Help me spend some money on lighting...

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Thinking Alien Bee and their entire line of products (except for the wireless triggers - I'll get Pocket Wizards), help me put together a kit that will do the following:

Soft portraits - including hair light.

Group shots at weddings - indoors and out.

Outdoor family portraits. (Probably similar to the above.)

Essentially, I need to know what size and type umbrellas for the group shots, what kind of light (400 or 800) for the hair light, what kind of diffuser for the hair light, can I get away with just two 800's or do I need the two 800's for the group shots and a 400 for a hair light? I'm pretty much set on the large octagon soft box for portraits. Does anyone have any experience with their battery packs? I REALLY like the idea of portability... Also, are the air cushion stands worth the extra money? What does that air cushion do?

If there is anything I'm missing, just let me know! :wink: Linda has her checkbook out and I want to take advantage of that before it goes back to where ever it is she hides it... :rolleyes:

TIA!
 
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No one wants to spend my money???

How about this setup?

2 - B800 AlienBees B800-Deep Space Black

1 - LB11 Boom Arm Attachment with 11-pound Counterweight

1 - V150 The Vagabond 150 System

2 - CB1 AlienBees Carrying Bag

1 - HG20 20º Honeycomb Grid (hair light)

2 - LS3900 13-foot Heavy Duty Stand

1 - OB47 47” Octabox (with LGSR)

3 - Pocket Wizards II

1 - Light Stand Carrying case

2 - U60TWB 60” Shoot-Thru Umbrella

1 - 5 in 1 Reflector Kit and stand
 
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Hi Jim

First, if you are going to use a hair light you will want to order a three light kit.

AB lighting gear is OK, it will work fine and the price is right.

Keep in mind that a strobe on a stand outside needs a person to man it, especially if you intend to use umberellas as modifiers.

A three light kit is typical for location work, keep in mind that the sun makes one heck of a hair light.
 
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perameters

Jim,

When I light a subject I think like this,

I start with a key or main light and try to create the lighting effect that I want.
I take into consideration the ambient light and how I want to use (or not use) it in the image.
I then look at how much or how little fill light to add and how to use it.
I then shoot a polaroid and start to tweek the lights.

Umberellas are great they can be used in many ways, get shoot through umberellas. All sizes are handy.

Cielings are great to bounce a light from, sometimes one light bounced off a cieling is a very good fill light, white walls are equally useful.

Dish reflectors, are very handy great light and very efficient.

Soft boxes are very difuse light and unless you use a grid with a soft box the light from one box will spill out at about 160 degrees hiting everything in front of below and above it.

Grids with reflectors are very handy and to be used for more than just a hair light.

Soft difusion filters (20x24inch sheets of gel) are very handy too and one sheet in front of a grided reflector is a killer main light.

I could go on, and on, and...

But mostly, get your lights and start experimenting. Don't follow any rules, experiment and enjoy.

Forgot one thing, DON'T FLARE THE LENS!
 
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Thanks so much for the in-depth help Giorgio. This is the type of advice I'm looking for...

Jim,

When I light a subject I think like this,

I start with a key or main light and try to create the lighting effect that I want.
I take into consideration the ambient light and how I want to use (or not use) it in the image.
I then look at how much or how little fill light to add and how to use it.
I then shoot a polaroid and start to tweek the lights.

Umberellas are great they can be used in many ways, get shoot through umberellas. All sizes are handy.

Cielings are great to bounce a light from, sometimes one light bounced off a cieling is a very good fill light, white walls are equally useful.

Dish reflectors, are very handy great light and very efficient.

Soft boxes are very difuse light and unless you use a grid with a soft box the light from one box will spill out at about 160 degrees hiting everything in front of below and above it.

Grids with reflectors are very handy and to be used for more than just a hair light.

Soft difusion filters (20x24inch sheets of gel) are very handy too and one sheet in front of a grided reflector is a killer main light.

I could go on, and on, and...

But mostly, get your lights and start experimenting. Don't follow any rules, experiment and enjoy.

Forgot one thing, DON'T FLARE THE LENS!
 
Joined
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Orlando, FL
i have everything on your list, and it will do a fine job for you. The boom stand is a little flaky, but despite a few scary wobbles, it hasn't keeled over yet. The PWs are excellent, but I have had zero problems with the AB wireless triggers. I have one on each light. For a hair light, you might consider adding the AB400.
 
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Jim:

Looks like you have everything covered. I have the honeycomb grid, but really haven't tested with it. For my hair light, I use the smallest softbox Alienbees has with an AB800 on the boom arm and air cushioned stand positioned over the model. I REALLY like the air cushioned stands. If you have a strobe with softbox on it and loosen one of the tighteners, the stand won't go flying down. It goes down slowly on the cushion of air inside. I need to order a couple more of them while we're on the subject.

I see you got a 5 in 1 reflector kit. Good man! You were able to see with and without shots on Saturday as to the difference it can make when shooting a single light.

I have four AB800's. I just decided to go all the same size in case I ever need to have all 4 powered the same with no guess work. Plus, I like spending $$$ on camera gear. :biggrin:

Other than maybe a small softbox, it looks like you're covered.

Have a great time! Next time we raid your house for a cookout, I won't have to take any lighting.

Take care!

John
 
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Thanks John! I think the AB400 for the hair light is a good choice.

i have everything on your list, and it will do a fine job for you. The boom stand is a little flaky, but despite a few scary wobbles, it hasn't keeled over yet. The PWs are excellent, but I have had zero problems with the AB wireless triggers. I have one on each light. For a hair light, you might consider adding the AB400.
 
