studio lighting

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by carolyn, Sep 15, 2004.

  1. carolyn

    carolyn Guest

    I'm setting up a new studio in my home for a digital and film camera
    and wanted to know which lights are necessary and which are the best.
    What is the best placement for them for portraiture? This is for
    families, children, seniors and babies. Any response would be greatly
    appreciated, thanx!!!
    carolyn, Sep 15, 2004
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  2. carolyn

    Hunt Guest

    For people in formal portraiture, you will want strobe. Depending on the size
    of the group, three - four instruments should work. Depending on your budget,
    I'd look for something to give you at least f/8 with your camera(s).

    One instrument for Key approximately 45 degrees to side, one Fill on the other
    side, and one Hair light from above and behind. You might want to consider a
    Background light low and behind the subject(s) pointed at your background, if
    using a cloth, or seamless.

    One less expensive way to modify the light is to use very large reflective
    white dishes (reflectors) on the Key and Fill, and clip diffusion material
    over these to suit. You will also determine the ratio of these two lights, i.
    e. 2:1 where you can either adjust the head output, or vary the distance for
    the same effect. The hair light should be a little bit "harder," or less
    diffused that the other two. Background light can be as hard, or as soft as
    you deem necessary. Good modeling lights in the heads is very useful to help
    you see an approximatation of your lighting, but Polaroids, or studying your
    monitor will help even more.

    Practice with your gear with friends and hone your skills, before you start
    selling your service. It will also help build your portfolio.

    Experiment with different ratio of Fill v Key, as well as Hair, and also

    A good studio strobe set should be stands (tall enough to do all you will
    need), maybe a boom for hair, or gear to adapt a stand to a boom, low stand
    for Background, a power pack that allows variable power to each head, and of
    course the heads themselves, a stand for background cloth, or seamless, and
    the cloth, or seamless paper.

    Hunt, Sep 15, 2004
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  3. carolyn

    Crownfield Guest

    look at

    low prices, reasonable quality and flexibility, good support.
    Crownfield, Sep 15, 2004
  4. carolyn

    Tony Guest

    Here is a list of books, including ones on lighting:
    You can't really go wrong with White Lightnings for lights. They are
    relatively inexpensive but the flash tubes last a long time. They are also
    solidly built and I'm told that they now take standard accessories - back
    when I used lights yu had to but special fittings - which I never did.

    home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
    The Improved Links Pages are at
    A sample chapter from "Haight-Ashbury" is at
    Tony, Sep 15, 2004
  5. Strobes are preferred to hot lights for portraiture generally -- less
    hot for the subjects (and photographer), and stops motion better.

    In addition to the lights themselves, the light *modifiers* are
    important. You really want at least 1 big soft-box setup I think.
    And you probably need a snoot or grid for the hair light.

    (Leaving out lots of basics that I see have already been covered by
    David Dyer-Bennet, Sep 15, 2004
  6. way too much quoting....and the link should be...
    Gene Palmiter, Sep 15, 2004
  7. carolyn

    carolyn Guest

    Well, I'm using a Canon Digital Rebel and a plain Canon Rebel to do my
    work. What kind of lights would you recommend me to use? I already
    have a backlight that works beautifully.
    carolyn, Sep 15, 2004
  8. carolyn

    carolyn Guest

    Tony had said that White Lightnings were good to use, but what are
    some other brands that you guys recommend? My budget is decent so
    throw anything out there that you can think of. Do you think if I get
    2 strobes and 1 hairlight for up top or at a 45 degree angle, I would
    get ample lighting?
    carolyn, Sep 15, 2004
  9. carolyn

    Hunt Guest

    I've used the Speedotron line for decades and they are built very well. I've
    shipped mine all over US and Canada, in "anvil-type" cases, and other than the
    weight, they have never failed, regardless of the baggage handlers. They offer
    a ton of modifiers for their instruments too. All of mine are their "Black-
    line," but for portraiture, I think their "Brown-line" would work quite well
    and all the modifiers from Blk-l work there. Since I need tons of power, the
    Blk-l is what I use.

    I have used Norman, but do not like them - a personal opinion.

    Elinchrome gets good marks from a lot of my peers, but I have no experience.

    Broncolor also gets good reviews and is near the top of strobes.

    I'd look for a pack in the 1200WS range with enough outlets, that are
    variable, with variable modeling lights, then spend the extra on modifiers,
    softboxes, and the like. In a small studio, 800WS will probably work too, but
    you usually loose outlets, when you go down too far.

    Hunt, Sep 16, 2004
  10. Uh...I'd keep the lights all on the same side of the subject. That's
    the way we pros do it.
    Randall Ainsworth, Sep 16, 2004
  11. carolyn

    Tony Guest

    I always use a flash for a hairlight - or backlight - or both according
    to what I'm up to. Just two strobes - one in a softbox most of the time. If
    you don't own a fairly powerful flash (I had a Vivitar 285) you might prefer
    to buy another strobe.
    The advantage of White Lightning is hard to stress enough. THere are many
    many cheap lights on the market, but they tend to be low grade junk that
    melts or with such weak modeling lights as to be useless. And then there is
    flash tube life. White Lightnings are rated at 100,000 cycles wile a lot of
    the cheaper ones are rated at 10,000 to 20,000 cycles - these tubes tend to
    cost 70 to 90 bucks EACH. So even if the cheap light continues to work and
    has a good modeling light, it is going to need a new flash tube much sooner.
    No bigie if you use it three times a year, but if you are setting up a
    studio it could be a significant expense.
    Buff also makes Alien Bees which is a budget line. I don't know anything
    about them but you might look into them too.

    home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
    The Improved Links Pages are at
    A sample chapter from "Haight-Ashbury" is at
    Tony, Sep 16, 2004
  12. carolyn

    Hunt Guest

    Glad to hear it.

