What do I need to start a home photo studio!

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by blockburner28, Mar 6, 2010.

  1. blockburner28 macrumors 6502

    blockburner28

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    Jun 27, 2009
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    New Orleans
    #1
    So far I only have the Camera. Canon Rebel T1i. Is this camera good enough? What lens do you guys think would be perfect for it. and if not the Canon Rebel T1i which camera should I go with the Nikon D90? ( I have about 30 more days til I can't return this camera) What other things do I need. Thanks guys! i'm just trying to save some money since about 3 times a year my wife, kids and I go to sears and pay around 200+ dollars each trip.

    Is this studio good enough? http://cgi.ebay.com/Photo-Studio-Po...emQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item2305b7e9c1
     
  2. designguy79 macrumors 6502

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    Sep 24, 2009
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    Michigan
    #2
    If your main reason is to save money, you may be surprised that doing it yourself will end being more expensive! That is, if you want professional or semi-professional results.

    If you want to learn photography and practice portrait shots with your family as a hobby, that is different.

    I wouldn't buy any studio equipment until you know if you enjoy portrait photography.

    How much do you know about photography in general?
     
  3. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    #3
    I'd have to agree. Why so eager to create a studio? Will it earn income?
     
  4. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #4
    decent lighting equipment will cost you much more than $200.
     
  5. blockburner28 thread starter macrumors 6502

    blockburner28

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    New Orleans
    #5
    yeah I want to learn how to take portrait shots with the family and print them out. How expensive can it get?

    I will just be doing it for the family for now. I won't be doing it no time soon, but I just like to plan ahead.
     
  6. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

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    Jun 27, 2007
    #6
    ebay kit has "85W Studio Bulb," although it's color balanced to a certain degree..

    My 3x 750w flash has 150w modeling light.

    However it's not the kit that matters though. Just practice.
     
  7. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    Jun 9, 2009
    #7
    Thats a dangerous question to be asking when concerning anything related to photography gear :)...

    I don't know if it works out to be cheaper, but a trip to the hardware store for some PVC piping and then the fabric store for some cloth backdrops is likely to be cheaper than buying a pre-made studio backdrop kit. If you're a little handy you can assemble a very useful and versatile frame together. If you have the dedicated room space, I saw someone once who put 2 large eye-bolts in the ceiling and was able to hang various backdrops off of a PVC frame using that.

    Depending on how often and how large you intend to print, it may be more economical to shoot yourself but send out to print. For the things I like to print and given how often (or rarely) I actually make prints, it is not economical for me at all to do my own printing. If may be different for you depending on what you want.

    Ruahrc
     
  8. blockburner28 thread starter macrumors 6502

    blockburner28

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    #8
    Thanks for the info and what about the camera? should I upgrade to the nikon d90? or stay with the canon t1i?
     
  9. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #9
    the camera is the least of your worries. lighting is what matters.

    if you pay attention to all the equipment studios have, you'll notice that they have multiple lights (you want flashes btw, not continuous lighting) and multiple modifiers. none of these are cheap. then there's the stands, the triggers, the background, and likely a light meter. and then you have to know how to use all of it.

    if you're willing to spend hundreds of dollars (more like thousands, really) and weeks of practice, great...otherwise pay someone else to do it.
     
  10. blockburner28 thread starter macrumors 6502

    blockburner28

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    #10
    i'm welling to pay it
     
  11. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #11
    This is a good starter kit (either this, or the 400W kit for $100 more).

    You can do a lot of good stuff with two heads and two softboxes. This kit has radio remote control too.

    I have Elinchrom gear (a more expensive two head kit) and it's great stuff.

    Your camera is plenty good enough.
     
