BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Anthony Ruiz
 

What Kind of Lights to Buy?


Hey, guys and gals...
Can someone help me make a wise decision as to what lights to get for someone who has been shooting for about three years but has never used lights other then a flash. I am currently looking at two different setups from B&H and I am on a very limited budget. I have posted links so you can see what I am considering.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=2251&A=details&Q=&sku=390686&is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=2252&A=details&Q=&sku=121854&is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation
Also are monolights better then strobes or vise versa?


To love this question, log in above
12/15/2006 8:24:49 AM

 
W.    Hi Anthony,

Assuming that by 'monolights' you mean continuous, incandescent (tungsten) light, that is only useful for still life tabletop photography with long shutter speeds. Not useful for portraits, other living subjects or bigger scenes.
Incandescent (tungsten) lights don't have enough power. Not by a loooong shot!


To love this comment, log in above
12/15/2006 8:54:24 AM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Anthony,
There are tremendous challenges in buying lighting on a budget. Basically, you are looking for power and a limited amount of control on the light. Then you might like to have some accessories. This light - http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=1225&A=details&Q=&sku=386687&is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation - does have more power than the ones you put into your post, but it does not have a light stand or any accessories. It is more than twice as powerful, that is really important. Some of my students have used this brand of equipment and like it.
I have an article here on BetterPhoto about shooting with only one light, perhaps it would help:

http://www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=129
I also have one on building a light panel, I know that would be useful:
http://www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=156
A monolight is a strobe that uses AC power (plugs into the wall). It plugs into the wall directly, not through a powerpack. They are very flexible equipment. The light I suggested above is a monolight as is the Impact light you found on the site. The Smith-Victor stuff is very low power. Smith-Victor does make some good gear; this set isnít it. If you canít step up to the Patterson/Interfit monolight, get the Impact light.
I agree with W., donít buy tungsten.
Good luck!


To love this comment, log in above
12/15/2006 6:23:35 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Anthony. Yep. It's a lighting jungle out there. Bowens Corp. recently starting making monolights with detachable-rechargable power packs to make the decisional process even more complicated. http://www.bowens.co.uk/catalog/

Here's one review from Shutterbug you might find interesting.

http://www.shutterbug.com/equipmentreviews/lighting_equipment/1006calumet/

As John mentioned, you need to determine how much power output you need and learn how output is measured. Some manufacturers overrate their lights (ha, go figure), but you need to consider if you'll be using light modifiers like umbrellas, softboxes, scrims, etc., AND determine what you plan to be shooting in the near future and down the road. You'd probably prefer buying a system that you can grow into not one you keep needing to replace bits and pieces of as you find you need more illumination or to produce more special effects from different types of accessories.

Also, consider that if you can't afford the right lights for your present and future needs, maybe you need to wait awhile, buy one bigger monolight, say a 1000 W.S. or even 1500 light now and add additional lights from the same manufacturer (one that you know has been around awhile) later on. That way, you'll be pretty sure that the accessories will accept the same equipment.

Here are some other manufactuers to consider as welll, and note (fortunately or perhaps not) B&H sells them as well. Speedotron (real work horses), Norman (industry stand-bys, very reliable IMHO), Elinchrom, Broncolor (truly high end and very pricey). Oh and Photoflex has a new line of monobloc lights out you might take a look at. http://www.photoflex.com. Theyu were offering some good deals recently, may have ended. I dunno.

Oh, and I'm also with John and W.S. in that you shouldn't buy tungsten.

Take it light.
Mark


To love this comment, log in above
12/15/2006 7:14:35 PM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Mark,
Did I miss something here? Isnít this guy trying to buy a cheap light (ok inexpensive, are no cheap lights) as a present for someone else? You know this part of BetterPhoto better than I. You know a heck of a lot about lights also, couldnít you make a specific recommendation for an inexpensive strobe? Iím willing to bet he would like to get something by Christmas. Given that there maybe nothing on the market that would be worth buying, at this price point, how about a recommendation for a book on lighting. I donít have a lighting book to suggest, everything I have is out of date. Anybody have an idea for good reading about lighting? Thanks, John


To love this comment, log in above
12/15/2006 7:27:35 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well, Anthony mentioned very limited budget so I suggested waiting until he expanded his funding. The reason, as you and W.S. know, is that we all get what we pay for. Cheap lighting, I think, costs you more in the end, in the quality of the work, in the durability and increased frustration from breakability, and of course, the cost of replacing it later on. In that sense, I usually explain to people that in buying with an eye toward the future they spend once and supplement it later on.

