November 23, 2017, 09:10:55 PM

Author Topic: Home Studio  (Read 3622 times)

ray5

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Home Studio
« on: October 15, 2017, 03:37:46 PM »
Hi
I am setting up a home studio for non professional use. It's in the basement which is unfinished. I bought a backdrop stand and black muslin backdrop. Am not so impressed with either as the stand is a bit flimsy and the backdrop cloth is a bit thin but for the moment, they will do. I would like suggestions about lights, stands, backdrops etc.
Currently I only have a canon 580 EXII speedlite. The basement has CFL bulbs which I found after taking some shots are far from optimum. I have the backdrop setup in a relatively dark area with it facing two south facing windows. They are above ground.The back has no windows. The ceiling is also unfinished. Since this is just for personal use and I don't have any plans to make this into a commercial venture I want to keep costs reasonable but also don't want to buy cheap stuff which I will need to replace later. I shoot with a Canon 5D MK III. My preferred portrait lens is the 70-200 F2.8L II. I also use the Zeiss 135mm though don't have that much experience with that one, yet. Currently I do  not have any light stands, props etc. Thanks
Ray

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Home Studio
« on: October 15, 2017, 03:37:46 PM »

Drum

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2017, 03:53:22 PM »
do you have a budget or will you buy what you need whatever the cost?

ray5

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2017, 04:00:00 PM »
do you have a budget or will you buy what you need whatever the cost?

Will buy what I need. May stagger the buying if too expensive but am open to adding stuff. Thx

AJ

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2017, 05:03:05 PM »
Unless your basement is large and you're planning headshots only, you'll need a shorter lens.
For lighting you can do something like AlienBees. 
I would not mix natural light with CFL and then strobe on top of that.

ray5

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2017, 05:39:21 PM »
Unless your basement is large and you're planning headshots only, you'll need a shorter lens.
For lighting you can do something like AlienBees. 
I would not mix natural light with CFL and then strobe on top of that.
I use EF 24-70mm F2.8L II as well. Everything is on the table. Drapes for the windows are planned. CFL changing over is easy. That's why I need a plan to bring it all together. Thx

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2017, 05:39:51 PM »
I purchased two16 ft flexible curtain tracks from Amazon to hang my backdrops on from the ceiling.  I have a large one in front, and three 6 ft wide ones on the track mounted 2 inches behind the first.  So, I just slide the backdrops back and forth to get to what I want.  I even have storage shelves behind the 2nd backdrop.

For lighting, I bolted two sturdy L brackets to the wall that I mounted softboxes on with conventional mounting studs.  They can swivel back and forth or up and down, but are at a fixed distance from the backdrop.  I have a large cart with white fabric on it (actually several colors as I choose).  For smaller items, I can move the cart closer or further from the lights until I get the lighting I want.

I use high CRI (5500K) bulbs, four 85 watt and four 65 watt bulbs.  I'd use more if it was possible, I never get enough light.

I agree with the person who said not to mix light types. a flash mixed with CFL even at the same temperature is going to clash, and this is difficult to deal with in post.

I'm doing mostly product photography.  I have a full sized mannequin to use as a model for my wife or daughters artistic creations.  Generally, I remove the background from products as Amazon strongly recommends.

LDS

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2017, 06:01:22 PM »
I am setting up a home studio for non professional use. It's in the basement which is unfinished. I bought a backdrop stand and black muslin backdrop. Am not so impressed with either as the stand is a bit flimsy and the backdrop cloth is a bit thin but for the moment, they will do. I would like suggestions about lights, stands, backdrops etc.

The equipment you need depends on the photos you want to take. Tabletop still-life, for example, head-and-shoulder portraits, or full body portraits and other large items require different setups.

Anyway, even if one light could be often be enough, you will need preferably two light sources (three, if you can afford them), a few diffusers and reflectors, plus the stands to hold them, and a few accessories.

