View Full Version : Studio Lighting
12-13-2010, 07:44 PM
Okay, census is to use flash strobe lighting. I have been doing a multitude of research on which are better, how much w/s I need, etc, and am so confused as to which brand to buy. Can anyone help me? I am planning on working out of my garage, 20x20area. Please recommend some brands and which I should stay away from?
12-14-2010, 03:45 PM
First off, there are thousands of articles out there, and by doing a google search, you have the answers no further away than your screen. ;)
My opinion on constant on lighting is good for video, crap for photo.
- its usually too weak
- the quality is low
- it gets dangerously hot for you and the model
- never lasts long enough for my needs when battery powered
For beginners, I always suggest starting off with 1 battery powered speedlight and develop into 2, 3 and more setups when you can afford it.
- they are WAY stronger than constant on lighting
- the quality of the light is superior
- they are PORTABLE
- they are safer for your models
- they last quite long and last longer with an extra set of AA batteries.
Do the research and when you are ready to get your flash off camera, visit www.strobist.com and do the Lighting 101 and 102 mini courses. Before doing that, though, make sure that your basics in photography are strong. If you don't completely understand the inter-relationships of aperture, shutter and ISO, this is where this place can help you out. They also offer a really affordable and awesome starter course on the basics.
OK, you've decided to forget about continuous lighting, and that's the right decision.
A lot of people like hotshoe flashes (used off camera) and they do have two big advantages, portability and the fact that they run off of batteries not the mains.
But they have big disadvantages too... Most people start out believing that softboxes and umbrellas are the main light shaping tools for portraits, but that isn't so, and once you've reached the stage of wanting to produce more controlled lighting you'll find that studio flash is a much better bet - unless you really do need the portability, in which case battery powered studio flash is worth consisering.
As Jerryph says, there are a lot of articles out there - please take a look at this one (http://www.lencarta.com/faq/how-to-choose-studio-lighting)
12-18-2010, 02:45 AM
I looked at that article, and it is either mostly opinion or basically wrong. Allow me to retort.
1. They rely on batteries so you’ll need to carry a lot of spares
2. Very limited power—about 60Wsor less
3. No modelling lamps—it’s difficult to previsualize the effects
4. Very limited range of accessories—basically umbrellas, although other accessories are also available they are of limited effectiveness with hotshoe flashes
5. Hotshoe flashes always fire at full power. Nearly all of them have electronic circuitry that “reduces” the power by shutting off the flash early. The effect of this is that, at low power settings, the flash duration is extremely short. That seems to be a good thing, but as the length of the flash duration reduces, the colour temperature of the flash increases with it. Differences in color temperature are just one of the reasons why hotshoe flashes are less than perfect.
6. Each flash needs to be triggered, usually with a radio trigger. This adds a lot to the cost and also makes it complicated to use and much less reliable than studio flash. “Dedicated” systems produced by the major camera manufacturers can be used without big spending on radio triggers but the systems themselves are both very expensive and complicated to use.
7. Hotshoe flashes can be very useful but they’re really best for journalists and other people who need to use flash on the move. Studio lights are much better if you’re using them at home or in a studio.
8. Buying studio lights can be daunting, because there are so many different makes, different models, different specs and different prices—so the rest of this article will help you to understand what’s important and what isn’t, so that you can make the right choice for you.
1. How many shots does one need to take in a day? I can get an average of 2500 shots per single set of batteries. Of those 2500, around 150 are at full power in bright conditions. The rest are at around 1/4 power. Increase that number to 4500 pops per single set of batteries if I use external battery packs.
Even the low end EneLoops are good for at least 275 FULL POWER shots on a high end flash and they are known for not being the best for battery powered speedlights.
2. Maybe something like a low end Vivitar, but flashes like the SB-900, 580EXII and other flashes are closer to 110W/s, proven with my Sekonic meter and compared to outputs made with my 1,000 W/s digital Photogenic 2500DR studio head. Even the SB-600 from Nikon gets an easy 70 W/s at full power. Is that as strong as a studio head? No, but sincerely, in how many situations are you going to need more than 120 W/s? On average indoors I am between 1/4 to 1/2 power on a single speedlight. If I use more than one usually the key light is at 1/4 power and the others are lower. I shoot between F/4 and F/8. In a studio, I tested a single Prophoto Compact 600 on a 8 foot parabolic. The umbrella was 10 feet from my subject, the power setting on the head was at it's LOWEST and I was still forced to use F/16. For me that is akin to using a sledgehammer to nail down a tack.
