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Photography QnA: How to Choose Studio Lighting

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Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : How to Choose Studio Lighting

Wondering how to choose studio lighting? This Q&A covers the entire studio lighting topic. Want to learn about studio portrait lighting? Take Vik Orenstein's Studio Portrait Lighting online photography course.

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Photography Question 
Leslie J. Morris
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Leslie
Leslie's Gallery
morrisphotoimages.com

member since: 4/30/2007
  1 .  Main Light for Studio
 
As I am experimenting in my new homemade studio, I know I need a good main light. I am thinking what I need to do is get a nice softbox for a main light and use my smaller two lights for fill and accent.
Can anyone recommend where I might find a good light-box kit for a reasonable price as I am not yet ready to go out and set up a 'real' studio? I need to take a few more classes and practice for a while on family and friends. Also, what size and wattage should I be looking for to start out?
Thanks for your help!

5/12/2008 7:39:29 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  this is answered if you do a search under studio lights...you'll learn a lot because theres a ton of info.

5/12/2008 8:02:09 AM

  Hi Leslie,
I rarely use soft boxes, as they are expensive and a problem to set-up. In addition you seem to be using some kind of hot lights, and, as soft boxes enclose the light, you will have problems with heat. Make light panels, and use them with umbrellas. You can create a really fine light source this way. Check out these articles: www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=129 and www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=156.

If you are going to look at strobes I would recommend that your first light have at least 600 watt-seconds of power. Many people will think this is a lot, but not for the way I light. The idea is not to buy equipment that creates limitation. One more article: www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=148. Also start with one light and see where it takes you, then get lights as needed.

By the way, nice picture of RJ.
Thanks, John Siskin

5/12/2008 9:19:46 AM

  Thanks very much John, I have your lighting class on my wish list!

5/12/2008 9:29:41 AM

  Hi Leslie,
My Understanding the Tools of Photography Lighting class is a good place to start. But, in the meantime, check out the articles. Thanks, John Siskin

5/12/2008 9:42:03 AM

James Henley

member since: 2/22/2004
  hi try this www.jensenbest.com FLUORESCENT 600 WATT 2 LIGHT UMBRELLA KIT WITH COLLAPSIBLE CHROMAKEY BACKDROP only$129.00 plus shiping I bought this 1 its great all the light I need pluse if its to much just change bulbs
from james

5/13/2008 4:43:27 PM

  Hi James,
I know people like fluorescent lights, but I have to say I think they are a bad product. Check what the exposure is really like, the last ones I checked out was 1/30 at f2.8 with a softbox at 5 feet from the subject at ISO 200. Forget about shooting active children, and you won’t have enough depth of field to shoot a group. In addition there are color issues: first the lights shift color with the 60 cycle vibration of AC current. So shutter speeds of 1/30 or 1/15 are better for these lights, the color is more repeatable. Second the spectrum of a fluorescent is not even. Most of the time the color is ok, but there are times the irregular spectrum may give you trouble. Frankly you are a lot better off learning to use strobes.
Thanks, John Siskin

5/13/2008 5:00:03 PM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Leslie,
John has some excellent and very informative articles here. I love to listen to commercial photographers. They are used to solving photographic problems every day. Portrait photographers tend to be more routine about their approach. While there is a lot to be said for consistent, repeatable results and your "style" the portrait folks tend to be a little like the baby elephant tied with a strong chain that as an adult still remembers and doesn't attempt to break light ropes. The whole digital aspect of photography, thankfully, has helped everyone think a little more "out of the box." A soft box is a great tool -- as are all of the others. When I was starting out, I used dark backgrounds to help hide the shadows. A properly used softbox will also help as they shadows are softer. The BIG caution, however, is that any lighting tool or modifier if not used correctly can give bad results. While a softbox has "soft" light, for example, it is designed to be used fairly close to the subject to give the best light. Too close and it's constantly in your photos along with the subject. Too far away and it becomes more specular and harsh and does not give the effect you started with. For a long time, I used a plain white umbrella but put it close to the light, turned it around and shot through it. It was in effect, a softbox. I though it might be "cool" to add a little "warmth" to the photos and got an umbrella that was part silver and part gold. My subject quickly looked like they were in sunset light and it was not flattering. Each one works differently and you need to experiment and learn. Good luck.
Bruce