Light sources can be flash or continuous ones (LED or fluorescent). The larger your subjects, the more powerful the light source needs to be. Portable strobes like the 580 can be useful for small subjects, but may not be enough powerful for larger ones. You may use "gang" of strobes, but it could become quickly expensive, plus all the batteries to charge.
Studio lights are also designed for interchangeable reflectors and other accessories. Also, studio flashes usually have modelling lights that helps a lot in achieving the desired result.

Diffusers can be softboxes, umbrellas, or panels. You can also build them yourself with translucent paper/fabric (but beware of flammability), or buy those that will fit your lights. Their size also depends on the subject size - they need to be a little larger (30-50%) than the average size of your subject, when you need to use them for a soft light effect.
You may also need snoots or grids, for a more "defined" light.

Reflectors can also be built with foamboard, fabrics, etc. The foldable ones available on the market take little space when closed, but are of course more expensive. There are some that allows different surfaces to be mounted on a single frame, may reduce the space required to store them, although are a little clumsier to use.

You may also need black surfaces to be used as "flags" or "gobos", to block light instead reflecting it.

Lights and reflectors/flags will need a few good stands, and you may need also a boom when a light/reflector needs to be positioned above the subject. Safety should always be the first criteria. Some sandbags will help to avoid issues. The maximum height of a stand has to be high enough to allow lights above your subject. Most portable stands, even by well known brands, may look a bit flimsy. They don't need to be as sturdy as a camera tripod, and if used with care within their limits (check the max load, keep the center of gravity well within the legs), they don't give problems. There are sturdier and heavier stands for big lights and the like, but they become quickly expensive.

Don't forget some clamps, gaffer tape and everything that may be needed to keep things in place.

Backdrops clothes are also thinner than one may expect, after all what is important is how they look in the image, nothing else. Just, be careful about any light behind them. Paper backdrops may be cheaper, and available in many more colors, but they can't be folded and you need to provide the space to store the rolls. They are available in different sizes, and again, that depends on your subject. Full size portraits of standing people, and small groups, may require larger ones (you may easily need a setup about 3m tall and as much as large, less if the subject is not tall and more constrained).
A "light grey" background can also be lighter/darker depending on the background/subject lighting ratio. Grey/white backgrounds can be lit also using colored gels to change their color.

You can also build backdrops yourself, recently brick walls, old wallpaper, corrugated metal sheets, etc. are popular choices. If the basement is unfinished, you can "finish" some wall section as a background. But ensure walls, windows, ceiling, and floor don't cast unwanted reflections and colors on your subject(s). Walls/windows may be covered with dark clothes if needed. Anyway, a light, neutral ceiling (or wall) can act as a good reflector.

There are some "starter kit" that usually include a couple of lights, diffusers, and stands, and are a good way to start.

Lately a lot of far cheaper Chinese brands entered the market - their quality is variable. Which brand(s) to choose depends on your local availability (including support), and your budget. Check interoperability, some things are more or less standards, others are not (i.e. there are different mounts for reflectors).
 
Anyway, remember, safety first. A lamp falling on your subject is never funny.

If you're new to studio photography, I would suggest you a book like "Light Science & Magic - An Introduction to Photographic Lighting". It explains very well how to light things (and why it works that way), and will also suggest you what you really need, without throwing money away for unnecessary "cool things".

« Last Edit: October 16, 2017, 03:11:05 AM by LDS »

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2017, 06:01:22 PM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2017, 06:51:18 PM »
I use and like Manfrotto stands.  I have a pair of 1004BAC (12', good for monolights/big modifiers like a 4' octabox), a pair of 1051BAC (6.5', good for speedlites/small modifiers, and I like the small 2' footprint).  I also have the Manfrotto 1314B backdrop stand, it's long and sturdy enough for 9' paper rolls (many aren't), and I sometimes hand three 10x12' muslin backdrops from it.  The stands in the kit are a pair of 1052BAC light stands, which are great for speedlites/modifiers if you're not using the backdrop.  I have a few Backdrop Alley muslin backdrops, black, white, Chroma-Green, and marbled blue, gray, and gold.

