canon rumors FORUM

Gear Talk => Lighting => Topic started by: inky38 on August 04, 2014, 03:02:06 PM

Title: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: inky38 on August 04, 2014, 03:02:06 PM
I've been thinking about it for a while now, but I've decided it's time to start looking into getting some studio lighting.

The thing is, I have zero experience with any form of studio lighting, and before I get the credit card out, I want to learn as much as I can before I commit to anything.

My plan  (at this stage) is to get some basic studio lighting for portrait work.

Where's the best place to start?
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: Skirball on August 04, 2014, 03:17:23 PM
http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html (http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html)

Read.  Learn.  Then buy, and read some more.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: Jeffrey on August 04, 2014, 03:34:32 PM
My advice is to avoid the studio at all cost and enjoy the outdoors. I have the Paul Buff brand Einstein lights that are very good and reasonably priced. They do a superb job. Rent anything you need that is more expensive. But really, wouldn't you rather be outdoors? Good luck!
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: klickflip on August 04, 2014, 03:51:02 PM
Hi, well depends on how hands on and quick you are to pick up things yourself.
Or would you rather be shown some basic set ups and techniques first?
I'd advise If you are a bit unsure about it all then why not pay for a basic lighting workshop, either portraits or still life, whatever you find more appealing. As if you've not done anything of this nature before then it would be the quickest and best learning/ exploration step without spending much money on equipment you might use once then loose interest?

Or if you are hands on and quick to pick things up and have family & friends for eager models or some still life fascination then just buy some basic cheap ones on ebay or the budget lencarta/ ellinchrom ones with soft box, umbrella etc and dig in yourself.
Manual setting strobes.. Only! As these are so much easier than dealing with speed lights confusing settings and wireless stuff, and the adapters for modifiers.
KISS .. I used to laugh at my tutor's saying Keep It Simple Sweetheart .. but is very true especially in learning studio lighting. As there are so many 'have-to-get' lighting tech these days that can put you off it all so easily!
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: privatebydesign on August 04, 2014, 04:05:54 PM
You cannot go wrong with a Paul C Buff light, either Einstein or Alien Bees, and a few modifiers, they hold their value exceptionally well and if you hate it you can get  80-90% of your money back on eBay.

As for modifiers, it depends on what kind of image you like, post some links and it isn't difficult to reverse engineer the lighting of them to point you in the right direction for your needs. But be aware, the shooting environment plays as large a part in the lighting as the lighting does, anybody offering you advice without knowing what kind of images you like and what your normal "studio space" will be is disingenuous, their advice will not help you.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: mackguyver on August 04, 2014, 04:31:48 PM
You cannot go wrong with a Paul C Buff light, either Einstein or Alien Bees, and a few modifiers, they hold their value exceptionally well and if you hate it you can get  80-90% of your money back on eBay.

As for modifiers, it depends on what kind of image you like, post some links and it isn't difficult to reverse engineer the lighting of them to point you in the right direction for your needs. But be aware, the shooting environment plays as large a part in the lighting as the lighting does, anybody offering you advice without knowing what kind of images you like and what your normal "studio space" will be is disingenuous, their advice will not help you.
+1 on private's Paul C Buff recommendation and advice.  Modifiers are often quite specialized to both the type of shooting you do and the style you shoot.  Try to find someone who shoots what you plan to shoot and in the style that you like.  A good place to find these people is a video blog called ISO 1200 (http://www.iso1200.com/).  Many of the videos posted there are from photographers who have lots of videos and/or websites that show their set ups.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: inky38 on August 04, 2014, 05:20:51 PM
You cannot go wrong with a Paul C Buff light, either Einstein or Alien Bees, and a few modifiers, they hold their value exceptionally well and if you hate it you can get  80-90% of your money back on eBay.

