I need some advice...

Discussion in 'Studio Equipment and Lighting' started by Kat, Nov 13, 2005.

  1. Kat

    Kat

    76
    Mar 27, 2005
    Kentucky
    .... I want to set up a small home studio to do some portrait work. I have several friends who want me to take their kids' senior portraits and I have an eight year old daughter who loves the camera!

    Here's what I currently own:

    D70, a decent collection of Nikon lenses, one SB800 and two lightstands with umbrellas (45" white satin with removable black backing).

    Can I use what I have and if so what would be the best setup? If not, what would I need to add?

    Kat
     
  2. If I am correct, you will need 2 flashes and a remote to set them both off at the sametime. Someone will chime in here and give more advice.
     
  3. jjdesanto1

    jjdesanto1

    May 1, 2005
    Warwick, N.Y.
    John DeSanto
    My setup...

    My portable setup for portrait photography:

    SB-800 and SB-600 flash units
    2 lightstands, 2 45-inch white umbrellas
    One SC-29 sync cord

    I put the SB-800 (set as the master unit) onto one lightstand and link it to the D70 using the sync cord. I bounce this flash into the umbrella very high and close to the camera. I put the SB-600 flash (set as a remote unit) about 45 degrees to the right and shoot this one through an umbrella.

    Thanks to the help of some folks here, I've been playing with the settings and I now "dial-down" the remote flash to about two stops under the master unit. The whole mess fits into a carrying bag, along with a tripod and a couple of extra softboxes.

    I don't have the whole technique down yet, but I've been practicing on my kids and the neighbors kids as much as possible. (I'm guessing I'll have it all figured out in about 20 years.)

    Hope this helps.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2005
  4. Kat

    Kat

    76
    Mar 27, 2005
    Kentucky
    John,

    Thanks for the detailed setup suggestion. If I use the onboard flash in commander mode to fire the SB800, would I still need to use the sync cord?

    I do not currently have a second flash. If I were to purchase a SB600, would the D70 be able to trigger it and the SB800 wirelessly?

    I recently borrowed a SB800 and used both in a portrait setup but ended up with very flat lighting (I'm sure it was user error!). Here's the shot:

    senior.
     
  5. jjdesanto1

    jjdesanto1

    May 1, 2005
    Warwick, N.Y.
    John DeSanto
    Hi Kat

    To answer your question, I think if you set the onboard flash to commander mode it should fire both flashes.

    The flat lighting may be caused by using both flash units at the same power setting, as opposed to turning one unit down a couple of stops.

    Jarrell, Steve S. and Dan White seem to be some of the better portrait photographers around here. You might wanna PM them and see what they say, since I'm a rookie in this field.

    Steve S. was nice enough to send me this link, so you might wanna try it, also:

    http://www.vividlight.com/articles/412a.htm
     
  6. Kat

    Kat

    76
    Mar 27, 2005
    Kentucky
    John, I think that is exactly what happened (see I told you -- user error!). I will definitely take a look at that link.

    If you are a rookie, I don't want to even think how I would classify my (in)abilities!! Anyway, I will contine to practice, practice, practice and keep asking questions.. that should help!!

    Thanks,

    Kat
     
  7. Ray C.

    Ray C.

    650
    Nov 7, 2005
    Thailand
    Kat, yes the D-70 will fire both in commander mode. Also, you may want to consider a 3 strobe setup. Check out Alien Bees.com. Great lights, great prices and the best customer service in the industry! I'm getting ready to buy a set to be used mainly in lighting gyms for HS sports, but they make a heckuva good portable studio set also.
     
  8. I agree with Ray C.

    Although there are some very impressive results from SB units, if you're setting up a portrait sudio you're going to eventually need real studio lighting. Get AlienBee units, they live up to their reputation. You'll ultimately need three, Main, fill, and hair and some softboxes.

    Everything on my website is lit with AlienBee gear.

    It's light, not rocket science.

    Woody:cool:
     
  9. Kat

    Kat

    76
    Mar 27, 2005
    Kentucky
    Ray and Woody,

    Thank you for the suggestion of Alien Bees. I have thought about them before, but I just wasn't sure. If I were to go with three AB400s (one on a boom for a hairlight), how would I fire them from my D70? Do I need a sync cord or is it all done wirelessly?

    Sorry for the "20 questions" ... I really am just a newbie!

    Kat
     
  10. Ray C.

    Ray C.

    650
    Nov 7, 2005
    Thailand
    Kat,

    No problem, glad to help. And don't be sorry for asking questions, we all had to start somewhere. :smile:

    The ABs have a built in slave, so you'll only need one synch cord and a hot shoe adapter for the D70. (http://www.alienbees.com/hardware.html)
     
  11. Nikon makes a dedicated Hot Shoe Adaptor, the AS-15, for your camera.

    If you can afford it, get yourself a Pocket Wizard setup. Pricey at $400, but you will have complete freedom of movement.

    Woody
     
  12. Kat

    Kat

    76
    Mar 27, 2005
    Kentucky
    Okay ... I've been doing some research.

    What about this setup (please be brutually honest...I need to learn):

    2 AB400s (one for main and the other on a boom for hair)
    Reflector for fill

    Would this be a good start or am I going to be disappointed that I didn't go with a 3-light setup? I have not purchased anything yet. Hubby said "Merry Christmas ... get what you want" but I don't want to break the bank!

    Kat
     
  13. Most of the images on my OMP site (link below) were taken with the two-light setup you describe even though I have 5 units. Depending on the size of your studio, I would suggest getting one 400 and one 800.

    However, keep in mind that I'm not your traditional portrait photographer. If that's the avenue you want to travel I'm afraid I don't know enough about it to advise you.