Of course, there are times I use my studio head on full blast and shoot at F/16 but normally that is outside in bright daylight. For me lighting is about subtlety not blasting the heck out of my clients if I can help it.
3. Not true. The SB-800s do have a modeling function. Truth is, if you practice long enough, you will see where the light hits before you set up the lights. Another thing... light travels in straight lines. It is not rocket science to sight along the flash and see exactly where the light is going to go. Need more precision? Chimp the LCD on your camera for 1-2 shots! Pre-visualizing is not hard like he makes it sound, its VERY easy... even a freaking mouse knows that if a shadow comes from a particular direction, that it is a hawk and he knows exactly what direction it comes from and what direction to boogie to save his little self! We instinctually know how light works... practice makes it more than instinct!
4. BS. There is no light modifier for a studio head that does not have an equivalent for a speedlight. Snoots, grids, softboxes, flags, gels... you name it, it exists or can be made. Studio heads are light creators, so are speedlights... come on... someone was not doing their homework! ;)
5. True... at least in part. Yes a speedlight duration decreases as power drops. This is a GOOD thing! Flash freezes motion by having durations in the 1/1000th of a second and faster. This will give you a sharper photo of something in motion (like a skateborder) than that studio head that fires at 1/500th or slower especially in something that requires it, like high speed photography, sports, capturing bullets, taking pics of exploding water filled balloons and on and on. Totally wrong about the white balance. That may be true of a 1950's flash, but it is totally wrong, and I can prove it. Why? I have tested it. My flashes *all* give me a WB within 150 degrees in between their lowest and highest. This amount is invisible to all but high end calibration and measuring devices.
Talking about studio heads. Alien Bees are bargain brand studio heads with well known reputations of having WB variations between 800-1500, which is HUGE and visible to the naked eye. It comes off as a pink cast to the side with the light that is at a lower power in 2 or more light setups.
Bottom line, every flash studio or battery powered has a WB fluctuation... what is important is... how much.
6. Not entirely true. Many flashes have a built-in slave, just like most studio heads do. His contention that one would need expensive triggers to get more reliable wireless performance is true... and false. I have a set of triggers from Hong Kong that cost me $40 for a trigger and 2 receivers. Range was about 30 feet, but I modified them for reliable 350+ feet of performance. Cost of the mod? a 12.5 inches of wire, some solder and 2 minutes of my time.
Those expensive triggers he refers to are likely ones made by Pocket Wizard. He conveniently omits to mention that for studio heads to have wireless ability, he needs to spend that exact SAME amount on his studio heads to get that performance. On top of that, let me add another fact... the latest generation of top of the line triggers enable using TTL or auto power adjustment via the camera's internal metering system to set the flash. Let's see *any* studio head do that! ;) :) Range? PW Plus IIs are good for reliable 1500 feet. The new PW Flex Mini (TTL triggers) are good for reliable 600 foot distances. In this world, you can go from free to identical prices to studio heads, so come on... be honest.
Let me add... some advanced solutions come free. Both Nikon and Canon cameras now come with the ability to remotely control multiple groups of lights. Albeit, Nikon is more advanced and been doing this longer, while Canon is just catching on recently... but it comes with the camera and if you use the same brand flash... it simply... works.
Complex? Exactly no more complex than using studio heads. Please, this stuff is not rocket science.
7. Simple BS. Location has zero bearing on which lights to use. Indeed, I find using speedlights the superior choice indoors and in dark locations simply because I cannot dial down that studio head low enough to get the shot that I need. Work with a fast lens at F/1.4, in a location near a Christmas tree... with the studio head, you are going to be blasting so hard that the room is going to look like daylight and the lights on the tree will look off. With that speedlight set to 1/64th of it's power, I can set up a shot that gives me that beautiful blur and a slight kiss of light just where I need it. Impossible to do as easily with a studio head.
I also use that studio head outside on locations... for times I want to overpower the sun. Studio heads with battery power packs just do things in these locations that no speedlight could do... not unless you had 20 of them... lol
8. I kinda agree. You see, lighting equipment manufacturers like to futz with the specifications even more so than car or home audio people do with theirs. They use terms like Watt/Seconds, Joules, and use different measurements at different distances and using different reflectors and what not. Most of that malarky is made to confuse the neophytes and make them look good and their competition look bad.
