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Photography Question 
Melanie J. Tinsley

Basic Studio Lighting

I'm looking for some good advice about what kind of lighting I would need for an event. I'm photographing a small dance and we want to set up an area to take pictures of couples and groups of people. It will be kind of like an old high school dance! What would you suggest I need for this type of situation?
I also live in Tacoma, WA. Does anyone have any idea where I could rent lighting and backdrops?

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11/16/2008 11:41:58 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Monolights with softboxes like stripbanks from Chimera would be my choice. Look at Bowens, Calumet, Speedotron, Norman, and even Alien Bees.
For backdrops, try Glasers in Seattle or some stage lighting supply house in Los Angeles. They rent backdrops or just buy one online.

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11/16/2008 3:00:25 PM

Devon McCarroll
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2005
  Senior Photo
Senior Photo
Nikon D80, Nikon SB-600 (wireless) with 48" silver umbrella on camera left, 48" white reflector to right of model.
© Devon McCarroll
Nikon D80 Digital ...
Hi Melanie!
Depending on the largest group size, if you're not talking about more than 3-4 people, you can work with alot less. I don't have studio lights yet, and I've photographed up to three people using my Nikon SB-600 flash wirelessly. I shoot into a silver umbrella, and have an assistant hold a large white reflector on the other side. I've attached a senior portrait I did this way.
If you do want to rent though, Glazers would be a good place to go (I live in the Seattle area too). You also might want to check Kenmore Camera to see if they rent lights.
Good luck!

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11/18/2008 9:09:03 AM

Melanie J. Tinsley   Hi Devon! Thanks! You know I have the SB600 also and don't know quite how to use it yet. Do you have any quick tips on how to use it well, and how to use it wireless? I feel so dumb because I can usually figure things out but this thing is baffling me.

So you are basically taking your wireless flash and shooting it into an umbrella? Great idea!

Thank you!!

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11/18/2008 9:18:09 AM

Devon McCarroll
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2005
  Yes, and it works great! Take a look at this link, which gives you the settings for both the SB-800 and SB-600 (Scroll down the left hand column to see the SB600 settings). I've made a small "cheat sheet" that I carry in my camera bag.

You also have to change a setting on your camera. If you have the D80, you need to go into your CSM menu--the little pencil icon--and change option #22 "Built In Flash" to "Commander Mode". Then hit the right arrow and make sure it says TTL.
After you're done with your wireless shots, just change that menu item back from Commander to TTL.
Feel free to email me if you have any more questions! (I think there's a way to do that from the member center.)

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11/18/2008 11:01:00 AM

John Hester   Melanie,

See Bill at Glazers Camera rental department in Seattle. He will fix you up with whatever you need.
-John Hester

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11/18/2008 3:06:17 PM

Devon McCarroll
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2005
I would also add that if you don't have any experience with studio lighting and the dance is coming up soon, that would not be the time to try to learn! There's a big learning curve and alot to know about how to set up lighting correctly, especially if you plan to use strobes, which is why I started out just working with my flash. Just food for thought!

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11/18/2008 3:13:39 PM

Melanie J. Tinsley   Hi again Devon, thank you for all your great advice! Actually to all of you!

Thankfully, I'm not photographing the dance myself. But it is a joint effort! haha.

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11/18/2008 3:34:52 PM

Jessica  A. Eiss
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/6/2006
  Hi Melanie. Thanks to Mark two yrs ago, I bought myself a Photogenic Studiomax III kit of two lights, each 320ws.

This was a great starter kit, and I upgraded one of the umbrellas to a softbox with the business I ordered it from.

alien bees are a very popular brand too, and would suggest starting out with their 800s.

Good luck, as I remember it was a daunting trip!

(Hi Mark!)

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11/18/2008 6:19:13 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  No doubt, SB strobes are great lights. I have an 800 and use it all the time on a Quantum Turbo battery to cut recycling time down to less than a second, even when shooting at about full power.

For an umbrella, I use a fully collapsible Westcot # 2001 43" white satin umbrella on a stand with a Bogen clamp. That rig is small enough for the whole thing to fit on the tripod strap on my bag so it's totally portable. The Westcots are available at B&H for less than about $ 25 bucks.

Take it light ;>)
Hi back Jess !!! How ya doon? Two years ago huh? WOW !!! Time flies when you're having fun, I guess. Hope you're great and we can ketchup some time.
Be well.

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11/18/2008 6:37:03 PM

Nancy    Hi!Melanie,
I see your using a Nikon camera. I do this dance type situation on a regular basis. I use a portable backdrop stand for 12' wide and muslin back drops which I purchased from Adorna. I also use B&H. I do like the 24' long ones just incase you need to do a full length or in my case I do pre-school class pictures and they set and kneel on the backdrops.
I use SB800 as Master and 2 SB600 as remotes with umbrelas. I like these because there wireless. If you have someone to help you with set-up instructions that would be the best. You can also call Nikon and their tech staff will help you. That's who helped me. I live in a small town 150 mi. from any where.

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11/19/2008 9:09:33 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
There is a WHOLE lot of info in the "Studio Photography Threads" That ran for 3 years.
feel free to email me if you need any help.
Here is the link:

I wish you the very best in your ventures,

PS: I will get to any emails though some have had to wait a couple days for responces as I have been traveling and working a lot this holiday season,developing a new Mobile division for a company. thank you for understanding.

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11/20/2008 6:37:27 AM

Melanie J. Tinsley   Thanks everyone for your very helpful answers!!!

On top of the advice I got here, I also found this site that has a video that goes through some basic lighting setups. It was very helpful!

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11/23/2008 1:30:58 PM

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