5/14/2008 5:41:14 AM

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Photography Question 
Janet Fikar
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/5/2005
  2 .  Portrait Lighting - Help!
I need your help! I received a very generous Christmas present that included some studio lighting and backdrop system. The problem is that I don’t have a clue how to use it or where to place the lights. While my family is still here from out of town, they want to do a family portrait. I have two Smith-Victor 700-SG 600 Watt Quartz Lights. They have the umbrella attachment with reflective side to them. I have two different backdrops (white and black) and look kind of like a velour blanket. Which backdrop would be best for a family portrait (9 adults and 1 baby)? The only lenses I have are a 28-135mm 3.5-5.6, 18-55mm 3.5 – 5.6, and 75-300mm 4 – 5.6. I also have a Speedlite 430EX but do not have a light meter. I wanted to get a general idea of where to start without making them go through a lot of trial and error. Thank you in advanced for your response!

1/1/2007 9:47:41 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  My suggestion to you is leave the lights and backdrops alone while your family is visiting, take them outside and arrange them against a nice scenic background and using a bit of fill flash, shoot the portrait. After the holiday, get a book or two on studio portrait lighting, read-em and then come back with your questions, preferably one or two at a time. Emergency photographic intervention rarely works well and what you're asking is nearly impossible for us to surmise without being able to visualize where you want to set all this stuff up though I'd guess someone is going to try and that will probably panic and frustrate you more than you already seem to be. Relax Janet. Enjoy the new year and your family's visit.

Mark

1/1/2007 9:57:42 AM

  Hi Janet,
I would start out with (clock reference) camera at 12:00 (pick the lens that fits your working area in the room) - group at 06:00 - position the backdrop 2-3 foot behind the group (remember that the backdrop & group may also pick up reflective light from the walls/ceiling and cast a tint onto the group) and then set 1st light just slightly behind your right shoulder at 10:00 about 6' high and the other light at 02:00 at 5' high and see where the shadows are. Then start moving stuff until you get the lighting you want. Mark is right and you may end up spending way too much time doing this. I have a couple of books and there are so many configurations that do so many different effects - it is too much to discuss here. Good luck Janet - Happy New Year

1/1/2007 10:47:55 AM

  If you have 9 people in your family, including a baby, it will be hard to arrange all these people, let alone the lights. Of course, it is possible that you live somewhere that the outside temperature is about minus 12. In that case, point the lights at a white ceiling and get the family together under the lights. This won’t work perfectly, it may not even work well, but it is quick and even. Don’t mix your strobe with your quartz lights, but you could use it outdoors. Happy New Year!

1/1/2007 12:12:46 PM

Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  I agree - trying to learn studio lighting by e-mail is probably not gonna work... And posing for portraits is another thing all together.
Once they leave - go sign up for Vik Orenstein's studio lighting course. I loved it and learned so much!!!
If not - the go to the library and take out some books... Or search the internet...
Good luck!

1/1/2007 7:08:07 PM

Garth Wunsch
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/11/2006
  You might find this site useful (I hope the nude female torso doesn't offend you). Click on the "nude" image and you will get to see what lights do in several positions.
http://www.photoworkshop.com/index.html

Garth Wunsch

1/2/2007 5:50:13 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Hi Janet,

I concur with Mark and Diana. Make this group photo the way you know how: outside with some fill. Hey, while you're at it you can do individual portraits too. And little group photos of 2 or 3 people. And tell your family you need 'm back where you are now next year, to do it all again INdoors with this new gear.

1/2/2007 7:36:36 AM

  Wow, I really like the iner-active lighting showing the different illuminations of the model with each lighting position.