As for modifiers, it depends on what kind of image you like, post some links and it isn't difficult to reverse engineer the lighting of them to point you in the right direction for your needs. But be aware, the shooting environment plays as large a part in the lighting as the lighting does, anybody offering you advice without knowing what kind of images you like and what your normal "studio space" will be is disingenuous, their advice will not help you.

Thanks guys

So much good advice really early on.  I think I'll be starting with some off camera flash and some lightweight/travel umbrellas.

You're right about the shooting environment too.  Lots of things I've got to consider.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: Besisika on August 04, 2014, 05:54:39 PM
I have zero experience with any form of studio lighting, and before I get the credit card out, I want to learn as much as I can before I commit to anything.
For me, that info is too vague. What do you mean, you don't have experience in flash photography at all, or you don't have experience in off-camera flash, or you simply have never worked within a studio?
I use the Einstein as well and it does the job.

The question is, is that the right tool for you, and if yes, is it the right time? I wouldn't spend $1000+ unless I am sure.
When is the right time? Answer: when you are sure that this is the path you want to go.
Many bought a piano but many became just a furniture.
Do you know posing, do you like it, do you require it, do you have patience for it?
Maybe you need just a photo journalistic approach? Many adores it.
Would you find models to practice, would you find customers to pay it back? Can you find a studio, or is it on location? Do you like dragging another 10-20KG of gear? and so on.
Jumping into studio strobe is like jumping into photography version 2; GAS is the key word. You won't stop with one Einstein, you will get modifiers, triggers, more modifiers, more strobes and more GAS. LOL.
My suggestion, start with something small and see if that is the right path. Something that you won't regret putting just aside.
Maybe some manual flash for $45 and simple umbrella first. Learn all different kind of lighting setup, get some "cheap" model and try it (a sister, daughter, neighbor). I had some friends who gave up due to posing and directing. Some gave up due to post processing. I use it less due to weight, and frankly I like natural light a lot more , even the hard one.
If you master and adore it though you could be the next Neil V Niekerk. I admire the guy, but I know I won't be in his league. Just not my path.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: c.d.embrey on August 04, 2014, 06:30:59 PM
First you have to answer some questions. Why do you want to try studio work? Do you have an interest in Fashion Photography? Product Photography? Food Photography? Pet Portraits?

Some of the nicest studio shots you'll ever see were made in a daylight studio. No lights, just a large north facing window.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: Halfrack on August 04, 2014, 09:18:21 PM
The next step (beyond Strobist reading) is finding a local studio or retail establishment that offers classes.  Don't spend money on studio lights until you get a better feel for them, and some 1on1 time quickly speeds up your learning curve.

The difference between studio lights and speedlites is size, modifier options and cost - if you're doing portraits only, you can get away with speedlites 99% of the time.  Plus, you can mix in speedlites as you need to light different things individually, so it's not like any money spent on speedlites is wasted.

PCB's Alien Bees are ok, but their Einsteins are amazing and worth the extra once you add in the CyberSync bits.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: RLPhoto on August 05, 2014, 12:07:03 AM
PCB Einstiens are the best value and will be hard to out grow. They can do just about anything within reason and anything larger your getting paid enough to rent that Broncolor set.

However I highly recommend getting a light meter.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: mackguyver on August 05, 2014, 09:26:42 AM
However I highly recommend getting a light meter.
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?  It seems like several people have listed it as one of their least-used items and soon after going digital, I ended up selling mine.  If I was a location shooter with limited time, I think it would be handy, but as long as I have 5-10 minutes to play with the lighting and check my histograms, I haven't found a need for one. 
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: leGreve on August 05, 2014, 09:35:59 AM
You can get pretty far with a couple of Bowens Gemini 500w remote lamps.

They take radio cards so you can trigger them with pocket wizards etc.

I think Bowens still have some accessories packages give you some different ways of putting the light out.

