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Thread: Lighting. What to buy into?

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    Scott Stephen's Avatar
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    Lighting. What to buy into?

    Hi,

    I have yet to get into lighting, so on one hand I know nothing, but on the other I do have a clean slate from which to start. I find that lighting is my biggest limiting factor at this juncture (other than budgetary constraints of course).

    I mostly take pictures of the kids. Sometimes inside in a more portrait-y style, and sometimes outdoors playing.

    I have only 1 speedlite, and it is the simple analog one (Canon 320 ex). I don't know whether to go with more speedlites, or with constant lighting. I guess the speedlites are a lot more portable, but they are more expensive. The continuous lighting can be had more cheaply, but they are not portable, or if so, then only with expensive battery packs.

    Thoughts? Below are some snaps from last week.

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?
    Last edited by Scott Stephen; 2nd August 2012 at 11:06 PM.

  2. #2
    Scott Stephen's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    I should point out:
    1.) I did some burning with Lightroom to brighten faces, and
    2.) My budget to begin with would only be $300 - $400, though I could add-on over time.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    First of all, continuous lighting is not recommended for still photography. As a rule, it is not bright enough, is hard on your subjects and is a pain to use.

    If you want to improve your lighting setup at minimal cost, get yourself a light stand, clamp and combo umbrella (one that can be used as a shoot-through or reflector). My setup cost about $100. Use your Speedlite as a slave on the setup, using you built-in camera flash as a trigger. That will be a pretty reasonable keylight. Example: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...lla_Mount.html

    Then get yourself a reflector. This can be anything from a large foam core (I used the back of a white foam core project board that my daughter used for a school project that is propped up on a chair - cost was under $10) as a fill light. You can also get a commercial unit, an additional light stand and a support clamp; again in the $100 range. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ctor_with.html

    Lighting.  What to buy into?


    That's all I used in this shot. In fact most of my portraits are done this way with an occasional use of a hair light or rim light.

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    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    I'll second that! Continuous lighting is NOT what you're looking for after hearing your requests above. Everything Manfred said, I agree with. And if you find you're still not satisfied after that, grab another Speedlite, but go for something bigger like a 580.

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    stevewe88's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Personally I wouldn't discount continuous lighting, especially when starting out as it gives you instant feedback without having to press the shutter.

    You can now get very reasonably priced LED video lights that are super bright and very easy on batteries, the same size batteries as a speedlite.

    I have used multiple speedlites at a time for a while now but on a recent workshop I went on the tutor (a very accomplished portrait photographer), was using a video light and his comment was that it was the single biggest improvement to portrait photography in the last 20 years. Thats quite some claim I know.

    I have bought one now and it's proving to be a very useful bit of kit. I am mounting it on a monopod and getting my assistant (wife) to hold it in the right position. As I said before it gives instant feedback so you can direct where the light needs to be without having to do it blind and press the shutter to find out. It just seems much quicker for out of studio shots.

    Just some thoughts to throw into the mix

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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Steve, could you point us to a link or a photo so we can see what one of these video lights would look like? I am looking for something portable to use outside. Thanks!

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    stevewe88's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    No problem. This is the one I bought. There are more expensive versions but I am a big fan of Yongnuo products for price and quality.

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Yongnuo-YN...item256df29765

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maritimer1 View Post
    Steve, could you point us to a link or a photo so we can see what one of these video lights would look like? I am looking for something portable to use outside. Thanks!
    Sorry to disagree with you Steve, this is a supplemental video light and is quite weak. I use continuous lighting for video work, but nothing as low powered as this unit. Mostly aimed at the wedding videographer as a fill light for indoor shots.

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    stevewe88's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Sorry to disagree with you Steve, this is a supplemental video light and is quite weak. I use continuous lighting for video work, but nothing as low powered as this unit. Mostly aimed at the wedding videographer as a fill light for indoor shots.
    There's no harm in disagreeing
    There are of course more powerful options out there but for someone who is on a budget and just beginning to look into lighting options I still think this is a valuable tool and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. It represents an extremely cheap way of learning how to light a subject without having to invest heavily in stands, triggers, softboxes etc etc.

    It all adds to the debate anyway

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    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Um, aside from all that, the 320EX has an LED video light built in. That's its main claim to fame.

    My recommendation would be to start using the 320EX off-camera, mastering it with the pop-up flash on your T3i, using eTTL. Get a stand, umbrella swivel, and umbrella and start playing. Once the 320EX starts to frustrate you from lack of power/control, consider getting a more capable speedlight with manual power control. Speedlights, while power and light-limited vs. studio strobes, are smaller, lighter, more portable, and are capable of being used both on and off camera. A lot of us start with them because the Strobist showed us that within their limitations, you can still get some great results, and if you're willing to risk going 3rd party, or manual only, there are some low-cost lights out there.

