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Photography Question 
Josh A. Friedman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/3/2010

Studio Equipment for Portraits

I am planning to try shooting some studio portraits. Most of my photography until now has been with natural light. I shoot with a Cannon 7D, and I have a Cannon 580 EX flash. I was planning to buy a bit of equipment for shooting portraits. I would greatly appreciate any recommendations regarding brands/models of lights? Any recommendations regarding size/brand of umbrellas? Backgrounds? Thanks very much.

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11/7/2011 10:57:50 AM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Josh,
There are a number of choices you can make for equipment. Ill attach the equipment list I often use in class. If you decide to get this gear, it is MUCH better to start with just one light. Starting with more equipment is very confusing.

Alien Bee B1600
Or Calumet Travelite 750
50 or 60 metal bowl reflector. This is the standard reflector, usually 6 to 8 inches. It spreads light over the angle covered by a normal lens
1-45 inch umbrella, white satin with a removable black back. An umbrella with covered ribs would be better.
2- light panels with 2-white cotton or white nylon covers and a black cover and a sliver cover.
Light stand. At least 8 feet tall, 10 is better
Perhaps a background stand and a neutral muslin background.
Chinese Radio Slave. You can get these from eBay, search digital radio slave. Look for one that has a plug like OLD headphones or a guitar, .25 X 1.5 inch. For more on connections check out this article:

With a second light, which would probably be lower in power based on your usage. I would also get:
50 reflector as above.
Barn doors and/or snoot
Light stand
2- umbrellas, one matching the one you got and the other a 60 inch umbrella.
Very short light stand

If you add a third light, I would get:
a 50 reflector, as above
1 more light panel with a gold cover.
Light stand
Barn doors or snoot if you didnt get it before.
45 inch umbrella.

I hope this helps.
Thanks, John

P.S.: I teach a course here at BetterPhoto about how light works, and how to decide what equipment you need: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
I also teach a class about lighting portraits. Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

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11/8/2011 8:32:30 AM

Josh A. Friedman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/3/2010
  Thanks very much, John. That's very helpful. Right now I'm beginning Vik Orenstein's portrait lighting class. It sounds as though some of your courses are right up my alley, so I'll look into them in the future.
Thanks again!

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11/8/2011 9:28:08 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
  Hi Josh,
After I took one of John's classes, I opted for the Alien Bee's and have been very happy with them. John's classes are fantastic and he is such a wealth of information. I am nowhere near his league when it comes to lighting but I am confident from what I learned from him that I can setup & control the lights I have (sometimes with a bit of experimenting with power/placement) and get the captures I want.
I will be shooting about 50 family portraits at the beginning of December (for the straight 3rd year) for Help Portrait as a way of giving back to my community.
My tip to you is use a White Balance Card (Target) even though you can adjust raw images afterward in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), it's a snap to set your custom white balance to alleviate that step :)

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11/8/2011 1:54:59 PM

D Jensen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/17/2008
  Do take John's class - he provides a fountain of information and is so very helpful with one on one. I have also opted for the Alien Bee's and am very pleased with them.

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11/8/2011 5:30:13 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Josh,
First, Carlton & D, thanks so much for your kind words. I have to say I really enjoyed having you in class, and Im happy to stay in touch. I have had a couple of opportunities to meet Vik Orenstein, and I occasionally check in with her through e-mail. She is a wonderful teacher, and I know youll enjoy her classes. We all have different ways of learning and teaching, and BetterPhoto really offers a chance to find what works for you. Last time I talked to her, Vik preferred soft boxes to umbrellas, so you might want to talk about my list with her.

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11/9/2011 12:55:02 PM

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