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Thanks for the input John. You should tell AB you want a finders fee! :wink:

Jim:

Looks like you have everything covered. I have the honeycomb grid, but really haven't tested with it. For my hair light, I use the smallest softbox Alienbees has with an AB800 on the boom arm and air cushioned stand positioned over the model. I REALLY like the air cushioned stands. If you have a strobe with softbox on it and loosen one of the tighteners, the stand won't go flying down. It goes down slowly on the cushion of air inside. I need to order a couple more of them while we're on the subject.

I see you got a 5 in 1 reflector kit. Good man! You were able to see with and without shots on Saturday as to the difference it can make when shooting a single light.

I have four AB800's. I just decided to go all the same size in case I ever need to have all 4 powered the same with no guess work. Plus, I like spending $$$ on camera gear. :biggrin:

Other than maybe a small softbox, it looks like you're covered.

Have a great time! Next time we raid your house for a cookout, I won't have to take any lighting.

Take care!

John
 
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Looks like you've about got all the bases covered. Don't know if anyone's mentioned the Giant Octabox, but that's got to be my fave for main lighting.

I STRONGLY recommend the Air Cushioned Lightstand at the very least, for the boom arm. That thing is unwieldy enough by itself! I like their Med softbox for hairlight too, although the small would work fine I suppose for singles. As for my previous recommendation of ballast for the lightstands during outdoor work, I came across some vinyl weight bags for pool covers that are simply filled with water, then drained and collapsed when finished. Great idea, assuming they don't leak. :eek:
 
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Yeah, I'm going to call Alienbees and get something out of this! :biggrin:

I originally had the large Octabox, but recently replaced it with the Photoflex 5' Octadome. I had a little bit of trouble getting full body coverage on standing full body portraits. The Photoflex did the trick, although the Alienbee 47" Octabox is still very very nice.

My next studio shoot, I'm going to experiment using the honeycomb grid to get some serious highlights on the hair. Kind of fashion magazine highlights.

Great stuff this lighting and photography is!

John
 
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I'd up to the AB1600's. The 800's are only 400 w/s and for any larger groups you may not have enough light. Sure if you are in a smaller area and light can bouce it may not be an issue. But if you are in a larger function hall and have say 15+ people for a family shoot you may need 3 rows of people. So depending on the distance you may be anywhere from f8 - f11 or higher.

Now maybe you aren't going to do too many groups as large as this first one, but maybe the 2nd and 3rd. They were shot in a school gym, no hope for any real ceiling or wall bounce, with 2 - 750 w/s Calumet travellites on 13-16' stands with bounce umbrellas.

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Looks like you've about got all the bases covered. Don't know if anyone's mentioned the Giant Octabox, but that's got to be my fave for main lighting.

I STRONGLY recommend the Air Cushioned Lightstand at the very least, for the boom arm. That thing is unwieldy enough by itself! I like their Med softbox for hairlight too, although the small would work fine I suppose for singles. As for my previous recommendation of ballast for the lightstands during outdoor work, I came across some vinyl weight bags for pool covers that are simply filled with water, then drained and collapsed when finished. Great idea, assuming they don't leak. :eek:
Thanks for the info Steve.
 
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You've been a great help John! Thanks. :wink:

Yeah, I'm going to call Alienbees and get something out of this! :biggrin:

I originally had the large Octabox, but recently replaced it with the Photoflex 5' Octadome. I had a little bit of trouble getting full body coverage on standing full body portraits. The Photoflex did the trick, although the Alienbee 47" Octabox is still very very nice.

My next studio shoot, I'm going to experiment using the honeycomb grid to get some serious highlights on the hair. Kind of fashion magazine highlights.

Great stuff this lighting and photography is!

John
 
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Messages
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Thanks David! Were you shooting all lights at full power for these shots? BTW - the lighting on the first one is amazing!

I'd up to the AB1600's. The 800's are only 400 w/s and for any larger groups you may not have enough light. Sure if you are in a smaller area and light can bouce it may not be an issue. But if you are in a larger function hall and have say 15+ people for a family shoot you may need 3 rows of people. So depending on the distance you may be anywhere from f8 - f11 or higher.

Now maybe you aren't going to do too many groups as large as this first one, but maybe the 2nd and 3rd. They were shot in a school gym, no hope for any real ceiling or wall bounce, with 2 - 750 w/s Calumet travellites on 13-16' stands with bounce umbrellas.
 
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Yes, that was at full power.

The AB's are nice little units but I really don' like the naming (or any product that names in a way that might confuse the buyer). I think many people looking at the AB400's would think "ok they are 400w/s", but sorry they are only 160w/s.

Now another company I work with gives all the photographers AB400s and they work great. But that is for student school portraits So the power requirement is not overwelming.

I'm actually been trying to sell my lights as for the most part they are more than I need.

This is what I think I'm going to replace them with (one of):
Dyna Lite Twinkle Studio2
Elinchrom DLite4

Both are small and light kits, the Dyna light kit even fits all in the one bag.
 
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Thanks for all the replies and advice. I pulled the trigger on the lighting today. This is what I got:

1 AB400
2 AB800
1 Medium Octabox
1 Large Octabox
Set of four honeycomb grids
Reflector set w/bracket
2 13' air light stands
1 13' regular light stand
1 back-light stand (for the reflectors)
1 boom
3 carrying cases for the lights
1 "150" battery pack
2 60" shoot through umbrellas
Background stand
1 roll each of 53" white and black background paper
10' x 12' gray muslin background
Probably a few things I forgot...
3 Pocket Wizards (Probably need four? Can I gang two lights on one PW?)
1 bottle of Pepto to sooth my stomach after ordering all this...

Now, I guess I am going to need some advice on how to use all this stuff! :eek:

Thanks again for all your help! :wink:
 

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