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Studio Lighting Newbie shopping for a basic setup - Input Appreciated!
Old 12-17-2005, 08:08 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Hey All,

Since the time that I began shooting I have either used natural lighting/reflectors or struggled with various "make-do" studio lighting such as Home Depot work lights. These make do solutions, to say the least, most often leave a lot to be desired in terms of color cast, etc. and often, I end up having to spend way too much time in Photoshop getting the image to a decent standard. Even then, they are not close to the quality of my natural lighting shots.

With winter upon me here in the arctic northeast, I am contemplating spending a little dough($1000.00 - $2000.00) to get a basic strobe set up so I can spend the winter learning how to use them and add the ability to do "real" studio work to my toolset.

Would be interested and very grateful to get input from all of those experienced with purchasing strobe lighting set ups i.e. your recommendations on brands etc. I am particularly interested in self-contained kits so that I can use on location if desired.

Would also love to hear from those who have gone through the learning curve of using strobes and get any tips/shortcuts in terms of shortening that curve at all.

I know this is a big question. I appreciate any of you taking the time to answer.

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Re: Studio Lighting Newbie shopping for a basic setup - Input Appreciated!
Old 12-17-2005, 08:39 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice shot here, looks like your doing well with what you have. I agree about the HD lighting, as I went through it myself.

I was fortunate to run into a photographer who was switching lighting systems, so I was able to buy a used set of Novatrons for about $550. It was a 4 light set with 1000w power pack, stands and umbrellas. He also threw in a 1000w bare bulb and some gels.

I would check around with different shops in your area for used sets, unless you just want new. But, Novatrons are great, then theres Allien Bees, and others that I'm not familiar with. Go on line and check Ebay, they're always bidding on lights and equipment there.

I carry my set with me most of the time, mostly because of where I'm located I'm not sure what I'll run into. I was fooled once, made due, and learned to expect the unexpected.

Hope this helps a little, there's others here way more knowledgable than I, I'm sure.
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Re: Studio Lighting Newbie shopping for a basic setup - Input Appreciated!
Old 12-17-2005, 10:26 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I was a natural light shooter for 30 years.. Using strobes was like peeling flesh for me at first..

I have about 8 Alien bee lights with everything from a massive 72" softbox to scrims and grids..

Get a wireless setup.. Pocket wizard or something.. synch chords suck and will hamper your shooting.. If you shot natural light, you know what it's like to move around without a wire tied to your camera.

A basic 3 light setup for Alien Bees would be well under 1000 with stands. I prefer monolights to packs because I can have multiple rooms setup and don't have to move the pack all around. I also have the portable battery power that I can use when I take the lights outside in the field to combine natural and strobes.

You probably have not done much with white balancing, but with strobes, it's a must.. get some grey/white cards to balance your color temp when shooting.

Lens flare.. Strobes in a small room will set the lens on fire with flare.. I shot in a 15' wide room.. had to use lens hoods all the time..

I also bought a boom arm with heavy counter-weight for a hairlight.. even as sturdy as this is .. it has been knocked over by model and photographer.. Think sandbags to anchor the stand. (I sandbag all stands now).

Bulbs.. keep extra modelling light bulbs on hand.. Unless you have amazing lenses (not all my lenses are amazing), low light focusing is problematic without modelling lights or a well lit room..

hmm.. that's all I can think of now.. but good luck in your search.
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Re: Studio Lighting Newbie shopping for a basic setup - Input Appreciated!
Old 12-17-2005, 11:26 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Tim I would have to say for the $$ range your looking to spend, go with the Alien Bees ... you can get set up in that range and have the ability to expand in the future.

I would also invest in thier vagabond power pack .. a must have when shooting locations withour nearby power.

Best of luck to ya
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Re: Studio Lighting Newbie shopping for a basic setup - Input Appreciated!
Old 12-17-2005, 11:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Tim, you have really stepped up your stuff in a short amount of time. Glad you are considering strobes...beats hot lights everytime.

Go with a few Alien Bees. I still have (and use) the first few I bought when i started in 2002. They work and work and work. Economical, excellent customer service, plent of power.

One thing not mentioned often enough is light stands. BUY the best upfront. Buy C-stands, Mathews or Avenger. They only cost a few bucks more than cheap stands, but you will never buy another one if you buy a good C-Stand. I am slowly replacing everything with them after fixing or replacing damaged cheap stands. Buy 1 or 2 with a boom arm and you'll be in heaven.

For light modifers, buy 1 large softbox, as large as you can, and 1 strip box, and you'll be set, as well as one set of 7" grids.

Good luck!

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Tim...
Old 12-17-2005, 01:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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nice work on your site! You're very good, you need to think a bit more seriously and long term. So I have two words for you: Hensel Integra. The Pro Plus series has complete remote from the camera where you not only fire the strobes, you also regulate the settings in one tenth f-stops. The two head system comes in under $1600 at Adorama or the three head system at Samys for $2400 (go here for Samys info: http://www.samys.com/product.php?ItemNo=HENS7338815). While you are at Samy's, go to the front page and read my feature on the optimal 5 head lighting system.

Hope that helps.

Robert

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Re: Studio Lighting Newbie shopping for a basic setup - Input Appreciated!
Old 12-17-2005, 02:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Tim -
My suggestion is to get a good monolight, a softbox, some stands, and - if you afford it - grids, a beauty dish, and white, gold, and possibly silver reflector(s). All this adds up, but also gives you a lot of flexibility.

Getting a set of three lights can give you a lot of capability, but you want to learn how to use the lights to achieve your particular vision, not to knock off lots of main, fill, and hair light "portraits." So I kind of agree with Robert Sanders - get a good light. But I'd go further: hence the above. Way I see it, having the modifiers gives you an opportunity to learn what best lets you achieve the look you want.

Happy Holidays, Tim. My best to Shawna.
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One more vote for da Bee\'s...
Old 12-17-2005, 07:25 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The Alien Bee's offer you a couple of features I don't think any other company has even considered offering.

!. A money back guarantee if you're not happy with the units within I believe 30 days.

2. The ability to upgrade to the next power level. Say you start out with a couple of 400 w-s units and then decide you really needed 800 w-s units. Send them back with roughly the difference in original price and a few bucks more and they'll upgrade the units to the 800 w-s.

3. Fast, friendly service. The people there answer the phone on the first few rings, know what they're talking about, steer you to the good deals, and generally make you feel good about dealing with them. Bless 'em!

The lights aren't the most expensive or encased in steel. They may not have all the bells and whistles others may have. But it won't cost you an arm and a leg to replace a busted flash tube or a cracked case and you'll have the units back in your lifetime.

If you think you have to spend lots of money, the Paul C. Buff division of the same outfit will sell you White Lightning units.

Besides, the Bee's ads are cute, and the bright colors are outrageous...

A dedicated Bee user...

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one of the best in that image
Old 12-17-2005, 07:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Micah.....she certainly was one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever worked with. What memories that image brings up.

If you ever get a chance to say hello to her, please do so.

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Regarding Micah...
Old 12-17-2005, 09:02 PM   #10 (permalink)
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It is my understanding that she found a job she really liked, and put modeling aside. I also seem to remember hearing she may have become pregnant, but I can't remember where or when I heard that. In any event, she was indeed a most beautiful and talented model.

Her home was quite some distance from here, and I haven't heard anything about her in some time. I hope she is happy and well.
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