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Photography Classes and Workshops - All Levels Message Board › Equipment - Lighting FAQs

Equipment - Lighting FAQs

Jeffery L.
user 3795604
Group Organizer
Felton, CA
Post #: 91
Here's a few Frequently Asked Questions about lighting equipment:

Q- Do I need lighting equipment to take good portraits?
A- It depends upon the style of portraiture. I use studio strobes, but I also use natural light. You can use natural or ambient light to get great shots as long as you know what kind of like will work and how to control it. Just moving your subject out of the bright sun will make a big difference. See some of the lessons and student work on this site under the PHOTOS link for ideas.

Q- What styles of portraiture require lights?
A- If you want to produce consistently well-lit shots you need a consistent light source. Daylight is always changing, so you must change with it. This isn’t a problem once you become familiar with your locations and when they work for you, but artificial lights are more dependable. So if you’re doing formal portraits or pictures of children indoors, you’ll get better results with a strobe (flash) system.

Q- What type of lights should I get? Tungsten, Fluorescent, Strobe…?
A- I recommend getting strobe lights for portraits, especially if you’re taking shots of kids! You need a light source that can freeze the action and strobes do that better than any other system.

Q- What system do you recommend?
A- That’s a budget issue. Here’s two ways to go based upon cost:
Budget: $150. or less : There are several strobe heads that cost around $60. I recommend getting two of those, two stands, one umbrella and a snoot. The snoot is a tube that helps to narrow the beam of the light and make it better for RIM or HAIR light purposes. If the kit does not come with a snoot, you can make one. Sources: Ebay: Seller e-gouldmountain Item number: 350156945360 (This listing was from Jan 25, 2009)

Budget: $150-$350: At this price range you can get a very complete kit with three lights lots of accessories and a case to carry or store the whole set. The deal I think is the best is from an ebay seller in San Jose: Photo1818 Item number 290204452462. This kit has tons of stuff for $305. (This listing was from Jan 25, 2009)

Q- The systems you recommend are low powered systems. I saw you using a 600 watt second strobe in class. The systems you recommend have 100 or 150 watt second heads. Will I outgrow a low powered system?
A- Not really. I still use the low powered systems for portraits. In fact the lower power units are easier to use inside your house. They seem to have just the right amount of power for a medium sized living room. I carry the more powerful units because I often shoot in big auditoriums.

Q- I’ve visited the website, www.strobist.com , that you recommended and he never uses plug-in strobes. He only uses battery-operated flash units. Is that a better way to go?
A- I prefer plug-in units if you’re shooting in a location that has AC power. The modeling light makes it so much easier to see what you’re going to get. I really like what the Stobist manages to get done with little battery flash units, but it requires a lot of skill and testing. I’ve studied his methods on his DVD and he has good ideas. I developed and used many of those same methods when I was shooting around the world for various newspapers and magazines. Those techniques take time to develop. Make life easy on yourself, use a plug-in strobe with a modeling light!

Q- Will you be having some classes that show students how to use strobes like the ones in the kits you’ve recommended?
A- Yes. Beginning with Portraiture Level Two, we start shooting with strobe and tungsten lighting. After 4 hours of instruction you’ll get the skills you need to shoot consistently good portraits with your lights.



Chris
user 3021606
Santa Cruz, CA
Post #: 3
Hey Jeff,

I was taking another look at your bare-bulb diagram. A couple questions - if you didn't change the output of the strobes from shot to shot, how did you achieve even exposures on subjects close to the strobe and 5 times farther? Were the bulbs were aimed at the ceiling, so only a small portion of the light was going directly to the subject?

Also, I'm guessing the lights were on stands rather than suspended from the ceiling. In a big room you'd probably need a light in the middle, but then, a light and stand sitting in the middle of the room is probably not practical most of the time. How big a room could you light evenly if you're restricted to lights on stands at the edges?

Thanks Jeff,
Chris
Jeffery L.
user 3795604
Group Organizer
Felton, CA
Post #: 109
Chris,

Sorry for such a late reply on this subject. I didn't get an email about it and I was just browsing when I saw your posting.

I do not change the output of the bare strobes as I shoot. If I use two in opposite corners of the room, which is most common for me, I have them both turned up to full power. When I'm shooting the dead center of the room, the subject gets totally equal light, which is fine but not exciting. As I move closer to one light and further from the other I get a defined ratio, but the total number of foot candles on the subject remains the same. The physics just work out that way.

So sometimes I'm getting a 1:1, 1:2, 1;3, 1:4 etc. When things get more contrasty that 1:4 it can be too dramatic for the split pattern, but it works for all the other patterns. Furthermore, the background lighting remains constant, so no matter the ratio or pattern on the subject, the backgrounds always look great.

This lighting set up looks like natural (ambient) light in almost all shots. The exception is when you get a strobe in the shot, which does happen from time to time because you end up grabbing a bit of action before you can compose. No big deal. I always take a shot of the ceiling from each corner of the room WITHOUT THE STROBES when I first arrive so I can strip that image into a bad shot when needed.

Lastly, you asked about the size of a room. I've used this technique in rooms as large as 60x80. The larger the room, the more contrast you'll get when you shoot in the corners. With a rally big room I'd suggest hanging a third strobe from the center of the ceiling (which I do in big ballrooms) or using your on-camera flash for fill lighting. My Nikon flash will fire on manual from 1/64 to 1/1 power and has an output for a pocket wizard. Best of all worlds.

Hope this helps.

Jeffery Luhn


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