Also speedlites with S bayonet adapters means you could use fx. Bowens accessories like beauty dish / soft box etc.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: agierke on August 05, 2014, 10:56:02 AM
Quote
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?

if you are particular about lighting ratios then yes. a histogram doesn't tell you what your ratios are, just overall exposure. if you have a 3-5 light scenario where you really want to control values of each light then a light meter becomes tremendously helpful.

for the OPs purpose i don't think its necessary. you can learn the principles of lighting without a light meter. when one is ready to progress into more complicated scenarios requiring fine tune control then a meter becomes more essential.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: LDS on August 05, 2014, 10:57:23 AM
The thing is, I have zero experience with any form of studio lighting, and before I get the credit card out, I want to learn as much as I can before I commit to anything.
Where's the best place to start?

Start reading a good book about lighting like "Light - Science and Magic". It will teach you the basics (and more) about lighting - and then you'll understand what you really need. Basic setups may be created with simple lamps and some DIY stuff, before moving to more complex, professional (and expensive) devices. Then you will find there are more than you ever dreamed of... and your credit card could be at risk ;)

Portraits can be created from a simple one light source setup, to some very complex ones using multiple light sources and reflectors - depending on the kind of portrait you aim to create. Start by mastering the basics, and then move up the ladder, just buying stuff won't help if you can't master it.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: mackguyver on August 05, 2014, 11:04:33 AM
Quote
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?

if you are particular about lighting ratios then yes. a histogram doesn't tell you what your ratios are, just overall exposure. if you have a 3-5 light scenario where you really want to control values of each light then a light meter becomes tremendously helpful.
I could certainly see that being useful if you're going to for exact ratios.  I guess I'm just a little looser with my lighting :)

Start reading a good book about lighting like "Light - Science and Magic". It will teach you the basics (and more) about lighting - and then you'll understand what you really need.
Great recommendation on that book - it's a nice overview of lighting in general and an especially useful guide for product lighting.  It's not quite as helpful for portraits, but the concepts in the book are a huge help for photography in general and have even helped me when shooting with natural light.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: RLPhoto on August 05, 2014, 11:07:36 AM
However I highly recommend getting a light meter.
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?  It seems like several people have listed it as one of their least-used items and soon after going digital, I ended up selling mine.  If I was a location shooter with limited time, I think it would be handy, but as long as I have 5-10 minutes to play with the lighting and check my histograms, I haven't found a need for one.
After forcing myself to get into using one again, Its much faster and easier than the shoot/chimp/histo check. It also helps that its built into the Cybercommander but I use my L-508 if i'm throwing speedlites into the mix.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: mackguyver on August 05, 2014, 11:12:21 AM
However I highly recommend getting a light meter.
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?  It seems like several people have listed it as one of their least-used items and soon after going digital, I ended up selling mine.  If I was a location shooter with limited time, I think it would be handy, but as long as I have 5-10 minutes to play with the lighting and check my histograms, I haven't found a need for one.
After forcing myself to get into using one again, Its much faster and easier than the shoot/chimp/histo check. It also helps that its built into the Cybercommander but I use my L-508 if i'm throwing speedlites into the mix.
Thanks for the answer and I've been getting back into more studio shooting and have considered a meter, but hadn't thought about the Cybercommander.  It looks so bulky on the website - how is it in actual use?
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: LDS on August 05, 2014, 11:14:25 AM
My advice is to avoid the studio at all cost and enjoy the outdoors.
Controlled studio lighting is a different way of photographing. It lets you create images from scratch - with almost total control. It's also a technique that requires a lot of learning, to be mastered fully. May require a lot of time from inception to setup to create the final image - and can be expensive.
Some find it very appealing because of the creativity and control, others don't, and may feel it more "artificial". Depends on what kind of photographer you aim to be, and what kind of images you want to create.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: RLPhoto on August 05, 2014, 11:18:48 AM
However I highly recommend getting a light meter.
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?  It seems like several people have listed it as one of their least-used items and soon after going digital, I ended up selling mine.  If I was a location shooter with limited time, I think it would be handy, but as long as I have 5-10 minutes to play with the lighting and check my histograms, I haven't found a need for one.
After forcing myself to get into using one again, Its much faster and easier than the shoot/chimp/histo check. It also helps that its built into the Cybercommander but I use my L-508 if i'm throwing speedlites into the mix.
Thanks for the answer and I've been getting back into more studio shooting and have considered a meter, but hadn't thought about the Cybercommander.  It looks so bulky on the website - how is it in actual use?

