Ideal watt/second for indoor shoots?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by kelcihedrick, Dec 14, 2005.

  1. I've been on quite a hiatus from my photography while I finish up my
    last year of undergrad school, plan my wedding, and apply for grad
    school, but next semester I'm determined to spend more time to shoot!
    I'm finally considering buying studio lights, but I want to do my
    research before I buy.

    What's the ideal w/s for studio shoots? There are monolights on B&H
    that have as little wattage as 100 w/s, and going up to around
    3600w/s. Are two 100 w/s monolights strong enough to get decent shots?
    Would 3600 w/s blind my models? Any input is appreciated!
  2. There is no "ideal" watt/second power level for something as general as "indoor shoots".

    I've used 3-4800ws power packs at full power for interior architectural shots on 100 ISO4x film. I've used 2 4800ws packs on full power with umbrellas, optical spots, fresnel spots together for food shoots on 100 ISO medium format digital backs etc...etc...

    It all depends on the size and scale of your set or subject, the modifiers used on your lights, the ISO you're shooting with and the f-stop/depth of field and format size of film or digital capture.
  3. 2x100WS lights may be just about adequate for headshots if you're using 35mm/small digital.

    Personally I would go for a bit more power than this.

    2x3600WS may be just about adequate for full length shots in a large studio if you use a 5"x4" camera and want good DOF - it's horses for courses.

    IMO what's far more important than raw power is the availability of accessories and the ability to adjust the power output over a wide range. Then add it consistent power output and consitent colour output - unfortunately you tend to get what you pay for in studio lighting.
  4. It all depends on what you will do with what speed film (if you do film) and want to spend. There are many books, sites and threads about this.

    The more power you have, the more versatility. Most or all lights can be turned down.

    The reason so much power is used today and models not permanently blinded is that the modern way is to shoot through softboxes or umbrellas or other devices that absorb the light. In the "old days" when people would use more direct light or silver umbrellas and often get more harsh effects, it was common to see small outfits, especially for portable use.
  5. "The more power you have, the more versatility"... this is true only if you have fine control. I have a 2000ws pack that has only 250/500/1000/2000 ws settings. While it is a useful pack, it is not nearly as versatile as my 400ws Lumedyne with stepless power settings from 6 to 400ws. I use the Lumedyne for about 80 percent of my work, and only get out the 2000ws Dynalight when I need white backgrounds or I'm shooting flat art and the difference between F16 and F22 doesn't matter so much, and I can move the lights for finer control without affecting the way the image looks (no shadows to worry about). There are powerful packs that can be controled throughout their range in precise/small increments, but they are expensive. Very expensive.<p>As Brooks says, there is no ideal WS for "studio" photography. There is only "ideal" for the picture you want to make right now. So I recommend getting a pack with finely adjustable settings, the most powerful one you can afford and are willing to carry. If it has tons of power, that's fine, as long as you can turn it down when you want to. Big packs tend to be heavy, so they don't get used outside the studio much, unless you've got an elaborate set to create with multiple lights in bright ambiant light that you need to overpower (and a burly assistant/pack animal)... t
  6. I like to keep my aperture around f/8 if I can, and using 400 W/S strobes, I usually have to turn them down at least a couple of stops to achieve that. But it all depends on whether you're trying to light one person, five people, or an entire room.

  7. You didn't say what you'd be doing with it, but you did mention "models."

    Well, for "people pictures" in general (individuals and small groups) I find that about 300-400 watt seconds per head works well in most situations. In a main light, that's enough power to give me from f5.6-f16 in any of my softboxes or out of any of my umbrellas at ISO 100 with the light 4-9 feet from the subject.

    There are lots of different ways to get "300-400 watt seconds per head."
  8. Assuming you use some diffusion (e.g., a softbox) which would reduce the light by about one stop, figure on 300-500 W/s as a useful range for your main and fill lights. This assumes you'll be doing 3/4 length poses or smaller, with the lights positioned 3-4 feet away, and focal lengths in the f/11 range. If your plans differ, you can adjust these numbers accordingly, but remember that a one stop increase in the light output requires DOUBLE the output wattage. Also keep in mind that power output is not the only consideration in buying lights. Look carefully at the build quality and availability of accessories when considering any light purchase.
  9. FWIW - I am also looking into lighting of some kind...the photographer who does some work for our organization suggested a minimum of 500WS if I was to get into setting up some sort of home studio for shooting individuals or families. This seems close to other suggestions in this thread of ~400WS.
  10. nz


