Need Direction - Studio Lights

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Woodrow72, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. Woodrow72 macrumors member

    Woodrow72

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2008
    Location:
    Utah
    #1
    I think that I am in need of some studio lights. I have an inside shoot coming up in a week or so and would like to purchase some studio equipment.

    I have basic studio knowledge and know how to use strobes and flashes to achieve the lighting ratios I am looking for.

    The problem is there is so much out there I dont know what to get. I do not need the top of the line equipment yet. I mainly shoot on site with one assistant so I dont think I am ready to use strobes on location. But for my occasional indoor shoot I would like to have the equipment I need.

    Here is the equipment I have
    Nikon D90
    SB-900 Flash
    SB-600 Flash
    Tamron 35-70 2.8
    Nikon 50mm 1.8

    I have been looking at this setup, mainly because of price
    http://www.cowboystudio.com/product/c04/p0402-02.php

    My price range is between $200-$600
     
  2. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #2
    I'd skip cheapo low-powered strobes. If you just need to do some portraits, get some modifiers and another SB600 and some stands for what you have.

    Paul
     
  3. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    #3
    What are you shooting? How many people? Those flashes are quite low power (which works well for a couple people, but will probably not be enough for a large group). They also have the slowest recycling time I have seen. 5-7 seconds between shots is an eternity. I would rent until your budget allows for better lights.

    Buy used, save money. I started out with one Alienbee 1600 (too much power for most shots), added a softbox, foam core reflector AB800, remote triggers and umbrella. My friend borrowed them and loved them, so now he has purchased, AB1600, AB800, 2 softboxes, umbrellas, stands, grids, vagabond, backgroudn paper etc. Between us we now have a very competent lighting setup that we share. For all of my stuff, I am at ~$600, he is obviously a bit more, but it is still a lot cheaper than a battery pack based system. Obviously the packs are more convenient sometimes, but I just couldn't justify the cost.

    I would save up a bit more until you can buy better lights, I have a feeling you will quickly hate those cheap ones. Alternatively, buy one at a time as money allows. When we started, we were using the strobe as the key light and speedlights for everything else. It doesn't work as well as multiple strobes, but it worked and we got the shots we needed.
     
  4. Woodrow72 thread starter macrumors member

    Woodrow72

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2008
    Location:
    Utah
    #4
    Paul - Thank you for your reply. That was my initial plan, but the SB-600 does not do SU-4 othewise I would be all over that. Am I better to save for a 900 and use that?

    Jampat - I photographing 1 person inside. These are very low power yes and the recycle time does bother me. I have heard good things about the Alien Bees and I think they are close to my price range. What is your opinion on them? Am I better to buy another SB-900 instead of B-800 or B-1600?

    Thanks for the help!
     
  5. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    #5
    For 1 person inside, don't use a 1600, it will be way to powerful. A 400 will be more than enough (an 800 will probably work and give you some room to expand in the future). If I remember correctly the guide number of the 1600 is something like 4 times that of a 580EXII, but a direct comparison is flawed as the 1600 does a giant area at that number while the 580 does a small patch. I think in terms of total light output, a 1600 would be ~8 580's at full power (my memory could be flawed here). If you are only buying 1 for now, in most situations, I believe an 800 is the most flexible.

    I haven't used Nikon flashes, so I can't comment on specifics, but I use speedlights and strobes quite differently. Speedlights are fast and easy to setup, but slow to recycle (unless there are battery packs on all of them which is expensive and slower to setup). The strobes are slow to setup, but fast to recycle. For static poses of 1 person, speedlights will work. For fast moving action or large areas of light needed, I use strobes. ie. For weddings, I use strobes for group shots and dancing shots and speedlights for individual shots (normally, sometimes I set up strobes to do proper portraits if time and space allows as the shorter recycle times and lack of batteries makes life easier).

    Don't some of the Nikon flashes have optical triggers built in? How about using the 600 on an off-camera cord (or sync cord) providing fill and using the 900's on optical trigger mode? Or buy peanuts and optical trigger everything. I have sometimes used the pop-up flash on very low power to trigger the optical slaves without affecting the picture (much, sometimes adds another catchlight, it depends on the shot). This gets you the shot with minimal equipment investment.

    For studio shooting, I recommend either strobes or cheap manual flashes. Automatic flashes are expensive and I never use them on auto in controlled shoots. You already have two nice flashes for on camera use, the manual ones are worth a look.

    My next light purchase will likely be a Q-flash (or something similar) to allow me to be much more portable than the AB+Vagabond, but still have more light than normal speedlights. They can be pricey, but are a good balance of light and portability.

    As for a review of AB's, they just work. everytime we pull them out they work reliably and we have never had a problem. My only criticism is that the sync cord is hot (it has AC power present, I haven't metered it, but it feels like 120V if you touch the plug while pulling it out). It is a pain in the ass having to run extension cords to every light, but that isn't a fault of AB. At full power, recycle time is 2s on the 1600, 0.5 seconds on the 400. Basically I can shoot as fast as I want and rarely get ahead of the lights. Typically, in studio we trigger one light using a wireless trigger and let the rest slave, for weddings, I use wireless triggers on everything. If you want something to drool over, check out the CyberCommander, wireless remote power control and scene memory. I don't have one yet, but it is definitely under consideration (Pocketwizard also just came out with something similar, it's not as sexy and has fewer features, but it does remote power control).
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #6
    You already have an SB900, so you can use CLS to trigger both your SB600's, no need for SU-4 mode in most circumstances.

    For small places, AB400's are more than enough. If I do in-home portraits, my AB800's usually don't go anywhere near half power, as you probably know the closer the light is to the subject the softer it is, so not a lot of need for power for anything that's not a group shot where you have to go back to throw the light over a bunch of people (at which point the WL series starts to look very good.) For maximal value, I'd go with 3x AB400's with shoot-through/reflective combo umbrellas for each and a grid to use as a hair light, as well as stands and use your SB900 in SU4 mode as a background light when you need it- but that's probably out of your total budget. You could start with 2 AB400s and use the SB900 in SU-4 mode on a stand though- that'd probably be near your price-range, though modifying the SB900 will likely suck (I use an SB800 as a background light in SU4 mode when I need a fourth light, I'm a big believer in background/hair/rim lights depending on the shot.

    Paul
     

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