1/2/2007 7:43:42 AM

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Photography Question 
Leslie Browne
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/17/2005
  3 .  Best Starting Tools for Home Studio
 
I have been a hobbyist photographer since I was a teenager and have taken a few photography courses over the years. My dream is to have a studio in my house some day. But, until then, I need to get more experience to justify investing in all the equipment. I am now attempting to start my own portrait business focusing on infants, kids and family portraits. Although I prefer to shoot outdoors as much as possible, I am forced to shoot inside sometimes, especially with infants. I find lighting and backgrounds my biggest challenges, because you don't know what you will find in someone's house.
I use a Canon Rebel XT with the Canon 420EX speedlite. I would love to hear from pros. What basic equipment do you recommend as "have to haves" for portraits, especially indoors for beginners. I don't have all the lighting, backdrops, etc. I would be greatly appreciative of any tips and advice on what I absolutely should invest in at this point. Thank you!

9/17/2005 6:44:16 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  Hi Leslie,
Lighting is as important to the success of a photo as composition and subject. There are many ways to learn lighting, including my courses here as well as some Web sites and plenty of books available. There is also a thread here that offers a bunch of tips. When I first learned lighting I purchased 3 strobes and a couple of umbrellas to get started as I quickly learned that is how it is done. But if you have plenty of window light, you can use that as available light and reflectors to fill in shadows. But strobes are clearly the way to go, because when photographing people, the strobes will freeze the movement that comes with photographing adults and infants.
Have fun!
Charlie

9/17/2005 7:05:45 PM

  Hi Leslie, your question sounds like it could have been written by myself! I too have the Rebel XT with the same speedlite and am dreaming of having a studio in my home one day! Seriously, word for word you've described me perfectly. Anyways, have the space in my basement (no daylight) and am trying to figure out slowly what I can't do without to start out with. I'm thinking one strobe with my speedlite and one umbrella. But I don't know yet. I just found this website by Canon http://photoworkshop.com/canon/
which is amazing, all about the Rebel XT and and also talks about flash photography using the xt using more than one flash.
Check it out and let me know what you end up deciding.

Barbara J.

9/20/2005 11:45:10 AM

Leslie Browne
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/17/2005
  Hi Barbara,
Glad to hear I am not the only one wondering what to do! Thanks for the website. I will check it out. My photos are still turning out pretty nice between my flash and natural light. I am continuing to practice and working on my confidence. I bought the Cannon Digital Rebel, Digital Field Guide book which includes helpful tips and info on the Rebel XT and have found it extremely helpful. You may want to check that out too! I am trying to earn money with the equipment I have to save up for my studio lighting. Do you have any photos online or a website? I'd love to see your work. My website is almost finished. Just troubleshooting some FrontPage probelms! But I am having fun setting up shop. Good luck!
Leslie

9/22/2005 11:03:00 AM

  Hi Leslie, how are you making out with your pictures? I don't see any in your gallery yet. I've just uploaded the first one that I've made in my little homemade makeshift studio into my gallery. It's called "seventeen". I don't have a website but I do have a gallery here at BP. Check out by clicking on Barbara's gallery under my name. I'd love to see some of your work!

10/9/2005 11:21:45 AM

Leslie Browne
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/17/2005
  Hi Barbara
I just put my gallery up. I feel like my photos are not nearly as good as everyone else's which is why I waited to put them up. I love your photos! They look terrific.