    Things like butterfly lighting anf Rembranst lighting mean noting to me... I wouldn't know one from the other. My approach to lighting is to make the studio as dark as possible and push the lights around till I see something I like and then I shoot.

    If I had a lighting motto it would be: "It's light not rocket science"

    Woody :cool:
     
  14. Kat

    Kat

    76
    Mar 27, 2005
    Kentucky
    Woody,

    I believe that I feel the same way as you about lighting. I'm not so concerned with duplicating exact technical lighting styles and more interested in getting decent equipment (and the right combination of lights, modifiers etc.) to play around with it until I get something that I am pleased with.

    So you think I would have a good start if this was my order: AB400 (for hairlight), AB800 (as main), heavy duty stand with boom, a 24x36 softbox (for hairlight) and a reflector for fill?

    I appreciate you (and everyone else) for taking the time and tolerating my ignorance where lighting is concerned ... I really feel like I'm learning something.

    Kat
     
  15. The only thing I would change would be an AB giant softbox as the main. The giant softbox may seem like overkill for portraits, but it can be used for other things (like kids who turn into moving targets) whereas a medium one can't.

    I use an AB 48-inch brolly box for a hairlight and have the thing permanently mounted on an AB Backlight Stand that has been screwed into the wall . I like this setup because it not only saves the expense of a big stand and boom arm, more importantly it saves a TON of floor space. I control it with the AB 4-channel Wired Remote. Going with your idea (HD stand, Boom and softbox) is $260, going with my idea (backlight stand, brolly box and Remote Controller) is $165.

    Also, although you can get along quite well with two lights, you're going to come to the point where you will want a third light.

    Woody
     
  16. Kat,
    I have just gone through all of this in the past 4 months. I have been setting up to do product photography (actually arts & crafts works) but not portraiture work.

    Based upon the research that I did, I would not recommend using the AB soft boxes. According to what I have read they are fairly difficult to set up and take down. I went with the Photoflex Q39 small (16x22) and medium (24x32) soft boxes but used the AB Light Gear Speedring to mount the Q39s to my ABs. I also purchased the Photoflex Dome Accessory Kits (circle and strip masks and a set of louvers) for each of the softboxes.

    I also purchased the AB Boom kit but did not get the air cushioned version - wish now that I had. Have had a couple of near misses when adjusting the height of the stand... loosen knob too much and everything colaspes rapidly!

    The AB 5 in 1 - 42" reflector kit is great! I am probably going to buy another one.

    If you plan on using one of the ABs for a hair or background light, you might want to think about getting a set of grids as well.

    Oh, and you might want to consider a good light meter - no TTL with the ABs. I bought a Sekonic 358 which really helps in getting the lighting set up.

    The ABs do come with a 25' PC cord. I didnt have the AS15 hot shoe adapter so I took the batteries out of my old SB-26 and mounted it on the hot shoe to fire the PC cord. Worked fine.

    And finally - I ended up buying the LG4X four channel wired remote control. It makes adjusting the strobes a breeze. I shoot with my D100 tethered to a laptop, the remote allows me to fine tune the exposure without having to climb on a step stool or wind my way though the maze of light stands etc that I have set up in one bay of my garage! The radio controlled model would have been better, but it's almost $400 more than the LG4X.

    Hope this helps!
     
  17. Conrad is giving you some good advice. The world is full of expensive light modifiers and accessories to go with them. IMO, most of these items have a greater value as bragging points than actual lighting superiority. But, that's just my opinion based on my experience, which isn't extensive.

    I've also read that the AB softboxes are hard to assemble. Although I've never assembled any other brand, it never took me longer than 10 minutes to put an AB softbox together. Where that "hard to assemble" thing came from is beyond me.

    Conrad's observations regarding the boom kit is completely accurate. It's a pain to get set up and if you decide to change it, you'll need a couple extra sets of hands. This thing is best avoided.

    Light meter... I only use mine to figure out ratios and establish a starting point for exposure. You'll wind up with a better exposure if you set it by the histogram. The Seconic 358 or Minolta AutoMeter Vf are both very good, but I'd suggest the Seconic 358 because you will eventually want Pocket Wizards and you can get a module for the 358 to fire the Pocket Wizards.

    Hope I'm not coming off as argumentative, because that's not my intent.

    Woody
     
  18. Woody,
    Not in the least argumentative.

    I made a decision not to buy the AB softboxes based upon what I had read in various forums ... The ABs would have been cheaper, esp with the discounts they give you when you purchase the stobes, and as it turns out, I have only put the darn things together once since I got them! So it really has been a moot point! Of course I now my wife's car is sitting outside all the time, which may be a problem this winter :-(

    As far as the light meter goes, I use mine in exactly the same way as you do. Get the basic lighting setup and work out my ratios, then do the final tweaks using the histogram.
     
  19. macbob3

    macbob3

    33
    Nov 10, 2005
    SF Bay area
    I have a set of 4 studio lights, but for head/shoulders portraits I find 3 SB-800s to be just fine. I use a master on the camera (could also be off to the side on a cord) about 1-2 stops down. Key light (slave) around 0 to +1. And the last one (slave) as needed on hair or background. Generally I use small umbrellas. This is not as good or versatile as a studio setup, but MUCH less expensive and easy to use. And no cords to trip over.
     
  20. macbob3

    macbob3

    33
    Nov 10, 2005
    SF Bay area
    Kat,
    I forgot one more inexpensive, useful tool. A reflector. Either a genuine photo reflector or a simple piece of foam core will work fine. It's like having another light if used correctly. Train an assistant to hold it or lean it (at the proper angle) against a chair, or buy a reflector clamp at a good photo store. These are great outdoors as well.
     
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