Some help with starting studio lightingin Reviews: Books, Lessons, Workshops
By 16958.v1/Brian (12)
on July 7, 2002 8:08:52 PM CDT
Ive noticed on some of the forums that I subscribe to that the question of studio lighting crops up fairly regularly usually in the form of which studio lighting set up should I buy.
Well Im not going to tell you.
Alright, stop shuffling out of the door mumbling and come back here. What I mean is Im not going to tell you to go out and buy Mr Big Apertures latest whiz bang flash kit as its the answer to all your prayers because there is no one answer. If there were one answer to questions like that wed all be driving round in identical cars and were not (it just looks like that sometimes).
What follows is some basic advice on what you are looking for which can probably be summed up in two words, versatility and reliability.
Dont just go out and by something that bangs out as much light as possible. If your looking to set up a home studio, at least in the UK, very probably your room will only be around 13 or 14 feet along each side and I doubt your spouse will be too happy if you want to kick all the furniture out of it so the working area will be even smaller. Lots of studio lighting kit is designed for (surprisingly) studios, which are usually considerably larger than that. Though I did know one top pro a good few years ago that worked in something not much bigger but he was a food photographer and only ever worked on tabletop scale. Also these kits may be designed to put out enough light to use view cameras with apertures down to f64 and Im guessing that if your reading this youll be lucky to get down to f32 and more likely wider open than that.
Try and get something that has as much control over output as possible. Full, half and quarter may be enough if you make sure you buy the right power to start off but the more settings it has the more control youll have.
If you can take a reading from the lights before you buy them Id suggest middling everything. Middle distance from subject, middle power setting on your lights and hope to get an aperture reading somewhere in the middle of your scale. Remember that you will probably want to use brollys and soft boxes, which will reduce the reading but will also soften the light. You probably wont hit the mark exactly but what youre looking for is some degree of control.
Thats one I cant answer for you and where the Internet and all the forums come into their own just ask. Im looking at buying Joe Soaps lighting, is it reliable. I guarantee that some will hate it and some will love it but use your best judgement on the replies you get and ask on more than one site.
Accessories: (All the juicy little extras that we cant possibly do without and cost twice the mortgage when we add them up.)
Im not going to tell you not to buy all the goodies, half the fun of being an enthusiast in anything is all the kit you can rummage through and save up for. Probably though youll get the usual brollys and soft boxes when you buy the kit.
Just remember that youre after versatility, a reversible umbrella will be more use than a single sided and what will you use most. A white and gold will be more use to a portrait photographer whereas a still life guy may prefer white and silver. One thing you wont get as standard in most kits but is worthwhile considering is a light boom arm. Youll be amazed how often you use it when youve got it.
If you want to save yourself some money though the following will get you out of most situations and is carried by most pros (note to pros: call me a liar guys and gals and add or subtract your own suggestions)
Sticks anything to anything and used copiously in the film industry and I suspect named for that reason. Also some less aggressive masking tape for those occasions when you dont want to pull the wallpaper off the wall or even the plaster off the ceiling.
The type used by market stallholders to hold canvas and sheeting in place. These are now available in DIY superstores; they are pretty savage so make sure they have some plastic or rubber covering on the jaws. Also bulldog clips of a reasonable size, some of these are available double ended which can be useful for smaller sets.
Large sheets of black one side and white the other. Useable for flags, reflectors. Ideally thick enough to support it's own weight when held by an inch or two down the side and some lighter weight black both sides which can be rolled into snoots. Also we used to use six foot by four foot by one inch thick polystyrene boards which make perfect reflectors so when you buy your kit or a new TV think about hanging on to the packing as the top or bottom will not only make a really good reflector but will probably stand on it's own for tabletop work.
Tracing paper pads.
These will give you even more control of your light output added sheet by sheet.
One last one specific to small set still life and practically indispensable. Get you down to a medical equipment supplier and invest in a few retort stands and clamps. Within a month youll wonder how you managed without them.
If you need barn doors, snoots, flags etc they can all be lashed together with the above list. If you find youre lashing them up too often then consider investing in the real thing.
One last point occurs to me. If having bought your kit you end up needing to do a shot that requires plenty of depth of field and is beyond the power of your system say a room set or jewellery don't despair. Providing nothing in the shot is going to move switch off all the modelling lights and room lights open the shutter on bulb and multi flash. Two flashes for one extra stop down, four for two stops, 8, 16 etc
Studio lighting is not a mystery all it is doing is producing light and reflecting it. Something Mother Nature does all day, every day. At a very basic level a couple of desk lamps with 100 watt bulbs, some white sheets or even sheets of newspaper will light a subject providing you realise that the colour temperature is not that of daylight.
Before you ask someone how they lit a shot look at it, closely. Where are the highlights and shadows can you see any reflections? If they havent cloned them out or used dulling spray you may be able to see the lights or reflectors. If its a model, look at the eyes, youll probably see reflections of umbrellas and soft boxes which along with the rest of the evidence will give you a pretty good idea how he or she was lit.
You can very often work out what the photographer did and you will learn more than just copying someone elses set up
Just think about light and what it does, it's only complicated if your studying quantum physics. Its your raw material as much as wood is a carpenters. So try and end up with some beautiful furniture and not just a pile of sawdust.
This is all far from definitive and merely the ramblings of a very early Sunday morning when I couldnt get back to sleep but I hope it helps a few people.
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