    So let me ask the obvious question. When you say 400ws I'm guessing you don't mean at full power? So at what power level are you using them?
  11. I don't want to sound like a smart-ass, but,,
    you have to got to be kidding?
    there is now way anyone can give you an answer on this,
    just to many unkowns.. we have no idea what your subjets are,
    no idea of camera to be used, film? digital? do you want to use spots? grids? soft boxes?,
    fresnels?. umbrellas? bouce off butterflied 4x8' white foam core, I could go on...
    why don't you post a picture that is similar to what you want to do
    "indoors" and someone here will tell you the manufacture, watt second,
    reflector/modifier, to create that look in your choice of formats
    there is a wealth of knowledge here for you - but please do some homework
    and ask questions which can be anwsered...
    there is no magic formula.. no magic watt second..sorry.
    btw, I don't think anyone would like looking into a 3600 ws open flash head 3 ft away..
    blind?, not permanently.
  12. Sorry for not clarifying. I'll mostly be doing shoots with one or two models, using softboxes. I do want to do some 3/4 to full body shots, but these will primarily be used for headshots. I'm currently shooting 35mm, but I'll soon be going digital. I'm looking at getting two monolights, simply because this gives me a fair amount of versatility with my lighting without draining my bank account. I'm don't have a preferred f-stop yet for studio shoots, simply because I haven't had a chance to experiment with these kind of shoots.

    And, I fully realize there is no "magic formula," but I was hoping to get input as to what other photographers are using. To those of you who have offered your advice, thank you very much! If anybody has anything else to say, better knowing what I plan to do, I would apprectiate it.
  13. Paul,
    You may not want to sound like a smart ass, but you do.
    I think I know why you shoot still life and not people.
  14. Paul,

    I don't feel that your response was particuarly helpful. Please try to be a little more courteous.

    Steve L,

    Your response is unacceptable. There may be moderators who will tolerate this type of posting but I am not one of them, so please don't do it again.
  15. Hi Kelci,<BR><BR>
    I'm kind-of in the same situation you are in. There are sure a lot of options out there right now. And, when you ask a group of photographers what lighting to get, then you get a lot of different back to square one. From what you have said about yourself, you are interested in senior photos. That would eliminate the need for lighting 10+ people. Right? Mainly close portraits with a few full body shots thrown in. I have heard good things about Alien Bees for those of us starting out in "studio" work. Also, Lumedyne...but I'm still trying to figure out all the confusing systems, and what goes with what... :)<BR><BR>
    Aso for wattage, well, I think every company has their own method of measuring light. My uneducated opinion is to go with a brand that quite a few people use, (that way inevitable questions could be answered later on), that have lots of options with attachments, etc. and then get the highest power possible. There are natural density filters and gels to put over the monolights, and you can always put them further away, or closer, depending on what you want.<BR>
    If I'm incorrect, someone please tell me.<BR><BR>
    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! My marriage has been the best years of my life! Good luck on your grad school, too. My husband graduated from graduate school two years ago, and his outlet was photography during the misery of studying neurology and all those tedious classes. :) It's amazing the time that can be found when a test is coming up!<BR><BR>
    Good luck and have a great day,<BR>
  16. keici, I sorry if I came off harsh, but wanting to give a little advice I was frustrated that
    I couldn't based on the info given. if shooting 2 models, full length,
    with a 35mm and some d.o.f. say f8 or f11 and the mood of the shot is well lit as
    opposed to dark and moody or high key. you will need the light source to be at leat 8 rt
    away and if you
    don't want harsh shadows it will need either a large bounce surface or large box, bounce
    is way cheaper but eats more light, of at least 2000ws, this is the main light, you will have
    to consider the need for a separate light or lights for the background if needed and fill if
    if you want a good cheap system and you are in the states, I would suggest some used
    norman 2000 packs and heads, I started with those and they will give you good bang for
    the buck, buy as much power as you can afford, but you should have at least 3 heads to
    play with. get som foam core and tough frost type diffusion material to put the light
    through, remember that sharpness of shadow is in direct proportion to size of light
    source. soft light = large source
  17. steve, although I shoot primarily product and food, in the course of many years of working
    full time in the studio I have shot alot of people, I have also taught studio lighting for the mfa
    program at the academy of art university in sf.. where I was most patient and kind, my
    earlier post came off more harsh than the intended cheekyness.
  18. hai...i still new regarding the studio flash for taken portrait studio picture.Between mainlight and fill light what is the correct watt we put for the mainlight and fill light.Is it the bigger watt for the mainlight or small watt just for fill light.
  19. Zamri, The amount of power used for the main and fill lights varies according to their distance from the subject and the amount of light modification (e.g., diffusion) that is applied. At times, the power to the fill light exceeds that going to the main light. The amount of light that actually reaches the face is a different story. For portraits, the main light side of the face typically receives 2-4 times the "power" that the fill light side of the face receives, i.e., a one to two stop difference.
  20. John,

    I usually now taking studio picture by slr digital camera.The problem is that the result is not quit good if we compare by film.i thing is about setting white balance because usually the picture come out more red and yellow.
    The answer you wrote to me regarding the flash watt, that means is doesnt matter we use the same watt for the main and fill light right.Just change the distance and adjust rhe power of flash.
  21. Paul, I apologize for my comment. Your work is very nice, I just thought you were being a little harsh on Kelci. Again, sorry for being harsh myself.

    Gary, Chill out!!!
  22. Steve,

    It really isn't a good idea to tell a Moderator to 'chill out'. The moderators have to decide what is or is not acceptable and I decided that your post was unacceptable and that I should point this out to you.

    End of story

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