  12. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #12
    ok, so with strobes (i.e. not continous lights), there are two basic choices - speedlights (hotshoe flashes) or monolights/monoblocs (studio flashes). for studio, monolights are standard since they are much more powerful for the same amount of money, and they have modeling lights so you can more easily visualize the shadows before making an exposure.

    whatever light you buy, it can be modified...and it has to be, if you want a soft, diffuse light. the typical way to soften light is with an umbrella or softbox. umbrellas are cheaper, but they "spill" much more light to either side, giving you less control if you only want to light a specific area or subject, and the catchlights are much less attractive. the problem is softboxes are a lot more expensive.

    finally, you have to consider the brand. the major brands (Profoto, Elinchrom, Alienbee...a couple others) have readily available modifiers of multiple sizes, and the light quality and consistency (particularly the consistency) is better. there're some other advantages too, but I think you can forget about that for now.... and of course, they cost a lot more. Adorama has their Flashpoint series, and I think B&H has Impact, which are great for the cost, but the choice of modifiers are much more limited. an exception is Calumet Genesis lights - they have the Elinchrom mount, so if you decide you want to get expensive lights, you can keep your modifiers and just upgrade the monolight. it's up to you if you want the flexible or the inexpensive choice.

    I guess I should mention Alienbees are still considered an inexpensive choice (just a well-supported one) and that you can only buy them if you're in the US or Canada.

    other miscellaneous things: you should buy a flash meter. it takes the guessing out of ratios. for light stands, make sure you get heavy duty ones for your monolights. try to get one at least 10' tall. if you get pretty serious about your light, whatever room you end up using as your studio should eventually be painted neutral gray.

    more reading here: http://strobist.blogspot.com/
    and here are some links: http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=138912

    the first site is aimed for speedlights and portable lighting, but you can skip to the parts about modifiers, quality of light, etc.

    if you'd like a book, I can recommend Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers, by Christopher Grey.

    edit: I forgot to mention triggers. you can do this using a PC sync cord, I think...but I don't think a T1i has an PC input so either you go wireless or get a hotshoe-PC adapter. for wireless, you can trigger monolights optically with a flash, or you can use radio triggers.
     
  13. blockburner28 thread starter macrumors 6502

    blockburner28

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    New Orleans
    #13
    Thank you so much for all the information man!
     
  14. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    #14
    +1 for Alienbees! (And a modifier. A medium sized softbox is generally a good start).
     
  15. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #15
    Let me just pop in here....

    Before spending too much money on strobes, and then finding you don't want to continue, you can do wonderful portraits with cheap light bulbs - (hot-lights) or daylight.

    The two main disadvantages of tungsten lighting is that 1) it needs to be colour corrected. Today's digital cameras and applications can take care of that, or you can use more expensive photo specific bulbs (if they are even still available!), or you can just print B&W, and 2) it can get very very hot for the subject if you don't ventilate the room.

    You will still need to make and use light modifiers, and your subjects will need to move more slowly, but it can easily be done. If you still like being portraiturist you can then spring for the more expensive strobes. What you learned with your hot-lights is still valid for strobes.

    A much more difficult, but by far the cheapest solution, is to learn to do portraits by daylight/window light. Soft, indirect, light is required here. Think north facing windows. A Hollywood shooter (whose name escapes me for the moment) used to use his garage. With door wide open, he would place his subjects inside - out of the direct the light but in the light that was being reflected into the garage by the great outdoors. There's a colour correction that is also needed here, but - start shooting in B&W to get a feel for it, and eventually you will figure out the colour thing.

    Good Luck.

    (For the most part - good photos are made by good photographers and good light. Your equipment has very little to do with it. I'm going to get flamed for this, but it is still true. For the most part, good equipment makes your photography easier - not better. )
     
  16. smiddlehurst macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2007
    #16
    No flaming from me as you speak the truth. The number of people I see carrying very very VERY expensive kit and having bugger all idea how to use it is incredible. Came across one event photographer lugging a Canon EOS 1D with a 580EX Speedlight on top and a 50mm f1.2 lens taking photos in a dark-ish club by pointing the flash straight at the subject and leaving the camera in auto mode... Every single shot he showed me on the screen was crap, washed out with the flash obliterating any sense of depth, detail or life where a simple thing like flipping the flash up would have helped immensely (let's not talk of the possible improvements by using that lovely lens properly, it'll be better for my blood pressure).

    To the OP, could I suggest having a hunt around your local area for a photography studio? They can be surprisingly cheap to rent, especially the ones off the beaten track (I know of one about an hour from my home that goes for £15 an hour for example), and it'd give you access to a decent space and lighting equipment to have a play with. Based on that you can make a decision whether or not you a) want to invest and b) how much you want to spend. Don't worry about the camera body, what you've got will be more than adequate for portrait work, but you haven't mentioned what lens you're using. If you're going to spend money on the camera side then put it on glass rather than the body.
     
