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Photography Question 
Rachel Larson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/3/2005

Wattage of Strobes

Hey everyone,
I'm looking to buy a couple of strobes with umbrellas but I have a few questions. I will be using them with 2-250 watt lights with softboxes:
What is the recommended wattage I should get? I'm looking at one with 40 watts per strobe. Is that enough?
Any other tips or insights on purchasing these would also be very helpful.
Thank you all for your time!

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12/11/2007 4:06:33 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Here's the answer I posted to your question yesterday. 40 watts, btw, is a nite-lite and of virtually no value for portrait lighting.

Depends on what you're shooting Rachel. 250 w.s. are good for fill lights but not too swell for your main. For that, if you're using a modifier like an umbrella or softbox, I recommend at least 750 w.s.. I shot all the portraits on my website with a single bowens 1000 w.s. monolight and a chimera 3x4 foot softbox and a fill card. You don't necessarily need to buy a manufacturer's kit. Umbrellas in various sizes are pretty cheap and softboxes, while not cheap, are plentiful and reasonably priced. Stands are pretty affordable as well. I'd concentrate on the light source/head. For that, I'd highly recommend Bowens monolights or even Calumet travelers made by Bowens. They're quite good. I've used them constantly for years without even blowing a tube or a modeling light.
Chances are you'll get a fair number of opinions here. One thing to keep in mind is to buy as much lighting as you can afford. Better to have too much than too little and be able to switch it down. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to stretch extra light out of a head that just won't do it. Even a good used pack system, like a Norman or Speedotron is a great investment for shooting portraits or small products.

John Siskin is another photographer here and he teaches a lighting course on BP. His techniques are quite good and he may have some suggestions for you as well.
Take it light ;>)

12/10/2007 9:36:13 PM

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12/11/2007 4:53:03 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Soft Light-Hard light
Soft Light-Hard light
There is one big soft light source here and three hard lights. One of the hard lights makes the light along the left side of her face. Another lights the background and there is a bare bulb light in front of the subject to build contrast and create sparkle in the eyes.
© John H. Siskin
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Kodak DCS 14N Digi...
Hi Rachel!
Look, here’s the deal: A 40-watt-second strobe(watts are for continuous lights) will work OK if you point it directly at the subject from a few feet away. By OK, I mean it will light the subject. The quality of the light will be really lousy, I mean really lousy. In order to make better light, you need a larger light source. I use about 4X6 feet for the most important light in a shot. Because the light is so large, it requires a great deal of power. I agree with Mark about 750 watt-second Bowens and Calumet Travelites. I have one of the 750 Travelites, and it is a great unit. Many of my students here at BetterPhoto use the Alien Bee strobes. I know from their experience that the B1600 will do a reasonably good job of making the light I like. It is very possible to use smaller lights - like a 200 watt-second strobe for additional light in a shot - so not everything has to be a big gun. I point out that I have an article in Photo Techniques this month about using hard and soft light sources, and this may help you to understand how to work with light. There is an article here at BetterPhoto on working with one light that might also help: I have a couple of other articles about lighting here as well, and I teach the Understanding the Tools of Lighting course here at BP.
Thanks! John Siskin!

Hi Mark,
Thanks for the plug!

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12/11/2007 5:39:28 PM

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