    If you get a speedlight with swivel capabilities, you may also want to practice on-camera bouncing with directional light before going off-camera.

    On your budget, I'd actually recommend considering (in order of price and reliability, high to low), a Metz Mecablitz 50, Nissin Di-622 II, or a Yongnuo YN-565EX. All three of these can be used as wireless eTTL slaves, like the 320EX, all three have most of the TTL goodies (although I think only the Metz does high-speed sync), can be commanded through the camera menu, and will cost you less than $300. In the case of the YN-565EX, it'll cost you about $150 (although, make sure you find a seller with a good return police, because that low-low price comes from somewhere).

    Also, unlike your 320EX, all three have heads that swivel, power output as good or better than the 430EXII's, and full manual power output control, and sync ports. The Nissin and Yongnuo have built-in "dumb" optical slaves as well.

    The only real key feature there, though, is the manual power output control, which will allow you to start creating off-camera/studio-lighting "Strobist" setups. So, if you decide that wireless eTTL isn't cutting it any more and you want to go to cheap radio triggers, you could also go for far cheaper all-manual flashes like the Lumopro LP160 or the Yongnuo YN-560ii.

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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    I use fill flash as a matter of course when shooting people outdoors. Therefore, I would not consider a flash that doesn't include Hi-Speed-Sync (HSS) capability. Shooting outdoors with a flash that doesn't have HSS capability forces you to use the camera sync speed (usually 1/250 second or so) as the fastest shutter speed. This in turn forces you to shoot at a smaller aperture than you might ordinarily desire in order to take advantage of selective depth of field.

    All of the Canon EX flash units have HSS capability. The Metz AF50 also has that capability while so do the Sigma flashes. I am told, but cannot verify, that the Sigma flashes revert back to standard sync, non-HSS, whenever the unit is switched off and then on again. That would be a PITA for me.

    Many photographers dismiss HSS because there is less power because the light is actual a series of flashes. However, they forget that when using a faster shutter speed, they are also using a larger f/stop. I also usually shoot my fill flash somewhere around 1 or even -1.5 EV. The flash has plenty of power to work through those parameters.

    IMO, the nice thing about Canon's HSS (I don't know about other flashes) is that when the shutter speed hits 1/250 second and slower, the flash is immediately returned to standard sync rather than HSS without the photographer needing to do any adjustments...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 15th August 2012 at 03:28 PM.

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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Thanks, Steve!

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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    This confirms my preference for the portability of flashes, though the price remains an issue. I like the idea (Inkista) of 3rd party flash; unlike lenses, a flash is pretty much a flash provided it has the same features and is compatible with your other gear.
    If I get a radio firing system, will the 3rd party flashes be OK? And will they interface with the camera?

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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    I use an LED video light like this for fill light in my videos. It mounts on a hotshoe or a cold shoe. My video mount can either be used with a dedicated video camera like below or with a DSLR shooting video.

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    I have not used this light for still photography but, I have found that it is much softer than a direct hotshoe flash since the size of this light is considerably larger in size than the flashtube of most hotshoe flash units. This light is extremely portable and provides an amazing duration of light when using either a camcorder battery or six AA batteries. I use Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable AA batteries.

    http://www.amazon.com/Dimmable-Digit...video+lighting

    I normally shoot stills with flash. I bounce my flash for stills and modify the light with a Joe Demb Flash Difuser Pro (DFD). I have recently been using a four bulb compact flourescent softbox (daylight) for general fill lighting with a 430EX flash bounced and modified with a DFD for main light. I first used the flourescent softbox because I had it setup for some video and just decided to try it for my dog postraits. Sometimes being lazy, I find different ways to shoot.

    The combination of flash and CFL softbox works pretty decently. I posted this image under the pets and people category. I was able to maintain definition in both the black carrier and the dog's white coat. I was pleased and surprised at the quality of light.

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Here are a few more shots using the combination of CFL softbox and a bounced and modified 430EX flash...

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 5th August 2012 at 03:11 PM.

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    Scott Stephen's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I use an LED video light like this for fill light in my videos. It mounts on a hotshoe or a cold shoe. My video mount can either be used with a dedicated video camera like below or with a DSLR shooting video.

