PDA

View Full Version : Advice required re studio lighting


beardedwombat
27th December 2007, 02:41 PM
A few days before Christmas I learned that the company I work for is to cease trading, thus making me unemployedhttp://www.fourthirds-user.com/forum/images/smilies/frown.gif . For some time I have been considering doing some portrait work to give my income a boost (largely inspired by John - The Music Man, thanks for your advice John) and this has rather brought matters to a head, so to speak. In order to get things moving I need to buy some portable studio lighting and have been looking at this kit which seems very good value: http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ELEMENTAL-ULTR...QQcmdZViewItem (http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ELEMENTAL-ULTRA-STUDIO-2-Portrait-Lighting-Kit-SAVE-90_W0QQitemZ300185420307QQihZ020QQcategoryZ3860QQt cZphotoQQcmdZViewItem). Does anyone have any experience of this company or can you recommend an alternative? Would I be better buying better quality gear secondhand? Bear in mind it needs to be portable so I can lug it to the punters home. I would be very gratefull for any advice anyone can give. (Apologies if you have already read this on FTU)
Cheers
Chris

brob108
27th December 2007, 09:34 PM
Hi Chris

Sorry to hear your bad news, particuarly at this time of year - I wish youall the very best with things.

I don't know this company but it seems like a good offer and they look very reputable. If I was in your shoes and interested in buying the equipment I'd go for it.

I'd also look at wedding photography too.

Good luck with things.

Brian

theMusicMan
27th December 2007, 09:44 PM
Hey Chris

Very sorry to hear of this news mate and glad I may have been of some assistance and have in part inspired you to have a go at portrait work.

I wish you the very best of luck with your venture - ask away if there's anything we can help with.

PeterD
27th December 2007, 10:36 PM
Chris,

I cannot help you with the information you seek but I was sorry to hear about your employment situation. Got to know you a bit whilst we struggling to receive our E3 cameras.

May I wish you well and and success with your new venture. You don't stand still and let things happen. I admire your determination.

Kind Regards

PeterD

beardedwombat
27th December 2007, 11:46 PM
Thank you all for your kind words. I have always been a "cup half full" bloke rather than "cup half empty" so when a door closes I usually find one that might, with a bit of lubrication and a good kick, open for me. This idea may or may not work, but if I don't give it a go I will always wonder - what if I had.......

Getting back to the studio lighting, Stephen on the FTU forum has suggested the Elinchrom D-Lite 2 kit which has had very good reviews. Bit more expensive but better quality all round. I may well go for them.

As well as a bit of advertising, I also intend drop leafleting various areas to drum up business. What I want to know is what sort of area do the majority of potential portrait customers live in? I would assume they would be spread across all "classes" (horrible word) but is that the case? What is the experience of the portrait togs out there? Any advice in this regard would be gratefully received.

Cheers
Chris

beardedwombat
27th December 2007, 11:52 PM
I'd also look at wedding photography too.

Good luck with things.

Brian
Many thanks for the advice, I would hate to spoil someone's big day so I'll wait for a while and gain some experience before tackling weddings but I do realise you can make a fair bit from them.
Cheers
Chris

emirpprime
28th December 2007, 06:07 PM
I recently had a similar choice to you and went for the Elinchrom DLite 4 Kit. I was after a bit more power. I think both are very good kits and the fact that they A both come with softboxes making a significant saving, and B take standard Elinchrom accessories you can pick up second hand very useful.
Do think about what type of set-up you want. If you want to shoot groups/full body inc. background you would probably be better with the DLite 4 heads or even more powerful. At least for ease, and if these will be your only lights. However the DLite2s would be fine for head and shoulders/kids/small family shots etc. Another thing with these lights is te recycle time. The Elinchroms are quite a lot faster that the Elementals. Might be something to consider if you plan to do spontaneous or kids/pets photos. You can also add power packs later if you want to do location shoots. Might be worth considering future needs so that if it goes well and you expand you don't have to start again from scratch.

