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Photography Question 
John T. Chambers

Portrait Lighting Kit

Hello all
Up until now I've been shooting sports and nature. I keep getting asked to do portraits and want to step into this arena (but not have to sell the farm). I've found a few small low-end kits such as the Smith-Victor kit that comes with three lights (and stands), two umbrellas and one boom for overhead and back lighting. I've already purchased a collapsible backdrop so I think I'm covered with that backdrop thing.

Can anyone suggest a brand or things to look for in a kit for someone like me who is just starting out with portraits?


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11/22/2005 10:16:15 AM

Joyce S. Bowley
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/7/2004
  I've been doing a bit of research on this myself, planning for the future. Charlie Borland has a list of required lighting equipment that is needed to sign up for one of his classes here.

Editor's Note: Charlie is an experienced commercial photographer and instructor; see his equipment list at the following page for his online course: Beginners Guide to Strobe Lighting

I've seen a lot of people in The Forum who have different ideas. I know of some people who will use ONLY Alien Bees for their lighting. Charlie recommends 3 strobes; the Alien Bees 800 would probably fit the required 400 watt seconds or greater he includes in his list. Then there are light stands, a light box, umbrellas and a Safe Sync. This (entire) set-up you're looking at is $1K ... but I'm sure you can find folks here at BP who spend a good deal less and are happy.

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11/22/2005 4:44:32 PM

L. W.   I'm a big fan of the Novatron Fun Kit. There are kits-a hard case filled with lighting equipment, go for photgs on the move-with various wattage. Affordable and reliable.

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11/29/2005 8:29:22 AM

John T. Chambers   Thanks LW for your input. I'm going to try the alien bees kit with the flash through umbrellas. I'll let ya'll know how that works out.

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11/29/2005 8:44:51 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Tom: Before you "step into the arena" and find out that horn you hear is attached to a bull, you should consider that lighting decisions, like any other photo equipment, is quite subjective and based on lots of factors including price, use, accessories available, future use, system flexibility and portability, etc., etc.
So, before you actually buy anything, I recommend that you rent and use what you intend to buy first. Then, once you find something you really like, see if you can buy it used rather than new unless it's really cheap. If it is, chances are it won't last and according to Murphy's law, it'll go kaputsky on you at the worst possible moment, usually during a paid shoot.

My preference is for monolights that are 1000 watt/sec. in order to give me high f-stops with low ISO films when shooting through a softbox. For those, you might take a look at Bowens lights, which are reasonably priced at

Take it....light.

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11/30/2005 4:16:52 PM

John T. Chambers   Mark
Thanks for your input. I failed to mention that a friend of mine who has a photography business had suggested alien bees because it is what he uses for studio portraits. I wanted to see what type of input I could get (in addition to his). You suggested I rent some lights before trying them but unfortunately, in my area, I couldn't find anyone to let me rent/borrow their light setups. I've read many reviews on products and found nothing negative about Alien Bees. So, that coupled with my friend's input pushed me towards them.

Thanks again for your input and I promise I'll post my findings, along with some shots, on here.


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11/30/2005 4:38:52 PM

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