Its fantastic as when you fire for the meter reading, it automatically inputs that data into your einstein and will tell you what F-stop its at and will update the f-stop info as you power up and down. Genius really as it makes metering that much easier.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: Besisika on August 05, 2014, 11:24:28 AM
However I highly recommend getting a light meter.
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?  It seems like several people have listed it as one of their least-used items and soon after going digital, I ended up selling mine.  If I was a location shooter with limited time, I think it would be handy, but as long as I have 5-10 minutes to play with the lighting and check my histograms, I haven't found a need for one.
Me neither, I don't bring my light meeter on my usual days. I like retouching so I do it in post - just my style.
I don't even need 5-10 min. I just take 3 shoots and I know what to do. 2/3rd over or under expose doesn't bother me.

However, when you need to do a favor to a friend (being sick for instance) and shoot a complicated lighting for a product, you cannot do without a light meter, especially if he (or his customer) dictates the ratio.
Besides, even for a portrait shoot, in front of the customer, tethered, you would want each of your shots to be very close. 

Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: LDS on August 05, 2014, 11:32:02 AM
Great recommendation on that book - it's a nice overview of lighting in general and an especially useful guide for product lighting.  It's not quite as helpful for portraits, but the concepts in the book are a huge help for photography in general and have even helped me when shooting with natural light.
IMHO before attempting portrait it is advisable to start mastering lighting (and equipment) using inanimate subjects, which are usually much more patient and don't complain much about the results :) This also allows to understand how light "works" and how different surfaces and shapes "react" to it - even in portraits people may wear spectacles, jewels, clothes or other accessories that need to be lighted properly. Environmental portraits more so.
"Light - Science and Magic" has only one chapter that covers portrait (head and shoulder portrait mostly), but covers the basics - than there are specific books to choose among.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: mackguyver on August 05, 2014, 11:34:17 AM
However I highly recommend getting a light meter.
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?  It seems like several people have listed it as one of their least-used items and soon after going digital, I ended up selling mine.  If I was a location shooter with limited time, I think it would be handy, but as long as I have 5-10 minutes to play with the lighting and check my histograms, I haven't found a need for one.
After forcing myself to get into using one again, Its much faster and easier than the shoot/chimp/histo check. It also helps that its built into the Cybercommander but I use my L-508 if i'm throwing speedlites into the mix.
Thanks for the answer and I've been getting back into more studio shooting and have considered a meter, but hadn't thought about the Cybercommander.  It looks so bulky on the website - how is it in actual use?

Its fantastic as when you fire for the meter reading, it automatically inputs that data into your einstein and will tell you what F-stop its at and will update the f-stop info as you power up and down. Genius really as it makes metering that much easier.
Thanks, I think I'll give it a try, especially given the reasonable price.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: Hannes on August 07, 2014, 02:43:08 AM
Speaking of mastering, when you've got the hang of reverse engineering a light set up go look at works of the classical masters, i.e. paintings. You can learn a lot from the light in a Rembrandt painting for example
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: MonkeyB on September 18, 2014, 12:39:34 PM
will toss in my 2c -

went through an exhaustive study of which gear to acquire for hobbyist lighting for the last month or so, and ended up with 4 options:
1. follow strobist guide with a pair of lp180's + PW's and various shoe-mount speed rings, etc.
2. get a pair of 600-ex-rt's with trigger and various shoe-mount speed-rings (i.e. chimera ob2 kit or profoto 3' octa)
3. go straight to big lights with paul buff einsteins and that accessory system (including battery option)
4. go with bowens gemini 500's and their mod system (including battery option)

i threw out most of the flash havoc chinese stuff i.e. godox to avoid reliability issues and accelerated product release schedules (e.g. each spiral adds more features and refines the previous iteration making me always want to upgrade - bleh).

