Lighting kit for small studio space

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by nina_g, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. Hi,

    We have a small studio space and shoot high volume table top products. We have
    been using hot lights and color correcting, but are getting strobes in the near
    future. I was thinking of getting a pair of 800ws ABs and two 32" umbrellas.
    Are there any other recommendations of lights etc. for small spaces? Thanks for
    your help.
  2. If you're shooting products, get softboxes instead of umbrellas. You'll get a clean specular highlight with softboxes. If you use umbrellas those specular highlights will be reflections of the ribs and scalloped shape from the umbrella.

    Buy a boom so you can position the larger of the two softboxes overhead, on top of the products.

    A very common and effective lighting setup for many products is a medium 3'x4' softbox overhead, slightly from the rear with a second smaller 2'x3' softbox on one side as the main light. A white foamcore reflector on the opposite side to lighten any shadows from the main light.

    You can light probable 80% of everything you shoot with a setup similar to this.

    Because you'll often have one light overhead on a boom, it will be awkward to make adjustments to the controls on a monolight. For this reason, and others such as the dim 100-150 watt modeling lamps, ABs might not be the best choice. You should look at pack and head strobe systems.

    How small is your shooting space? specifically, how high is the ceiling and how deep is the sight line?
  3. Thanks. This would be a great set up in a larger area, but we don't have the space. I haven't seen any softboxes that are all that compact.
  4. an estimate would be about a 6 foot square area with 12 foot high ceilings. The actual space is bigger, but when you take into account the space for property and computers, it is safe to say that is the dedicated space.
  5. Really, six square feet? As in, 2 feet by 3 feet?
  6. A 12 ft ceiling height is plenty of space to use a softbox overhead on a boom. Most 3'x4' softboxes are about 4' deep, including the attached flash head. Umbrellas require more space. If you'd need softboxes that are very shallow, look at Plume Wafer softboxes at It really is important to use softboxes for product photography. You will need the clean specular highlights and the controlled light spread that softboxes afford. I've been shooting products of many types for over 25 years and I'm really not making this up. It's just the facts, ma'am. #8^) Here's product shot done in my studio with a 12 ft. ceiling, using a medium 3'x4' softbox overhead for fill and a fresnel spot from the left, rear of the set.
  7. There isn't really room for a boom in the room. We tried out Calumet's Travelites with 42" umbrellas and there wasn't a lot of room - which was why I was thinking the 32" umbrellas. I didn't have any really problems with the ribbed specular highlights. While I would prefer softboxes, I think I would have more flexibility space-wise with umbrellas.
  8. Sorry. I meant 6 by 6 foot area. I am just not sure where the footprint of the boom would go. I have always been able to put the umbrella much closer to the head and haven't had to use 4' of space. I will definitely check out that link though. I shoot and process 300 to 600 shots a week so perfect specular highlights aren't as important as efficiency.
  9. Guess I should have mentioned that we are on a budget too. My boss is squaking enough about the camera and lights. He won't go for a $300 softbox, when he can get an umbrella for $30. :(
  10. If you're going to be shooting 300-600 shots a week then, with the money you've saved by doing all of that photography in-house, you can't afford to NOT buy the right equipment.

    Using the right equipment will allow you to create quality photography in an efficient manner. Using the wrong equipment will make you create inferior work and waste your time with excessive reshoots and/or post production work.

    Do what you like. This is the kind of thinking that keeps professional photographers like myself in business.
  11. A workable softbox doesn't have to cost $300.. And you can do as Brooks says and get it hovering over a table very easily. The legs of the stand that hold it nest to the table, sort of like this.
  12. I might be able to work something if I rearrange the workspace. I have a lighting budget of less than 1k so while I would like to have higher quality equipment like the Plume's it just isn't possible at this point. When you have lemons you have to make lemonade. And sometimes when you don't have the perfect equipment, the perfect workspace you have to improvise. It isn't the equipment that makes a photographer ;) . Thanks for the suggestions.
  13. It isn't the equipment that makes a photographer

    Well, sure. To a point. But if your time is worth anything, then having lights and modifiers that will save you (conservatively) hundreds of hours over the middle future... that's sort of a no brainer, math-wise.