Lots of research is mandatory here, but it all means nothing if you do not know what you need. Know your needs and work up from there.
I also like to repeat an old photographer's adage... in this field, camera bodies and accessories come and go, but lenses and lighting you should buy once and buy the best of that you can afford... if not, you will be spending that money twice, getting what you should have the first time. Makes things cheaper in the long run and you are then ahead of the game. A good lens or light today is a good lens or light in 20 years. The rest cannot be said of a camera body, for example. Lights, though, need a little extra care.
If you do not use that studio head or flash for several years, there is a good chance you screw up the capacitor. Use it once a year, and you will be fine for practically forever. I use a SB-80dx Nikon flash that came out in 2002 and is really well abused and I also have a set of lower power studio heads (120 W/s) that come all the way from the early 1980s, that I inherited from my father... both work as well as new units. These things, if treated properly do practically last forever, so buy, buy good, buy once and enjoy them forever!
12-18-2010, 03:13 AM
To answer your question... a 20X20 area to light is a relatively small area.
Tell me the most complex lighting situation you want to create and the maximum number of people you want to shoot and I can give you a better idea of what you need. :)
I looked at that article, and it is either mostly opinion or basically wrong. Allow me to retort.
I'm sorry, but you know far less about lighting than you seem to think you do. Let's not confuse beginners by muddying the waters with confused thinking.
2. Maybe something like a low end Vivitar, but flashes like the SB-900, 580EXII and other flashes are closer to 110W/s, proven with my Sekonic meter Wrong. What your meter is telling you is how much light is reaching the subject. That figure is artificially increased by an ultra-efficient reflector that produces extremely harsh light, and by the zoom function. You should only compare apples with apples, comparing apples to pears doesn't work.
3. Not true. The SB-800s do have a modeling function.They do, but it's very crude and in no way compares to a real modelling lamp. And it flattens the battery very quickly. Most other hotshoe flashguns don't have any kind of modelling lamp.
Truth is, if you practice long enough, you will see where the light hits before you set up the lights. Another thing... light travels in straight lines. It is not rocket science to sight along the flash and see exactly where the light is going to go.And can you see where the light is going to bounce from too, and predict the effect that it will have?
4. BS. There is no light modifier for a studio head that does not have an equivalent for a speedlight. Snoots, grids, softboxes, flags, gels... you name it, it exists or can be made. Err... large beauty dish? Focussing spotlight? Fresnel spot? Most other tools do exist, but work relatively poorly simply because nearly all hotshoe flashguns have fixed reflectors, and they stop the tool from working properly. And even if they do work fairly well, hotshoe flashguns don't have enough power for large light shapers, unless the ISO is set extremely high, which of course has a profound effect on image quality.
Totally wrong about the white balance. That may be true of a 1950's flash, but it is totally wrong, and I can prove it. Why? I have tested it. My flashes *all* give me a WB within 150 degrees in between their lowest and highest. This amount is invisible to all but high end calibration and measuring devices.Just as an example, the SB-800 varies 1000K between min and max settings. That isn't a statement of opinion, that's a measurement using my Minolta Color temperature meter.
Alien Bees are bargain brand studio heads with well known reputations of having WB variations between 800-1500, which is HUGE and visible to the naked eye. It comes off as a pink cast to the side with the light that is at a lower power in 2 or more light setups.This statement is true of their cheaper models, but that article doesn't suggest that people should buy the cheapest lights with the worst performance.
6. Not entirely true. Many flashes have a built-in slave, just like most studio heads do. His contention that one would need expensive triggers to get more reliable wireless performance is true... and false. I have a set of triggers from Hong Kong that cost me $40 for a trigger and 2 receivers. Range was about 30 feet, but I modified them for reliable 350+ feet of performance. Cost of the mod? a 12.5 inches of wire, some solder and 2 minutes of my time.Misleading. Cheap radio triggers have an inherent firing delay that limits the shutter speed to less than its maximum. That doesn't usually matter with studio flash heads (because they are used in a fairly dark environment) but it matters enormously when using hotshoe flashguns in bright sunlight, where the highest possible synch speed is vital.