As for my lighting, I think I am going to buy one main light (just need to figure out which one now). I bought a black king size sheet at Walmart like so many have suggested on this site. I need to get a background frame or I may just try taping on the wall. I just feel like that looks so unprofessional. Good luck!
Leslie

10/10/2005 11:58:31 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  Leslie
I am not sure if you heard this from anyone else, so I'll throw it in. If you are shooting in a garage you can buy those large hooks that screw into the ceiling for hanging a bikes. If you put two of them 9.5' apart, you can but a 10' wood dowel from the lumber yard, then clamp your background to the pole and hang it in the hooks by using a small step stool to reach them. It works well and is cheap.
All the best!
Charlie

10/10/2005 9:23:55 PM

Leslie Browne
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/17/2005
  Thanks Charlie. I hadn't heard that one. I am considering using my garage but would like to start indoors in my den. Since I want to go on locations, I am thinking of buy a DynaTran Support System since they are fairly inexpensive. Thanks so much for your advice. I greatly appreciate it! I am just anxious to be truly up and running. Since I have you, I have another question for you.....

If I were to buy my lighting in piecemeal, which light would you recommend I start with. Or is it a complete waste of time to use one main light along with my bouncing my speedlite 420. Sorry if I sound way off base, but I obviously haven't taken any lighting classes yet.

10/11/2005 6:13:52 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Good Morning Leslie,
I would like to envite you to join us on the thread"Studio Photography" Parts 1,2,3,and 4
I am sure a lot of the info and wonderful people there would love to help you .
There have been a lot of discussions on lighting, makeshift background holders, props,and backgrounds. They really have a lot of fun-from the studio ops. to business practice.
hope you'll join it .
and Charlie I know you teach a class, but we'd LOVE to have you , a few helpful hints has stired the imagination- and I do hope it trickels your way and you at some point see it in your class filled completely with turned on novices to lighting.
wishing you the very best-
ps: I do think your great to spend your time on the threads helping.

10/11/2005 6:15:36 AM

Leslie Browne
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/17/2005
  Thanks Debby. I'd love to join in but can't seem to find the thread. Would you send a link if possible?

10/11/2005 6:31:19 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  theTHREAD:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/QnAdetail.asp?threadID=19665

10/11/2005 6:38:24 AM

Steve Somloi

member since: 1/7/2004
  Sounds like a common problem. I am going through the same issues. After researching, I decided to go with the multiple flash route since I didn't need to buy a meter with Canon's flashes. Regarding the support, I don't have a location for a permanent studio so wall mounting wasn't feasible. Also, I wanted something portable. I just built a frame out of 1" PVC pipe. It is just under 8' high (to fit in standard sized rooms), by about 9' wide and cost me about $15. Basically a big rectangle with 2 triangles off the back to function as stands.

10/17/2005 9:39:54 AM

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Photography Question 
Crystal Williams

member since: 7/8/2004
  4 .  Portable Lighting Systems
What portable lighting system is recommended to use with Nikon D70 for both indoor and maybe some outdoor shots? I am just starting with my own business and am on a tight budget.

11/5/2004 12:27:33 PM

Bryan F. Peterson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/6/2000
  Hi Crystal-
Good luck with the new venture, and when it comes to portable lighting I swear by the good folks at White Lightning (Paul Buff Inc.) in Tennessee. They make these really cool "mono-lites" called Alien Bee's in various power outputs, and when it comes to lightweight yet powerful strobes for indoor on location in some corporate boardroom they can't be beat. And know I am not being paid by them to say this, but when I find a product that proves itself time and time again, I am happy to boast about it.
I have been using, along with countless other pros, White Lightning for years, and they work just as easily with film or digital cameras. You will also need a flash exposure meter - of which there are many and I personally use a Sekonic.

11/6/2004 1:46:49 AM

Crystal Williams

member since: 7/8/2004
  Thank you for you help. I will check into the White Lightning. I have already invested in the Sekonic light meter. I really appreciate all the help.

11/6/2004 6:34:48 AM

Gregg Vieregge

member since: 11/10/2000
  I have owned the Alien Bees for 4 years and they are great. (plus very affordable) They make great studio lights. For location and outdoors get a Nikon Speedlight SB-800.

11/9/2004 6:17:46 AM

Gordon J. Evans
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2003
  I agree with the Alien Bees assesment, they work flawlessly at low voltage, immediate recycle, pack easily for travel (I fit two monolights with stands and umbrellas in a suitcase, a big suitcase, but...). Course they are costly and you either need a battery pack or work indoors for electricity.