  17. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #17
    This is great advice. The advantage of renting a commercial studio is to get a chance to try this sort of photography before you spend any of your own money on it. Often studios also run training days, or have an associated photographic club - so you can learn from others how to do lighting.

    If you buy your own gear, it's difficult to stop. You get the lights, softboxes - but then there's reflectors, more interesting modifiers (beauty dish etc.), extra background and hair lights, backgrounds etc. A studio will have all these things.
     
  18. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #18
    Not quite- the studio strobes come in two flavors, monblocs where the light and power supply are a single unit and pack and head systems where the power pack is a unit and all the light heads plug into it.

    Actually, these days I recommend getting three lights and three shoot-through/reflective umbrella combos- which gives good flexibility and redundancy and are going to be much cheaper than softboxes for relatively similar light (with the ability to adjust the radius somewhat instead of hunting for a different sized softbox.)

    For home use, I'd recommend 3 AB400's, stands and said umbrellas, as well as a 15 degree grid for a hair light. Get a couple of muslin backgrounds, a background stand, a spray bottle and a bunch of cheap plastic clamps at a home store and you're pretty set.

    Paul
     
  19. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #19
    After reading all this, I wonder if the OP still thinks they can save money by doing it themselves? :D

    Half the time, I think pro photographers get into the business simply to start subsidizing all the gear that the hobby we all love seems to need.
     
  20. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    Oct 22, 2007
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    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #20
    Thanks!! :D
    Good advice! When I had a commercial studio I used to rent it out. Some people who thought they could save money by "doing it themselves" would rent the studio. Often they would then come back and hire me to do the job when they found out how hard it can be to do a good job.
    And that is the truth, too! Good glass on a cheap camera can still take great photos. Bad glass on an expensive camera will never take great photos. For the most part. I know a photographer who takes great photos, and spends no money at all on glass. ;)
     
  21. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    #21
    Another thing to keep in mind is bigger isn't always better. I got a good deal on an AB1600 and AB800. The 1600 is nice to have when I am trying to light a whole barn, but when doing portraits in someones house it is way to bright. I am always fighting it (normally with ND gels). A 400 would work a lot better for me 90% of the time.

    In a studio, remote triggers aren't normally necessary, but if you are doing event photography they are essential so there are fewer wires to trip over (or so that every person with a PnS does not fire the strobes). I normally use a speedlight aimed at the ceiling to fire the strobes (in controlled situations) so I don't need to bother with the wireless setup. The strobes are setup so much brighter than the flash that it doesn't affect the picture.

    The best idea in this thread is renting studio time and seeing what you like/need in terms of gear. Blindly buying gear is a good way to lose money.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that you can get away with cheaper glass in studio than shooting a wedding for example (at least initially). Because you can setup the light to stop the lens down to f8 (or whatever you want), large aperture lenses are not as big a benefit as with natural light photography. If you are aiming for critical sharpness, good glass helps, but the gap is narrower by operating the cheap glass at it's best point.
     
  22. kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    #22
    Just wanted to ground things a bit. I won't argue with any of the suggestions in this thread. But....

    To the OP:

    Be honest with yourself: what is your real goal here?

    If you are excited about getting into professional level studio photography and if money isn't an object, then the advice in this thread is spot on.

    If all you really care about is making "studio" shots of your family which are equal to what you would get at Sears then you might be able to obtain "acceptable" results with much less money.

    One or two off camera flashes might be all you really need (and might cost considerably less than a full studio setup).

    Are you shooting this for holiday shots to send as cards? Are you hoping to frame these for shots displayed in your home?

    Think about what you intend these images for prior to forking out a considerable amount of cash. Just having one decent flash off-camera can work wonders for holiday cards once you learn to use it properly. Adding a second off-camera flash can further expand your possibilities and create shots that you are proud to send out.

    Going balls out on a studio setup isn't needed for "family" shots (unless you have very exacting standards). If you require "professional" results then expect to spend a decent sum of money (and a fairly large amount of time learning how to use your lighting gear). If you plan on making portrait shots a source of income, then a good setup may pay for itself. If you have disposable income, then spend it as you see fit.

    But if your driving concern is offsetting the $200+ you spend a year at Sears by doing it yourself, then I would consider the option of buying an external flash or two and learning how to use them. They may be adequate to your needs and cost less than creating a studio.

