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Paul

thinking of adding some lights to my arsenol. Need thoughts.

11 posts in this topic

After playing around a some lights and flash's at our last camera club meeting I am thinking of maybe getting some entry level stuff. Any suggestions? I would maybe be looking for straight always on light and a flash that is either radio controlled or light sensing.

I know many of you have these things or experience with them, so let's here you takes.

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I guess my first question is how will you use them? Are you looking for studio lights? Are you looking for lighting on location? What are you trying to light? Portability, ability to travel? Wireless or wired? And most importantly what is your budget? Hot lights (Always on) are not used much these days unless in the movie business. Strobes are much cheaper and more efficient and many come with modeling lights if you need to set exposure.

I have a small 3 light setup that is very efficient that studio photographers would consider entry level. It works well for me but ran in the vicinity of $2500 to $3000. Most of that is not cost of lights, its all the stuff to make them produce and modify light.

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All that that Dan said. I have three lighting set ups. One that is permanent that stays in the studio (up to four lights) one that is portable with up to three lights and one that is REALLY portable that uses 2 Canon on camera flash units. I really like wireless, though that's going to touch the budget a bit. My studio lights are Novatron, which are on the lower end of pricing scales, but they've worked very well for me.

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I started out with some cheap worklights and had nothing but problems because the color temp was different with each of the lights. I then went with a Vivitar 283 flash. It's older but I got in on auction for pretty cheap. I then added the SB800 and controlled both of those with the "Cactus" triggers from e bay. They are cheap and work well enough for me at this point. My most recent addition is the Alien Bee AB400 which is really awesome! I also control that with the wireless trigger. I was lucky enough to get 2 36"x48" softboxes from a photographers garage sale for $30 ea. The modifiers (softboxes, umbrellas, grids, etc) are the big money eaters. I don't have a lot now but I have a bunch of things I's like to add at some point.

The advice I gave a friend a couple weeks ago is to buy a couple Vivitars,the Cactus triggers, some light stands and umbrellas online and you'll be set. You should be able to get started for a couple hundo. It's going to be the best for everything but It will get you started. that's just my 2 cents worth.

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Edit, I added another light today so correct my first post! You really need to see how you will use the lights before you spend money. I would caution you against going the "cheap" route only to have equipment issues and find out what you spent a few hundred on equipment no longer fits your needs. You could have spent the same amount on a basic quality light, triggers, stands, etc and built up from there and had room to grow.

If you are going the flash route I would recommend using at least one flash with ETTL capabilities. Manual flash is great for set shots and distances but it isn't worth a darn if you are moving around (weddings, events), shooting outdoors (HSS and fill) or looking for quick shots. You will fast be frustrated with your results if you limit yourself to manual only.

I am not a fan of the e bay triggers, but know folks that use them as Mike indicates above. A wired system will work well in most cases and can save a ton of your money! I own four Pocket Wizards but the new Cybersync's, Radio Poppers, and new model PW's are excellent choices if you are looking wireless. You can buy a couple of Cybersync's for the price of one PW. I need the range and reliability that the PW's have so I invested in them. Even the new triggers PW came out with are backward compatible.

If you could give us an idea what you are trying to do there could be more specific recommendations. If you are just looking for studio or static use Mike's recommendation might work for you. If you are looking for more versatility IMHO there are better options.

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I would mostly just be using them for semi studio work, and fill flash. I have been contacted about doing a series of shots for our local dog obediance school who wishes to have new shots taken of all their trainers in exchange for purchasing some of my needed equipment such as a muslin for backdrops and portion of lighting. I own sevveral large shop type lights and have access to some par can lighting of different sizes so I think I have the always on aspect taken care off. I will use some par can lights hitting a home-made reflector made from Tin foil and such, but having a strobe will make things eaiser so mostly for now looking to add a strobe with remote trigger possibilities.

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That helps some Paul. First I would not consider using the shop lights. As Mike stated above you will not have any sort of control over the temp of the lights so you will have a ton of White Balance issues. I honestly don't know what a par can light is? I know you have mentioned in the past you had access to movie lighting?

