Studio Lighting Recommendations

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Nickwell24, Oct 26, 2014.

  1. Nickwell24 macrumors regular

    Nov 13, 2008
    I'm wanting to put together a photo studio at my home for portraits. My budget is $600 and I'm starting with nothing and here are two different ways i'm considering going, any gear recommendations would be GREATLY appreciated. I don't have any decent local photo shops that sell lighting so all my purchased will be on the good ol' amazon.

    Scenario 1:
    10' Backdrop kit
    3 Strobes with softboxes
    3 light stands 1 w/ boom arm.

    Scenario 2:
    10' Backdrop Kit
    1 Strobe with octobox
    2 Speedlights (for backdrop lighting)

    I'd prefer scenario 1 due to them running on AC and not battery powered, but I am open to advice.

    My main client will be headshots and single portraits.
  2. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    Just to be clear, the $600 is just for the lighting and you already have the camera?
    I have a couple of SP900's that are great. However I've heard good things about brands other than Nikon and Cannon. I'll look for the link when I'm on my Mac.
    Lastolite make nice back drops. Check out their urban range.
    However deepening on your scenario you might get buy with some sheets and clips. Depends on what look you want.
  3. kenoh macrumors demi-god


    Jul 18, 2008
    Glasgow, UK
    I got a cheap ass frame and white and black backdrops from they cost me £34 shipped here in cold and wet blighty. So that should give you more money off budget for strobes.

    Also bought some pretty crap lights so dodge those. They did however come with reasonably OK ish stands. And softboxes. They were £24.

    Both made by axenta... Flimsy and Cheap but for someone like me having a bash not for profit, they were OK...

    This is so you can buy with caution BTW...

    I too would like some strobes. Saw the neewer 180s on Amazon for £150 ish each but on reviews they give a bad colour cast. Which could be corrected in post I suppose but not sure how easily.

    I am interested in this answer too.
  4. Nickwell24 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 13, 2008
    Yes I have my camera gear. the $600 is entirely for lighting and backdrop. I already have 1 neweer tt680 which is a great flash that I can use for a hair light if necessary.
  5. The Bad Guy macrumors 65816

    The Bad Guy

    Oct 2, 2007
    Depends entirely on the look you're going for.

    If you're going low key, you can get by with just a key light or a key light and rim. Don't even really need a backdrop in some situations.

    High key? Whole other story. You'll need two lights for just the background (one I suppose if you're just doing head shots) and then at least that again for the subject.

    Background kits are available all over eBay, cheap as chips. But they are 'cheap'.

    BUT then you've got to factor in light modifiers (a must), brollies are cheap but hard to tame, reflectors are cheap and handy if you want to skimp on other lights, big assed soft boxes are fantastic to use, make a beautiful light but are expensive. That boom arm you mentioned wanting in your initial post? Well that coupled with a big octobox just set me back $500 via B&H (recommended).

    So yeah, quite honestly, I don't think $600 is going to go far if you want to use decent stuff. It won't even buy you a good strobe.
  6. VI™ macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2010
    Shepherdsturd, WV

    The Adorama Flash Point 320M is probably the best bang for your buck out there. It's a 150w/s monolight (AC powered!) that's a few pennies under $100 for 1. They also have an optional battery pack if you ever need it. As long as you're shooting in door and not using narrow apertures, 150w/s should be enough. If it's not, they make higher powered ones. The next step up is 300w/s, which gives you an additional stop of light for $189 and then they have ones that are even more powerful.

    They're better quality than some crap like Cowboy and they should even have a warranty. The only thing you'll have to keep in mind is the mounting system. I'm not sure off the top of my head what system they use, but if you want to upgrade to a different brand of strobe in the future, you'll be fitting all your modifiers that use speed rings with new speed rings to match your gear. I've had to do that in the past.

    Other than that, you're going to be limited in what you can buy that's worth actually spending money on it. Sometimes you can find used Speedotron lights and packs for cheap, but then you're left dealing with a pack and head system and if you're not familiar with it, it can have a steep learning curve. I use a Dynalite pack and head system, but it offers what I need in a light vs. anything else for the price.


