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Photography Question 
Jamie J. Lange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/27/2007

Help with Studio Lighting

I need some help setting up my studio and lighting. I converted to a whole new system. I own 2 photogenic 1250 and I purchased a new softbox and umbrellas. I do not have a sync cord to connect to my camera or to the light meter to test. I have only had a minute of two to play with the new set-up but couldn't seem to get it right. Suggestions on how far away from the background to set -up the lights? What to set the main light on and the fill flash? What is the difference from shoot through umbrellas to black umbrella? I know I need to take a class but I have 6 children and no time.

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3/4/2009 10:12:55 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hello Jamie,
I do recommend John Siskin's An Introduction to Photographic Lighting course, but he also has a lot of info online that may help if taking the course is not doable. His course is a fast track to get you in the game and a firm foundation to start from.
You can get a sync cord at most electronic stores like Radio Shack. You may also look into getting Pocket Wizards. They just announced a new one that will work with TTL speedlights and strobes.
I would read as much as possible, but ultimately I always find that these are only guidelines to get you in the ballpark and you will still need to experiment a bit to get the look you are wanting. I think the way we light a subject varies from each photographer as an artistic expression of how we want to use the lighting. I tend to like darker with warm (gold reflectors) glowing type portraits as others prefer brighter with maybe more silver reflectors instead. And eventually, you will be able to achieve any effect you want as you get more comfortable with your lights. Take notes. John had us take photos of our lighting setup as part of his lessons, and I also take photos of my various lighting setups just for this reason since it is an easy reference for me. But you still need notes to know what settings/power you used for a specific setup.
Practice and learn.
Good Luck!

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3/4/2009 12:24:08 PM

Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  The difference between a shoot through umbrella and a black umbrella is that the shoot through umbrella is generally translucent white, and the black umbrella is opaque. Black absorbs light, thereby creating shadows. The shoot through umbrella soften the light like a big thick cloud.

Does this help?

I studied studio lighting with a local professional in my community of Lafayette, Louisiana when I purchased my studio lighting. has excellent instruction through John Siskin. The guidance of an instructor is the easiest and fastest way to learn your equipment and learn ways to modify your lighting. I strongly recommend taking classes at!

Studio lights will teach you how to read the direction of light whether you are in or outside in open shade. Modifiers diffuse and soften light like cloudy days or buildings in open shade.

There is a lot about lighting that I've learned from various instuctors over the years. And, the fastest way to learn is practice with good instruction, rather than going out on your own and making the same mistakes over and over again, in my opinion.

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3/15/2009 9:30:12 PM

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