You generally do not want to use tin foil for portrait work. It will give you specular hot spots and harsh lighting that you have virtually no control over. If you are looking for a homemade reflector you are much better off with a piece of white foam core. That provides you with a nice even soft and controllable light. Lighting work in general is about shaping the light and being able to control it to your subjects advantage. Some of the most effective portraits you will have a hard time knowing if you used any lighting.

There have been many beautiful portraits taken with one light. I would do some research on one light portraits. With that in mind I would invest in a single TTL flash, a 430 or 580. TTL will help you considerably when starting with light and you now have something you can effectively use indoors and out in most any situation. If you wanted a studio type strobe look at adding an Alien Bee 800. Its not all that much more than a 400 and you will now have a strobe that has enough power to also be used effectively outdoors as well. Indoors you can trigger that light with the built in optical slave. Another words fire your flash from the camera and the Bee will fire when it sees the flash go off. This works great indoors where you don't have bright sunlight hitting it and tripping the light.

A simple shoot through, combination reflective umbrella to help modify your light from the strobe or the flash and a stand to hold it and you should be able to accomplish what you want here.

A single flash mounted on a bracket with a diffuser will take very nicely lit portraits. Wedding and studio shooters have been using this setup for years. Learn to control your light, both natural and flash and you can produce very nice portraits. Hope that helps some.

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Dan's absolutely right. I have seen a lot of portrait work (and good work, too) done with one light and a reflector - foam core. Great info, Dan!

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Great suggestions, Dan. I agree with all of it. In my studio work that I've been doing, I only use one light plus a reflector for the subject. If I use the flashes I'll use them on the background but that's not always necessary.

I will reiterate what I said before, you do not want to start messing with shop lights and strobes. You will not be able to fix the color balance issues in Photoshop. You are only asking for lots of trouble.

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Ok Done some research on the Alien Bee 800, and have question for you DBL. I see that this light is flash reactive so my one camera 430 will fire it, but do they make a wireless switch setup for this? Like a wireless hot shoe transmitter to AB 800 receiver? Can't find any info on this type of set up anyware. then again I don't really now what I am looking for. LOL. And what type of Umbrella would you recomend using or do you using it straight?

And BTW this is a par can par can can set up with a dimmer pack to change lighting amount.

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Paul, on the back of the bee are two ports. One looks like a phone chord jack, this will allow the Cybersyncs to plug in and remotely control your light. The other is a mono 1/8 connector plug for a sync cord.

This sync cord connects your camera to the strobe, so that when you press your camera’s shutter to take a picture, the flash unit will fire simultaneously. The mini plug on

one end of this cord will plug in to the Sync Jack on the back panel of the unit, and the other end of the cord will connect to your camera with its PC-sync

connection or hot shoe adapter. You are correct the 430 firing will trip the optical slave up to 50' away. But anytime you plug into the back of the strobe with the mono plug you disable the optical slave. What I do indoors is put a Pocket Wizard on one strobe to fire the others optically. Outdoors the sunlight will cause the optical to trip on its own so I run a PW on each strobe. They plug into the back sync port which now disables the optical slave.

I also have a y-adapter which I can plug into the back of one unit to hardwire to another strobe and still plug in the PW or cable direct to the camera. This way you can get by with either no remotes or just two remotes (one on camera, one on strobe, hardwire for other strobes in system).

The remotes are numerous for firing these. The Alien Bee site has Cybersync remotes. These are designed to work with the Bee's but you need seperate transmitters and receivers. Pocket Wizards only require one unit because it acts as a transmitter/receiver but at three times the cost. There are also some eeck bay knock-offs that Mike M mentioned. These are a couple of the players for the remote market.

For an umbrella I like the Bowen's 45" with a white interior surface backed by a removable silver fabric with a black exterior. This gives you a lot of flexibility to either shoot-through or bounce your strobe with the silver reflective surface. One thing about umbrellas is the light spill. They can be difficult to control the light that spills off the edges. A Brolly is another good option. This is basically an umbrella with an enclosed back that controls spill indoors and allows you to use it outdoors more successfully in any sort of wind.

On a side note I just blew up a flash capacitor on one of my AB800's the other night. A loud pop, big puff of smoke and oil dripping out of the unit. Its been a tough month for equipment for me, the light, and my 50D had to have one of its main boards replaced. Thank goodness all of it has been warranty work but the shipping costs are doing me in!

Hope that answers some of your questions.

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