    All depends on what you are hoping to achieve and what you consider acceptable for your needs/budget. Buying the right gear isn't close to enough when it comes to lighting. You also should expect to invest a huge amount of time in learning to use it. Did I say huge? Need to expand that into a ginormous amount of time. Lighting is one of the hardest things to learn in photography. Not only does it require the appropriate gear, but the learning curve on how to use that gear can be intimidating.

    If you are really interested in lighting, I will suggest the same book that Compuwar (our resident light expert) suggested to me:

    http://www.amazon.com/Light-Science...=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268070832&sr=1-3

    Great read. Very, very helpful. Lighting is complex. Light is vital to any photograph. An understanding of light is critical to the making of any image.
     
  23. blockburner28 thread starter macrumors 6502

    blockburner28

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2009
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    New Orleans
    #23
    Good read man and thanks for all the information! This is my main reason for doing this

    If all you really care about is making "studio" shots of your family which are equal to what you would get at Sears then you might be able to obtain "acceptable" results with much less money. YES!

    I want to save less then the 500 to 600 we spend from going there 3 times a year. I plan on upgrading to the T2i canon rebel, but right now i'm using a Canon t1i i also went out and bought a Canon 430ex II flash yesterday, so if you don't mind lead me from there. Thanks in advance man
     
  24. kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    Apr 22, 2003
    #24
    Experiment with your new flash. And then keep experimenting. Learn how your body affects the performance of your flash. Most importantly, learn what settings on your body affect your flash when used off-body. How can I fire my flash when used hand-held off body? How do I adjust the flash output of my flash when used off-body? More basically, how do I fire my flash when I hand hold it off of the body?

    Once you figure out these issues, you can start to hand-hold your flash away from the camera and experiment with how flash positioning affects your images. You can also experiment with how direct flash vs bounced flash vs diffused flash affects your images. It will be trial-and-error for a bit. You may need to adjust the output of your flash. You may need to play with positioning. Is direct flash better? Is bounce flash better? Is diffused flash better? With practice (and time) you will learn how you can manipulate your flash to affect the lighting in your images. Then you will learn how to optimally use your flash to light your scene to create the image you see in your mind's eye.

    Depending on your expectations, you may need more than one light. But before you think about adding another light, think about all the ways you could use the light you have at your disposal. Would a different position of the flash create the lighting I need? Would a different adjustment of the head create the lighting I need (i.e. direct lighting vs bouncing the flash)? Would adding the included diffuser create the lighting I need (assuming your flash includes a diffuser)?

    You may end up needing more lights or in some instances needing to invest in a complex lighting system. But in the short term, play with what you have and learn about the complex relationships of ambient light and external applied light. It isn't easy, but it's very cool when it all gels.

    I come from a Nikon background where all of this is fairly easy to control in-camera. Don't have any experience with how easy it is to control an external flash for those that shoot Canon.

    I don't want to downplay the importance of the responses to this thread. For truly professional results, you do need soft boxes, hair lights, snoots, reflectors, etc. Professional portrait photographers don't invest in these items for nothing. But you have to decide if you can be happy with the images produced by going "ghetto." If the answer is yes, then great. If the answer is no, then prepare to invest the money that professional portrait photographers invest (and the time required to learn to use this extra equipment). All up to you.
     
  25. gnd macrumors 6502a

    gnd

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    At my cat's house
    #25
    If your reason for upgrading is to get better image quality I'll tell you this:
    Your increase in image quality by upgrading from T1i to T2i will be practically ZERO.

    You'll get far better results by buying a dedicated portrait lens instead. A nice and fast prime, 50mm f1.8 if you don't want to spend a lot of money (~106$ on Amazon) or a 60mm f2.8 macro if you want to get very good results (~422$ on Amazon). 60mm on a Rebel will look like 96mm on a 35mm camera, which is almost ideal portrait lens. This 60mm is also extremely sharp and fast enough to blur the background behind your subject.
    Another option would be either the 100mm f2 (406$ on Amazon) or the old 100mm f2.8 macro (544$) or even the new 100mm f2.8L IS (885$). 100mm on a Rebel would look like 160mm on a 35mm camera, which is already a bit long for portraits, but still doable.
     

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