Coordinating existing equipment for better lighting

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by jill_courtney, Jul 28, 2007.

  1. A photographer through experience and not schooling, my biggest challenge is
    always lighting. I shoot portraits - families, seniors, and children; mostly on
    location and outdoors. Also many school sports teams and individuals. I do a
    bit of indoor location work also. I have a Canon 20D, and mostly use my Canon
    550EX speedlite as fill-flash On my stroboframe.
    1: I would like softer light for fill - thinking about purchasing a Westcott
    Micro Apollo Light Modifier - will this help?
    2: I need more light for some large indoor shooting. I was considering a
    monolight kit, but would really prefer AC/DC for portability and they are
    expensive. I have a rarely used Sunpak Auto 552 Thyristor with all the bells
    and whistles and am trying to make that work using the remote sensor to make
    the Sunpak a slave. I can't seem to get enough light in the photos no matter
    how I set it up. Is the Canon 550's preflash messing me up? Would a wireless
    transmitter/receiver help?
    3: IF I use the Sunpak, the light is harsh, and I would want to soften it.
    Instead of an umbrella, would a Softlighter II or other type of softbox work
    with the Sunpak 552?
    4: I also have a Quantum Turbo Battery but it doesn't seem to work well with
    the Sunpak - (slower than when using AA batteries!)
    I have been reading/researching online for hours - and keep coming here - an
    incredible source of information
    I guess I am looking for an inexpensive PORTABLE studio - any ideas?
  2. Hi Jill,
    I understand what you are saying. Getting softer light from a shoe mount flash can be an issue. I have been looking at the Westcott you mentioned as well as the Chimera XS softbox (it measures 12x16). I have read an article where a much larger softbox has been used with a shoe mount flash to achieve very soft light. I have been tempted to try it out. Like you, I have a 550EX. I sure think using something like the Westcott would be useful or maybe even an extra small softbox provided the mounting hardware is available.

    Point # 2: As you know there are several makes of monolights that can be either AC/DC. I have not read very good reports about most of them. I know some photographers that use either Lumedyne or Norman portable strobes for their location work. Pretty small, parabolic reflectors, variable power output, etc. Expensive brand new, fairly reasonable used.
    Are you shooting your 550 manually? If not, that may be the reason for your Sunpak to not be performing well for you. That preflash thing. Are you using a flash meter?

    I would think if you could mount your Sunpak to an umbrella or sofbox that would be the way to go.

    Anyway, I think you should really think about a good monolight or perhaps even a pack/head set up. The amount of light and quality of light is very difficult to replicate with shoe/handle mount flashes.

    I hope this helps.

  3. You will be just fine with a 550EX. Sure a nice big strobe is great but instead of that for now just get a pair of pocketwizards a light stand and both a silver lined and a white shoot through umbrella. You can get soft enough light even when you use a bare 550ex if you get it off of the camera and find the right angle/distance. If after you have played with the 550 you still find yourself wanting get a for a while get a strobe setup and you can still use the pocketwizards. Check out the
    s t r o b i s t b l o g
  4. Using a small softbox on an on-camera flash will soften only very slightly. Since softness of light is dependent upon the size of the light source relative to the subject, you'd have to make your on-camera flash much, much bigger, which is impractical. If you are shooting portraits indoors, you can, of course, bounce your flash off ceilings and walls, and/or set up a stand with a flash and umbrella or lightbox as fill, etc., but as for an on-camera only, portable fill flash, the solutions are limited to what you can physically put on your flash and carry about.

    Check out Alien Bees, and/or Lumedynes (used, classic packs), or Norman battery portables for lights you can use both indoors and outside. If you buy the Lumedynes and Normans used, you can find some good deals.

    The Sunpak's light isn't showing up on your images because the pre-flash from your Canon EX flashes is triggering it pre-maturely, before the shutter opens. You need Pocket Wizards or the e-bay slaves that work OK are the 16 channel ones.

    A Softlighter will work fine with the Sunpak, and with any other medium to high powered flash.

    Don't know about the Quantum Turbo except that doesn't sound right at all. Is the Quantum battery up to snuff? I'd call Quantum to be sure you have everything set up right.
  5. Thanks for the great input/advice!
    Regarding point 1: After lots of research and shopping, I am going to try my 550 on my stroboframe, with the Ultimate Light System by Harbor Digital instead of the Westcott softbox.
    Point 2: For portable extra lighting I will try my Sunpak 522 with an Impact 16 Channel Radio Slave. I'll buy two receivers so I can use it with my 550 also.
    Point 3: I am going to try a Softlighter II and also buy a larger umbrella (mine is a 32") - using each depending on the desired look.
    Point 4: Still working on the Quantum issue, but since it works with the Sunpak, I am going to try to work it out as backup power.
    If all this works, I will spend under $400 to greatly enhance my lighting options. Also - I plan on using my 550 on Manual now so to avoid the preflash- thanks Robert, Josh and Nadine - I'll post again after I have tried this combination!
  6. You should try using your 550EX in a larger softbox. The Guide No. on the 550EX is better than an Alien Bees B800 strobe. It can be attached to the softbox with a Chimera speedring. In a pinch, you could also pick up a shoe flash adapter for a light stand and use a 60" Light Gear umbrella for a nice, large, rounded light source.

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