    Hunt, Sep 16, 2004
  13. Putting the main light on the opposite side of the fill is great for
    copying old pictures...not very good for flattering (or professional)
    portraits of people.
    Randall Ainsworth, Sep 16, 2004
  14. carolyn

    Crownfield Guest

    WL x3200 with the 11 inch reflector
    give an asa 100 guide of 450 at full power,
    and a guide of 3 at lowest power setting.

    at 28 feet, that matches sunlight at full power.
    Crownfield, Sep 16, 2004
  15. carolyn

    Lourens Smak Guest

    I like Profoto lights a lot ( they also have a very nice
    range of light shapers including the white "beauty dish" which I own
    also, a great item as a main light for portraits because it doesn't emit
    direct light. Many of their reflectors can be focused, which is very
    nice. Profoto is also extremely durable. I'm now saving for the 7-foot

    Lourens Smak, Sep 16, 2004
  16. You don't need a lot of power to create good portraits.
    Randall Ainsworth, Sep 16, 2004
  17. carolyn

    carolyn Guest

    hey guys...i've been looking a a 1250W Smith Vector Mini Boom Kit and
    a 3 light Smith Vector Studio Flash kit. Does anyone have an opinion?
    they seem cheaply priced so i want to see if they're cheaply made.
    thanks for all the advice

    carolyn, Sep 16, 2004
  18. carolyn

    Hunt Guest


    I cannot address the SV strobes, but many, many years ago did invest in their
    location light kit with quartz instruments. It did not take too long for these
    units to be rendered useless. The stands were very weak, and the lamp heads
    did not function well. Within two years I'd gone completely to Lowell for my
    "hot lights" and still use the Lowell stands. Other than one that a bull
    trampled, all still function fine and that is with about 25 years of hard use.

    I hope you can find some users of SV strobes, who can update this ancient
    account of another of their products, as the new flash stuff might be great.
    If you have the opportunity to play with it in a camera store, take down the
    system, and then set it back up again - several times. Are the stands secure,
    and sturdy? Do the heads attach snugly to the stands? Will you burn your
    fingers on the heads if the modeling lights are used? Do the heads tilt and
    hold where you want them to? As for the electronics, only a user with
    experience can comment on that.

    Hunt, Sep 16, 2004
  19. Carolyn:

    I have a 2 light Smith Victor Studio Flash kit. The problems begin
    on receipt. Both reflectors were bent so they wouldn't fit on the
    lights, one of the sync cords had an internal short, and the gels for
    the snoot was missing. And the modelling lamps were of lower wattage
    than advertised.

    Eventually, I got everything but the modelling lights put to right,
    and I got the set to work. First the good news. Light output is
    accurate, consistent, and of good color. Recycle time is as
    advertised or a little faster. The rest? Not so good.

    If you're using an umbrella or softbox, the modelling lights are
    worthless. While each monolight has an optical slave, there's no
    way to turn it off, even if you've got a sync cord plugged in. A
    random flash or even someone flipping a light switch will trigger the
    strobes. The stands are extremely lightweight -- good for dragging
    around but lousy for holding up equipment.

    In short, while they are a step above the Britek units perpetually
    hawked on eBay, it's not a very long step. Had I to do it over again,
    I would waited a couple of months and spent the extra $200-$300 on
    Alien Bees.
    Michael Benveniste, Sep 16, 2004
  20. Studio flash equipment is really somewhat of a personal choice. A lot of
    people recommend White Lightning, although I have no experience with them.

    A few considerations you'll want to think about include:

    1. Are you primarily shooting in a studio, or do you need to be able to
    move the stuff for location shots? If you're planning to be "on location",
    is power readily available, or do you need to be able to use battery power?
    Remember, studio strobe can use a considerable amount of power and some
    places require a licensed electrician to wire things up.

    2. How big of a studio and how big of groups are you planning to shoot?

    Currently, I use the Dynalite Uni400Jr (I have four of them). This provides
    a total output power of 1600 w/s. I also have three Quantum T4d (150 w/s
    apiece for about 450 w/s) and several Canon Speedlite 550EX flash units.
    This combination allows me to cover a variety of shooting requirements. If
    I need more power (for a large softbox), I simply use two smaller softboxes
    with two Dynalite heads together. I like the Dynalites since they can be
    driven from a simple battery pack and their battery packs are interchangable
    with the Quantum and Canon 550EX. This combination allows me to readily
    shoot on locations, even outdoors, if needed. One thing I like about the
    Dynalites are that the monohead are relatively light (just over three
    pounds) and self-contained, allowing good flexibility, particularly when
    you're using a boom. In a large shoot, I may use the four Dynalites (1600
    w/s) for the main/fill, then use the Quantums for the hairlight and
    background and the Canon 550EX as accent lighting. My mixture of Dynalite
    and Quantum power packs can be used on the Quantum and Canon flashes to give
    me a 1.5 second recycle time. For completely mobile applications, I use the
    power packs on the Dynalite and Quantum, and the standard 4AA cells for the
    Canon. My recycle time is up to about 5-7 seconds, but I can shoot entirely
    without external power.

    If my setting were purely studio and indoors, I would probably consider the
    Profoto, which use heads and packs (Dynalite makes heads and packs as well,
    but the Profoto stuff seems to be more well supported in terms of

    James Akiyama, Sep 17, 2004
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