On the other hand, I was shown the least costly setup imaginable by a pro photographer friend of mine, who with 2 DigiSlave units by SR Electronics (about $100 each), 2 reflective umbrellas ($20-30 each), 2 inexpensive tripods/stands ($20-30 each) and 2 General Brand Multi-Brackets (about $15 each) gets just as good results, this all for about or less than the cost of one Alien Bee set-up.

The other advantage is the setup packs into a large gymbag and requires no electricity, just the AA batteries in the flashes. I'll use my Canon 550 EX and 420EX and/or a DigiSlave unit at times for portraits outdoors with umbrellas and reflectors because they are so convenient and much better at filling in the shadows while maintaining a natural light look.

Oh, and get a good light meter (I've been happy with the Sekonic L-308BII Flashmate for about $180).

http://www.srelectronics.com/

http://www.shortcourses.com/how/slave/slave.htm

11/9/2004 5:15:47 PM

Crystal Williams

member since: 7/8/2004
  Thank you for all the advice. When I went to the White Lightning site to check on the Alien Bees lights, they weren't there. Where can I get these lights?

11/10/2004 4:46:04 AM

Gordon J. Evans
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2003
  http://www.alienbees.com/

is the site.

http://www.davidweikel.com/E20_Page/alienbees/bees.shtml

also has some useful info on them.

11/10/2004 5:18:19 AM

Jeff 

member since: 6/5/2003
  Gordon,

If you are willing to share some info, I would appreciate it immensely .

In the following text, you mentioned a very good basic set-up for lighting. I am a graphic designer and have done a little photography for my company (mostly "portraits" or shots of poeple having coffee, etc)... but have been fortunate enough to have outdoor lighting situations, etc...

Well- next week, they want me to do a photo shoot at one of our properties- and I have no lighting equipment. The set-up you mentioned sounds like it works well, would be good for on location, and is an amount they might be willing to pay for.

Can you elaborate a little bit on how to use the items you mention in your post? What, specifically, would you recommend for digi-slave units? How do you use these? How do you mount them (some sort of stand/tripod?) Do the digi-slave units essentially sense the flash from the camera and fire themselves? If you could expound it would be GREAT!

Thanks in advance...

----------
"On the other hand, I was shown the least costly setup imaginable by a pro photographer friend of mine, who with 2 DigiSlave units by SR Electronics (about $100 each), 2 reflective umbrellas ($20-30 each), 2 inexpensive tripods/stands ($20-30 each) and 2 General Brand Multi-Brackets (about $15 each) gets just as good results, this all for about or less than the cost of one Alien Bee set-up.

The other advantage is the setup packs into a large gymbag and requires no electricity, just the AA batteries in the flashes. I'll use my Canon 550 EX and 420EX and/or a DigiSlave unit at times for portraits outdoors with umbrellas and reflectors because they are so convenient and much better at filling in the shadows while maintaining a natural light look."
-------

2/2/2006 10:21:32 AM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  you can get the alienbees and they offer a travel power kit which includes a pure sine wave inverter and a batter so you can run your lights in the middle of nowhere. with one B800 (320ws) their website claims you can shoot 800+ shots with a recycle time of 2 seconds on one charge. as soon as I make some money i'm going to get that "vagabond" system ASAP.

2/2/2006 11:12:45 AM

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Photography Question 
Monica R. Weit
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/10/2004
  5 .  Color Correction in Lighting
I'm in the process of purchasing lighting equipment, and I read somewhere that it's good to buy a system that is 5500k or 3200k and use a color correction filter. What name or brand do your suggest? Or what color do I use with the 3200k lighting?

5/30/2004 6:51:27 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  5500-K, is "daylight balanced" and 3200-K is "tungsten balanced". I cannot recommend specific brands, but I always use tungsten lighting for indoor stuff and either load my camera with a tungsten-balanced film, or use a blue 80-A lens filter to correct the color shift when I'm using daylight film. (Without the filter, there will be a discernable yellow-ish cast.)

