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Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
 

Really really cheap and decent studio lighting?


I've always used natural light and reflectors for my portraits, which has worked out well. However, I have been asked to do some formal portraits for an event, and I was wondering if there is any way I can make a decent artificial lighting setup for CHEAP. I am a student and have already spent way more than I should've on photography. I am good at and willing to build things if I need to, with raw supplies from Home Depot or whatever.

If you have any suggestions, please describe them to me, and I would also like to see the results of the setup described, if possible. I know I am asking for a daunting task, but it would really, really help me out. Thanks in advance!!

Nancy


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4/18/2005 10:21:27 AM

 
Lori Carpenter
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/31/2004
  Nancy, I too am interested in this.... I'll look forward any suggestions you may get. I've used flood lights in the past in a gymnasium for large group team pictures, but I was using film at the time and didn't know alot about color temps. I know in RAW it would be different now.


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4/18/2005 5:22:27 PM

 
Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  what I did was to buy a lighting kit on e-bay. I got a 2 lights with shiny umbrellas, a reflector, stands and carrying case for a little over a hundred dollars. E-bay has a lot for photo lighting.


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4/18/2005 9:54:04 PM

 
Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
  Hi Julie, thanks so much for the reply. I was just looking on eBay today, but there's so much there that I don't really know what to do with it all. Your reply helps though.

So how did you do your setup? Each light at 45 degrees to the subject I guess? Do you have any examples online of how your portraits turned out? Sorry for all the questions, but I'm just curious. Thanks again!

Nancy


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4/18/2005 9:58:03 PM

 
Mellanie    Julie, I'm also interested in the name brand of your lights.....I'm assuming they are continuous lights? Thanks!


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4/19/2005 7:12:50 AM

 
Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
 
 
 
of course, I found the seller I bought my lights from and this the same type of auction I bought. Comes with everything and a video to show you how to do several differnt lighting schemes. Here is a photo I did of myself and my finance. (Personally, I love the pose, but the skin tones isn't too good. Plus it was the first time I used it just messing around to see what it can do.) Oh! and another cool feture it has is that when the lights see your on board camera flash go off they will also (wireless) flash at that moment as well! The problem with that is if you take a verticle photo you will see the "sideways" shadow around the people unless you correct for it with the 2 other lights. (See my photo with Josh) Then finally, yes, I do use my set-up at 45 degrees.


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4/19/2005 7:40:00 AM

 
Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
 
 
 
of course, I found the seller I bought my lights from and this the same type of auction I bought. Comes with everything and a video to show you how to do several differnt lighting schemes. Here is a photo I did of myself and my finance. (Personally, I love the pose, but the skin tones isn't too good. Plus it was the first time I used it just messing around to see what it can do.) Oh! and another cool feture it has is that when the lights see your on board camera flash go off they will also (wireless) flash at that moment as well! The problem with that is if you take a verticle photo you will see the "sideways" shadow around the people unless you correct for it with the 2 other lights. (See my photo with Josh) Then finally, yes, I do use my set-up at 45 degrees.


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4/19/2005 7:41:06 AM

 
Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
  Julie, thanks so much for the info and examples. Those are cute portraits! I've heard of those lights that automatically go off when their on-camera flash goes off. But I don't even want to get my on-camera flash involved if I'm doing portraits-- that's the whole reason I want to get one of these sets! I found a friend on another site that is willing to sell me a three light kit for $75, so I might just jump on that for now. If you are looking for studio inspiration, check this out. :)

Thanks again, Julie. Anyone else got some advice to share?

Nancy


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4/19/2005 4:43:28 PM

 
Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  Hi Nancy, I'm sorry I probably didn't make myself clear...it doesn't just fire with the on board flash, it is also cabled so it flashs when you take the photo without the on board flash. It works both ways.


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4/19/2005 7:34:56 PM

 
Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
  Oh, I see. That must work really well then... I would like to find some like that.

A fellow photo friend, Ron Beam, posted this comment at another website:
"Nancy, 3 pincher clip-on reflector-style lights from a hardware store will get the job done. Use 300W bulbs in them and splice rheostats (turning knob style, like for ceiling fans) onto the cords. If you need stands (but with pincher clip-ons that is rare since you can clip onto anything: chairs, drapes, door edges, etc.), you might look for old music stands cheap at yard sales (just remove the top tray.) Just be sure to white balance before each shoot and after any major lighting changes. The rheostats help you to create variety and mood with your key, fill and back lighting. You should be able to do this for under 75 bucks."

Hope that helps someone. Another friend at digitalimagecafe.com is going to sell me a three light setup for $75, so I'm going to go with that for now and see what results I can get. Whenever I get some decent pics using that setup I will try to remember to come back and post my results here... or maybe you will see it as a contest winner (haha).

Nancy


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4/19/2005 8:06:54 PM

 
Toni  Hopper
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2004
  I'm still learning digital, have a Canon D-rebel that I'm using, so how do you 'white balance' as mentioned here. I think mine is just set to auto white balance...??
I've heard that on camera flash (digital) tends to overexpose the portrait white bkgrd scene when combined with studio lighting that fires automatically when you take the pic??