I also really like the 420 Combi-boom for getting a light+modifier out over a subject, or above/behind for a hair light.

For speedlite modifiers, I use and like Lastolite Ezyboxes.  I have a pair of 24", and also a 12x48" stripbox.  But if you don't have a set of speedlites already, you could consider monolights – for that, I recommend Paul C. Buff Einstein lights, good power and a big 9-stop range.  Their modifiers are good quality, too, and reasonably priced.

Skip the CFLs.  Stop down, and let your strobes provide all the light for the shots. 
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unfocused

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2017, 08:44:08 PM »
You can buy stands, modifiers, etc., as you need them or have the resources.

The only decision you need to make at, or near, the front is, is what kind of lighting you want to invest in: Speedlights, monlights or LED Constant lighting.

Speedlights are portable and if you buy into the Canon 600 RT system, you won't need any radio control units, since that is integrated into the 600 RT units. The downside is that you'll need a regular supply of batteries and a good quality charger. The light won't be quite as strong or recycle as fast as monolights.

Monolights, like the Einstein and Alien Bees systems, aren't as portable, but recycle faster and can be more powerful. You will also need to decide how you want to trigger them. Although speedlights may be cheaper initially, by the the time you get a full setup, you will have invested as much or more as you would with budget monolights.

LED Lights are constant (you turn them on and they stay on) and are cool. But, unless you buy very good ones, they won't be as bright and there are a lot of cheap knockoffs. Expect to pay significantly more for an LED lighting setup. Also, the light modifiers you would use with Speedlights and Monlights may not fit most LED systems. The advantage is that because they are constant lighting, what you see is what you get when you take a picture.

hne

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2017, 10:21:09 AM »
LDS and neuroanatomist have some good advice. I did something similar less than a year ago and came to the conclusion I could make do with an Elinchrom RX-ONE two heads and softboxes set. Almost.

First off, the first thing you need for a studio setting is a flash light meter.

Other points to consider:
  • Figure out from the start how you'd add a third light. Even if it is just triggering your speedlite as an optical slave for a hair light.
  • You really want a boom stand. The 420 combi-boom mentioned by neuroanatomist might look expensive at first but even the low-cost no-name alternatives aren't that much cheaper and you don't want to secure something that is fragile, expensive, heavy and electrified over someones head on a substandard light stand.
  • Modifiers. Bare bulb isn't as forgiving as a speedlite and a speedlite doesn't fill a modifier like a bare bulb. You don't need a lot and avoid doing the classic beginner mistake of getting too much. A medium sized square/rectangular box 2-3 foot sides and an octa of similar size is quite fine for most things. You might need larger for whole-body portraits depending on style. Umbrella are cheap and all, but controlling their light spill (especially with shoot-through) can be a nuisance in rooms not built for photography.
  • Find a way to control reflections. V-flats are cost effective and easily moved. After a rather short while you will start to wish you had a few black ones if you have light walls or white ones if you have dark walls. To control shadows or add some reflected light, respectively.

A background cold be anything. A brick wall. A curtain. Some inspiration on what you need for a successful home studio and how you can use it creatively could definitely be had from Adorama TV with Gavin Hoey. He's using a dark grey painted wall quite a bit.

Killing the light of those CFL bulbs is easy with strobes. 60W incandecent is like 0.3Ws at 1/200s so with my strobes that go down as far as 6Ws, they easily overpower normal room light by 5-6 stops, meaning as long as I can control reflected light, normal room light doesn't show, only barely visible if you know what to look for and only at the lowest possible power settings.
Preferred gear: 5D IV, 35/1.4L, 85/1.8, 70-200/2.8L IS, Elinchrom RX
Backup: 5D II, 17-40/4L, 100-400/4.5-5.6L, Yongnuo + 622

