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Photography Question 
Stephanie Meyer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/16/2005
 

Putting Together a Makeshift Studio


I was wondering if I could use regular light bulbs for a very small makeshift indoor studio. I am starting to experiment with studio portraiture but I don't know that much about it, nor do I want to go out and spend the money on photo lights. I shoot mostly outdoors ... any suggestion on this would be great.


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11/9/2006 8:28:11 AM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Stephanie,
I just upgraded to studio lights (I'm still waiting for them to arrive actually), but up until then I've been working with a similar situation as you are describing!!
What worked well for me (and is VERY cheap) was to go to a hardware store, and buy those clamp work lights that have a 12" silver reflector dome around them. They were only like $8 or $10 each at my Home Depot. Get DAYLIGHT balanced bulbs (most everyone sells them, Phillips makes one version). A set of 4 is only a few dollars.
I got some 2x4 pieces of wood, set them on top of a dining room chair and tied them with some rope, and clamped the work light to the top. I only used 2 lights, but it was really not enough because the bulbs only come in a max of 100 watts. Going with 3 or 4 would probably be better.


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11/9/2006 9:46:37 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Sure. But I suggest you run down to the local hardware store or a Home Depot and get some of those clamp on 10" and 5" reflectors with a bulb socket and cord. They cost about five or six bucks apiece. Remember not to use a bulb in them that's more than the rating listed on the cord, and also adjust the color balance on your camera to work with tungsten lighting, if necessary.

And to practice portrait lighting, unless you've got a really really patient willing subject, get a styrofoam wig holder, which is shaped like a head, put it on a stool in a darkened room and using one light at a time, practice lighting that paying attention to where the shadows move to as you move your light around. Use a less intense light for filling in shadows, say 1/2 the power (like instead of a 100 watt bulb, use a 50 or 40) and dink around with it.

Take it ummmmmmmmmm light. ;>)
Mark


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11/9/2006 9:49:36 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Great minds think alike at the same instant Denyse !!!! LOL !! How ya doon toots ???
M.


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11/9/2006 9:50:32 AM

 
Stephanie Meyer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/16/2005
  Sounds like you two know what your talking about.. thanks I'll be working on lighting this weekend... thanks guys


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11/9/2006 9:55:08 AM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Hi Mark- MAN that's freaky!!!! haha.

I've been trying to win a flash meter and backdrops on Ebay so I can have everything ready for the big light arrival later this month. Woo hoo! It's fun that Jess will be getting her same set at the same time.

Best of luck Stephanie, and check back in if you need anything!!


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11/9/2006 10:02:09 AM

 
Janet Detota
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/4/2004
  Hi Denyse,
What kind of lights are you waiting for? There seems to be so many to choose from and I get confused. I want to get some starter ones that don't cost a ton, but don't know which ones to buy.
I got some of those silver Home Depot lights and have been experimenting with them, but can't seem to figure out how to get rid of the shadows. I move them around, but still get shadows! What's the secret?


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11/14/2006 4:42:24 AM

 
Jessica  A. Eiss
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/6/2006
  Hi Denyse and Mark! Yup, I'm waiting too for my Photoflex. I ended up ordering from Canoga Camera, in CA. Their website allowed me to order it over the weekend, but at the same time, a customer came in and had to return a defective one, and now they don't know when it'll be shipped. Photoflex is out apparently. They did have them in stock, but not now.


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11/14/2006 4:54:53 AM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Hi Janet,
I went through the same problem of choosing the right set of lights. I took some suggestions from Mark and looked at several sets, then just made a choice! I'm anxiously awaiting them!!

I went with the Photoflex 650 Gemini Soft Box set. Here's the link to it-

http://www.photoflex.com/Photoflex_Products/StarFlash_650_Gemini_LiteDome_Kit_with_Bag/index.html

I ordered from
Photomark
2202 East McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ, 85006
Tel: 800-777-6627

I talked to Steve there & he was really nice and helpful.

Jessica- from what I've heard (from Mark and from Photomark) the lights are a brand new line, and they're just making them. I was told mine wouldn't ship until mid to late november.

