Question: Looking for decent portrait lighting for amateur

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by BD, Jul 8, 2007.

  1. BD

    BD Guest

    Hi, all.

    I'm doing some portrait photography, and currently my lighting system
    consists of my master flash and a slave flash. Not very versatile.

    I'm looking for a good, *not too expensive* lighting system for
    amateur portrait shoots.

    I spotted this on Ebay. Could anyone offer an opinion?

    I don't know nearly enough about this stuff - but if this is a decent
    kit (I am making clear note of the lack of warranty, etc.), I wonder
    if it'd be worth the asking price.


    BD, Jul 8, 2007
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  2. BD

    Charles Guest

    Could be just fine. Do you have the space to set up a small portrait

    Also, you can make your own reflectors and diffusers on the cheap.
    Charles, Jul 8, 2007
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  3. BD

    BD Guest

    As to #1 - I'd say yes. I am kind of winging it, in a large-ish
    apartment - but I do have the room to put up an 8' wide backdrop (I
    do have a basic backdrop rig). This is nothing that I'd advertise in
    any professional capacity, but for friends, and friends of friends,
    it's okay.

    As to #2 - sure. I'm reasonably handy, and have been reading for
    awhile about alternative options for materials for such stuff.

    I'm just hoping for a quick check as to whether the particular
    manufacturer in the ad is reputable, or just shiny junk...

    BD, Jul 8, 2007
  4. BD

    Charles Guest

    That, I cannot say. Good luck.
    Charles, Jul 8, 2007
  5. BD

    Pat Guest

    I don't know about that particular manufacturer but here's my

    You can buy light stands and umbrellas pretty cheap from or any other reputable retailer.

    You might consider getting slave flashes that are of the same brand as
    your primary flash and that allow you to keep your TTL metering in
    place. You can still adjust their power, etc. and I think it will
    give you MORE versatility, not less. You can use at least 3 flashes
    that way, maybe more. Plus you can use the flashes for different
    things at different times.

    Most good flashes allow you to mount the head forward and spin the
    bulb 180' backwards into the umbrella.
    Pat, Jul 9, 2007
  6. BD

    BD Guest

    Yeah, that's a very good idea. A friend of mine just today pointed
    that out. Might be a better solution - couple of small tripods and
    umbrellas - I presume that tripod heads can be had which will have the
    appropriate thread for a flash...
    BD, Jul 9, 2007
  7. BD

    ASAAR Guest

    You can get a little block that accepts the tripod screw on the
    bottom, and resembles a hot shoe on the top (but no contacts),
    allowing the flash's foot to slide in, and you'd then lock it in
    place and set it up in slave mode, at least for Nikon's SB-600 and
    SB-800 speedlights. Other flash units might require a slave module
    ASAAR, Jul 9, 2007
  8. There's a lot he can do with the SB800/600 strobes. Don't forget to

    =?iso-8859-1?Q?Rita_=C4_Berkowitz?=, Jul 10, 2007
  9. BD

    Roy G Guest


    Lighting stands are much better than tripods, they go taller and take up
    less floor space, plus the height adjustment can be done by slackening off 1

    The little blocks Asaar mentioned quite often come with a tilt adjustment
    between the bottom half and the top half, and often have a means of
    attaching a Brolly. They also usually have a threaded block which allows
    them to be mounted onto a tripod or flash bracket, and without it they can
    go straight onto the top of the stand.

    The only problem is their all metal construction, which can sometimes "make"
    between the centre contact on the Flash and its side contact. If this
    happens with your particular type of Flashgun, you will need to stick some
    kind of insulating material onto the bit which fits under that centre

    I have been using this type of arrangemt for years, and it works very well,
    but I am using 3rd party Flashes which don't link up to my Camera's TTL
    system. So I use a Flash Meter to get the sort of Lighting balance I want,
    and the Camera also needs to be set to Manual exposure.

    For Studio work, the one place you don't want a Flash is on the Camera.

