I want to start using lighting for portraits in my home

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by ronald_anderson|1, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. I need some advise on start taking pictures using lights. At the malls I see people taking pictures with a square box with white material on the front of there box. I have been in photography for 8 years and have a fancy to try lighting. Budget $1000-$1500 or so
  2. In the mall, you're seeing (usually) inexpensive studio flash units mounted in a usually-too-small softbox as a light modifier. The object of the game, there, is relatively even, flat, boring light of Santa and the kid(s) on his lap. Nobody cares about somewhat harsh shadows or that deer-in-the-headlights lighting look there.

    Different modifiers (umbrellas, softboxes, scrims, etc) all serve different purposes and vary wildly based on how you'll be using them.

    But assuming you're in the US, consider something like this.
  3. Why spend $1000? Ebay and $30-$100 will get you going!
    Spend more when you learn more. Or not!
  4. You could start with taking a photography lighting course. Most courses cover how to use strobes and modifiers and will familiarize you with the different kinds of lighting and how to use them.
  5. You could search the Strobist sites for one approach to lighting or check out Alien Bees and more expensive options.
    That is an interesting rig you got there John :) Might make one one day for myself instead of straigth flash or bounced ...I have a yellow ceiling which is not so hot for bounce :)
  6. You have a realistic budget. +1 on Matt Laur's recommendation.
    There are "strobist" approaches using speedlights that cost less, but speedlights don't have modeling lights.
    Buy a book or take a course on portraiture lighting.
    With studio lighting you don't get auto-exposure, you either need to buy a flash meter, or use trial and error.
  7. Youtube has many webinars and instructional videos regarding exposure, manipulating light, and taking portraits and they are FREE. Start your search with maconcampus webinars sponsored by Sekonic (webinars are over 1 hour long)
  8. Photoflex (a lighting gear manufacturer) also has some good free online tutorials here. Of course it's all aimed at encouraging you to consider their equipment - but there's lots of good scenarios described there. Helps you to see what different modifiers do under different circumstances.
  9. I am also just a "learning" strobist, and, as such I can not justify large expenditures.
    That is an interesting rig you got there John :) Might make one one day for myself instead of straight flash or bounced​
    I detailed how I built the soft box bracket here: http://www.sweetmk.com/2012/12/diy-how-to-mount-speedlight-to-a-softbox/
    With studio lighting you don't get auto-exposure, you either need to buy a flash meter, or use trial and error.​
    The flash I use in the Larson Soff Box is a SB-600 and does pretty good auto exposure.
    After I learn how to position the soft box light modifier, I will move to learning to set lighting for manual exposure.
    The first time I got the square catch light in the eyes was pretty cool!!
    I was using the soft box/speedlight hand held for this pic. That is something that is difficult to do with a plug-in strobe.
  10. I would highly suggest starting small and learning about lighting first before purchasing way more than you would be able to handle at this point.
    Start with the strobist site, and maybe one off-camera speedlight with an umbrella and a reflector for bounce. Learn about lighting and what it can do. There's a huge learning curve associated with studio lighting. Take a class if you can, and read up on it. There are many books on the subject. It's how I started, and even after I'd learned a lot, when I first got my two strobes, softboxes and grids, it felt very overwhelming for awhile.
  11. I'd advise starting with one off-camera strobe light, and an on camera TTL speed-light for fill ... or use large flat white surfaces to bounce off for shadow fill. IMO, more than this can get intimidating and frustrating, and often leads to getting ahead of yourself as you try to use to much lighting at first without experiencing why.
    The secret to lighting is to first learn ambient lighting well, and with 8 years of experience you should know it by now. Lighting lets you do the same thing you would with ambient ... except you can do it anytime, anywhere.
    If you shoot an ambient light portrait by a large window with soft indirect light hitting the subject, and use a reflector to bounce light back into the shadow side ... you can do the same thing using a large softbox with a white diffuser or a shoot through translucent umbrella as a substitute for the window.
    The most important factor is that the main or key light is not flat face on to the subject ... it is directional so it helps form shape to the subject, human or otherwise. This can cause hard shadows on the side of the subject just like a window can, which can be filled with either technique I mentioned above. The closer you set the bounce surface to the subject the more the shadows will be filled with light.
    One 300 to 500 W/s strobe head and a nice larger softbox can be easily be had for your budget with money left over to get FoamCore, or one of those large foldable bounce thingies if storage space is an issue. Here is one example kit, and there are many, many more.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/602685-REG/Elinchrom_EL_20461_1_Style_500_BXRi_Compact.html This is a well known brand and provides access to a complete system later if you go forward, plus it can be controlled remotely from the camera. Resale of Brands like this are very good, so should you not like lighting you can get more of your investment back. FYI, it would take 5 or 6 speed-lights set to full power to equal just this one strobe. This means you can use a higher image quality lower ISO ... even with the strobe in a large soft-box (large like the window) and heavily diffused (which cuts light to the subject just like shear drapes would in front of a window).
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/612086-REG/Elinchrom_EL_26176_Rotalux_Softbox_35_5_x.html This is one of the most convenient and easy soft-boxes to set up and tear down, and is a very well made and desirable box. Great for in-home use where you can't leave everything set up.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/546705-REG/Manfrotto_420B_420B_Combi_Boom_Stand.html This allows you to control where the softbox is placed in relationship to your subject. It can be used like a regular light stand, or as a boom arm up higher, etc.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/253064-REG/Impact_CRK_4272_5_in_1_Collapsible_Reflector.html This is just a foldable reflector rather than foamcore ... it has different surfaces to change the quality of light from soft white to more specular (harder) silver etc.
    Total for all of the above is $1,024 ... all of it versatile, first class gear that lasts and holds its value.
    Most all other applications of lighting are variations on understanding this basic theme. Once you master this and all the little differences you can creatively introduce to a subject, you can build from there. Then, what you may want to add to your lighting kit will become crystal clear once you get this basic stuff down pat.
    Here is an example of one directional light from a large light source placed just outside the picture area and a large reflector used as fill that was angled in toward the subject very close just outside of the actual taking area. The objective was to cross light this Figure Competitor's back to show the muscle definition.
  12. Some good advice here.
    I see people taking pictures with a square box with white material on the front of there box.​
    It's called a soft box. There are several brands but one thing to consider is how to attach it to your flash. For simplicity's sake Westcott's Apollo softboxes are great. Most soft boxes require an adapter called a "speed ring" to mount to a strobe light and each model requires its own ring. Apollo softboxes attach via a central shaft just like an umbrella. Much simpler and more user-friendly IMO.