All the best,
Phil

ps - I like your spirit :)

beardedwombat
28th December 2007, 11:25 PM
I recently had a similar choice to you and went for the Elinchrom DLite 4 Kit. I was after a bit more power. I think both are very good kits and the fact that they A both come with softboxes making a significant saving, and B take standard Elinchrom accessories you can pick up second hand very useful.
Do think about what type of set-up you want. If you want to shoot groups/full body inc. background you would probably be better with the DLite 4 heads or even more powerful. At least for ease, and if these will be your only lights. However the DLite2s would be fine for head and shoulders/kids/small family shots etc. Another thing with these lights is te recycle time. The Elinchroms are quite a lot faster that the Elementals. Might be something to consider if you plan to do spontaneous or kids/pets photos. You can also add power packs later if you want to do location shoots. Might be worth considering future needs so that if it goes well and you expand you don't have to start again from scratch.

All the best,
Phil

ps - I like your spirit :)

Thanks Phil.
I found a D-Lite 2 kit (used once) on Fleabay complete with Elinchrom background stands and support and have taken the plunge. All I need now to start me off are some backgrounds. Are these just muslin or do they need to be a special material? I was thinking of a black and a white and maybe a mottled jobbie, does that sound OK? I thought perhaps I could just buy the material rather than purpose made backdrops. Funds are extremely limited though I intend to hopefully add to the kit as I progress and the power packs would be on the list.
Cheers
Chris

emirpprime
30th December 2007, 09:45 AM
You can use anything as a background :)
Great getting the rail for the background too :) A thin white material is good as it enables you to backlight it for high key effects with little distance between subject and background. The reverse I think is true of darker backgounds, try and get a slightly heavier weight one that is more resistant to light.
Happy playing with your new kit :D
Phil

DerekW
30th December 2007, 10:01 AM
I think a background is more important than a multihead flash kit.

:heresy alert on.

If push comes to whatever, using an on camera flash with a good diffuser eg Lumiquest with the subject a good way in front of the backdrop to get you started. Just allow for the extra reflection from the backdrop by over exposing a stop or so. You could also consider using a reflector to further soften the shadows.

Then you can get your studio flash kit when your business expands.

:heresy alert off.

theMusicMan
30th December 2007, 10:25 AM
Chris - as Phil states, you can use whatever you want as your background, it all depends on the effect you're tying to obtain.

I have purchased some meters of black and white sheet from my local Dunelm Mill shop, together with some leather looking beige material - always popular for that head and shoulders portrait shot.

I have some lighting stands that I use to hold a pole and the wife has sewn a hem into the material so that it falls/drapes without creases. This has served me well, though I will be purchasing some professional (and thus more portable) backdrops sometime soon.

What is absolutely important here, in fact it's critically important in order to get great shots, is that you need to get the lighting right. This will not only allow you to take great shots, but can considerably reduce the time taken in PP. If you want a white background, the muslin sheet you allude to will work, but only if you have lit it a stop or two brighter than your subject AND then ensure that there is no leakage of light from those backdrop lights onto your subject or there will be areas on the subject that are blown out. This is where model lights on the flash units if you have them come in very handy!

Hope this helps... happy shooting...

beardedwombat
30th December 2007, 12:58 PM
Thanks all of you for your advice. I picked up my D-Lite 2s etc yesterday and am delighted with them. They are very easy to set up and use and the background support bar, though light, is substantial so will take a fair weight of material if necessary. I had a quick play yesterday and found that I could happily fire them as slaves with the built-in flash set at 1/64 power so that it barely affects exposure. I was hoping to be able to fire them as slaves using the built-in flash set to R/C mode as the power is reduced even more. The funny thing is that although the slaves fire quite happily with the buit-in flash set to R/C, they either fire before the shutter opens or after it closes - I haven't figured out which yet, as the image is not exposed. I will play around a bit more today and, hopefully sort out a background or two during the week.
Cheers
Chris

theMusicMan
30th December 2007, 01:46 PM
Thanks all of you for your advice. I picked up my D-Lite 2s etc yesterday and am delighted with them. They are very easy to set up and use and the background support bar, though light, is substantial so will take a fair weight of material if necessary. I had a quick play yesterday and found that I could happily fire them as slaves with the built-in flash set at 1/64 power so that it barely affects exposure. I was hoping to be able to fire them as slaves using the built-in flash set to R/C mode as the power is reduced even more. The funny thing is that although the slaves fire quite happily with the buit-in flash set to R/C, they either fire before the shutter opens or after it closes - I haven't figured out which yet, as the image is not exposed. I will play around a bit more today and, hopefully sort out a background or two during the week.
Cheers
ChrisOK, this might be a daft question but I ave to ask regardless just in case Chris.

