BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Leeandrea Benton
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/30/2006


Please forgive me because I am definitely a beginner at portrait potography.
I have a little studio set-up in my basement that consists of three hot-lights and two umbrellas. (Nikon D50) I am mainly interested in portraits of my baby girl (5 months) and some family portraits.
But anyway, my questions are (for anyone willing to help me):

1. Do you think that flash is a necessity for photographing babies/children(besides the whole 'hot-lights are hot' reason) or can I do without and get the same results?

2. If I use flash, where do I begin? What kind should I buy? The topic of Flash seems EXTREMELY complicated to me so if someone could put things in simple terms (lol)! I don't have tons of money to invest since I don't do this professionally and won't get a return but I still want beautiful/professional-looking pictures.

All comments, ideas, suggestions welcome!!

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8/30/2006 2:42:38 PM

Erin Tyler
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/30/2005
  I try NOT to use flash and studio lights. My main focus is natural light (I do on-location photography, my main focus is babies & children).

Window light is GREAT light for photographing babies and children, in fact, all of my favorite photos are ones that I have not used a flash or studio lights. But...I am kind of a purest when it comes to this stuff, lol.

Don't get me wrong, I have studio lights (I LOVE Alien Bees), but I just found I was spending more time setting up and taking down and not doing what I love (which is taking photos of children).

Photographing children is so much more than the technical aspects of photography. Psychology is involved! Sometimes children won't do what you want them to, and they don't like to stay in the same spot for long (which makes it hard when using the studio lights).

So I guess what you need to ask yourself is "what do YOU want out of a photo session"? Do you want control of all the lighting? Do you have specific backgrounds and props you like to use? Or do you just want to capture those little moments that melt our hearts? :)

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8/30/2006 3:46:12 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Ok, I'll bite. But not too hard.

The issue is light LA, it doesn't really matter from what source, whether it's window light and bounced back into your subjects using a reflector card of some kind, hot lights, table lamps, candles, an electronic flash of some kind or even a flashlight. How you use light is your decision as the photographer.

The mystery of electronic flash might become less so if you had an appropriate meter (flash meter) to measure it with in order to calculate your exposures. You can pick up these types of meters pretty reasonably on e-bay under names like Sekonic, Gossen, and Mamiya. Some are multi-purpose for measuring flash or available light.
Take a look here at the Sekonic site:

The meter allows you to set up your camera and flash unit and measure exactly how much light is falling on your subject. That lets you set your camera to precisely where it needs to be rather than depending on the camera to do it for you.

There are lots of web sites that talk about flash for portraiture. is just one of many.

Your flash can be on camera (which limits its usefulness) or on a light stand adjacent to your camera. Generally, the more powerful the flash unit, the better it is to have too much rather than too little light power available.

I shoot most of the portrait work I do using what's called a monolight. Just one. It's a self-contained flash (no separate powerpack necessary, just an electrical outlet) used in a softbox to soften its effects, wrap the subject in light, and it puts out about 1500 watt seconds of power. For more lighting, I usually place more monolights to work with the main light. Or, I use pack systems as well. For events, on camera flash usually works well, especially because of its portability.

Small on camera flashes or flashes you mount on a bracket with the camera usually are measured in terms of guide numbers. The higher the number the better. Nikon SB units work well as do older Vivitar 283's or 285HVs, Sunpaks, and others.

That oughtta get ya started until someone who really knows what they're doing comes along. ;>)
Take it light.

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8/30/2006 4:55:26 PM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2005
  Well, if you're in a basement, I would assume you will need artificial light. Bouncing the light (like from the ceiling) or diffusing the light with an umbrella are good ideas for getting smooth portrait shots.

I don't own any large flashes, so I'm sorry I can't help you there.

ScrattyPhotography Blog

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8/30/2006 11:43:50 PM

Leeandrea Benton
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/30/2006
  Thakns for all of your replies. I think I've narrowed down my questions:

I want a flash that I will hook up to to my light stand in place of one of my hot lights. I also forgot to mention that I have a Sekonic light meter that measures flash and continous light. (Of course I have no idea of how to use the flash mode but I can read the manual).

How do I make all three work together (the flash, the camera, and the light meter?)

Is there a specific type (not brand) of flash I need to get? There are so many flashes out there that I'm so confused! And I can't believe how much they range in price, my goodness!

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9/1/2006 9:32:40 AM

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