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Photography Question 
Ashley Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/15/2004
 

Backdrops and Lighting


I'm looking to purchase my first portable backdrop and lighting system. Anyone know a good online store w/ a good reputation, good prices, and a good selection?


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12/20/2006 10:40:51 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  http://www.bhphoto.com

With most others, certainly not all though, you lay your money down and takes your chances. Not with B&H. They're where pros shop for equipment and supplies. You might find cheaper but you won't find more reliable, reputable, honest, or well-stocked. AND, they deliver what the manufactuer says should be in the box. They don't lower their prices to charge you later for "accessories" that should have been supplied with the original item.

Take it light.
Mark


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12/20/2006 5:49:43 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Ashley,
A good start would be to read through some of the studio threads 1-21.
Here you will see many who started on thos ethreads that are today, working thier own successful studios.
I wish you the very best in this venture,
Debby


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12/21/2006 6:21:12 AM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Mark is right about B&H, but I would also like to put in a good word for Calumet. I realize that you may not get to go into one of their stores, but their stores are my favorites. Clean well lighted and with knowledgeable and friendly staff. Nobody seems to be in a hurry. All this is unusual for professional stores in Los Angeles. Every time I have dealt with Calumet online or through catalog sales they have been easy to deal with. They are probably not the cheapest source, but they are fair and reputable. There are other good sources for equipment, but most of my online experience is with B&H and Calumet. Good Luck! John Siskin


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12/22/2006 8:05:03 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Ashly,
email if you'd like some help, be glad to .
As you will see on the threads I have helped many to get started with thier lighting.
From the ones who just want a kit to get thier "feet we" with to those who have wanted Pro photogentics .
You will see( with all due respect John)
that I DO NOT recommend going to calumet for any thing. Far to much expence, especially for those who are starting out.
I Was a Consultant for a company where the man chose to buy everything from calumet- He even saw them fall apart.
The Lights fired fine , but pieces fell off, calumet ball grips fell apart in our hands(taken back twice)
Light stands had fixtures that fell off- Now I would understand, but he bought the best they offered and this all happened on his copmanies first 3 day shoot.
I do recommend B& H or Sam's ( look Mark we agree on something, Merry Christmas,lol)
They are always very close on each others prices.
so check daily an da call to Sam's staff will always help, if they don't have it they will get it and if the price is not as good they will try to match or better it, so I call.
I hope this helps, Again I am sorry John , that as a company our experiance was not as good as yours have been, But I do wish you continued success.
Have a wonderful holiday,
Debby


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12/22/2006 8:44:28 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  My my Deb !!! A genuine holiday miracle !!!. And Merry Christmas to you too. There's hope for us yet. :>))
Be well.
Mark


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12/22/2006 8:58:27 AM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Debbie,
Actually I am glad to know about the problems you had with the company. I make my recommendations based on my experience and what others tell me. As I am often discussing equipment with students it is very important to know how the photo retailers are behaving, or not. Virtually all of my recent experience with Calumet is in store. Was your bad experience on line or in store? I am curious as to whether there is any pattern to good/bad experience with them. Thanks, John Siskin


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12/22/2006 9:02:05 AM

 
Tareq M. Alhamrani
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/26/2006
  The problem is why I am still thinking of studio lightings is that here in a store the best 2 models are: Bowens and Multiblitz, and the sellers there and some friends around I know advising me to get one of them.
Online on B&H or here I see different models are recommended, like Photogenic or Calumet or so, and I can buy from store so easy but so expensive and online only I use B&H to buy from.
and when I ask about power I got again few models to choose between.
Mr. John S. recommending me as his experiences, in fact I want to try what he did recommend but I feel I want something which is more familiar or famous than something good enough with what he used to, like Canon and Nikon cameras are most familiars than Fujifilm or sony or so.


