Advice on lighting setup



  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    @Msmoto: You are always ready to back up your words with pictures :-) Thank you for sharing.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator

    You are so welcome. I have been given the opportunity to do a lot of varied shoots, and for this I am grateful.
    Msmoto, mod
  • @msmoto: A very nice demonstration of what different light can do to the image! The female model looks completely different in the final shot!

    But seriously: In those test shots, don't you just love how the light wraps around the two people? Woa, really. They almost glow. Beautiful. And to anyone always referring to super-expensive gear needed for such great light, you can see how simple a setup can be for beautiful light.
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 397Member
    Yuk yuk yuk. I got that. The stand in could be a mannequin. She doesn't budge.
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    This was a portrait for friends, and I did three lighting set-ups before deciding on a final. What I was looking for was a way to photograph the couple, use the most flattering lighting possible, and end up with an image with both subjects being portrayed as I desired.

    Because I do not do this everyday, it was a fairly large time investment, but, I think we obtained a good result.

    Incidentally, this is a studio which is available for members of a photo club and is filled with lots of equipment which can be utilized by anyone who is willing to follow some suggestions.

    Light is my favorite plaything....well, almost. But, to see how the lights can be worked, to watch the different effects, this to me is a heck of a lot of fun. Maybe this is why in the 1960's I worked in a studio as the lead photographer and we had clients like Wachovia Bank, Grace Feeds, Holly Farms Chicken along with a few other big ones and had super budgets.

    What the heck this has to do with lighting I do not know.....

    But, maybe the point is we must play with the light. Work the lights, make very small subtle changes to find what we are looking for. And, occasionally even a blind pig gets a truffle.
    Msmoto, mod
  • AndrewzAndrewz Posts: 122Member
    @sleipnir I'd agree with just about everything said here. I also picked up a 2 light kit that was used for a good price, nothing fancy a pair of Interfit 200ws Monolights with an unbrella and softbox. You can get a nice studio setup for the cost of 1 SB-910.

    But you can get some cheap stuff in the used market. I favor my 1 light setup, I have a used SB-28 ($50-75) and a Beauty dish built out of a large stainless steal mixing bowel and a white foam core as a reflector. These are the results:

    G-pa Christmas 2015
    D750, P7000, F100 80-200 f2.8 AF-S, 24-120 f4, 50 f1.8D, 85 f1.8G, 14-24 f2.8

    Old friends now gone -D200, D300, 80-200 f2.3/D, 18-200, 35 f1.8G, 180 f2.8D, F, FM2, MD-12, 50 f1.4 Ais, 50 f1.8 Ais, 105 f2.5 Ais, 24 f2.8 Ais, 180 f2.8 ED Ais
  • puppycatpuppycat Posts: 13Member
    This was a portrait for friends, and I did three lighting set-ups before deciding on a final. What I was looking for was a way to photograph the couple, use the most flattering lighting possible, and end up with an image with both subjects being portrayed as I desired.
    A splendid result. This is a subject of great interest to me, with a lot of great experience being shared here. I'm hoping to learn and get much better at light modification.

  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    @Andrewz: Simple and beautiful. Especially in the 'butterfly' positioning like you used it, there's a reason why the Beauty Dish is named Beauty Dish. 85 wide open?

    @puppycat: You can learn a lot from all those free videos available today. Skip all that blablabla of I-like-to-hear-myself-talk photographers and just watch the setup and the results. You can take a couple of selfies in your studio to learn about the difference that subtle changes can make, so you don't have to learn the hard way, which is realizing those things in post when the shooting is over and the model is gone.

    Super secret super pro tip... no seriously, it's totally underestimated: Especially if you're shooting in a small space, don't forget the strong impact that the white walls, ceiling and background around you have! This is stronger the more diffuse the light is that you use, and almost gone the more direct it is. Enjoy!
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    Can you have to much power for a smaller room? It seems that you can only turn Elincromes down by 5 stops. Say you are at F22 at full power - you can only get down to F4. I would hate to be so over powered that I can not make a F2.8 or F1.4 shoot indoors.

    Flash duration time - how important is that? Do I need the more expensive ones that work faster or are the slower ones ok? Some say that the more expensive ones gives you crisper images - true or false?
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    If too much power is a problem, gaffer's tape can cover stuff, or cardboard, or anything that absorbs light. I have never in my life had too much power. Oh, maybe I meant to say too much light..... :))
    Msmoto, mod
  • autofocusautofocus Posts: 625Member
    This was taken with the Westcott 7' Parabolic Umbrella. It was positioned 10' from the subject and I stood in front of it to take the photo. You can see my silhouette in the catch lights. This was the the White with optional diffusion panel. Great modifier for the money if you have enough room. Oh, It was in my living room with an 8' white ceiling. The walls are yellow and that was a concern but didn't interfere to much on this shoot. I have all three of the Westcott 7' umbrellas and love them. I can power down the umbrella for fill and use a Beauty Dish for the key for a more dramatic set up. Still experimenting with my lighting and actually have a white and a black vinyl backdrop coming next week.

