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Thread: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

  1. #1

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    Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    Hi Everyone,

    Now that I have my heart set on what camera I want to begin with (Canon EOS 550d). I have now started looking into what other accessories I'd like to add to my wishlist.

    For portraiture what would you recommend when it comes to studio lighting? Soft Boxes or Umbrellas? Also, what wattage is best for natural looking light?

    If I want to buy a good flash for not too much money (if possible) what would be worth looking into?

    Sorry if these questions have been answered previously. I'm on my iPhone and it's hard to scroll through everything

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2

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    Re: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    Hi Emily,

    You'll normally want to use softboxes as they let you control the light more. Shoot-through umbrellas are 2nd best, and reflective umbrellas are worst (they spray light around everywhere, which makes it hard to control).

    I use 1200WS lights, but you don't need anything quite that powerful. To start with, I'd suggest a couple of heads, no less than 20WS and preferably a minimum of 500WS. There's really no such thing as the "correct power for natural looking light"; if by "natural looking light" you're meaning soft light (as in window light) then that's a function of the size of your softbox. The biggest softboxes give the softest light, but can be very expensive.

    Ideally, you want lights strong enough to overpower the ambient light so that you have total control of your lighting.

    Keeping in mind that you're also going to need to have a way to trigger the lights (wireless is best) - you're going to need appropriate lenses / backdrops etc - and a whole lot more. One never really "completes" a studio ... we just start to run out of space to put things (and then need a bigger studio!).

  3. #3

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    Re: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    Colin gave you the good unvarnished truth there but if you are truely doing things on a shoe string and you MUST start NOW you should read up about the Strobist approach to lighting. Going that way could well be money wasted based on how far you hope to go towards professionalism and you had better save up for the proper studio lighting gear and meanwhile simply place your subjects close to a window for the main light and use reflectors from the other side. This simple approach also gets you started with one light duplicating the window, then when you can afford the second light you can light the background and so build up you experience and knowledge of lighting for when extra lights arrive.

    Assuming that you already have a camera perhaps your money could go into lighting ahead of the 550D ? Basically the camera is just a box recording light and light is the important aspect of what we do.

  4. #4
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    Re: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    Emily... of course, Colin is right. However, I would recommend that the first flash you purchase might be a Canon Hotshoe Flash or Speedlite such as the 430EX or 430EX-ii or for a less expensive alternative, consider the Metz Mecablitz 50 AF-1.

    This type of lighting is very versatile and will function as an all around flash for a variety of uses.

    Bounced from your camera's hotshoe a hotshoe flash will (if modified with a reflector/diffuser) provide quite pleasing lighting that doesn't have the "deer in the headlights" look to it. The Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro (DFD) also allows great versatility in bouncing your flash in areas which do not have a ceiling or wall off which to bounce. ( www.dembflashproducts.com ) because of the articulating FlipIt portion of the DFD. This image was shot in a Chinese night market with no ceiling off which to bounce my flash. I adjusted the FlipIt portion of the DFD forward so a maximum of light was reflected towards the subjects...

    Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    A hotshoe flash can be used outdoors for fill flash which often takes your imagery out of the realm of snapshots and gives it a professional look. Both the Canon 430EX (series) flashes and the Metz 50 AF-1 have high speed sync (HSS) capapility. HSS is important when using fill flash outdoors because when using a flash that doesn't have that capability, you are restricted to a maximum shutter speed of 1/250 second. This, in turn, restricts your aperture and often prevents using selective focus. There are quite a few Chinese strobes on the market (some, such as the Yongnau models, at very low prices) howeveer, the major difference between the Chinese models and the Canon and Metz flashes is the lack of HSS capability in the Chinese knock offs.

    If you mount your hotshoe flash on a Stroboframe Camera Flip Bracket and modify the light with a Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro, you can achieve some decent "run and gun" portraiture such as this..

    Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    See my other single flash portraits at:

    http://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/Portraits...211250&k=kPtxT
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 7th July 2012 at 02:23 PM.

  5. #5
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    Softbox or umbrella depends on what kind of light you want. Umbrellas are good for bombing everything in sight. Softboxes let you control the drop-off of the light much more cleanly. Both can give you soft diffused light. Umbrellas are usually simpler/faster to set up, easier to break down, and cheaper than softboxes. Most folks prefer a softbox, but chances are that they own and use both. There is also such a thing as a brolly box.

    Speedlights are good if you want to do on-camera lighting as well as off-camera, and if you want to be small, light, and portable, and you're willing to compromise on light output/power. But cost-wise, particularly if you go OEM (i.e., Canon), new, and top-of-the-line, might actually cost more than studio strobes, so you first need to ask yourself if you're really serious about setting up a studio space.