As far as the shadows w/ the home depot lights, well I use an external flash on my camera too when I use them. And I'll tell ya, the shadows are a PAIN in the rear, which is what finally pushed me to get my studio lights. Make sure they're above your subject and angled down and other than that, I really did just keep moving them around. Usually I'd get some small shadows, but they could be fixed in PS. What are you using for backdrops?


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11/14/2006 6:20:49 AM

 
Fritz Roberson   Great timing on this question.
I was just asked to shoot a holiday card for an associates office. They want something fun and funky, so I think experimenting will work here.

If I go the Home Depot style of starter/practice kit, what kind of material should I use to make a "soft box" / diffuser set up?

Thanks!


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11/14/2006 8:37:00 AM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  I tried, but personally didn't have any luck figuring out how to make a diffuser, so I just went bare bulb!! I kept telling people not to stare directly at the lights! lol.


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11/14/2006 9:01:31 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy Fritz: By the time you'd pay for PVC pipe, connectors, the sail cloth for diffusion material, invest your time and have a rig that's reasonably flame retardant and portable, you'd probably be better off to just buy a diffusion panel from an outfit like BHphotovideo.com. I think Bogen makes a set up on spring-loaded PVC frames that just snap together. Chimera makes the best soft boxes I've ever used and their diffusion panels, (different than a softbox of course) are useful, 42" square, and work great. A tad pricey though.

Remember too, if you're building your own softboxes for hot lights (incandescent) you'll need it made from materials that are less prone to scorching and catching fire than a softbox made for strobe/electronic flash.

Personally, I've always found conflagrations in the studio embarassing especially when the client gets toasted with second degree burns from my studio lights. That's why my make-up kit used to have anti-flash and burn creams. .

Here's a good link you might find useful for Bogen Panels. These come two to a set and are pretty useful.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=Search&A=details&Q=&sku=5117&is=REG&addedTroughType=search

Hey Jess, if you think the guys at Canoga camera are stalling, go with the outfit Denyse ordered from or call Photoflex and tell them you're starting to hear they may have some problems. That oughtta get them rolling faster in the right direction. [I can be SUCH a troublemaking problem-solver. LOL !!].

Have a great day gang.
Mark


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11/14/2006 9:07:01 AM

 
Jack Utter   As far as shadows go, the bigger the diffusion panel is, the better, plus you need Fill on the opposite side. You can only use the Key Light and use a Reflector for Fill. There are Low-Key Portraits that would only use 1 light and have a nice dramatic feel to them. The best instructional tapes I've saw for lighting is from the Late Dean Collins, universally known as “The Guru of Lighting”. One of his tapes SHOWS you a set up for doing Portraiture with a Hair Light, Fill Light and the Key Light using only one strobe!! He has a great set-up for outside Portraiture with and w/o a strobe.
A great Diffuser for bare bulbs, or for spreading the light over a wide area, is a Scrim (diffuser panel). As Mark said, there are some really good ones that fold up (and are spring loaded) that would be easier to work with then trying to mess with a home made PVC set-up.
Good Luck….. Jack


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11/14/2006 9:55:58 AM

 
Janet Detota
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/4/2004
  Thanks to you all for the great info!
I was looking at the Photoflex site the other night and thought the digital lights looked good, but are nearly $400. Sounds like I need to look into the diffusion panels to solve the shadow problems. I'm also trying to figure out where to set up a studio in my home. I need to clean out some clutter which is a daunting task! I'll google Dean Collins and see if I can get a hold of one of his tapes. I've done some portraits, but mostly in natural lighting. Please check out http://jlphotography.photosite.com/ and tell me what you think of my efforts so far.


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11/14/2006 10:36:20 AM

 
Fritz Roberson   Thanks for the tips Mark (and all.)
I had just received the new B&H catalog that had a 2 lamp starter kit on sale for less than $300 (I think). I only had about 2 minutes with the catalog before I had to put it down. I'll take a closer look at it tonight to see if it's the same set-up that we're talking about here. I do still like the idea of building some reinforcements though (Denyse's comment about 3 or 4 lights being helpful.). As you can tell, I'm pretty new to this and don't want to invest a fortune until I know if it will stick.