Do you have the E-3 set up in full manual mode with the shutter speed at 1/160 or 1/180...? This is the 'flash sync' speed of the camera IIRC though it can also go up to 1/250th I think.

So... was the shutter speed set correctly?

beardedwombat
30th December 2007, 05:27 PM
OK, this might be a daft question but I ave to ask regardless just in case Chris.

Do you have the E-3 set up in full manual mode with the shutter speed at 1/160 or 1/180...? This is the 'flash sync' speed of the camera IIRC though it can also go up to 1/250th I think.

So... was the shutter speed set correctly?
I've been using 1/250th trying to keep the aperture as wide as poss, in manual mode. Been using the supplied sync lead as I've found using the built-in flash at low power with the lights as slaves means you end up with two catchlights. Will have to get an infra red remote jobbie. I have also ordered a reflector - I was using one of the two softboxes as a makeshift reflector today to see the difference between a fill light and a reflector. Here's one of my long suffering other half, Polly. Background was an old white curtain. Image is straight from camera apart from cropping. Sorry about the top of the chair showing. Any comments gratefully received.
http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/516/Polly.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/1719)
Cheers
Chris

theMusicMan
30th December 2007, 06:45 PM
So what exactly is the layout of your flash units...? I see two catchlight reflections in your wifes eyes. Where are your flashes?

You have done a great job on overexposing the background - which is indeed nice and white, but the image itself seems a little flat in tone. It's all about lighting and where you position the keylights etc. Any chance you can let us know the setup... a diagram/sketch maybe?

beardedwombat
30th December 2007, 08:47 PM
So what exactly is the layout of your flash units...? I see two catchlight reflections in your wifes eyes. Where are your flashes?

You have done a great job on overexposing the background - which is indeed nice and white, but the image itself seems a little flat in tone. It's all about lighting and where you position the keylights etc. Any chance you can let us know the setup... a diagram/sketch maybe?
There are two catchlights because I was using the built-in flash at low power with the studio lights as slaves which I won't do again. The D-lite 2s come with one large softbox and one small softbox. For this shot I had the large softbox on her right (my left) slightly higher and at about 30 degrees in front of her, the smaller softbox was to her left (my right) about 30degrees behind her and a fair bit higher angled down. The background was lit by the FL-50R from beneath the chair she was sitting on. The image seems correctly exposed but, as you say, is a little flat. I would probably increase contrast PP to give it a little more bite if I wanted it as a keeper. It may have been better to bring the main light forward to about 45 degrees in front with either slightly less power or moved further away and possibly a little lower. It is surprising the difference just a small adjustment makes. There is a lot to learn but I find it fascinating.
Cheers
Chris

theMusicMan
30th December 2007, 09:56 PM
http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/516/Polly.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/1719)
Cheers
Chris

Hi Chris

I think the flash to your wifes right (camera left) needs to be brought towards the camera somewhat as where it is currently positioned there are some shadows covering your wifes right eye, and the left hand side of her face is a little dark too.

Hope you don't think I am being pompous by suggesting to try this...

Leave the FL50R as is lighting up the background as this seems to be doing its job very well.

Use the D-Lite large softbox positioned on camera left (model right), but bring it a little further away from your wife, position it at 45deg and facing her.

Use the D-Lite small softbox at 1/2 or even 1/4 (or maybe even 1/8th) power to the right and only slightly in front of your wife - which will provide some nice soft backlight for her hair on the left, and will also add a 3D element to the image. You may have to experiment moving this flash in or out - as well as amending the power levels - but I assume this is OK as you said you love experimenting...:)

If you have a meter, fire all flashes and take a reading from your wifes face - then move the keylight back or forward accordingly to get around f11 to f16 which will give more than adequate depth of field.

Let me know if I have it right or if it creates a mess...:):)