most of the compact portable good stuff is out of my price range. speaking of which, the 600-ex's cost too much for my intended use cases, so they got dropped from the list. i then realized that speed lights were not what i was looking for, in general.

even though i really liked the bowens gear with the pulsar card and trigger, they cost more than the buff stuff and offered less features. i get the feeling the bowens is more reliable though after doing some research.

i ended up with 1 einstein e640, 1 matthews medium maxi steel kit stand, 1 matthews 10lb. boa bag, 1 buff omni reflector, 1 51" PLM soft silver & diffusion fabric, and the cyber commander with the newer receiver for the e640 chassis. total was around $1050 inclusive. i feel this is a solid kit to grow with and build upon. i'll most likely get the vagabond mini soon so i can start using the omni outdoors.

in my situation, i'll mostly be balancing adequate ambient light. if i wanted to do studio-type portrait stuff maybe i'd have gone a different direction.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: privatebydesign on September 18, 2014, 12:54:18 PM
However I highly recommend getting a light meter.
Do you really use a light meter that much these days?  It seems like several people have listed it as one of their least-used items and soon after going digital, I ended up selling mine.  If I was a location shooter with limited time, I think it would be handy, but as long as I have 5-10 minutes to play with the lighting and check my histograms, I haven't found a need for one.
After forcing myself to get into using one again, Its much faster and easier than the shoot/chimp/histo check. It also helps that its built into the Cybercommander but I use my L-508 if i'm throwing speedlites into the mix.
Thanks for the answer and I've been getting back into more studio shooting and have considered a meter, but hadn't thought about the Cybercommander.  It looks so bulky on the website - how is it in actual use?

Its fantastic as when you fire for the meter reading, it automatically inputs that data into your einstein and will tell you what F-stop its at and will update the f-stop info as you power up and down. Genius really as it makes metering that much easier.
Thanks, I think I'll give it a try, especially given the reasonable price.

I'm using the Cyber Commander now too. I actually don't camera mount it, I keep it off camera and do the adjusting with it and keep a CyberSync Transmitter on camera for the actual camera triggering, works really well and is a great piece of kit. I seriously wish the AB integration was as good the Einstein integration though.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: Skirball on September 18, 2014, 01:14:10 PM
will toss in my 2c -

went through an exhaustive study of which gear to acquire for hobbyist lighting for the last month or so, and ended up with 4 options:
1. follow strobist guide with a pair of lp180's + PW's and various shoe-mount speed rings, etc.
2. get a pair of 600-ex-rt's with trigger and various shoe-mount speed-rings (i.e. chimera ob2 kit or profoto 3' octa)
3. go straight to big lights with paul buff einsteins and that accessory system (including battery option)
4. go with bowens gemini 500's and their mod system (including battery option)

Sounds like you already made your decision, but just in-case others stumble upon this while doing their research:  The Strobist guide is outdated and a bit biased, as far as the Lumopro flashes.  If you're going for a manual only, third party flash it's a hard argument against the Yonguo 560 III.  Now with the 560-TX you can control power and zoom from your flash, all for $50 plus $70 per flash.  There's little point in getting PW is you're using manual only, other than wanting to stay away from third party venders.  You can get a basic 2 light light setup with built in RF receivers, and a trigger that can control power and zoom, for $200.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: AcutancePhotography on September 18, 2014, 01:14:26 PM
Another handy book is The Speedliter’s Handbook by Syl Arena.