ray5

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2017, 10:02:22 PM »
Thanks for always having practical suggestions.
I understand that the speedlite is insufficient for doing what I plan on. I don't think I am going down the route of multiple speedlites. they will become too expensive and likely not enough anyway.
What I would like to do is for now stay with the backdrop and stand that I have. Don't want to make a beginners mistake in buying too match too early. Likely will look to start with a two light setup. Perhaps a Paul C buff  package? And then add a third as needed. As I learn and understand this more will add more sturdy backdrop stand and backdrops. I like Mount Spokane's suggestion about having some wall mount rods and roll/unroll backdrops.
I primarily intend to do all kinds of family portraits(head shots/full body/families etc). No products but not averse to it. This is a hobby and not intending to pay bills! :)
Would someone be kind enough to look at the packages Paul C buff has and suggest one? Or is would it be better to pick and choose separate items? Packages save money but sometimes things that are thrown in that have no or minimal utility.
Neuro,
I like the boom stand.Thx
Unfocused,
Don't know much about LED lights. Any suggestions?

Geaibleu16

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2017, 12:17:24 AM »
I use 3 Elinchrom heads (2x500 and 1x250 BRX) and Savage paper for the background with a marked preference for their "Fashion grey" color in their 2 most common width ( 53" and 105"). As noted above, a flash meter is essential to get the best possible results.
What I found most useful  was to look up "Elinchrom" on You tube where you will find dozens of videos on the very topic of setting up a studio.
Do not be too discouraged in the early stages, as it takes a bit of time to master the various parameters, and of course ... control the models.
Tethering your shoots and keeping notes on your settings will be rewarding in the long run.
Good luck

ray5

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2017, 01:25:54 PM »
I found someone who had some stobes lying around. We set them up with stands and backdrop and shot! My goodness, it was so much fun and really an eyeopener. I did what I could never have done with the speedlite. I always knew I had to get the flash off camera, but actually doing it was awesome! I also was reminded of my profound ignorance. To see the model lit evenly and change the shadows around with moving relative positions without any processing was amazing!
Now, I have to contain my excitement and not spend stupidly will be even harder. Questions:

- What power should the strobes be. I guess I can turn them down but not up beyond the max. so have to be sure I get enough power.
- He only had umbrellas which was fine. I have to start somewhere. Should not get them at all and get other modifiers? Or a mix?
- We shot with two lights. Enough?
- Elinchrom and profoto was super expensive. Not something I can't get but I am all for value for money. Just personal use. No chance or plans of ever recovering the money back. BUt if they are good overall, then I am open. which ones?
- I enjoy well made stuff. also, when they are you end up spending less in the long run. But also realize that spending more does not always ensure good stuff.
- I guess getting a mannequin as a model will also help?
Thanks for all your help.
Ray

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2017, 01:25:54 PM »

LDS

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2017, 02:54:19 PM »
- What power should the strobes be. I guess I can turn them down but not up beyond the max. so have to be sure I get enough power.

Really depends on the size of the subject(s), and of diffusers. 100-200 Ws strobes are good for smaller subjects, i.e. tabletop still life, portraits. For larger subjects using larger diffusers, you may need 400 Ws + ones. Just, if they are too powerful, you may not reduce their output enough, sometimes.

Known brands like Elinchrom or Profoto means also support - and availability of spare parts. Moreover many third party accessories are often compatible. If you're in the US there are cheaper good alternatives, less in Europe, AFAIK. Don't know about other parts of the world.

Elinchrom RX One a 2/4 units are not "superexpensive", although not cheap - I use two RX 4 (bought in a set with stands, softboxes, remote control unit, and bags) and one RX 2. They are somewhat less "refined" than the more expensive units, but IMHO good as entry level units to professional lighting. There are good alternatives, anyway, just where I live they were one of the best options available - I'm too just an hobbyist, but everybody has their own budget.

- He only had umbrellas which was fine. I have to start somewhere. Should not get them at all and get other modifiers? Or a mix?