  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    @henrik1963: Yes, too much power is a problem for what you describe, the flashes are too strong. However, you won't find many flashes that will allow you to shoot wide open, the Profoto D1 go down to 7 Ws, for instance. The thing is, the whole point of shooting wide open is that you don't need a lot of light, and the whole point of a flash is providing you with more light than 'available light' level, so you have a contradiction.

    The solution is: Use the modeling light! With small flashes, the modeling light at full power is just what you need to shoot wide open, depending on the light modifier, of course.

    Flash duration time: It is a concern, yes. BUT: First of all, it's not dramatic at all. Secondly, it's not a concern that you can address with studio flashes, unless you go for flashes that specifically feature short flash duration. Again, the Einsteins are hard to beat, because they're IGBT technology, which is the same as on-camera flashes (and I believe the B1s and whatever other recent things were released to the market).

    Neverthesless: The only time where you really need short flash duration is action freezing. For this, though, you don't need a slight difference of cheap vs. more expensive flashes, but you need a whole different type, meaning *substantially* lower flash duration, i.e. of IGBT flashes.

    Summary: If you don't want to do this type of photography (splashes, jumping dancers and the like), don't worry about this whole thing. If you do, get an Einstein.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    edited January 2015
    I am hoping the newest generation of LED technology will finally give us enough light at 100 ISO for shooting at f1.4, f1.8 and f2 (CFLs seemed too weak when used in a light box). I would like to see LEDs in a light box allow us to go to f4, f5.6 and f8 but somewhere along that line LEDs won't be powerful enough. It would be nice to be able to use modified constant lighting all the way from f1.4 to f8 at ISO 100 (ISO 64 with the D810).

    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    Thanks for the feed back. You are very helpful :-)

    I was thinking of starting out on a budget of $500. You can get flash heads made in china that are not expensive. But usable kits are few and not very tempting. So you have to buy what you need one piece at the time - and that adds up - and you end up with a lot of things that may not work very well with things you may want to add later on.

    So I looked at some kits from Elinchrom:

    D-lite RX 2/2 to go (200 Ws) - $850
    D-lite RX 4/4 to go (400 Ws) - $950
    BRX 250/250 to go (250 Ws) - $1100
    BRX 500/500 to go (500 Ws) - $1250

    All kits include two flash heads, two manfrotto stands, two soft boxes, radio triggers, bags and a few other bits and pieces - in other words: ready to go. Taxes are included.

    I am sure you can get a better deal in the US - but what do you think?
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    @autofocus: I am sure she will look good even if you use an iPhone :-)
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    @henrik1963: No one will tell you that Elinchrom sucks, they have good quality gear, reasonably priced. One advantage is that they already have the receivers built in.

    The D-Lites are the "light" versions, but I'm not fully aware of the exact differences, you might wanna check on the specs. One is that they officially cannot hold the larger (heavier) softboxes, but with "larger", this means the really large things like 150 cm. Also, be aware of the fact that the softboxes that are included with the D-Lites are also only "light" versions, not Rotalux quality.

    Rotalux softboxes are very good quality, rather light, rather expensive and rather inefficient (not so cool for low-power/entry-level flashes).

    As has been said before, you don't need to stick to the flash brand for softboxes, but you can pretty much use any brand or no-name on any flash, as long as it's available with the respective adapter. Only with reflectors, Beauty Dishes and the like, you're not as flexible. THere are a ton of manufacturers for the Bowens S-Type speedring, however.

    If you're not doing this full-time professionally, you might want to go Mettle etc., I'm not sure how much that will save you but you should check it out. The money saved you can invest in... nothing and just save it :-) or in light modifiers.

    Consider a beauty dish, a standard-size striplight softbox, a 90 x 60 softbox, a 120 x 80 softbox, maybe a grid for the standard reflector that's included with the flashes usually. You can do tons of stuff with this setup. But maybe you just want to start with a softbox and beauty dish and see where that gets you.

    Remember you can always use a reflector for fill and use the second light for background or striplight/crosslight effects.
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    @FlowtographyBerlin: Thank you for your feed back. The kits price is the price of the two flash heads. But the way I read you: Even the 500Ws flashes are not powerful enough to be of real use in the long run? Or skip Elinchrom and buy something with a Bowen mount?
  • AndrewzAndrewz Posts: 122Member
    @FlowtographyBerlin. Thank you and yes 85 wide open. Why's a Beauty dish called a beauty dish, who knows?

    @henrik1963. To much power. Remember light drops off the square of the distance. So if your light is 2 feet from your model and you move it out to 4 feet, you have doubled the distance, now you have 1/4 of the light. You can adjust your light intensity with small movements.

    Flash duration isn't a big deal for most things unless you're trying to stop motion. This is where you use your speedlight on the lowest power setting. Some flashes report duration a low as 1/100,000 of a second. I don't think any studio strobes can do that.

