BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: All About Photography : Photographic Field Techniques : Studio, Still, & Personal Portraiture Photography

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

Light for Backgrounds

I am looking to buy additional lighting. I currently own two (250 watt each) softboxes. I have upcoming portrait sessions, and I think I need more lights. What can I use to light the background? With beauty dishes, does a light come with them? Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks,

To love this question, log in above
9/15/2008 10:20:53 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Actually, it appears you need a more powerful light as opposed to more lights. 750 Watt Seconds should do you for shooting portraits, then assign the 250 light you have (assuming they're strobes) to lighting the background (with one light) if you still need a background light. You can do a lot with a single light in a softbox.
Beauty dishes? I have no idea what that is other than perhaps a phrase for a soft/brushed aluminum wide reflector for portraits, and no, the ones that may be of real value to you aren't supplied with a light and power source. Monolights, like Bowen, PhotoFlex, Calumet Travelers, are quite good lights and my preference is Bowens. There are tons of manufacturers, but remember, you get what you pay for.
You can read a lot in the
BetterPhoto Forum. Photoflex and Bowens have very useful shooting info on their Web sites, and of course, John Siskin offers lighting courses here: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting and Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio.
Take it light.

To love this comment, log in above
9/15/2008 2:44:08 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Mark,
A beauty dish is a large reflector, about 24 inches across with a device that covers the strobe tube in the center, bouncing the light off the rest of the reflector. Basically it acts like a 24 inch round soft box or umbrella. I have one, got it in a weird trade deal. It is ok, but not going to make me rethink lighting. They are generally expensive. They fit on specific strobe heads, so they do not come with internal lights. Thanks for the plug!!

I am worried that the lights you refer to are continuous lights rather than strobes. Generally this sort of lighting is inferior for still photography. There are several reasons, including heat and subject movement. You might want to check out this article on shooting with a single light source: As mark mentioned power and control are more important than the quantity of lights you own. Having said that I own a lot of strobes, but I do a variety of work.
Thanks, John

To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2008 6:20:06 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.