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Starting studio lighting question
Old 06-21-2003, 07:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I am ready and take the plunge and get into studio lighting. With my budget I could get one White Lighting X1600 or a pair of Alien Bees B800s. My thought is that as a student, I would be better off with the X1600, a pair of reflectors, and heavy duty stands. This would force me to be creative with how I use light. The X1600 seems to be much more flexible light than the ABs also, and later I could always add a second.

On the other hand a second light for fill, hair or rim could come in handy.

I would deeply appreciate the experience of those who have gone before me.

Regards,

Edward
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Re: Starting studio lighting question
Old 06-21-2003, 08:27 PM   #2 (permalink)
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First - I may not be the LEAST qualified person to answer this, but I'm probably in the lower 10% of the general GG participents, if ranked by photographic skill, as evidenced by glamour work post.

I have some modest experience, having shot a lot of 35 mm b/w, mostly all natural light, in another life, and having shot for some time with one, two and occasionally three hot lights, followed by about a years' modest experience (i.e., a couple of hundred rolls, tops) with two WL5000.

In my opinion (caveat - reread above, and see below), you need to decide what you're trying to do with your photography. If - like me - it's one of several hobbies, and you're trying to express yourself creatively, I think the two Alien Bees will serve you well enough. You can, if you've the discipline, use only one and force yourself to learn the most about how to control the light - but I'd recommend getting Scott Smith's lighting book to aid you in your quest. (no URL - search his name and lighting on Yahoo or Google.) The ABs may not have the control, precision, and range of accessories to satisfy a professional's need to get exactly thr result expected first time, each time, but I have no doubt they're more than enough to keep a creative amateur fueled. And you can add additional Bees at a more reasonable cost.

On the other hand, if this is your single obsession, or you intend to earn your livelihood, or a substanstial portion of it in this fashion, then get the best tools you can.

OK, now for some experience. I shoot mostly in makeshift studios - i.e., various living spaces modified for the occasion. Never more than 20 x 20 with 9 ft ceilings, usually about 10 x 15 with 8 ft. When I was using film, I rarely used faster than 100 ASA (er, ISO - sorry, the mind's going). The WL 5000 was more than enough - indeed, usually I was using less than full power. Of course, that was with a white shoot-through or a white or silver reflection umbrella, no softbox or panels. I was rarely shooting more than one person, and only occasionally full-length.

Having two lights has been handy - I can use a directional main and a diffuse fill pretty easily - or the reverse, or two directional lights. OK, so I'm missing some learning I suppose, because I'm not forced to use only a single source and multiple reflectors.

Good luck - best wishes
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Re: Starting studio lighting question
Old 06-21-2003, 08:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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go with two alien bees...its always good to have a back up...the Bees are great lights from what I have seen...
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Re: Starting studio lighting question
Old 06-21-2003, 09:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I think you should go with the 2 lights vice the one. You will need to be
creative with just 2 lights and 4 or 5 would be better. I have talked to
several local photographers that have the Alien Bees and they like them
a lot. Yes good tools are important, but you are going to be very limited with just one light and the Alien Bees are made by the same people as the other light
I understand. The below image was done with 3 lights. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
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Re: Starting studio lighting question
Old 06-21-2003, 10:03 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Get the 2 Alien Bees, you will be better off in the long run. And if you can get some light modifiers to play with. Don't buy the gells that Paul C Buff sells though, they are cheaper to go to a music store where bands buy stage equipment.

AND, the stands that these guys sell are usually Bogen stands that you can get from B&H for about $20 less.

A set of grid spots and barn doors are great to have around, make a snoot with some toilet paper roll centers and have some fun.

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Read Jford\'s post carefully...
Old 06-21-2003, 10:15 PM   #6 (permalink)
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There's a ton of good info in there. I know the natural instinct is "the more the better", but consider my humble situation. I currently have a pair of Photogenic Studio Max IIs, 320ws each. When firing into a Mono Halo 42", at a light-to-subject distance of about 8ft, 1/4 power gives me f8 @ ISO 100! Truth is, huge power is only needed for powerpack and head setups, where you're splitting up the power - or for slow film/extreme DOF.

The beauty of the ABs is that you can bump up the power for an upgrade fee - you need not replace the light completely. I don't know whether you're shooting digital or film, or what your space requirements are, but having too much power is a royal pain at times. What if you're on location, need to limit DOF, but you can't move the light back further? Something to think about. Remember, in a pinch, you can move the lights closer, 'cuz they'll only get more flattering....but further back and they get harsher.

The only thing you gain with the WL series over the ABs is 3 yrs more warranty. Judging from the number of photogs who buy their studio strobes off ebay, warranty isn't the problem - getting the right lights for your situation is. Me? I'd buy 1 800 and 1 400, and see what the real-world f-stops come in at. If nothing else, that 400 will make a dandy hair light or kicker, or upgrade it. Either way, you're checking it out 1st.

My 2¢ worth...



Model: Kelly Turner
MUA: Gayle Elizabeth
Shot with Fuji S2, Nikkor 50mm 1.8D, Wal-Mart Black Scarf at f/4

David
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Re: Starting studio lighting question
Old 06-22-2003, 12:09 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I am not going to speak to the brands you are suggesting. What I will speak to is the need to buy a system, rather than a set of lights for the "time being". Your purchase should keep in mind that as a new professional photographer you will be expanding your clientele and subsequently your work load. You need to purchase lighting systems that you can expand with your business. If you purchase lights that are not suitable for an unpredicatable and expanding professional workload you will be wasting money. PURCHASE the lighting system that you and your business won't quickly outgrow. Take a look at the introductory level systems like PROFOTO, COMETS, BALCARS, BRONCOLOR, SPEEDOTRON, ELINCHRON etc. I think in the long run it will be a better purchase.
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Exactly!!
Old 06-22-2003, 01:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Expandability is the key! I bought way too many lights when I started out years ago but I bought a system that was expandable and I haven't had to change anything along the way. I've been able to add as I needed.

Buy the best you can afford and make sure it is from an expandable and reputable line of lights. What brand? Take your pick. Dynalite, Speedotron, White Lightning, etc., but pick a good one. Do your homework and then make a wise buying decision! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif[/img]

Good day sir!

Mike

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Re: Starting studio lighting question
Old 06-22-2003, 09:31 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The two alien bees seems like the better deal to me. In the beginning, just use both of them bounced into one umbrella and that way you can learn all about using "one" light. These lights are really nice and you can also pick up the remote to control them from your camera position.
Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Starting studio lighting question
Old 06-23-2003, 02:06 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Would HIGHLY recommend either the Photogenic Powerlights or Speedotron. Both have beautiful light quality. (different light manufacturers have sometimes very noticible differences in light quality so rent a few different systems before you decide which to buy) One good thing about Speedotron is you can rent the stuff anywhere if you need to expand your system for a shoot.

Just to make things even more difficult for your decision you might also look into hot lights from Lowel and Arri. There are pros and cons to either system.

Good luck.

Bob
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