    Roy G
    Roy G, Jul 10, 2007
  10. BD

    ASAAR Guest

    Nah, I'm not that sophisticated yet. The little adapter block I
    have is very small and has nothing to adjust. It's slightly larger
    than a bullion cube. I agree about the superiority of lighting
    stands, but I got a little 'tabletop' Manfrotto tripod for the
    flash, and it's placed on tables, bookcases, refrigerators, etc. I
    tried using it on an outdoor wooden table to take panoramic type
    shots of a nearby lake, and wow, that can be a 'pain in the neck',
    literally, if the table is too low or the bench seats too high. :)

    When I add another SB-600 or SB-800 in a year or two I'll think
    about getting the stand and equipment you mentioned. Sometime
    before then I think that I'll try experimenting with outdoor passive
    lighting equipment, such as the lightweight collapsible silver and
    gold backed reflectors. They appear to be capable of producing
    better results than using the camera's built-in flash for 'fill
    flash'. Have you used them?
    ASAAR, Jul 10, 2007
  11. BD

    Roy G Guest


    The only time I use reflectors / brollies is when working in the studio ( my
    front room) with flash lighting.

    I am not sure that wirelessly controlling SB 600s or 800s is the right way
    to go. They are a bit expensive to just use as Slaves, cos any old 3rd
    party Flash will do.

    I have 2 elderly Vivitar 283s and an even older National, as well as 1
    Studio Flash, which is used as the Main light, and is plugged into a PC
    adaptor on the Hot Shoe.

    I quite like using small Flashes because you can get nice hard edged
    shadows, when you want, or they can be easily diffused, and they are easier
    to hide behind the subject.

    Roy G
    Roy G, Jul 11, 2007
  12. BD

    ASAAR Guest

    I can see that they wouldn't be nearly as useful in a studio, but
    as I won't be doing any studio work a much more portable reflector
    might be useful, but I don't know if I'd need one often enough to
    justify its fairly low cost.

    The difference again seems to be use in a studio, where you might
    have standard setups, and the Vivitars would be cheap and able to
    produce the lighting that you need. I was thinking of a much more
    portable kit, where almost all of the shots and flash placements
    would be unique. In situations like this it seems that Nikon's CLS
    might minimize the setup time, where if I used flashes such as the
    Vivitar 283s (or my SB-24) I'd have to do more preliminary testing,
    getting the flash's placement or light output setting just right.

    That doesn't mean that there aren't photographers (maybe you're
    one of them) that use their studio flashes so much that using them
    in the non-predictable locations such as what I'd face, wouldn't be
    slowed down at all. But it's not very likely that I'd ever use the
    lighting setup often enough to make its use second nature. For me,
    using an extra SB-800 or SB-600 might meant that I'd be better able
    to be more unobtrusive in family/friend's homes, not taking up much
    space or wasting time. The downside would be paying for a more
    expensive flash that might not get a lot of use, but another upside
    would be redundancy. I've found from working with computers that if
    a component fails or is acting flaky, I'm *much* better off having
    another identical component, which can be used either as a backup or
    as a reference, to compare its behavior with the flaky one.

    That kind of flash usage is nice, and I've seen it illustrated in
    some of Nikon's and Olympus's brochures, PDF files and web
    tutorials. It also helps to sell more speedlights. :)
    ASAAR, Jul 11, 2007
  13. BD

    Roy G Guest

    Hi, again.

    Yes, you are right about the redundancy factor. That is why I have 2
    Vivitars, at the time I had 2 Nikon FEs, and did the occasional Wedding.

    I did not buy the 2nd Vivitar for Studio use, cos I already had enough guns
    for that, and I didn't really need any more, but identical Cameras and
    identical guns did make sense.

    Your ideas about using a couple of Nikon Flashes in unpredictable shooting
    locations probably does make a lot of sense, and the wireless control will
    work very well, and make life a lot easier.

    The last time I was out shooting an event, (not a Wedding), I didn't even
    bother to take my Flash meter, just the Camera and the Flash. I do realise
    I should have had my back-up Nikon FE, a Vivitar, and that Flash meter.

    Roy G
    Roy G, Jul 12, 2007
  14. BD

    Sam I am Guest

    In my opinion the best and cheapest portrait lighting for a beginner would
    be simple photo bulbs and clip on reflectors. I have a white lightning pro
    setup, kept the lights after selling my business, and even these have photo
    bulbs mounted so the lighting gradient is visible even before the flash
    units are activated. Saves many mistakes. These bulbs screw into standard
    lighting sockets and usually last for about 5 hours. Very cheap and
    effective. As for placement of lights, there are many depending on the
    subject and the desired effect. For females flat glamour lighting minimizes
    wrinkles. I would be happy to email simple lighting diagram setups if
    interested. .
    Sam I am, Jul 14, 2007
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