    Sure it will. You can buy and Alien Bee or maybe two for less than $600. They're a bit overkill for the price though. The Adorama lights I posted are a good quality light and a steal for the price.
  7. steveash macrumors 6502


    Aug 7, 2008
    Buying studio lighting is a bit like buying a camera - you are buying into a system. There are two main connections for modifiers S-type is the most common but there is also the EL or Elinchrom type as well as many other manufacturer specific such as Profoto or Broncolor. You can get adapters across these connections but it can get complicated with multiple heads.

    You also have the choice of strobe or constant light. I would only go with constant light if you also want to do video as it has limitations, not least in power.

    Something to keep in mind when choosing strobes are the flash duration - most manufacturers give a t0.5 time but t0.1 is the more useful one to go by. t0.5 is the time of the peak power whereas t0.1 is the full flash duration. If you can only get a t0.5 time then the t0.1 time will be roughly three times this figure. Flash duration is important for freezing action and for controlling/reducing ambient light. Many cheap strobes have very slow flash durations.

    Other factors to consider are power output, white balance and power consistency, triggering method and safety.

    My advice is to go with a well known trusted brand with a clear upgrade path if and when you need it. I use Elinchrom but if you are in the US it seems Paul C Buff strobes are good for the money and a reliable brand. It may well be worth hiring a strobe to get a better idea of what you will need. If you don't need much power the YONGNUO YN-560II speedlites are cheap and very well made. Most photographers I know, myself included, have a bag full of them.
  8. VI™ macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2010
    Shepherdsturd, WV
    Dynalite did something cool about a year ago and I was excited for two reasons: The first is that I use Dynalite and the second is that I shoot video on occasion. They released a standard strobe head with a 300watt modeling light upgradeable to 650watts with a new bulb. You can attach 4 of these to their Road Max packs. I know it's not 1000watts, but having that much constant light power in 4 little heads per pack gives you a lot better options that 100-250watt modeling lights if you're trying to use a strobe for video. There's options, but they don't fit in to the OP's budget of $600.

    And the reason why I didn't mention these things is because of the OP's $600 budget. That doesn't give him enough room to be exceptionally picky about flash speeds and color consistency. Even the Alien Bee lights that cost as much as they do have a noticeable magenta color shift at the lowest power levels. If you mix different powered strobes and have to turn the power on a high powered strobe, you're going to be shooting with two different colored strobes.

    And as far as good for the money, that's subjective. Their cheapest 160w/s monolight is $225. If you don't purchase the triggers that allow remote power adjustment (which are worth the price, IMHO), then it's just an expensive monolight with a magenta color shift. So two 160w/s Alien Bees would run the OP $500, leaving them $100 for the rest of their kit, where as 3 of the 150w/s entry level Adorama or B&H branded strobes would cost $300, leaving the OP $200 for stands and modifiers.
  9. Laird Knox macrumors 68000

    Jun 18, 2010
    I would recommend not going the cheap route. Save up until you can get the gear you really need/want. If you have to limit it to a single light for now you are better off in the long run. You end up repurchasing much less gear. (I have tons of stuff that I've replaced with better options later. If I had gotten the good gear first it would have saved me a lot of cash.)

    With that in mind I have to also give a thumbs up to Paul C Bluff. I use the Einsteins and they are fantastic lights but one will blow your entire budget. If you are taking any kind of a photography class they offer a student discount on the mono lights.

    I also like the Yongnuo lights for an inexpensive pick. The manual lights can be found for about $50 and trigger just fine using the optical slave feature.

    Don't forget to include a good set of sandbags. It doesn't take much to knock over a stand with a large soft box.
  10. Nickwell24 thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 13, 2008
    Thanks everybody for your recommendations.

    I ended up finding a great deal on craigslist for lightly used ProMaster studio equipment. It included 3 softboxes, 4 strobes, backdrop stand with 4 backdrops, and i'm sure there is more i'm forgetting. I've done a few high-key shots already and they're turning out great. Here is an example of my niece, this is straight out of the camera.

  11. kenoh macrumors demi-god


    Jul 18, 2008
    Glasgow, UK
    Well played. Looks like you are sorted. Nice picture.

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