    That said, soft boxes tend to be directional so aiming them is an issue. The Westcott Halo (same link, above) provides a similarly soft light but is designed like a shoot-thru umbrella and is more omni-directional and forgiving.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  13. Marc, here's my suggestion: Get a softbox with a set of compact flourescent bulbs. I got a Cowboy Studio setup recently. It came with a 24" X 32" softbox, a light stand, five bulbs (individually switched). It's a WYSIWYG setup, so there's less guesswork than with a strobe setup and it's inexpensive (under $100). Now it is cheaply made and needs some TLC to last, but for getting started in doing lit portraits I think it's a good way to go.
  14. I won't debate strobe verses continuous lights Chuck ... that horse has been beaten to death on this forum and every other one dealing with lighting.
    I will say that strobes come with modeling lights so the guess work aspect is a non-issue ... and 24" X 32" light source is too small unless only doing head and shoulder shots with the soft-box right on-top of the subject.
    The OP set a budget he was willing to spend, and I think it is a realistic one to start with and build from.
  15. Ronald: If you're still following this thread, I would tend to lean toward Marc's recommendations, specifically the Elinchrom BX500, and Rotalux softbox. But, basically there are three ways to go:
    1. Paul C. Buff (PCB) Einstein E640 AC monolight + one of their softboxes or PLMs + Vagabond Mini Lithium (VML) battery/inverter--all this for only about $800. The E640 has the widest power range of any monolight on the market (very handy when doing interiors). PCB also has a wide range of softboxes and umbrellas at incredibly low prices. The VML packs a lot of portable power for only $239, and can run your E640 in the field for hundreds of pops. Same thing from others costs thousands. Also, PCB sells the least-expensive fabric eggcrates on the planet--as much as 10x less than name-brand eggcrates.
    2. Buy any brand AC monolight (Speedotron, Bowens, Dynalite, etc.), a Chimera quick-release speedring for it, and any of the following brands' softboxes: Chimera, Photoflex, or Westcott.
    3. Buy the Elinchrom BX500 and the Rotalux. Keep them forever. Sell them forever. Also, Elinchrom makes many of the most-desired modifiers in the industry (pricey, though).
    It's up to you . . . you can get bang-for-your-buck (Paul C. Buff), a-la-carte versatility (pick-your-part), or some of the finest lighting gear made (Elinchrom). Both the PCB and Elinchrom Rotalux softboxes "fold-up" like an umbrella, affording much faster set-up/tear-down than their generic competitors. But, Photoflex and the others do offer good value. I have a 72" x 54" extra-large Photoflex softbox which only cost $227, and it's great (however, the price of their eggcrate for it is insane!).
  16. I prefer a soft box over an umbrella but you can do a good job with either and a fill card. This shot was done with a 48" umbrella in the early 1970's before soft boxes were commonly available.
    Shot with an 800ws Ascorlight power pack and single flash head using a white card for fill.
  17. Umbrellas are fun because they're very compact when folded, and don't take up as much space as a softbox when opened. The downside is that they spread light EVERYWHERE. But, they're easy to use, and very affordable. I'm also a big fan of simple: a large single-source (umbrella or softbox), plus a large piece of white Foamcore for fill, if needed.
    I think I've posted this image here before, but this was done with a single, 60" white Photoflex umbrella, placed camera-right, powered by a Nikon SB-800 Speedlight mounted in an inexpensive, generic-brand umbrella bracket. A second Speedlight, a gelled SB-600, was used for the background:
    Equipment used for above:
    Nikon D3s; AF DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2.0D.
    Nikon SB-800, SB-600, SU-800 (IR trigger).
    60" Photoflex convertable umbrella; white satin, with removable black backing: $44.95 http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/42512-REG/Photoflex_UM_RUT60_Convertible_Umbrella_60.html
    Generic-brand umbrella bracket with cold-shoe: $24.95 (shown under accessories)

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