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12/22/2006 11:41:24 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  My own personal preference Tareq is Bowens monolights. I've got 7 of them and use them, mostly on location, all the time over the past five years or so. They range from 500 W.S. to 750 and 1500 w.s. and I haven't even had to replace a modeling lamp. Each shares light modifiers with the others, stands and mounting studs. They travel well in Lightware compartment cases and set up fast.

When you buy studio lights, you generally buy the type of lighting system that suits your particular photographic needs, now and somewhat into the future. You don't generally match a studio strobe to a certain camera. That really doesn't make any much sense, especially because Neither Nikon, Sony or Canon makes studio lighting anyway. At least not that I'm aware of.
Take it light
Mark


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12/22/2006 4:43:10 PM

 
Tareq M. Alhamrani
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/26/2006
  Hi Mark,
I was meaning that DSLR most used now are either Canon or Nikon as they are most famous or most used.
Same with lightings, there are famous lightings brands than other, and for sure I want to buy the best or so close to the best as possible even all lighting system are the same.
I heard from someone online somewhere that Bowens are not good enough like Multiblitz, here in my area BOWENS is the most lighting brand used, but that someome told me that MB is better in few things, I think he mentioned something about IR or similar, not sure but I think he means that I can use wireless or so in lighting, I think if I am not wrong that not only Multiblitz got that features.

Tareq


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12/22/2006 5:08:33 PM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  I spent a couple of hours talking with the strobe repairman I use. He says if anything breaks in a strobe made in Europe or outside the U.S. you can look forward to weeks of repair time, vs. a couple of days for U.S. equipment like Speedotron and Norman. Any thing that operates with over 1000 watt-seconds is likely to break some time, so this might be something to keep in mind. I have 2 old Bowens, a 400B & a 200B, they seem to be good units. Personally I wouldnít buy monolights over 750 watt-seconds, I just like being able to manage the available power between all the heads. Also I like to have very large capacitor banks on the ground. Have a wonderful holiday! Thanks, John Siskin


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12/22/2006 5:20:23 PM

 
Jessica  A. Eiss
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/6/2006
  Tareq, Mark leda few of to our purchases of lights, and we made them online. Really it is more important to know which companies to STAY AWAY from. Most of these major companies, are very professional and will fix problems, but it definately comes down to what you can afford. there are high end prices, middle of the road, and cheap. Cheap is something you will probably want to stay away from. As in "you get what you pay for...."

Mark uses Bowens, I bought Photogenic, Denyse just bought Photoflex, people love Alien Bees or White Lightning.

there really is no right answer, except to stay away from unreputable companies ( I don't know who they are BTW). Find your price range, do your research, and go for it! And then have fun.


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12/22/2006 5:27:43 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Sorry to be so late with a responce John,
Just got in " gotta love the Holidays"lol.
Everything was bought off the show room floor and few pieces were ordered through the store for us.
They are a Light head made by Bowens, A strong light head, but in my opinion not as sturdy as the Photogenics.
I have worked with Photogenic for many , many years and have Known some of these light heads to reach 35 years old and still good as gold.
That is not to say that maybe Bowens hasn't , but that sure left a sour taste for them.
and yes, that does not mean that those who promote and love these lights don't have thier reasons as well.
for those that I teach, If they aren't sure, it's thier first kit and they don't have a lot to spend- well, I have had the Briteks and have hauled them EVERY WHERE, to find them sturdy.
For those that want to start with a Pro kit, I recommend the Photogenics Power lights.
( a cheaper way for those still looking for Mid line,the Studio MaxIII)
But if you can find those old flash masters from Photogenic,on Ebay, they are FANTASTIC! lasting the 35 years I personally know of.
I hope this helps,
Debby


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12/22/2006 10:02:36 PM

 
Tareq M. Alhamrani
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/26/2006
  Hi all,

It seems I am going to get BOWENS at the end.
just I will get 2 head with 750 power each ad one addition with power 500, not sure if I should get 750 as well.
My question is: if I got them all 750 W power can I lower the power to let's say 500 or 400?


