cheap "studio" lighting

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by sheepdog 2007, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. Once upon a time I had a real studio in a Gloucester (MA) storefront.
    Small fortune invested in lighting, backdrops, etc. Another small
    fortune invested in darkroom. Now I do this stuff for fun, on a budget.
    I've been experimenting with low-cost multi-flash setups, since I don't
    like to buy large strobes or hot lights that I won't be getting paid to
    use. I have been following time-tested "rules" when it comes to bounce,
    reflectors, diffusers, etc. Since going digital I've been ignoring what
    used to be a pretty firm "no-no" for color photos, namely the mixing of
    daylight, incandescent light and flash.

    The "creamy" light I've been seeking for portraits turns out to be
    pretty simple, and pretty cheap.

    Let me know what you think about this setup (link in sig). It's
    Nikon-centric, but could be created easily with any SLR.

    The room has ivory and beige paint, which I use to full effect in
    getting the tones I'm after.

    I'd love to post portraits I'm shooting with this setup but as long as
    there are malicious freaks on the internet, a vase of flowers will have
    to do. It shouldn't take much imagination to see that the vase (or the
    water drops) shows what eyes look like, while the petals show how skin
    is reproduced. I shoot RAW with minimum in-camera sharpening. My
    conversion software gives me a 16 bit TIFF which I work on in PS as a
    LAB color document. Some of the sharpness, WB, and contrast tweaking
    is done during the conversion from camera RAW to 16#TIFF; I use
    adjustment layers for the rest of the post-processing.
    sheepdog 2007, Oct 17, 2007
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  2. sheepdog 2007

    Bruce Guest


    I was interested to see your flash setup. I have a D80,SB600,an old SB20
    plus a small white brolley reflector that I've been experimenting with.

    I've been trying to setup a small studio in my garage (no natural light) any

    Bruce, Oct 19, 2007
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    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Oct 19, 2007
  4. sheepdog 2007

    Mr. Strat Guest

    I've kept my Photogenic Flashmasters and Soffboxes just in case I need
    professional quality lighting in the future. I've got an old Quantum
    radio slave to isolate the high trigger voltage.
    Mr. Strat, Oct 19, 2007
  5. multi-purpose? specializing in macro? portraits?
    sheepdog 2007, Oct 19, 2007
  6. sheepdog 2007

    Bruce Guest


    It would be mainly for potraits.

    Bruce, Oct 19, 2007
  7. The reason I asked is that there is a lot of the same psychology in
    planning a good portrait studio and hosting a good party. If you're
    shooting products or 1:1 repro, the main issues are technical ones. In
    shooting people, you still have to solve technical puzzles, but you
    also want to put your subject(s) at ease.

    Comfortable seating, interesting backgrounds and props, thoughtful
    refreshments--all pay big dividends.

    Now to lighting. You said you have no daylight--not a big problem. You
    can create a faux window set, among other things, with a little
    imagination. Will you go with hot lights or strobes?

    I had a collection of Alien Bees equipment I liked a lot, but rather
    than promoting specific brands I'd suggest thinking in terms of three
    (1) mood lighting is a cousin of available light. This will require
    more technique in camera handling than anything else. lots of practice
    in how to stroke the shutter release and keep steady through the entire
    exposure, plus plenty of practice with good metering technique are key.
    (2) low key is slightly different. You want to create the look of mood
    lighting, yet you will use all the tools at your disposal, including a
    ton of notes to develop a database. Document everything in practice
    sessions so you're not covering the same ground over and over. I like
    warm tones in portraits, but that's a matter of personal preference.
    Some will tell you to include a gray card in every shot (not a bad
    idea, BTW!) but don't get too hung up on absolute white balance. If
    you're mixing several color temperatures of light, you'll drive
    yourself nuts if you worry about "the Rules." This is art, not science.
    I would, however, stay away from fluorescents, with one exception (more
    on that later).
    (3) high key is great for model portfolios and kid pictures. Here's
    where you can benefit from the Big Studios and the hundreds of websites
    promoting time-tested systems and techniques. When they talk about key
    light-fill light-backlight-hair spot, don't go out and buy everything
    to replicate what a pro studio does. Instead, think about what you read
    to digest the *principles*, then adapt-modify-experiment to find what
    works for you. remember I said I made a faux window set? I had eight,
    4-foot "Grow Light" fluorescent tubes, and six (that's right!) curtain
    rods so I could put layers of cheap curtains of various hues and
    combinations in front of them. What a wealth of possibilities I had at
    my fingertips for under a hundred bucks!

    You will probably want to start with three-light setups for portraits
    of a single subject.

    Consider building a 24" diameter fixture similar to the ring of lights
    surrounding a make-up mirror; shooting through that can give you some
    great results. Such a ring light combines key and fill, and you don't
    always place your lens in the exact center.

    Don't be afraid of incandescent light, especially those pink and warm
    white variants.

    I guess that's enough for now.
    sheepdog 2007, Oct 19, 2007
  8. sheepdog 2007

    D_Mac Guest

    You might try eBay... Some of the Honkie sellers have optical slaves
    with stands and brollies for surprisingly small prices. The one I
    bought for use in offices has a shoe for a speedlite or the mains
    voltage (GN32) flash. They aren't heavy duty stuff but if your use is
    casual, they make a cheap studio setup.
    D_Mac, Oct 20, 2007
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