5/31/2004 1:00:56 PM

Robert Bridges

member since: 5/12/2003
  Tungsten film is very expensive and if you use daylight film and a correction filter your view will be strongly tinted in blue.....maybe thats ok but I find it hard to see
what the hell I am doing that way. Then there is the problem with heat. Tungsten lights are HOT and I mean toast your fingers set your clothes on fire HOT. If I were you I'd buy flash.

6/1/2004 1:01:36 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  It's true that tungsten lights can get hot, but they are OK for still-lifes and small product photography, since lower wattage lights and longer shutter speeds can be used.

For portraiture, I agree with Robert that flash would be more comfortable and appropriate.

6/1/2004 6:04:09 AM

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Photography Question 
Eddie 

member since: 3/5/2004
  6 .  Difference Between Diffusion and Reflection?
I have a beginner continuous lighting set with umbrellas. I understand that putting the umbrellas in front of the light source is diffusion and bouncing it off the umbrella is reflection. When is the ideal case to use reflection and diffusion? They both seem to reduce shadows, but other than that I can't tell.

3/23/2004 12:23:46 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  There isn't really an ideal case. Even reflecting with an umbrella causes diffusion because diffusion is just changing the angle of light as it passes through something, or bounces off of something. A white smooth surface reflects more and diffuses less than a white rough surface. Diffusion is affected by the material the light passes through. And they both are affected by how big the umbrella is and how close. But if the light needs to be put very close to the subject, shooting through may be more desirable because of any shadow that may come from the lamp head.

3/23/2004 3:02:29 PM

Eddie 

member since: 3/5/2004
  Thanks Gregory! You gave me some points to ponder about. :)

3/23/2004 8:51:03 PM

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Photography Question 
Dennis Martineau

member since: 9/22/2003
  7 .  Strobe Light Accessories: What are These?
 
Recently, I got a great deal on used White Lightning strobes and accessories. However, no instruction manuals with any of the equipment. I have the strobes figured out, but the items I have uploaded for your viewing have me confused. The black, square items I can't figure out how to attach to the stobes securely. Do any of you recognize what you see and can you give advice on what circumstances they are used in? Thanks very much for your responses.

12/1/2003 3:12:51 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  The black squares look like gel holders. If you wanted to use colored light you would use that to put a colored piece of square plastic in them.
The round things if they have little holes in them look like they may be a spot grid. They are for when you want a narrower focus spot light, the little holes, if they have them, are to prevent any light from spreading out. The silver things are the reflectors for the strobes. That's what directs the light from the flash in the right direction. Otherwise you get a bare bulb light without it.

12/2/2003 8:44:00 AM

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Photography Question 
karen ramlagan

member since: 11/10/2003
  8 .  Setting Up a Studio/Digital Photography
what are the basics in setting up a studio for digital photography? Ligiting fixtures, backdrops, size sq. ft., etc?

11/21/2003 6:43:08 PM

Dan Spencer

member since: 6/2/2002
 
 
  Dream Studio
Dream Studio
This is the type of studio we dream about having.
 
  Reality Studio
Reality Studio
This is the reality studio we end up with
 
 
I'm presuming you're interested in a "portrait" studio so here's the "basics" - 15x15 feet is good, at least 2 studio lights on stands (either strobe or hotlights), a big reflector, at least 3 mp camera (although I've done great portraits with under 1 megapixel with a lot of editing/enhancing, bar stool or modeling seat, paper or cloth material for bacgdrops, head and shoulder portraits are best in a small studio. I hope this helps you.