7. Simple BS. Location has zero bearing on which lights to use. Indeed, I find using speedlights the superior choice indoors and in dark locations simply because I cannot dial down that studio head low enough to get the shot that I need. Work with a fast lens at F/1.4, in a location near a Christmas tree... with the studio head, you are going to be blasting so hard that the room is going to look like daylight and the lights on the tree will look off. With that speedlight set to 1/64th of it's power, I can set up a shot that gives me that beautiful blur and a slight kiss of light just where I need it. Impossible to do as easily with a studio head.Wrong. Hotshoe flashes can produce a limited but often adequate quantity of light, it's the quality and the ease of use that's missing, so in a studio situation it's easier to be creative and consistent with studio lights. In the great outdoors, where all that's needed is either fill or a strong directional light, hotshoe flashes (or battery powered studio flashes) are fine. If you can't achieve good lighting of your christmas tree with your studio lights you need to learn the basics of using a longer shutter speed to get an adequate contribution from the continuous lighting - and/or get some neutral density gels for the studio flash.
If you don't like my article then fine, but please get your facts right.
12-22-2010, 12:43 PM
...but please get your facts right.
Humorous... I was going to suggest the same thing to you. ;)
A lot of your post is opinion, not fact. You like to often *think* you opinion is fact... sorry, its just not. Example, your comment of "adequate light"... not sure what adequate means to you, there is no F-stop in the photographer's bible that mentions what that is... but I can show you video, if needed, of a simple SB-900 at 50mm head zoom (not at it's 200mm setting!), at full power lighting up a flash meter to F/10... from 22 feet away! For 99% of the population, that would seem quite "adequate" I would think?
WB differences? Send back your speedlight, it should not vary more than 200k. None of mine do (except the older Metz C45, but that thing is from the 70s and still works pretty well).
BTW, when I posted my comments, I did not know it was you, not that it made any difference obviously. You, however, liked to have passed off that site as gospel from "somewhere".
Interesting. Hidden self-promotion = weak sauce.
A SB-900 doesn't have a guide number of 220, nowhere near in fact. My guess (and I can't be bothered to actually test it) is that you'd need to set the ISO to something like 800 ISO to achieve that figure, and doing so would have a serious impact on image quality. So, although it is possible to use hotshoe flashes instead of studio flashes simply by increasing the ISO setting, that isn't something that I personally would do and nor would I encourage beginners to sacrifice quality in this way - it isn't what studio photography is about.
That article was in fact written for photo.net (http://photo.net/learn/lighting/choosing-studio-lighting/) when I was the lighting moderator on there. I certainly haven't passed it off as anything, let alone gospel, I simply referred the OP to it because I believe that it contains helpful info. And I'm certainly not interested in self promotion, I really don't need to promote myself either in this or in any other way. This is a forum thread on another site (http://www.talkphotography.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=222870) that may be helpful too.
You know, the people who ask beginner questions generally want simple, accurate answers - just enough for them to understand the issues and inform their decisions. However helpful you may think you're being with your long, complicated and technical answers, my personal view is that people are better off with simple answers to simple questions - if they want a more detailed and a more technical response then they can say so. The last thing that I personally would want to do is to make people think that what is basically a fairly simply subject is impossibly complex, and for them to give up studio photography as a result.
And if you do want to promote your own opinions, perhaps it would be better to make it clear that you're doing so; opinions masquerading as facts aren't helpful IMO.
I'm not saying that you know nothing about lighting, I'm just suggesting that you separate your opinions from fact and keep things simple, to avoid unnecessary confusion.
12-23-2010, 05:16 PM
A SB-900 doesn't have a guide number of 220, nowhere near in fact.
Amazing display of selective reading. Care to show me where I said that a SB-900 has a guide number of 220? I did not say that anywhere! Your blog, however *did* say that (and I quote, complete with typo) "Very limited power—about 60Wsor less".
I own 2 SB-900s and have video proof, that shows that at the 50mm setting, from 22 feet away, a single SB-900 can light a calibrated Sekonic meter to F/10. That is NO lie. At "about 60 W/s or less" that flash would not be able to peg anywhere near that amount and I would love to see anyone prove otherwise. For me, I have the proof on video and in real life experience for that little test. I would actually find it hard to even find a flash that weak.
My guess (and I can't be bothered to actually test it) is that you'd need to set the ISO to something like 800 ISO to achieve that figure
And therein lies a problem. You care enough to dispute but do not care enough to try it yourself and find out for sure.