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12/23/2006 2:15:03 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Yes. The power levels are eaasily switchable with a large knob on the side depending on what you want at the time. The modeling lamp is also adjustable to either match your power output or not. Better to have too much power than too little since you can always tune it down, but when you need extra depth of field and more light, you can't bring an under powered light up. Knowhatimeanhuh?

While you're at it Tareq, you should invest in a radio slave of some kind so that your camera will be able to remotely trigger one light without a cable. The other light(s) will be triggered automatically from the first by infrared sensor. I like Pocket Wizards but there are others John Siskin recommended that'll do the job.
Enjoy the Holiday weekend.
Mark


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12/23/2006 8:16:52 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Actually, we had the 500 and 300 and they would not turn down low enough to use them as a back light, I do have Portraits to prove this, on it lowest setting in a 48 x 24 foot room we still were getting a burn on the backdrop, so you will need a diffser or to back off you back ground quite a bit.
Now and then you can find on Ebay,the older 250-275 these are better at thier lowest.
Now for Raido Controll, actually I like Calumets the best, the seem more reliable and better Priced the any compeiter.
we have had 6 sets going at big events with almost NO mis fires.
Just check them out at CAlumet they are called LIte Links.
and are Transcievers, so one can be set for both: to recieve or to transmit.
I do hope this helps,
Debby


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12/23/2006 9:34:07 AM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi All,
Radio slaves are not particularly complex. Nikola Tesla could probably have built one before the beginning of the twentieth century. Still it always makes sense to have back-up equipment for triggering your strobes. I use the Chinese radio slaves as my primary connector and PC cords and extension cords for back up (most of my stuff uses household ac connectors for sync). I use a variety of optical slaves to trigger additional strobes. I have a few good slaves and a lot of peanut type slaves. I believe that quantity is more important than quality when it comes to slaves. I should mention that getting half a dozen lights to fire properly on location generally requires some work, patience is important. If you are using lower powered strobes, say 200 watt-seconds, and the optical slave is shadowed from the other lights it will not work. Often I have to use extensions on my slaves to put them where they can SEE THE LIGHT!

Debbie you donít need to apologize to me for not liking Calumet. All of the large retailers have problems. I find Samís difficult to deal with even though I know several people who work there. I donít like Canoga Camera, even though they are only a few miles from my studio. I love Freestyle, but that is because they hire me to do workshops! My favorite store, Reseda Photo, closed this year after maybe 50 years. I think that I try to treat the stores too much like friends and too little like suppliers. Digital has changed the business relations with the stores!

For 2007 I hope your strobes all fire when you want them to. Have an in sync year! John Siskin


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12/23/2006 12:06:00 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Actually Deb, if your BG lights are too hot and you can't turn them down enough, try moving them away from the background. That really helps alot especially when those lights you mentioned can be ratio'd down to 125 or 75 w.s. assuming they're the older Bowens lights I'm thinking of. You might also find it good to put a scrim or a translucent panel in front of them to help soften their effect if you can't back them up. I suppose even a 48 x 24 foot room can be crowded depending on which direction you're setting up and how many people you're shooting at once.

And if you're using six sets of slaves at a single function, I'm assuming you've got them set to transmit and receive on six different frequencies or you'd be having misfires all over the place. Course, if their transmit range isn't very far, I guess that wouldn't make much difference.

Ho ho ho. ;>)
M.


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12/23/2006 12:25:32 PM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi again. I donít shoot functions so if I use 6 slaves they are all for one shot. But this comment could match something I missed. I wanted to mention another choice for reducing the output of lights. Use metal window screen, be sure to use the metal product & not the fiberglass stuff. Movie companies use this a lot because heat doesnít ruin the screen. 1 layer of screen is about1 /2 stop multiple layers can be used. Another choice is to use whit nylon over the light, but you need to be very careful of melting the nylon. Thanks, John


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12/23/2006 12:47:55 PM

 
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