    Try this from Alien Bees:

    (1) Large Softbox $110
    (1) 32-inch brolly box $100
    (1) 13-foot heavy stand $70
    (1) Boom Arm w/ counterweight $90
    (1) 10-foot Stand $40
    (2) AB-800 strobes at $280 each

    There. You're under $1000, and well set to start. If you buy the two lights at the same time, you'll actually get 10% off of the stands and modifiers.
  14. Actually, the "brolly box" line was supposed to be a medium softbox. The numbers are right.
  15. Thanks Matt. When you guys mentioned the boom, I was thinking the huge ones on wheels. I haven't used ones that fit on a light stand so it didn't even cross my mind until your picture. Thanks for your list. It is the reason why I am looking at this brand vs higher end equipment - (which was what my comment was about). Any idea of lower end brands with power packs? I was trying to stay away from all the extra cords, but that does bring in the previous problem of adjusting the light output on the boom.

    I was also looking at monolights so that when I take them home and on location on the weekends for my own work there is less to transport.
  16. These are monolights, and will work fine in your setting. Go back to the Alien Bees web site, and look at the $100 wired remote. It will allow you to adjust the relative power of up to four of their monolights from a single position.

    Since you're not dealing with a large, spread-out studio, you'll be fine just velco-wrapping cables to the stands/boom arm. The cables simply aren't going to be an issue for you in a small product setup that way - not enough to matter, anyway. That remote will be very helpful to you.

    You're not going to get a pack system for this low a price, that's for sure. The AB's are going to treat you very well for the price, and are plenty versatile in other situations, too.
  17. Thanks, Matt. I really appreciate it.
  18. I second Matt's recommendation of the Alien Bees and the AB Wired Remote. It makes adjusting the lights in a small space much easier. Instead of climbing over lightstand legs and under flags and reflectors, I can adjust every light from my shooting position.

    The remote is more useful in a cramped crowded space than in a large one.

    But frankly you're going to have trouble working in a 6 X 6 space. My studio is 11 X 14 and is only barely large enough for the products I shoot (rack mounted electronics).

  19. Well you have my sympathy! That is a small space. However, don't get stressed or anything daft. I wondered if you have thought of just simply pointing the flash heads at the 12foot high ceiling, and using the natural spread of the light to create a big 6 foot x 6 foot softbox out of the actual ceiling itself!!. You will need some of that foamboard from any builders merchant, about 8 foot by 4 foot, and about 4 inches deep, which is basically polystyrene, to cover the whole of the ceiling, it is perfectly white with no color cast, and I am sure you will find it will work well. Any softbox will have internal baffles to diffuse the light, and they will somewhat reduce the light. If you take my idea, all the light will reach the ceiling, and you should end up with about the same exposure as if you had used the softbox. You can light the walls too for modelling in the same way. The savings on the boom arm, softbox, stand etc, will buy you another flash head. You may be able to mount the flasheads on the wall, directed to the ceiling, and so ALL the floorspace or tabletop is free! Your boss will love it too - hope you get promoted! I assume you are using a digital camera, so if you need, you could probably adjust the film speed if necessary. I can send a photo using this idea if you would like - I am not sure how though, but if you can tell me, I will send you one. (Oh, I have just found out how - it comes up when you click send). Here is one showing sandisk real and fake cards, taken just so.
  20. My main observations about Adrian's solution:
    First, lighting the whole room (the giant softbox approach) does indeed - if the walls/ceiling are conducive to it - provide for some soft light. But that can be the problem, too. She doesn't mention what the products are that she'll actually be shooting... but bland, directionless light can actually take a lot away from the appearance of an item. The beauty of the two softboxes and a moveable reflector or two is that you can sculpt the light in a way that best suits the object in front of you. Many objects look very unattractive bathed in light that's too omnidirectional and soft.
    Second: She indicates that she might want to use the lights under other circumstances. And we all know that no matter how she and her boss THINK they're going to use them, they're going to want to end up doing some other things, too. The softboxes are going to provide the most versatility.

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