Despite being about speedlights, he covers the basics of lighting theory.  And it does it in an easy to read and understand format. 
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: mackguyver on September 18, 2014, 01:18:39 PM
I'm using the Cyber Commander now too. I actually don't camera mount it, I keep it off camera and do the adjusting with it and keep a CyberSync Transmitter on camera for the actual camera triggering, works really well and is a great piece of kit. I seriously wish the AB integration was as good the Einstein integration though.
I haven't bought one yet, but it's definitely near the top of my shopping list.  I'm happy to hear that you really like it as well and having two positive votes from CR members means a lot to me.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: MonkeyB on September 18, 2014, 04:49:52 PM
check out the cyber commander manual PDF from the buff website. lots of nice features. the metering was one of the benefits i really liked - single lights or groups, ambient, etc.

will be taking the commander off camera to do the metering and adjustments, then putting it back on hot shoe for shooting.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: mackguyver on September 18, 2014, 04:56:00 PM
check out the cyber commander manual PDF from the buff website. lots of nice features. the metering was one of the benefits i really liked - single lights or groups, ambient, etc.

will be taking the commander off camera to do the metering and adjustments, then putting it back on hot shoe for shooting.
It definitely looks cool and I already have the CyberSync Trigger so I'd be able to leave that in the hotshoe and just use the Commander for metering and adjustments off camera.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: LDS on September 19, 2014, 08:31:31 AM
i ended up with 1 einstein e640, 1 matthews medium maxi steel kit stand, 1 matthews 10lb. boa bag, 1 buff omni reflector, 1 51" PLM soft silver & diffusion fabric, and the cyber commander with the newer receiver for the e640 chassis. total was around $1050 inclusive.

In Europe, were some US brand may be not available or easy to find, I found a good choice to be the Elinchrom "To Go" sets. For example the DX-Lite RX 4/4 To Go comes with two 400W/s units, stands, 66cm softboxes, one 90° reflector, wireless transmitter (also able to set unit power) and bags to store and carry everything.  Looking around I was able to find it below €800 (RX-One 100W/s and RX-Lite 200W/s units are cheaper), and also Elinchrom offers some cheaper "entry level" kits for softboxes, umbrellas and reflectors/grid.
Anyway, they use the same mount of other Elinchrom products, and compatible ones.
These are good versatile starting kit and not overly expensive,  if one is really interested in studio lighting,  and cover a good range of needs from product/still life to portrait.
Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: MonkeyB on September 19, 2014, 03:20:37 PM
i definitely looked at the d-lites but found some build issue reports with the units and also the trigger for the camera shoe (skyport issue in general). didn't notice a battery option either. i'd rather go with the bowens gemini myself, if in europe.

also found it better to go my own path with stands and mods, instead of the kit - but for the price the d-lite to-go is a great value.

also saw that phottix has announced a portable mono with battery and TTL/HSS at 500w for around $1300 for october release. maybe another option for those who want the modern tech.

Title: Re: Studio lighting advice for a newbie
Post by: LDS on September 19, 2014, 05:06:00 PM
i definitely looked at the d-lites but found some build issue reports with the units and also the trigger for the camera shoe (skyport issue in general). didn't notice a battery option either. i'd rather go with the bowens gemini myself, if in europe.

The units are manufactured in India to keep the price relatively low, but I have no issues with my set. The actual D-Lite RX looks better built than the previous IT model. The stands are also economical models, but they support the units well, and I can also use the with a Manfrotto boom without issues - just added a sandbag.
They come also with the newer Skyport Speed. The good of the Skyport is it's very small and light, the downside is it's run by a button cell, if it's almost depleted it could work erratically, better to keep a spare around because it's not a common type.
The system is also compatible with the USB controller that allows units to be configured from a Windows or OSX PC. There's no portable battery option if you need it, probably not to eat into the Quadra product.
Sure, you can get build a better kit buying separate items, but for a beginner this is a simple comprehensive and versatile solution.