighting would be cheaper and then if down the road you wanted to start doing "personal" locations you dont have to worry about haveing a plug in or a long enough extension cord.
     
  12. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #12
    Yes, 120v 60Hz is normal NA power. The hot shoe synch adapter will plug into one of the lights, and the other will fire off the flash- you can also fire both strobes off your on-camera flash if you want to use a camera-mounted light as fill, but I prefer my fill to come from a little further off axis.

    Backgrounds and background stands are all that's left from the DigiBee set. I'd put the shoot-through brolly 45 degrees from the subject and up high shining down as key and the umbrella on the opposite side of the camera as a fill light to start with. Remember with lighting closer = softer. Try starting around 3:1 for power, with your camera set at its max synch speed and around f/8 for a starting aperture. Get your key set up, then add about 1/3 that power for your fill and see how it looks.
     
  13. MacNoobie macrumors 6502a

    MacNoobie

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    #13
    Get a Qflash setup a stand and some umbrella's
     
  14. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #14
    It depends a lot on where the OP wants to go- for instance if you're doing full-length portraits, you can't get a flashgun to fill a strip box or large octabox. If you're doing outside daylight, then you can't get a flashgun to overpower ambient- where AB800 or AB1600's will do so (for $25 plus the delta in price it makes sense to start small and upgrade if you don't need the full power of an 800 or 1600 right away.) With ABs, $300 gets you a Vagabond II for 860,000 wattseconds of portable power at between 270 and 400 ws/s. In the studio, ABs will give you modeling lights, and those lights can track the power rate of the tubes so you can see relative power differences- the modeling light on a flashgun when it exists isn't all that useful in my experience- especially for aiming a gridded hair light.

    If you can get away with small modifiers, then flashguns are very portable, very inexpensive and once you get triggering worked out with good triggers, very reliable. They don't give you the same advantages as studio strobes in terms of power, modeling lights or modifier size though. Not as important, but something else which may factor in is that on location customers are much more impressed when you bring strobes on location than flashguns- that can help with pricing even if it doesn't much change the results.

    Stands are stands, you'll have larger umbrellas with strobes (and softer light with larger umbrellas,) backgrounds are backgrounds, but the AB carry cases are pretty good and I think you get way more bang for your buck in terms of flexibility and still good "two trips from a car" portability.
     
  15. epicwelshman thread starter macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #15
    I agree, I'd rather have larger dedicated strobes. Down the line I could always get a couple of SB-800s or 900s for location shooting or whatever, but for a studio setup I'd rather have something a little more robust :)
     
  16. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #16
    If you needed a third light rather quickly, I'd suggest an SB800 in SU4 mode as a background light- but I'd suggest another strobe as a hair light as it's just a pain to aim an SB800 for a hair light. Get a few clamps to hold up backgrounds at a local hardware store and you're pretty set. Budget one of my Bald Eagle pictures for your wall and the upgrade to AB800's next year, and you should be pretty happy for a long time ;)
     
  17. Father Jack macrumors 68020

    Father Jack

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    #17
    Regardless of what strobes you decide on, don't forget a decent flash meter .. :cool:
     
  18. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #18
    Frankly with digital, I don't find it all that necessary to use a flash meter. My Sekonic doesn't get a lot of use these days, as getting the key right is pretty easy with a histogram and chimping. Once the key is right, everything else is relative to it- so at this point, I'd say a flash meter is nice to have, but not absolutely necessary.
     
  19. Father Jack macrumors 68020

    Father Jack

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    #19
    Cheers compuwar. I must admit during my many years taking portraits I never had the pleasure of using a digital camera in the studio .. :eek:
    Ten years ago when ill health forced me to give up profession photography, digital wasn't really up to it, so the order of the day was film, usually colour transparency which required very precise exposure and therefor a flash meter was absolutely necessary.

    FJ
     
  20. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #20
    Cheaper and easier than using a Polaroid back- faster too!

    All the cool kids are doing it... :)

    I can't imagine doing portraits on positives for anything other than magazine publication- most clients want prints to hang or put on a desk, and Cibachromes were (a) A real PITA to make in the darkroom[1] and (b) not the best color gamut for skin tones. They were great for landscapes though!

    Paul
    [1] You don't get a safe light when printing color, the only time you get to see at all is when you're doing the exposure on the enlarger.
     

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