Photo Lighting Kits...

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by CA Widower, Nov 8, 2004.

  1. CA Widower

    CA Widower Guest

    Does any one here have any recommendations on a good source for information
    on photographic/studio lighting? Any good books/websites? I have been
    googling and can't seem to find what I'm looking for.

    I would like to get a reasonably priced lighting kit for playing around with
    still-lifes and maybe some portraits. I don't know the first thing about
    studio lighting. I don't know a "snoot" from a "barndoor". I don't know if
    these lights are easy to hook-up and use or are they a pain in the a$$
    requiring an engineering degree to figure out. I would like something kind
    of transportable too (not necessarily battery powered).

    Can one get a decent lighting set-up for under $500, that is good enough for
    occasional use?

    Thanks in advance. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    - Harrison
    CA Widower, Nov 8, 2004
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  2. A good book -- Light - Science and Magic : An Introduction to
    Photographic Lighting by Paul Fugua, Fil Hunter.
    Sure, especially in continuous lights. That doesn't get you big
    soft-boxes or anything exotic, but you can get a couple of stands,
    umbrellas, and some hot lights.

    For that matter, you can learn a lot with 100-watt bulbs in clip-on
    reflectors. One of the things you learn is that you need better :)
    David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 9, 2004
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  3. CA Widower

    CA Widower Guest

    Thanks for the book tip! Do you have any recommendations on websites? How
    about low cost set-ups - I want budget, but not junk (i.e. I'd rather spend
    a bit more for decent stuff than get screwed with overpriced crap).

    At there are a bunch of kits in my
    price range, but is Smith Victor a reputable company or junk? I know it's
    not top-of-the-line stuff, but is it worth it for a beginner wanting to

    Thanx again

    - Harrison
    CA Widower, Nov 9, 2004
  4. It's not a book on lighting per se, but I like J.J. Allen's "Posing
    and Lighting Techniques." You may find useful to check out a library
    or Bricks and Mortar bookstore, though.

    Studio lights fall into two general categories, continuous and strobe.
    Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I prefer strobes -- other
    people have equally valid reasons for preferring continuous systems.
    The lights don't require an engineering degree, but sync cords are
    evil incarnate. If you decide on strobes, I strongly recommend a good
    flash meter.
    For $500, you can get one medium quality monolight strobe, stand and
    umbrella (from, plus an inexpensive flash meter. You
    can do a lot with such a setup, especially if you're willing to rig
    reflectors out of inexpensive materials such as foamcore.

    Alternatively, you can get an inexpensive 2 monolight kit. I don't
    recommend this based on personal experience with my Smith Victor kit.
    While the output of my lights is consistent and of good color, several
    components needed replacement on arrival, the stands are flimsy, and
    the modelling lights are hopeless. I've also seen one of the Britek
    kits offered frequently on eBay; it was even worse.

    My Smith Victor Kit came in a 17x32x13 inch wheeled plastic case.
    It's fine for hauling around in a car, but I wouldn't trust it as
    checked in luggage.

    $500 is more than enough for multiple continuous "hot" lights using
    incandescent bulbs. They are called hot lights for a reason -- the
    heat they put out can make your subjects uncomfortable in a very short
    amount of time. It's also sufficient for a single color balanced
    fluorescent light, but when I tried a couple of these I found them
    Michael Benveniste, Nov 9, 2004
  5. CA Widower

    CA Widower Guest

    Alternatively, you can get an inexpensive 2 monolight kit. I don't
    Wow! Thank you for the great advice!

    Now, what do you recommend for a 2 light system for beginners? Who makes
    decent equipment... at a reasonable price?