11/21/2003 8:19:59 PM

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Photography Question 
Ray Connolly

member since: 10/2/2003
  9 .  Which Meter Reading Should I Use?
Hi,
When using Bowens Studio lights in home studio room 10ft by 15ft, I place Key light 45degs to one side plus fill 45degrees to other. My Key light is set at half power and gives reading of F8 at 100asa, Fill is set to quarter power and gives reading of 5.6. When I take reading with both lights powered on I get reading of F8 plus half. My question is, should I use F8 or F9? Cheers.

10/2/2003 10:58:52 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Ray,
If "f/8 plus half" means a half stop narrower aperture than f/8, then use f/9. Since f/9 is 1/3rd stop tighter than f/8, that's a 1/6th stop overexposure and even with chromes you'd be extremely hard pressed to tell the difference (I'd bet money you wouldn't). With negative films, if I'm within a half-stop, I don't worry about it.

10/2/2003 11:40:03 PM

  Hi, Ray!
John's advice is good. I would only add one comment -- if you're shooting black and white film, you generally want to overexpose slightly to clean up your highlights, especially when shooting people. So I'd go with f8. For chromes I like to underexpose a little for maximum richness and color saturation.

10/3/2003 9:20:20 AM

Gregg Vieregge

member since: 11/10/2000
  It doesn't matter. There is so much latitude with todays film that a good lab will clean it up with no problem A little over exposure is good with film. Under exposure is good with digital. Shoot away and have a lab with a view monitor for color corection do the rest. (no computer analyzer labs)

10/6/2003 7:40:08 PM

Gregg Vieregge

member since: 11/10/2000
  It doesn't matter. There is so much latitude with todays film that a good lab will clean it up with no problem A little over exposure is good with film. Under exposure is good with digital. Shoot away and have a lab with a view monitor for color corection do the rest. (no computer analyzer labs)

10/6/2003 7:40:19 PM

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Photography Question 
Mare Board

member since: 4/22/2002
  10 .  How to Use Studio Lighting/ What Film to Use?
My husband is in a band and they are wanting me to do some "band" shots for their promo package. Our local camera store has a small studio for rent with lights and backdrops that I will be using. I am familiar with studio lighting but have never personally worked with this type equipment before. Looking for tips on the best way to set up this shot with 4 people.
1. What is the best type of 35mm film to use for indoor work of this nature, both color and B&W.
2. Backdrop color: Tips on choosing the backdrop color
3. Any do's or don'ts for this type setup for a user with no indoor lighting experience, basic camera settings (Nikon N2000), distance from subject, etc... is much appreciated.

Thanks!

7/17/2003 7:29:53 AM

Mare Board

member since: 4/22/2002
  As a follow up... obviously, I know that I need a Light meter reading but was just looking for what is typical for this type set up.

7/17/2003 7:32:22 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Mare,
Ooooh . . . studio lighting can fill entire textbooks!

How powerful are the lights? They should have a rating in Watt-Seconds (or Joules, a Watt-Second is a Joule); this is the energy stored by the flash that is dumped to the flash tube. Lights aren't measured by guide numbers; there are too many variables in how light is modified and controlled to make it very meaningful. Reason I ask is this will determine how close or how far to set up the lights. Hopefully, they're about 500 Joule lights, which is a decent power level for on-location work (at least for me).

Wow, if you've never done this before, then one of the more failsafe lighting methods for groupings uses two lights with reflective umbrellas. Each light is placed to your left and right. With 500 Joule lights, I put them about 15 - 18 feet from where the subjects will be, and about 9 - 12 feet to the left and right of where I'd be standing if shooting straight at the center of the grouping. Lights should be elevated to about 8 feet with umbrellas (the light itself). If the grouping is elevated more than about 6 inches (on a dias or stage) then you may have to elevate the lights a bit further. Aim them so that the center of the light reflected from the umbrella hits about waist high slightly left and right of center on the grouping. It is usually difficult to determine this using just the modeling lights; use the umbrella rod as a guide (by looking at the lights from the subject location). Set both at the same power level. Meter and move them as necessary, or change the power level setting. Allow yourself some setup time to work with this. Subject position should be a few feet in front of the background. Watch for unwanted shadows and move forward (or background back) as appropriate; umbrellas should mitigate this.

