Needed: Advice for Simple Studio Setup at Home

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Larry R Harrison Jr, Jul 17, 2003.

  1. I do photography as a hobby sometimes; I am definitely not a pro, or
    even an amateur really. What I am wanting to do is to make a crude yet
    decent "studio" in a spare bedroom for taking photographs of my wife,
    son, friends etc which surpass the "snapshot" quality I typically get
    indoors using conventional means.

    I have a Nikon N65. I know you'd typically use 50-80 mm type of lens,
    and that's covered. I don't have any external flashes and obviously
    the built-in flash would be grossly insufficient for studio-type
    photos. I figure the thing to do is buy the SB50-DX and set it up in
    an umbrella stand. Moreover, I'm figuring that since a single-flash
    setup causes shadows which have to be filled, the thing to do likely
    would be to have two SB50-DXs--one from the left-side angling its
    light towards the right, and one on the right-side angling its light
    towards the left, so the two effectively cancel each other out.

    One website which gave good tips is this one: They elaborate on
    the use of a single flash reflecting with an umbrella mounted to a
    tripod while hand-holding the camera, using a reflector (made of
    aluminum foil on cardboard if need be) for the other side to fill in

    A few things. How do the ideas of that website sound? Also, wouldn't
    using 2 flashes--while more expensive--undoubtedly be better? If so,
    how would one calculate the effective power and proper aperture? As
    the Nikon N65 is a Matrix TTL flash as opposed to "classic auto flash"
    situation, it should be easy--just use an average aperture like f/8
    (assuming ISO 100) and you'll be fine. But how would one perform
    calculations to get a ballpark idea of what caliber of power is being
    output? (Such tips would help if I were to, say, use a couple of
    Vivitar 283s in "classic auto" mode.) And if I use two SB50-DXs, how
    would one hook 'em up? I know Nikon has an off-camera sync cord, but
    how would one hook up and synchronize TWO flashes like this?

    (I prefer direct explanations, but website recommendations are welcome

    Larry R Harrison Jr, Jul 17, 2003
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  2. I do photography as a hobby, as well. I have considered getting
    special equipment to help me join the "set-up portrait" crowd,
    and not once, mind you. However, every time something holds me
    back (can be different thing every time), and I keep pushing the
    decision (and completing the shopping list) into the future.

    Considering that, let me ask you a question: why? Are casual
    photographs, portraits, even, done in a normal environment (they
    are more known as "environmental portraits") not satisfactory
    for you? I specifically do not mean "snapshots", although that
    term is rather murky. Of course, making a good studio portrait
    is a craft worth mastering, no doubt. It could be the reason
    all by itself, of course.

    It's just that I find that I have very little time to shoot even
    without setting up the lighting and worrying about the muslin
    backdrop. I guess time (or absence thereof) has always been the
    main obstacle for me, and that's why I try to enjoy (and master,
    to the humble extents of my abilities) the regular, "natural",
    photography first...

    Thank you in advance for comments.

    Victor Bazarov, Jul 17, 2003
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  3. Larry R Harrison Jr

    Jeremy Guest

    x-no-archive: yes

    Flash can be tricky. Have you thought about using photoflood bulbs instead?
    With a good handheld lightmeter, you can achieve really professional results
    with just 3 lights.

    Don't forget about backgrounds. You;ll need several if you don't want
    everything looking the same.

    Unless you really commit the time and money to do this right, you may find
    that you could have gotten better--and cheaper--results by going to your
    local Sears Portrait Studio . . .

    One area where you can really produce outstanding results is in making
    OUTDOOR portraits. Use a good portrait lens, with large aperture, to get
    the background out of focus, and use the sun and sky as your lighting
    source. A portrait lens, sun shade, tripod and cable release will put you
    right in business. Get a lens with excellent bokeh, and find a first-rate
    lab to make the prints.

    Trouble with 35mm formal studio portraits is that the small neg size really
    does not lens itself to big enlargements, as well as a larger format would.
    Once you go much beyond 8x10, the limitations of the small format begin to
    show up. I once toyed with the idea of setting up a home studio--and I
    eventually discarded it.

    I'm not saying that you can't achieve good results at home--but you may find
    that the time and expense of setting up an adequate studio could be better
    spent on some other aspect of photography, like outdoor portraits. All of
    the amateur formal portraits I've seen have looked like they were made by an
    amateur. That's pretty bad, considering that Sears can do a better job . .
    Jeremy, Jul 17, 2003
  4. Larry R Harrison Jr

    Matt Clara Guest

    Check this link out:

    Consider that you want the second flash to be dimmer than the first so you
    get a sense of shape and contour. Sometimes holding a large white piece of
    cardboard on the off flash side of the subject will suffice to bounce light
    back into the shadow side.

    Take a look at, too. All you would need for a small
    studio would be the B400.

    Hunter and Fuqua's _Light: Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic
    Lighting_ is the best place to start.

    Have fun!
    Matt Clara, Jul 17, 2003
  5. Larry R Harrison Jr

    Igor Guest

    What I am wanting to do is to make a crude yet

    Look, studio photography is... well, no - CAN BE great. But I'll pick
    an outdoor or an enviromental portrait over that anytime. We live in a
    beautiful world (believe me, since this is coming from a NJ resident)
    - take advantage of that. There's A LOT that could be achieved with a
    flash, a home made reflector and a polarizer on a bright sunny day, or
    B&W film on an overcast day or foggy morning. I would try to learn
    that first - it's a lot cheaper and you may like the results better
    then the most professional studio portrait. You can learn to use
    natural light, rather then just be in it and it's FREE! Why limit
    yourself to backdrops, walls and phony props? There's so much outside
    your house...

    Anyway, that's just my opinion, whatever you decide - good luck!

    Igor, Jul 17, 2003
  6. Larry R Harrison Jr

    Oscar Levant Guest

    Both can be equally exciting, it is all a matter of taste, and there are no
    buts, in my view.

    We live in a

    Why limit

    A traditional studio portrait is not phony, and is not supposed to look
    natural, not any more than a painting of a person is phony and is supposed
    to look natural; that why it is called a portrait. My view is that a
    portrait is an artistic and idealistic representation of the person, shot in
    the most flattering way possible, and the photos are usually retouched such
    that it becomes a "portrait".

    One style is not better than the other. I only object when someone implies
    that one is better than the other by using such buzz words as "natural
    lighting", as well as condescending phrases such as "phony props". It could
    be argued that your clothes are unnatural phony props, as well.

    The trouble with the sun is that you cannot bend it to your will, you have
    to adjust to it. It is more of a challenge, and it may be more interesting
    for that reason alone, but it is not necessarily better or worse for

    Patrick L.
    Oscar Levant, Jul 18, 2003
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