1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

Help me create a "portable studio"

Discussion in 'Studio Equipment and Lighting' started by Uncle Frank, May 2, 2007.

  1. I don't have a studio, or even room for one at home. But that's OK, as I prefer environmental portraits, or using my 85/1.4 to dissolve busy backgrounds into cream. So I'm trying to figure out how to use my growing kit of lighting for a portable studio. Here's my list of gear.

    an SU800
    (2) SB800s and an SB600
    (2) Vivitar DF200 slaves
    a softbox and numerous ABBC bounce cards
    (2) 8' flash stands with flash/umbrella mounts
    (2) 36" umbrellas
    (2) 250W Tungsten Photo Floodlights with Reflectors
    (2) 6' stands

    I'm thinking an sb800/umbrella for the mail light, an sb800/Lumiquest softbox for the fill light, and the sb600 with a homemade snoot (or just tightly zoom the flash head) for a hair light. Since the su800 commander will control 3 groups, I'll use ittl for the main and fill lights, and a manual setting for the hair light. And, depending on the background, I could use a floodlight to brighten the background. Does that make sense?

    I also need to define a rig and develop a simpler approach for outdoor wedding formals.

    Any thoughts will be appreciated.
  2. Muonic


    Jun 14, 2006

    I have a set-up very similar to yours, and the only thing that has really been a problem for me is the hair light. I tried using the SB-600 on a (portable) boom style lightstand, but it is just not very stable. I've been thinking about trying a collapsible background, similar to this, so I can use the hair light directly behind the subject (and background) on a regular lightstand. It's more stuff to carry around, but so far it's the only idea I've come up with. Plus, I think it would make the shots look more like something in a studio...if that's what you want. I'm also a bit of a control freak, and like to use all of my flashes in the manual mode. That gives very consistant results, and they are so easy to set up with the SU-800.

    Looks like you have a great set-up as it is!
  3. UF, maybe you've already dones so, but a visit to the strobist.com blog and its accompanying Flickr discussion threads would be very useful on this topic. For what it's worth, I'm also looking into a very basic set up such as yours, and here's my list:
    2-8' lightstands
    2-45" umbrellas: one silver/one white w/black removable back (to be used as makeshift softbox), with flash stand adapters
    E-bay 16 channel wireless triggers (one transmitter and 3-4 receivers)
    Total if bought all new = about $300-$400, but I already have SB-800 and one SB-28.
  4. Thanks for the feedback, David!

    Yup, and that's the only reason I've gotten into multiple head.
  5. Frank, that is almost exactly how I shot this picture.

    Here is the setup.

    I just didnt use a BG light on that one.

    I cant say how the floods will do for the BG. I was having trouble lighting mine so I just got an AB800 to try it out.

    EDIT: For outdoors, I would suggest sandbags for the light stands. I busted an SB-600 like that. Umbrellas are like sails.
  6. Frank, I am going to watch this thread because I also have a similar set up. 1 SB800, 2 SB600's, 2 x cheapo batterie slave flashes that respond to a bigger, a few stands a portable backdrop, a 240 volt strobe and slave, 3 umbrellas and a softbox, (nearly said and a partidge in a pear tree!)
  7. I set my 3 flash rig up in the den this afternoon, Roy. My lighting was a little different from yours. I shot my main light through a white umbrella, used a softbox on the fill light, and I positioned the fill light a few feet to the right behind the camera. Here's a shot of Nancy.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Then the UPS guy made a delivery, so I drafted him as a model, too -lol.

    View attachment 93506

    But there was too much stuff in the background in the den, so I moved the rig to the living room. No problem... it's nice and portable :biggrin:. The wallpaper in the background worked out real well as a background.

    View attachment 93507

    View attachment 93508

    Multi head flash is cool! But it would have taken me ages to figure out without CLS.
  8. Hey, Dave, good to see you posting on the Cafe, my friend! I know it's hard to break old habits, but Ithink this place will grow on you. It's a much friendlier site, and we have moderators dedicated to keeping it that way ;-).

    You're just missing one item in your kit... an SU800. It makes putting all the other bits and pieces together a snap!
  9. Frank, those shots are up there with the studio guys!, Tell Nancy she's still got it!
    SU 800? But doesn't the SB800 act as master if you want it to?
  10. Yes it does Dave. The difference is, the SU allows the flash to be off camera axis if you wish, much easier controlling of your groups and it doesn't send preflashes that cause many people to blink.
  11. Frank, you just cost me $370 Au!

    I come in here to check on some old friends and blow me down, I end up spending money :wink:
    I am very excited about the SU 800, especially after seeing the pics of Nancy. I have a beauty class from the local technical college coming to my little studio late next week. I do before and after shots of the girls, they work in pairs and do each others make up. I charge very little for a long day, this time there are 2 classes! Oh well, I want to give the girls as much detail and balanced images of their hard work. :smile:
    Frank, if you have any extra tips using the SU 800, SB800 and I mentioned I also have a couple of SB600's, I would appreciate the assistance.
  12. Ray C.

    Ray C.

    Nov 7, 2005
    Everything you ever wanted to know about portable lighting...and then some.


    Dave has put together an absolutely fantastic resource and IMO is required reading for any serious location photographer or PJ.
  13. Cool! One of my favorite things is spending other people's money :biggrin:

    Heck, you should pay them for the opportunity, you old dog :wink:.