    The Strobist shoestring budget way of doing things pretty much supposes that you're willing to ditch TTL on-camera capability (high-speed sync, rear-curtain sync, etc.) and just use speedlights like studio strobes, so you can get the super-cheap units like a Lumopro LP160 or a Yongnuo YN-560 II. If you end up going with a Canon 430EX II, 580EX II, or 600EX-RT, you might end up paying as much as a studio strobe would cost you, and getting far less power out of it, if more features.

    One article I'd highly recommend reading on setting up a studio space would be Zack Arias's White Seamless tutorial.

  6. #6

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    Re: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    I purchased the YN 468 with the sticker added 'for Canon', there is also a Nikon version This model permits the camera to control the flash and give the correct exposure [TTL] But if you want highspeed flash you will have to get the Canon flash unit.
    In it I found advance news, probably out by now, of the YN565EX TTL flash which could be worth following up at the YN website www.hkyongnuo.com
    It is claimed to have a *GN58@ ISO100 and using the 105mm lens .... the thing to note here is that 105 is with the beam compressed into the 'telephoto' beam of light and when using it at normal and more so wide-angle setting the GN will be considerably less. Also makers tend to give an optomistic GN.

    *GN this is a number based on the aperture used when it is divided by the flash to subject distance in metres [above GN] which lights an average subject properly when using 100ISO So the above GN56 means that with the subject 3 metres in front of the camera you would use 56/3= 18.666 or f/18 in round figures ...at 15ft 56/4.5= 12.4 say f/12 or f/11 to allow a margin for the subject being further away from you and perhaps less reflected light from things around you both.
    It is probably about the easiest way to take photos if you can estimate the flash to subject distance reasonably well.
    People also quote GNs using feet so that 56 above is I hope metric and in imperial would be around 170 .. all a bit confusing I'm afraid.

    565EX II
    TTL functions supported FEC/FEB/FEL/ 2nd curtain.
    It can be triggered by 580EX II in command mode.

    Hope this information is of use to you

  7. #7
    Quinn's Avatar
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    Re: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    Hi Emily
    Now that I have my heart set on what camera I want to begin with (Canon EOS 550d).
    Do I assume from this that this is your first camera? and that you are a relative novice? If so, welcome to the magical world of photography!
    Firstly, I would not rush in to spending money on any sort of studio flash. I order to get something worth while you really will have to spend quite a lot. Even then to make the most of the light, accessories such as soft boxes, dishes, snoots, reflectors not to mention a decent lighting stand, backdrop... the list goes on, will soon become desirable, if not necessary.
    Secondly, I would spend a good amount of time getting to know your camera, learn to make use of natural lighting. Light from windows or evening / morning sunlight is just the BEST! There are MANY stunning works around that make use of free natural lighting.
    Thirdly, when you have enough cash, I would start investigating strobes as jcuknz suggests. Check out some of the TOTALLY professional images taken with 1,2 or 3 speedlites.
    I kind of made the mistake of thinking I needed studio lighting to take good portraits etc and wasted quite a lot of money buying kit that frankly just doesn't quite do the job. Speedlites are not only much cheaper, the accessories are too. They are more portable and require much less space. Canon Units are nice to have, but the YN stuff is Very good value and almost as good.
    I bought a 430ex canon unit first, but soon saved up for a 550ex, only so that I could use it as a master in a multi flash setup. My 3rd is a YN565EX TTL unit which I like just as much as the canon unit.
    Anyway, hope all that helps.

    The most important thing with photography though, is to make sure its FUN

    Cheers
    Phil

    By the way 'rpcrowe' Love those single flash portraits of yours !!!! Inspiration for Emily and myself !
    Last edited by Quinn; 9th July 2012 at 11:14 AM. Reason: Nice portraits !

  8. #8

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    Re: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    Thanks for the replies everyone, I really appreciate it.

    Time to read all of your responses in detail and research it all online.

    As a newcomer to this site and to the world of DSLR photography it is quite overwhelming as the more I read, the more I realise I have sooooo much more to learn. I am so glad I have found this forum

    Thanks again for the reading material!

    Emily

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    Re: Studio Lighting and Flash advice please?

    My advice to you would be to first get your camera and learn how to use it really well. This might sound like ridiculous advice, but flash photography is a whole different beast altogether. Studio flash photography is also a total speciality in its own right. There is no point trying to run before you have even started to crawl. Buy a good quality on camera flash. For your proposed camera a 430exII would be ideal. I would avoid the Chinese clones. I'm not averse to buying non name brand items, but I've heard too many stories about them. Once you have mastered the basics of photogrpahy and understand the principles of flash then you might want to look into a studio setup. A decent studio needs room and plenty of it. You need at least 2 lights, a wireless trigger, a light meter, backdrops, soft boxes, tripod stands, reflectors, props, decent lenses, reflectors and the list goes on. I know what it takes because I have gone throught the whole exercise myself in the last 2 years. To do it properly costs a few $$$.

    Good luck. If you go about it in a methodical way then photography will be the best hobby you ever had. There are millions of people out there with DSLR cameras but I wouldn't call them photographers.

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