The best single book I've seen on lighting was put out by Sinar/Broncolor about 10 years ago called "Professional Lighting Technique. The Broncolor Handbook" by Jost Marchesi. It covers the theory of light, exposure measurement and filter technique and is really easy to ready through with tons of diagrams. I don't know whether it's still available but I'll bet an e-mail to Broncolor sales might get him pointed in the right direction. It's worth waiting for and you don't necessarily need Broncolor lighting to make Broncolor-like photos. LOL !!!

Amherst Photo books are a likely choice given the date. They've got a lot of good 'How To' stuff.

Otherwise, maybe B&H is still handling Dean Collins great series "Finelight". That was pretty cool as well but multiple volumes as I recall to cover various subjects like product and portraits.

Happy holidays gang !!
Mark


To love this comment, log in above
12/16/2006 9:58:28 AM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  The Broncolor book is excellent; I have a copy around here somewhere. Dean Collins was a wonderful teacher, I learned a lot from his Finelight series. He was also funny; I appreciate that. I have some of that around here as well. I would like to find a current reference for my students. Anybody have a suggestion? Thanks Mark and everybody! Happy Holidays! John


To love this comment, log in above
12/16/2006 10:10:14 AM

 
Henry W. Pyle   Hi Anthony,

Just thought I would throw this out there. I know little about what is reasonably priced or what is quality, etc. I heard about this company a while back and found it interesting.

http://www.alienbees.com/

This could be great stuff or it could be terrible, but it seems to be reasonably priced and the recommendation came from someone that had nothing to gain in giving it.

I would be interested in having others comment on this equipment.

Henry


To love this comment, log in above
12/19/2006 11:51:40 AM

 
patti banks   I use both alien bees and white lightings - products of Paul Buff. They are relatively inexpensive when compared to some of the names mentioned already. I lug the lights around all year, tossing them into the trunk of my car and in and out of venues and have not had any issues with reliability. The color is consistent among all of the lights I have.
Plus - Paul Buff customer service is excellent!
www.patricianphoto.com


To love this comment, log in above
12/19/2006 12:17:54 PM

 
L. W.   Check out Novatron. There's a 240 fun pack-comes with a pack, 2 lights, umbrellas, stands-all in a sturdy travel case. And, B&H has it for a good price. There are other Novatron kits available as well.


To love this comment, log in above
12/19/2006 6:07:54 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Yep. Novatron makes good equipment. The problem with mixing equipment, especially heads, is that one softbox that works on one type of ring and fits one head may not work on one from a different manufacturer, say mixing Bowens with Norman or Novatron with Alien Bees.

So the cost of those attachment rings and other accessories when you need to double up on them because of incompatibility, gets expensive. That's why I tend to recommend that when buying lights you try and plan for the future so as not to have to buy duplicate pieces just to make one head work with another set.

And, as far as packs go, if you're buying separate heads to work on a pack system, later if you decide to upgrade pack systems to say something with more power instead of being able to just add a lamphead or two, you'll REALLY know how expensive that initial pack system was if you have to rebuy everything for the sake of adding an extra lamp head or two. Like changing from Norman to Speedotron or Speedotron packs to Bowens monolights.

Some guys love alien bees, others bought them, used them a week or two and hated them. Mixed reviews. So, what I would do is try and find a place that you can rent them for a week or so before making that kind of investment.

And that's it for me tonight.
Later gang.
Mark


To love this comment, log in above
12/19/2006 7:15:37 PM

 
Log in to respond or ask your own question.