I try to shoot smaller groupings at f/5.6 using Kodak Portra 160NC. Since this is a band, you may consider a film with a little more contrast and saturation (without being over the top) such as Portra 160VC. However, this presumes that color negative can be used versus a chrome film. For B&W, Plus-X Pan (ISO 125), TMax 100, or one of the Ilford ISO 100 or ISO 125 films should work.

7/18/2003 4:55:59 AM

Maynard  McKillen

member since: 3/5/2003
  Dear Mare:
One approach to promo photos of a band is to have the members stand rather close together, some perhaps sitting on stools, and each holds a prop that suggests which instrument they play. The bass and guitar players may rest the body of their instruments on a low stool and hold/lean on the neck/head, or just wear them, the keyboard player may do something similar with an electronic keyboard, the drummer crosses his/her arms and holds a pair of drumsticks in one hand, and the singer may do something similar with a mic, the hurdy-gurdy player leaves his instrument at home...you get the idea. Compose the photos as head-to-waist (Those low stools that raise up the guitars and keyboard are then out of sight.), and raise some members on posing blocks if necessary. The photo emphasizes the members and minimizes background.
As to background color, you may be dealing with quite an array of color in clothing and hair, so why not use several different backgrounds?
If you do select any darker backgrounds, you might consider placing a hairlight behind the backdrop, up high and pointing down at the backs of their heads. This will rimlight their heads and shoulders, give a shine to their hair (or heads, come to think of it), and prevent the hair from blending in with darker backgrounds.
If you had color gels available to put over some flash heads, you could put some lights down low behind the members, point these up at the backdrop, and add more color to a backdrop. If these backdrop lights are stronger than the lights illuminating the members, you might get rich color on the backdrop.
But maybe some of these lighting ideas are best reserved for the NEXT time you photograph the band. With John's lighting suggestions and my posing ideas, you'll have your hands full!

7/18/2003 7:14:09 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  I agree with Maynard that the posing should minimize background content and maximize subject content. Be creative with this aspect of it and have some fun with them. They may come up with some ideas of their own. Watch depth of field with the grouping. f/5.6 shouldn't get you into too much trouble as long as you're not trying to stack the entire band in one behind another; staggered a little should be OK if you watch to keep someone from becoming shadowed by another (unless you want that). If in doubt because of greater grouping depth, stop down to f/8 and adjust/move lights.

I also agree with Maynard's last paragraph . . . keep the lighting relatively simple this time around and use the creativity with the posing. I've seen very complex diagrams of studio setups for special portrait groupings involving softboxes, scrims, reflectors, snoots, additional hair and kicker lights, etc. Doing that requires knowledge and especially experience with the effects various special lighting techniques will create in the photographs. Those are things to gradaully work on understanding and experimenting with if you keep working with studio lighting. A complex lighting setup is not something that one should try for work that will be used by the subjects the first time out though.

7/18/2003 10:53:48 AM

Sreedevi  Kashi

member since: 6/10/2003
  Another tip- if you're really picky about color and you're not using color gels on the band, you'll probably want to find out what the color temperature is of the studio's lights. Most probably they are 3200K which is standard for studio lighting- it's a warmer tone than sunlight, and normal films are balanced for sunlight, so you might want to try a tungsten film. For negative film the Kodak 100T is alright, but I prefer Kodak's Chrome 64T.

I shoot bands a lot too- keeping the band members close together but very staggered in depth can be really intersting- you'll want an aperture setting of 5.6 or 8 if using standard 50mm lens on 35mm camera. I like using some odd piece of furniture that won't argue with the band members vividness- it adds more dimensions if one of them is on it, or if all of them are staggered around it. But what really works is to move yourself around and change the position from where you're seeing the band. You could stand on a ladder, get down on the ground, try it from every angle possible and you might get some interesting shots out of it.

7/23/2003 1:59:12 AM

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