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11/14/2006 10:41:12 AM

 
Jack Utter   Janet,

Sorry for making it sound like ALL you need is a Scrim and all is perfect in the world, my fault. A Scrim works like a Soft-Box. A large enough Scrim can wrap light around (so to speak) a subject, unlike a bare bulb, but you'll still need a Fill light or reflector on the shadow side of the subject to lessen the effects of the shadows caused by the Key (Main) light. Dean is the Lighting Guru, so to even out your Portraiture techniques you should also look up instructional material from Monte Zucker. He could be considered the "Master of Portraiture". He uses a somewhat "simple" (acording to him) approach to all his protraits and they look awesome. Although There are multitudes of really GREAT portrait photographers out there who you could emulate and produce great images, these are my favorites. I hope this helps.

Good Luck, Jack


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11/14/2006 11:24:40 AM

 
Fritz Roberson   I just took a look through the BH photo catalog again. The kit I had remembered is for a flash set-up and looks like it will need some extras to get up and ready. But I did see a couple of porcelain socket kits with stands and umbrellas. For a little over $200. Is there a massive difference between the umbrella kits and the soft boxes for beginners?

Also individual umbrellas (reflective and translucent) are pretty cheap. At $16 to $40 each it seems much better than trying to build something.

I think I have a trip to the neighborhood bookstore in my near future.


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11/14/2006 6:03:39 PM

 
Fritz Roberson   Well, I made it to the bookstore and found a couple of decent lighting books. I visited Marks webpage. (Wow, nice work Mark, you give me something to work towards, and its obvious that you know what you're talking about.) I also (and this is that part where Mark looks at his monitor and shakes his head) received my hot light kit Friday. It'll work ok for the shoot I have this week (and pay for itself too) and I expect to be able to continue to use it.

I've already got my eye on a monoblock with modeling light next. Thanks for the advise and for sharing your experience.


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11/19/2006 10:12:39 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy Fritz: There's absolutely nothing wrong starting out with a hot light set-up. I did it when I first started taking portraits using 10" reflectors with clamps and a lamp socket that I bought from a hardware store and 150 watt bulbs. They still sell those things and they still work.
And if they can pay for themselves, even better !!!

Learning lighting techniques and developing your own particular style isn't really all that difficult or unduly complex. It's experimenting and practicing more than anything else, I think. And it sounds like you're on the right track. Remember that experience is the best teacher, at least it is IMO. Keep practicing with whatever light you've got handy, incandescent, daylight or strobe. And keep asking questions Fritz. These are good ways to learn this stuff.
Take it light ;>)
Mark


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11/19/2006 12:24:43 PM

 
Sandi L. Korshnak
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/1/2006
  Hi. I've been doing some reading on lighting. I'm kind of in the same situation as the original poster. I want to try it, but not really sure if that's the way I'm going to go, so I don't want to shell out a lot of cash.
I've decided to make the makeshift lighting suggested here, with 4 lights instead of 2.
As far as backdrops, are the ones that I'm seeing on ebay any good for learning? How big of a backdrop do I need?
I will be doing this in my basement/rec room. The walls are yellow. Should I hang sheets over the walls when I am shooting so I don't pick up color casts from them?
I think that's about it for now. I'm sure I'll have more as I start to build this and experiment.
Thanks,
Sandi


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7/5/2007 6:20:03 PM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  What are the backdrops you're seeing on ebay? What material?

When I started, I bought muslin from the craft store 120" wide cut to 4 or 5 yards and dyed it with RIT dye. You can do a backdrop this way for about $35-$45 depending on the muslin price. My store has coupons all the time. Now I've gone to real hand painted muslins which are soooo much nicer, but of course more expensive!

I'm not sure about the walls, someone else can probably answer that for you...


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7/6/2007 5:00:01 AM

 
Sandi L. Korshnak
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/1/2006
  The ones on ebay say they are muslin, and are 9x10,10x10 and some are 12x12 ft. Most are going for between 30 and 45 dollars with shipping.


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7/6/2007 8:15:50 PM

 
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