No. The base ISO on my D700 is 200, and that is what I had the meter set to in my tests. The video clearly shows this. My experience is also that when I am outside during the day, shooting under circumstances that I need higher flash powers, that I am not at ISO 800, but much lower, between 100-200 at most and small apertures, unless I am shooting at night, *that* is when I am using higher ISO levels. But then again, under those circumstances, why in the heck would I need a powerful studio head? The answer is... I would not... and it would be the same for 95% of people with cameras under those circumstances.
and doing so would have a serious impact on image quality.
Are you talking noise now? Wow, talk about dancing around the tree. I do not know what cameras you use but if you cannot get a good shot at ISO 200, there are some serious issues involved... not that it matters, but most cameras today provide clean images well in excess of ISO 800. I had consistently perfectly acceptable ISO 1600 shots from an older Nikon D200, a camera not well praised for it's higher ISO performance. Today, cameras like the D90, and D7000 give great ISO 800 results!
So, although it is possible to use hotshoe flashes instead of studio flashes simply by increasing the ISO setting...
You are so far off in your assumptions, its no longer even funny. You seem now to think that I am encouraging only the use of speedlights.
Use the right tool for the job, but the qualification that indoors we only use studio heads and outdoors we use only speedlights is ridiculous.
Location has zero bearing on what tool to use.
If anything, outdoors under extreme conditions (mid day sun), a speedlight is challenged and a studio head would be the superior tool.
Indoors when I want to shoot at a fast aperture, a studio head is for all intents equally challenged because you cannot dial it down to a low enough setting. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. Not all of us want to shoot at F/16 everywhere we go. ;)
You know, the people who ask beginner questions generally want simple, accurate answers - just enough for them to understand the issues and inform their decisions.
I disagree. First off, photography is not rocket science. Second, I find it offensive that you would think that we need to constantly baby talk the good people here.
These are intelligent, fast learning and sincere people, and in the course of conversation, if something is not clear to them, they ask. In that sense, it opens more conversation and promotes a greater learning scope. They have proven so more than enough in the past.
The last thing that I personally would want to do is to make people think that what is basically a fairly simply subject is impossibly complex, and for them to give up studio photography as a result.
Ridiculous (and I am I finding it harder to stop using this word the more that you post). I have yet to see any user leave here because it was "too complex". That is just silly. You would wish to now dictate at what speed they are permitted to learn? On top of that, I don't feel I am over-complex. Maybe wordy, I will grant that. Either way, this is not your place to judge.
And if you do want to promote your own opinions, perhaps it would be better to make it clear that you're doing so; opinions masquerading as facts aren't helpful IMO.
Again, the pot calling the kettle black. I'm not the one pushing links I wrote under the guise of it being a factually reputable location when I wrote it and it has holes big enough to drop a car through. ;)
I'm just suggesting that you separate your opinions from fact...
How about you follow your own advice? ;)
In photography, there is a tremendous latitude to how to do things, setting anything in concrete is the wording of narrow-minded limitations. There is also basic common sense, though.
I never said I knew it all, but dang, I know enough to say it when I see fixed opinions expressed as fact in action, and that article, though it has some good, is full of opinion and basically is misleading on many levels and down right wrong in others.
I am done with pulling this thread off topic and will not post about this here anymore. If you want to discuss further, PM me, I am sure people are not interested in our opinions about what we think of each other.
I give up on you and in the future I won't post on any thread on which you have already had something to say.
12-27-2010, 01:29 AM
Yes, I am a beginner, and want some recommendations that I can understand without feeling overwhelmed. Too much technical jargon, which I know is very important to know, but which I feel I will learn as I go along and through trial and error. I have read that a 1-light set-up is a good place to start and grow from there. I know alot of you are seasoned photographers that started out somewhere, just like me, so just brand names would be fine for now. I've researched Alien Bees, Calumet, Opus.
What specs do I have to look for in choosing a wireless transmitter/receiver for my Canon Rebel T1i? I don't want to fry my camera!!
12-27-2010, 03:17 AM
Unless you are a pro, there are triggers for any budget from $30 to $500. Go to the strobist group on flickr and do a search. You have tons of info there. Don't be afraid to do a search there and spend a lot of time looking/reading.
For pros, there is less tolerance for misfires, poor reliability or distance limitations, and budgets are higher. In those situations for non-TTL triggers, nothing is better than Pocket Wizard Plus IIs.
For TTL compatible responses, both Pocket Wizard and Radio Popper have andswers and their strong pluses and minuses.
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