    Do you have a perfect kit in mind for a portable set-up... what are some of
    the "must-have's" vs. "ought-to-have's"... (i.e. reflectors, umbrellas,


    - Harrison.
    CA Widower, Nov 9, 2004
  6. It sounds like you're asking me what I should have bought. Here goes:
    Must Haves (prices approximate, other brands will vary):
    $560 2 Alienbees B800 monolights with sync and power cords.
    $ 80 2 Stands. (Price for 10').
    $ 60 2 48" Umbrellas (Cheaper if you buy locally).
    $100 1 Flash only light meter.
    $ 15 1 AC outlet tester (U.S. and Canada)
    $ 10 Gaffers tape
    Off-camera shutter Release

    May need, depending on camera model:
    $ 20 1 Nikon AS-15 or equivalent.

    Nice to Haves:
    Transport case
    $225 1 Multipurpose flash meter (replaces flash-only).
    $ 50 1 Wein Safe Sync (replaces AS-15)
    $ 90 1 Nikon SB-30 or equivalent
    $110 1 Softbox with speedring
    $100+ Backdrop stands and materials.
    Barndoors, Snoots, Honeycombs, Reflectors,
    Gels, etc.

    The Alien Bees are Paul Buff's lower priced line, sold
    directly at
    Many strobes, including the Alien Bees, are sensitive to
    incorrectly wired AC sockets. The tester will let you find such
    problems before you start shooting. I use my gear solely in the
    U.S. and Canada -- other countries may require different solutions.
    Gaffers tape is similar to duct tape. It isn't quite as
    strong, but is non-reflective and leaves much less residue. Don't
    leave home without it.
    The price of an off camera shutter release depends on your
    camera. For me, that ranged from $7 (for a Pentax 645) to
    almost $100 (Coolpix 995).
    Tripods and heads come at all prices. For my "location"
    work, I use a Bogen/Manfrotto 3021 legs with either a 3055 or
    3030 head.
    If your camera doesn't have a sync socket, the Nikon AS-15 gives
    you one by mounting on a hot shoe. Whether or not you have a sync
    socket, I recommend using a Wein Safe-Sync instead. Unlike the AS-15,
    the Wein unit protects your camera from too high a discharge voltage
    coming through the sync cord.
    There are myriad transport solutions. You can spend $30 for
    padded light bags and carry the rest of the stuff in a plastic tote.
    (If you live in New England, use a "kahdboo-ud kaht'n.") Or you can
    impress the hell out of people and blow your entire initial budget on a
    custom-fitted transport case. At $175 plus shipping, The Alien Bee
    Location case strikes me as slightly overpriced.
    The Nikon SB-30 is a small hot-shoe mounted flash with a couple
    of nice little features. First, it has a black plastic slide you
    can place over the flash itself. This blocks most of the visible
    light coming out of the unit, but permits most of the IR to pass.
    Since most monolights include a near-IR optical trigger, you can often
    use this setup in lieu of sync cords. Second, it has a built-in
    optical slave itself, so you can use it as a small, additional
    off-camera light. When used with other Nikon system compatible gear,
    it even provides off-camera TTL flash.
    Backdrop supports and materials come in an impossible number
    of variations. On location, I use an SP Systems free standing
    unit consisting of two stands and a single crossbar, plus a muslin
    backdrop. On one occasion I had a roll of seamless paper drop-
    shipped to the site. Naturally, it was the wrong color.
    Modifiers come in a three basic varieties. Just like you
    can place a filter on a camera lens, you can place a filter over
    your light source to change the color and amount of light. Some
    photographers will call any such filter a gel, no matter what it's
    made of.
    The second type diffuses the light to emulate a larger, softer
    source. You can accomplish the same thing by using a reflector,
    bedsheet or even bouncing your flash off of a wall or ceiling.
    In addition to white, umbrellas and reflectors come in a variety
    of different colors which combine diffusion and coloring effects.
    Softboxes fall into this category.
    The third type restricts the light. Barn doors, snoots, and
    honeycombs fall into this category. So does a black reflector,
    aka a gobo.
    Michael Benveniste, Nov 9, 2004
  7. CA Widower

    CA Widower Guest

    WOW! You have given me A LOT to consider! Thank you for the extremely
    helpful information! This is exactly what I was looking for... sounds like
    it's going to cost more than $500!

