Yet another first-time light buyer question

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by carlosmiller, Aug 28, 2006.

  1. I am a photojournalist who for years has depended on either natural light or my camera strobe.
    But lately I've been accepting assignments for a business publication that requires me to do a lot of indoor assignments of corporate bigwigs either sitting around a table in a downtown high-rise or at a panel leading a business discussion.
    So now I am looking for some portable lights that are easy to set up and do not cause too much distraction. I initially was thinking about buying a kit of continuous tungsten or flourescent lights because the publisher of the magazine said he preferred that a flash is not constantly going off.
    But I read through that "intro to studio lighting equipment" and learned that these lights are not recommened.
    Then, after much recommendation on this site, I looked at the Alien Bees. I am now leaning towards this set-up.
    Alien Bees
    The only problem is, this is still a flash, which is considered "distracting" to my client. However, it's been my experience that the flash may be distracting the first or second time it goes off, then people just become immune to it.
    Initially I was thinking of spending between $200-$400 for something that I can eventually expand on rather than eventually ignore or grow out of as I buy more lighting equipment.
    Does anyone have any opinions or advice?
  2. My experience with corporate work is limited, but I have to shoot a local hospital about 4 or 5 times a year, Disney once a year, and a few other clients as well. The key for me is to get in and get out as fast as you can, without interrupting the flow business too much. Usually the people don't want to be bothered with photo's so I go in there with portable strobes that run on batteries, because finding an outlet is often a real drag! Sometimes you have to move tables, chairs, stuff like that.

    Alien Bees will work great if you can buy the battery unit that is offered. I think they offer it, if not White lightning does, same company, or you can build you own, which I did for about $300, but only do this if you have experience with the proper inverters. Last thing you want to do is fry the units or cause a fire.
  3. Withj that kind of budget Alien Bees are a good way to start. don't forgetto budget for stands
    and softboxes, umbrella and other light modifiers as your lighting gets more involved. also a
    good hand held incident / spot meter like the Sekonic L-558r.
  4. I shoot with a Canon 5D with a 10D back-up if that makes a difference as to what type of lights I should buy.
  5. Are you doing studio photos or journalistic photos? Or something in between? If in between, you've get to figure out how to do a balancing act between lighting quality and unobtrusiveness.
    Do you need much depth of field? If no, you may be able to shoot available light at f/1.4 or f/2 using existing light for journalistic style photos.
    If you need to stop down to around f/5.6 or worse, then you probably have three choices:
    1. Use a a tripod and long shutter speed. Anybody who is moving or even talking will be blurred, but this actually may work pretty well for shots of the audience at a typical corporate bigwig presentation.
    2. Bring in enough continuous lights to make everybody hot and uncomfortable very quickly
    3. Use flash
    • My guess is that flash will be much less disruptive than hot lights that would give equivalent aperture. A tripod and available light is least disruptive and least expensive, but with the obvious technical drawbacks. You mix techniques, doing some with flash and some with existing light.
      Depending on the size of the room and such, I might think about trying to fill the room with four to six little slaves, like those made by Morris. Aim them at the ceiling and walls for a diffuse all-around light. You'll either need to walk around the room with a flash meter or take some test shots to make sure the lighting coverage is even and adjust the lights as appropriate. Those little mini slaves don't typically have variable output power, so all you can do is aim them or add/subtract lights.
      The Alien Bees lights are bigger and much more versatile for general purpose work and studio portraiture.
  6. Richard,

    Thanks for the detailed answer. I am doing journalistic shots, but I wanted to invest in some lights with the idea that I can do studio-style shots down the road, even if it's something I set up in my home.
  7. Judging from Richard's profile and home page link, he isn't workign as aprofessional
    photographer. I'm not disparging his photographic abilities , just his limited
    understanding of these types of assignments. I have been doign this kind of work since
    1984 for people like Continental Airlines, Pfizer, Newsweek, Texas Nonthly, The High
    Museum of Art, Forbes, The Christian Science Monitor and similar clients.

    If you re using Nikon gear look at getting the SB-800. If using Canon get a 580EX and a
    high voltage external battery pack like the Quantum Turbo, Dyna-Light Jackrabbit, or the
    Digital Camera Battery. Metz, Sunpack and Vivitar all make good units as well. But no
    battery powered system will have the power and recycling times something like an AC
    powered Alien Bees will have in the same price range.
  8. lb-


    many hotel conference centers, convention centers and high rise office buildings are union run and may require additional insurance and/or a union electrician present if you intend to plug into their mains. while these rules are often loosely enforced, they can be a real pain if someone has a mind to make it so. trust me.

    in a conference or convention setting, or even in a office environment where you may have limited access or time to setup, being able to move quickly and be untethered can be of major benefit.

    depends on the shoot of course, but a battery unit may be more practical for your general application.

    your budget is pretty limiting, but for under $400 you could get a used norman or lumedyne setup, a stand and some modifiers.


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