    The below as shot with that old SB-28

    Drop1 Small

    Smash 1
    D750, P7000, F100 80-200 f2.8 AF-S, 24-120 f4, 50 f1.8D, 85 f1.8G, 14-24 f2.8

    Old friends now gone -D200, D300, 80-200 f2.3/D, 18-200, 35 f1.8G, 180 f2.8D, F, FM2, MD-12, 50 f1.4 Ais, 50 f1.8 Ais, 105 f2.5 Ais, 24 f2.8 Ais, 180 f2.8 ED Ais
  • autofocusautofocus Posts: 625Member
    I think 500ws will give you a lot to work with. Maybe a bit weak for outdoor work on a bright day but even that can be overcome with some creative techniques. I know everyone is passing some good advice but it will come down to how far you want to go with studio lighting. Like I said earlier, lighting is a money pit. As soon as you get something to work with you'll want to go a step further. My advice is to purchase Good Strobes and grow into them by purchasing modifiers as you go along. You don't want to buy cheap lights and then realize a few months down the road you need something better. Another bit of advice is to (if you can) chose a brand (pertaining to the speed ring design) and stay with it. That alone will save you money down the road. As much as I love my Profoto's, I hate the cost of anything with a Profoto speed ring. Bowens is probably the most common. I know Paul C Buff products have been mentioned and they are great. Many a pro use them or at least started with them. You won't find many negative comments about them and the price is right. Hope I didn't confuse you but to buy a turnkey package that will last and you won't get bored with soon will cost big bucks. Again, buy good lights and build from there.
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    But the way I read you: Even the 500Ws flashes are not powerful enough to be of real use in the long run? Or skip Elinchrom and buy something with a Bowen mount?
    No, 500 Ws is great, it will even be plenty for most uses, unless you go outside.

    +1 on @autofocus.
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    @FlowtographyBerlin. Thank you and yes 85 wide open. Why's a Beauty dish called a beauty dish, who knows?
    I think it's indeed only a marketing term that they invented a lot later to 'revive' the product, but just like in your picture, I think the name is often perfectly supported by the results.

  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    @autofocus: Thank you for your feed back.

    Buying the right thing the first time is always a good idea - don't ask me how I know :-)

    What defines "good lights"?
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    With the internet today, looking at reviews of products can be helpful. My rule of thumb is if several reviews show up with the same issue, i.e., stopped working after two months or something serious, I take that product off my list. On the other hand, a complaint because someone does not like a specific characteristic, not mentioned by others I give little weight to.

    Also, purchasing from a reliable source, like the sponsors on NRF, will usually allow issues to be addressed in a reasonable manner, while some online retailers do not offer good resolution of problems and in fact will simply not respond after an inquiry.

    So, choose a light and a retailer, both with good reviews.
    Msmoto, mod
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    @henrik1963: "Good lights" are those that work for what you're doing and that have the features that you will not need instantly but will appreciate later and keep you from replacing them as soon as you get more picky.

    One factor is reliability. Unless you buy really crappy stuff, most of the "cheaper" flashes nowadays are very good. This goes for the known cheapo brands like Mettle etc., in Europe, Jinbei and Walimex are included, too. Times when cheap flashed were crappy products are definitely over.

    Another is quality, as in color temperature, accuracy, etc. I tested a couple of cheapo-brand flashes against Profotos some time ago, and can tell you that all the myths around how the cheap flashes perform worse are not true. They're just as good as the Profotos.

    The only actual quality that Profoto has in the monolights range is the slightly faster charging time and the 1/64 power setting (7,8 Ws). However, other brands are more efficient (meaning they are brighter at the same nominal level, i.e. 500 Ws). Where Profoto really excels is the high-end class of flashes, e.g. the Pro-8. The charging times are as good as a camera-mount SB-910, and the flash duration is really low. However, these things are built for rental companies, their main quality is that they last and last and last, and are priced accordingly.

    What's the stuff that you need to care about, then? Take care that you get remote controllable units and if you're not sure about the power (250 Ws or 500 Ws etc.), don't buy three at once, but buy one or two, see how you get along. That way, you can always buy a stronger flash in the future should the others have turned out to be too weak.

    Good lights also means you can get a lot of accessory stuff for the respective mount. The Bowens S-Type mount is definitely the most universal, because there are also higher-end brands using it for their flashes (e.g. Priolite). Then again, other brands have their advantages, too. E.g. Elinchrom has the nice centered umbrella holder, which means you can mount deflectors like in a beauty dish, which is very cool for the deep octa boxes. Paul C. Buff (Einstein flashes) has the centered Para Umbrellas.

    A lot of stuff has been said, I guess you should have an idea now.

    and +1 on @msmoto.
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    @FlowtoBerlin: Thank you. That is the kind of information I need. I have been reading tons of rewievs with tons of specs - but the thing is you dont know what to look for.

    Thanks to you and all the kind folks here at NRF I now have a pretty good idea about what to buy. Only thing that remains is to find out how much power I need. I will do some tests using my SB900 in a softbox and with an umbrella and figure out if I need 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 times the power of the SB900.

    I have even found the place to buy - a local shop with very helpful people.

    All the best.
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