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4/20/2005 3:46:23 PM

 
Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
  Toni- I would recommend that you read your manual. Lots of good stuff in there. You can use Auto White Balance, but to change it, click the button on the top that says "AF-WB." (WB is white balance.) Then I think you use the down arrow to change it. The manual should tell you what each symbol means.

Well, I could see how the on-camera flash could cause overexposure, but the thing is that you shouldn't even think about using it if you're doing serious portraiture. It provides really harsh and unflattering light and makes photos that, 99.9% of the time, are only good for the family photo album.

Hope that helps,
Nancy


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4/20/2005 4:01:41 PM

 
Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  I agree with Nancy, don't use your on board flash unless you absolutly have too, when I use the wireless lights I have I put an index card over my on board flash, so my lights will go off wirelessly and you don't get the overexposure. With any new lighting setting you have you will want to re-white balance. Always carry a white foam board with you, it doubles as a white balance, and a light bounce board.
Jules


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4/20/2005 4:30:49 PM

 
Toni  Hopper
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2004
  Great idea covering your onboard flash with an index card. Thanks! I guess I should seriously consider getting lights! I try not to use my flash, or cover it with tissue to diffuse when shooting outdoors or by a window.


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4/21/2005 10:57:37 PM

 
Josh Hudson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/26/2003
  If you are looking for decent and cheap, you will be looking forever. There are lots of solutions to make useable lighting systems.

I have created HOME BEES, which are just homemade lighting systems from things you can buy at Home Depot. The cheapest and fastest version of this would be the two 500 watt halogen work lamps, with a color correcting umbrella (you can get at B&H for $20). The entire set up will run you $60. You can get instructions for them at www.makeshiftphoto.com.

But to get quality continuous lighting for good quality portrait work would cost you more than double whatever you would pay for strobes. There just isn't enough light output.

Homemade systems are for fun use only. Just not enough light.

http://www.makeshiftphoto.com/budget/strobecontinous.html is a good article on how to figure out how light works for continuous and strobe units.


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4/22/2005 5:48:34 AM

 
Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
 
 
 
I know it's been a while, but I thought I'd come back and share a little of what I've learned about getting started with studio lighting in the last couple of months. This is just what I've learned through my experience-- take it or leave it. :)

1. You need at least one very diffused light as your main light. When you shop for a lighting kit, I would advise getting a kit that comes with at least one softbox (or umbrella? I imagine it would do the same thing although I haven't tried it out yet). My lighting kit did not come with a softbox, but when I bought one and attached it, it made a WORLD of difference. Even though it came with these translucent diffuser saucer things, the result was harsh and ugly. The softbox provided much more flattering light.

2. It's easier to start off using continuous lights. I haven't tried strobes yet, but continuous lighting has been a lot easier for me because you can see the final result right there-- where the light is, where the shadows are, and you can adjust the lights while being able to see the result. With strobes (lights that go off only when you click the shutter), I imagine that it would be hard to get an idea of what the lighting looks like until you actually click the shutter.

I've attached a couple of examples of my experimentation with my simple studio set. The scheme for both of these portraits was-- large softbox up and to the right, reflector down and in front, top hairlight, backlight. I did not light the backdrop because I wanted for it to appear pure black.

I would be interested in hearing anyone else's advice or critiques... hope that info maybe helps someone.

Nancy


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7/22/2005 9:41:46 AM

 
Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
 
 
  Classically Charisse
Classically Charisse
© Nancy Grace Chen
Canon EOS 10D Digi...
 
 
Oops... here are my portraits.

Nancy


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7/22/2005 9:43:01 AM

 
Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
 
 
BetterPhoto.com Editor's Pick   Stephen
Stephen
Model is Stephen. Hair by Sandy Hinojosa.
© Nancy Grace Chen
Canon EOS 10D Digi...
 
  Rock Star
Rock Star
Model is Stephen. Hair by Sandy Hinojosa.
© Nancy Grace Chen
Canon EOS 10D Digi...
 
 
Arrgg... this isn't working very well. Here's another.

Nancy


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7/22/2005 9:47:52 AM

 
Nicole Kessel   I too am looking for an inexpensive light kit to play around with.

You may want to try a local camera supply store if there is one in your town. We have one here and they are offering a kit that comes with two 150 watt lights with stands, two umbrellas, a sync cord, and they are both slave activated. All for only $189. (www.malonephotosupply.com) That is much less then anything I have seen at B&H.

Also I have heard that the Alienbees are a great inexpensive way to go as well. (www.alienbees.com)

I'll keep checking this post for other suggestions.


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7/22/2005 1:10:24 PM

 
Laura E. OConnor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/12/2005
  Great results, Nancy!

I am currently using what it seems makeshifphoto.com recommends. I got Halogen worklights from Lowes. I also have the tungsten style clamp on work lights with aluminum dishes on them. I use the 250 watt garage bulbs in those. The problem I have is that they do give off a different hue than photo studio bulbs, and will be going to get those soon. I had never heard of the color correcting umbrella before. I'll have to look into that.

Nicole, thanks, too, for the tip on that light kit you got! I'll have to check that out locally!


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7/26/2005 12:20:46 PM

 
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