Umbrellas spill more light around than softboxes, which are more "directional". Today, often softboxes are preferred to umbrellas, but it's often a matter of preferences. If you can choose, I'd start with softboxes.

- We shot with two lights. Enough?

Often, yes. Sometimes even one. Also, starting with only two lights makes the setup simpler. You can add a third (or more) when you feel confident you mastered one and two. You can save and buy some other needed items, i.e. a reflector or a boom.

enjoy well made stuff. also, when they are you end up spending less in the long run. But also realize that spending more does not always ensure good stuff.

You're right, just sometimes it's difficult to tell what is cheap and good, and what it is overpriced and bad. Especially if you buy online, and you can't give a look to what you buy before buying it. Brands with a good reputation are usually a safe choice - they may not be the best for the money, but won't leave you in troubles either.

Like others, I'm using Manfrotto stands and accessories, and Lastolite reflectors. But again, it is also a matter of availability. I prefer to minimize the number of brands used, so accessories are easily compatible, and they work in a similar way.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2017, 03:08:29 PM by LDS »

ray5

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2017, 10:27:44 PM »
- What power should the strobes be. I guess I can turn them down but not up beyond the max. so have to be sure I get enough power.

Really depends on the size of the subject(s), and of diffusers. 100-200 Ws strobes are good for smaller subjects, i.e. tabletop still life, portraits. For larger subjects using larger diffusers, you may need 400 Ws + ones. Just, if they are too powerful, you may not reduce their output enough, sometimes.

Known brands like Elinchrom or Profoto means also support - and availability of spare parts. Moreover many third party accessories are often compatible. If you're in the US there are cheaper good alternatives, less in Europe, AFAIK. Don't know about other parts of the world.

Elinchrom RX One a 2/4 units are not "superexpensive", although not cheap - I use two RX 4 (bought in a set with stands, softboxes, remote control unit, and bags) and one RX 2. They are somewhat less "refined" than the more expensive units, but IMHO good as entry level units to professional lighting. There are good alternatives, anyway, just where I live they were one of the best options available - I'm too just an hobbyist, but everybody has their own budget.

- He only had umbrellas which was fine. I have to start somewhere. Should not get them at all and get other modifiers? Or a mix?

Umbrellas spill more light around than softboxes, which are more "directional". Today, often softboxes are preferred to umbrellas, but it's often a matter of preferences. If you can choose, I'd start with softboxes.

- We shot with two lights. Enough?

Often, yes. Sometimes even one. Also, starting with only two lights makes the setup simpler. You can add a third (or more) when you feel confident you mastered one and two. You can save and buy some other needed items, i.e. a reflector or a boom.

enjoy well made stuff. also, when they are you end up spending less in the long run. But also realize that spending more does not always ensure good stuff.

You're right, just sometimes it's difficult to tell what is cheap and good, and what it is overpriced and bad. Especially if you buy online, and you can't give a look to what you buy before buying it. Brands with a good reputation are usually a safe choice - they may not be the best for the money, but won't leave you in troubles either.

Like others, I'm using Manfrotto stands and accessories, and Lastolite reflectors. But again, it is also a matter of availability. I prefer to minimize the number of brands used, so accessories are easily compatible, and they work in a similar way.

Hi,
Thanks  again!
I am in the US so have access to the usual stores like Adorama/B&H?pAul Buff.
Is this the one you referred to:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1247567-REG/elinchrom_el20839_2_d_lite_rx_4_4_softbox.html
It's within my budget. Anything else you would recommend? Any other packages to consider?
Which studio light meter?
Though currently I am looking to do the home studio, I would like the capability to travel on site / outdoor as well. Do I need more power then to overcome sunlight?
I am guessing that with Elinchrom and Profoto, one could use third party accessories but with Paul Buff you can't? I don't know? It seems Paul Buff enjoys a robust reputation as the other two and they are based out of the US with excellent customer support?
Thx
Ray

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Re: Home Studio
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2017, 10:27:44 PM »