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    I have not used this light for still photography but, I have found that it is much softer than a direct hotshoe flash since the size of this light is considerably larger in size than the flashtube of most hotshoe flash units. This light is extremely portable and provides an amazing duration of light when using either a camcorder battery or six AA batteries. I use Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable AA batteries.

    http://www.amazon.com/Dimmable-Digit...video+lighting

    I normally shoot stills with flash. I bounce my flash for stills and modify the light with a Joe Demb Flash Difuser Pro (DFD). I have recently been using a four bulb compact flourescent softbox (daylight) for general fill lighting with a 430EX flash bounced and modified with a DFD for main light. I first used the flourescent softbox because I had it setup for some video and just decided to try it for my dog postraits. Sometimes being lazy, I find different ways to shoot.

    The combination of flash and CFL softbox works pretty decently. I posted this image under the pets and people category. I was able to maintain definition in both the black carrier and the dog's white coat. I was pleased and surprised at the quality of light.

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Here are a few more shots using the combination of CFL softbox and a bounced and modified 430EX flash...

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?

    Lighting.  What to buy into?
    Great shots. The 2nd to last one (closup of white dog) is hysterical.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Comparing video and still photo lighting technology is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. In both fields we are obviously trying to get the correct exposure. In video, we are shooting at a much slower rate than in still cameras. Video is generally shot at frame rates of 24p (1/24th sec), 30p (1/30th sec) or 60i (1/2 frame every /60 sec) in North America; in Europe and many other countries the standard is 25p or 50i. The 'p' stands for progressive and means the entire frame is exposed in the times I have listed. The "i" stands for interleaved, where half of the frame is shot (odd line numbers), then the other half (even line numbers) and the two frames are are played back to back to make up a whole frame.

    This means that in a video shot, your are using far slower shutter speeds and action frames often have a fair bit of motion blur; something that the videographer or film maker can get away with, but not something that a still photographer can do. This is one reason that lower level lights can be used (and is used) in video work. A second reason is that noise from an amplified video signal is random, and we can get away with a bit more of a "dirty signal" than we can in still photography. Digital noise is clearly visible in a still image, while the randomness in a video signal is not as obvious unless the video gain is turned way up.

    I know one person who, on occasion, uses the modeling lamps in his studio flashes / soft boxes as video lights.

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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    I would suggest that if you go for flash you get a unit capable of ignoring 'pre-flashes'. I am glad I obtained this feature with my YongNuo units ... the S2 option .. since I didn't know about it prior to buying YN ...I rarely use flash so cannot offer any examples but the dog photos,however good as such, are rather a bland approach to lighting. Like using a hotshoe flash.

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    Scott Stephen's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Wow. Thanks for the input. This has really grabbed my interest more than I anticipated. All the "Strobist" and strobist-amateur videos on the web, including the low-budget setups, are really exciting!

    I am looking at Vivitar or Yongnuo flashes (or whatever is the best choice for <$100.00), probably 2 of them, along with 2 stands, 2 umbrellas, 2 umbrella mounts, etc.. There's no way I can justify a $600.00 Canon flash at this point, and even used it would eat up my whole budget for this. Third party is the way to go, I think. Any reccomendations/comments are appreciated on this gear.

    I think I will grab a set of the Yongnuo 603 radio triggers too, because they are super dirt cheap and very well reviewed. If anyone likes any better, please share.

    Also some of the cheap whiteboard and a panel of reflective insulation board from Home Depot seems brilliant too.

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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    Unless you want ttl and hss, why not look at a few cheap Yonguno speedlights and Cactus triggers

    I always found this to be a good starting place for lighting

    http://strobist.blogspot.nl/2006/03/lighting-101.html

  20. #20
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting. What to buy into?

    I would caution you on going overboard and buying everything before you are comfortable with the tools.

    Personally, I would stick to one umbrella, light stand, clamp, reflector and flash. I'm assuming that any flash you get can be fired via optical slave, rather than getting the radio triggers and second umbrella, flash, etc.

    Master a single key light and fill light (i.e. reflector) first. You may find that this is all you need and would rather put your money into a scrim or some other light modifiers. One active light is far easier to use when you first get started, and putting in a second one may not buy you anything and might even make it more difficult for you to master lighting. While I do shoot with more than one active light, I don't do so with an umbrella, I do that with the more controlable studio flash using softboxes, grid spots and snoots. I find that while I like shooting with an umbrellla, the light output is quite wide and it is not really that suitable as anything other than a key light.

    In order to reduce shadows, I will set my key light very close to my subject (around 3 ft away), so a radio trigger does not buy me that much. I do use a radio trigger with studio lights, especially if I have them up high and hard to reach.

    Once you have mastered your equipment, you could look at additional gear. By that time you will have a better understanding of good technique and will have a better idea as to the additional equipment will serve you best.

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