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Photography Question 

New here...please help

I am trying to set up a home studio to take pics of my son and other family members as a hobby. My husband bought a Canon XT when my son was born and I have spent hours trying to read and learn on my own. Recently, he purchased 2 White Lightning 1600 Lights, and 2 softboxes for me to use, but I am having a hard time setting them up and getting the right lighting, especially with the white backdrop. I have spent hours on this website reading and playing around with my lights but have come only to find out I really dont know what I am doing. Thank you for understanding and I appreciate any thoughts/ideas, Lisa

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8/17/2006 7:18:15 PM

Margie Hurwich
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2005
  Hi Lisa. Welcome to BP. I can only offer two bits of advise to you. First, consider taking a course on the subject. BP offers many, but this one might be what you are looking for.

Otherwise, I know Debby Tabb, a BP member, offers quite a bit of information about this. You can contact her at:

I hope this helps. Good luck.

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8/17/2006 7:59:56 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy Lisa: My guess, without seeing any of your work with these lights, is that your exposures are off, probably overexposed, your shots lack detail in any shadow areas, or generally your lighting is too flat.

First, I recommend (highly recommend) a flash meter of some kind, probably a meter like either a Sekonic or Minolta, that will double as an incident/ reflected meter with available light and a flash meter. Once you've got it, you'll need to experiment to get used to how to use it and various techniques.

Move your subject away from your background, 8-10 feet, I don't recommend using a white bg initially because they're very hard to light properly, especially in small spaces without getting shadows on them and especially with only two lights AND especially with two lights and trying to do high key lighting on the background.

Next, start by using a single light and softbox set at about 45 degrees to your subject, maybe use a fill card like a 4x8 sheet of fomecore board on one side of your subject to bounce fill light back into the shadow area on the side without the light. Cut the power on your light down to 50%, take a meter reading. 800 Watt Seconds in a softbox is a fairly powerful burst of light.

THEN if you still find you need more light, add the second light at 1/4 power, or about 400 w/s as a fill light on the side opposite to the 800 w/s/ light. Experiment, move things around record your results, take notes and your lighting will start to become second nature to you. WL are good strobes from what I hear. Softboxes are a great way to illuminate portraits.

Above all, take a deep breath, relax and have fun.

Take it...light. ;>)

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8/17/2006 8:07:40 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Lisa,

Not to sound insensitive, but it sounds like what you have done is what many beginners do..jumping into deep water with no ability to float. LOL

Studio lighting is a long subject..and a lot of fun once you grasp the basics.

Advice: Start with ONE light. Get the exposure right..or until you are happy with it.
As Mark points out, make notes! It is so important to keep a small journal on how you set it up, f stop of camera, f stop of the light, distance of strobe to subject, distance of camera to subject etc... Make little sketches of the setup.

Once you begin to see consistancy, go ahead and add another light, but ask yourself, "Why do I want another light?"

If you don't want to spend a bunch on a course..Get a good book on studio lighting. There are plenty out there.

I notice you said you have 2 softboxes?
While this sounds OK, most don't shoot with two..Usually one softbox and one umbrella for subject lighting. One produces a different "feel" of light compared to the other..advisable in portrait shots.

All the best,


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8/18/2006 6:11:44 AM

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