    So here's the deal on the SU400. It doesn't make your flash pictures any better. It just makes it easier to take better flash pictures. That may sound a little circular, but here are the advantages.

    * You can control up to 3 "groups" of flashes, instead of only 2 groups using a flash as a Commander. That means you can adjust the individual power settings of the main flash, fill flash, and hair light. You can even set the 3 groups in different modes. For example, set the main light in TTL, set the fill light in TTL, but one stop lower than the main light, and set the hairlight in manual, adjusting its output to an appropriate level. Note that I used a 1/64th power setting for the hairlight in Nancy's pics.

    * Now that you have your SU800, you don't have to dive into your camera's menus to work the flash. You don't even have to change your camera's flash setting to Commander Mode, or remember to change it back later. Just put the SU800 in the hotshoe and you're good to go. And you can change any of the settings you've selected, after you take some test shots and review the histogram, with a few button presses on the SU800.

    * Since the SU800 communicates with the flashes using infra-red, you won't annoy your subjects with a series of light pulses that accompany normal wirelesss CLS. And the SU800 supports FV lock, which allows you to set up once and then eliminate any further pre-flashes.

    * Maybe the best selling point... infra-red communications seem much more reliable than visual light communications. Maybe they're higher power, or maybe they bounce off walls and ceilings better, but positioning the outboard flash's sensors isn't nearly as critical as it was when using a strobe as the Commander.

    * Oh, and did I mention that you never need to think about camera orientation again? Since there's no flash on your camera, you can change from landscape to portrait mode without concern about casting shadows :cool: .

    [/QUOTE], this time there are 2 classes! Oh well, I want to give the girls as much detail and balanced images of their hard work. :smile: Frank, if you have any extra tips using the SU 800, SB800 and I mentioned I also have a couple of SB600's, I would appreciate the assistance.[/QUOTE]

    Not much to add, since I'm still in the discovery phase myself. I'd suggest you use the more powerful sb800 as your main, and the sb600s for your fill and hair lights. Make sure you get some practice in before the eyecandy shows up. You need to figure out how you're going to arrange your 3 lightstands, and which diffusers you're going to use.
  14. Frank,

    I did exactly what you're thinking about...but I ended up buying a Sekonic L-358 light meter. I still controlled all of the flashes through the SU800. but the light meter was how I set the power levels. I found that TTL was great for 1 flash, but when I wanted to get a 3:1 key:fill ratio, I found that TTL didn't give me consistent results...so I bought a light meter. It helped tremendously in my shooting. You can pick them up for about $100 used...best $100 I have ever spent. They do add a little to the setup time, but when I'm setting up all the lights, another 1-2 minutes per light is nothing...and then I'm sure of the exposure...JMHO...
  15. Hi, Frank!
    It's nice to see your lovely wife. Nice shots you have with your set-up.
    If I may make some suggestions...
    Using a small light source as hairlight (or rimlight) for portraits is difficult. It's too harsh. It's not the ideal light source for hair. Used as a kicker or rimlight, it mercilessly shows off every pore and skin imperfection. It can also cast a secondary shadow which is problematic, specially for group shots.
    I believe you'll find a larger light source more versatile and effective as a hair or rimlight. This can be done by bouncing the light off the ceiling (provided there's a ceiling that's neutral in color and low enough). The difficulty with this is controlling the light spill, specially on the background. Using a softbox or a strip, I think, would be best.
    Looking at your set-up. I'd use the SB800 and umbrella as main light. The other SB800 and softbox (don't know how big your lumiquest softbox is. I'm hoping it's 2'x2' or 1'x3' atleast) as hair/rimlight on a boom (for versatility in light placement). The SB 600 bounced on a relatively large flat (foamcore) or another umbrella as fill light.
    On location, outdoors, when portability and quickness in set-up is vital, I use 2 SB800s bounced off an umbrella and a reflector for fill. Nothing beats using 1200 w/s studio lights with a beauty dish and portable power packs. Time and assistants permitting.

  16. Thanks for the excellent advice, Joey. As I reported on another thread, I received similar comments about the hair light on another site, and gave bouncing it a try. Here was the result.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I'm afraid my softbox is one of those diminutive things designed to velcro over the head of a flash. It's roughly 5x7", which doesn't fit your job description, so I guess I'll stick to bouncing off ceilings.

    I'm curious about how you position your flashes outdoors. It would seem that the SB800 I use on a flash bracket would be ideally positioned for fill, as it''s directly above the lens. Do you still use one main light, regardless of the size of the group?

    I'm always running out of time, and my wife hits me when I call her my assistant :rolleyes: . Thanks for the help, Joey!
  17. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    I'm sure he meant the UPS guy. Your wife is obviously the "beauty dish".
  18. I'm confused about your setup. People have been advising me that the main should be off to the side, but the fill should be directly over the lens. Wouldn't putting a flash on either side "flatten" the result?
  19. It''s a great smile, and I love the balloons as props. Let's wait for someone who has experience with studio lighting critique the result, but I will note that it looks underexposed.
  20. Apologies for the long response time. Been processing a lot of files lately.
    We should really meet up one of these days. I'm based in South San Francisco. Barely 40 minutes from where you are, I believe.

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.