    - Harrison
    CA Widower, Nov 9, 2004
  8. Wow. I thought the $300 transport case for my ultr-zap heads was a
    pretty good price. I guess it's bigger; it holds 3 heads and
    reflectors and the remote control, and you're talking about only two.

    Oh, and I hadn't realized that the new "alien bees" I keep hearing
    about is another Paul Buff line. I've used his stuff back to the old
    5000 units (a friend owned a set), and it's all worked very well
    David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 9, 2004
  9. A fully capable location kit certainly is. And one with good studio
    flash (with proportional modeling lights, etc.) certainly is.
    Thinking about it, I think I have about $500 in the two cases that my
    location lighting kit travels in.

    My three-head outfit cost me about $2000, and didn't include a softbox
    (just umbrellas). I think it's more powerful than I need, now; I
    could have saved a bit by dropping two of the heads to lower power.

    And I'd really like to add a good softbox and a good boom stand for
    it, but that's around $500 all by itself. (A boom stand to hold a
    *large* softbox is not your bottom-of-the-line boom stand.)

    However, you can easily get two decent hot lights, stands, and
    umbrellas for $500. Now, I *did* once tell a model to mention it if
    she saw the umbrella starting to smoke; but I've never *actually*
    burned anything with the hot lights.

    Tungsten lighting limits what films you can shoot drastically (or
    requires such dark filters over the lens that focusing can be a
    problem). However, digital cameras take tungsten in their stride very
    easily, so one of the disadvantages of hot lights has been
    technologically cleared up for many of us.
    David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 9, 2004
  10. The best advice I can give you is: Before buying any lighting
    equipment, buy and study thoroughly several GOOD books on lighting
    techniques for the areas you are interested in. I would also suggest
    that you buy (and study) a book on "natural lighting techniques" for
    portraits. Those techniques can be adapted to lighting still lifes.

    I define a "good" book on lighting as one that besides discussing
    lighting equipment and lighting techniques, in general, has a "case
    study" approach where different setups with lighting diagrams are
    shown along with the power setting of each light.
    Stefan Patric, Nov 10, 2004
  11. CA Widower

    CA Widower Guest

    Can you recommend one... or two?

    - Harrison
    CA Widower, Nov 10, 2004
  12. CA Widower

    Alan Browne Guest

    I almost agree. The real trick is not the settings of the lights but how
    exactly the metering for the lights individually and as a whole was made. One
    book I have has hundreds of examples "I set this flash to f/8 and this flash to
    f/11 and the lens to f/11 and ..." but never says how the metering was done...
    where, with which lights on/off, etc.

    Without stating how the metering was accomplished, a book of illustrations and
    power settings is pretty useless.

    Alan Browne, Nov 10, 2004
  13. CA Widower

    me Guest

    I have read several (many) books about lighting and all but one was

    Beginner's Guide to Photographic Lighting: Techniques for Success in the
    Studio or on Location
    Author: Don Marr
    ISBN: 1584281332

    Don't let the title fool you this book will tell you everything you need to
    know about flash, metering and light modifiers. You will also need a flash
    meter that can take incident readings, better still would be a flash/ambient
    me, Nov 10, 2004
  14. The $175 alienbees case can hold three lights plus accessories, but
    the site reads: "Note: This case is not recommended for airline
    travel." It's a polyethylene shell, has a couple of lightweight
    locks, but no wheels.

    For $305, Beacon WorldWide offers a slightly larger ATA-rated case,
    complete with foam, wheels, and pull out handle.
    Michael Benveniste, Nov 11, 2004
  15. Looking at the sites, that's the same as the one on, and I'm pretty sure the same as the one I have.
    Either I'm remembering what I paid wrong or (likely, I think) the
    price has dropped.
    I haven't needed to take mine out of town yet; amateur, after all.
    David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 11, 2004
  16. CA Widower

    CA Widower Guest

    I have read several (many) books about lighting and all but one was
    Thank you!!! I have ordered it on Amazon! Thanks for the recommendation.

    - Harrison.
    CA Widower, Nov 11, 2004
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