Opening the discussion to the confusing world of STUDIO EQUIPMENTin Reviews: Studio Equipment
By lianakl/Liana (592)
on October 21, 2002 2:56:05 AM CDT
Hello!I am writing this as I have found the search for information on studio equipment and lighting systems to be very difficult. It was my search, for greater knowledge and understanding of lighting, that lead me to enroll in a commercial photography technology program three years ago. I spent this past summer in Manhattan working with some of the top photographers, modeling agencies, and stock companies in the nation (to link a few), and am still not satisfied with my knowledge of lighting systems and studio equipment....a lot of it comes from personal preferences and experience. You must form your own systems and opinions on what works best for YOU (otherwise our photographs would all look the same...and that wouldn't be good)!
I do not claim to be an expert on the subject, but will go ahead and tell you a little bit about what I DO know. I could ramble on forever about different studio lighting accesories, techniques, and set-ups, but will save a lot of it for a different post if there is anyone interested (let me know). I would greatly appreciate any comments and contributions you have on this topic, and encourage you to please rate this post.
Where to start?I never imagined that determining how to equip a studio would be such a difficult task. Without the experience of working with different photographers in different studios, I would not know where to begin, or what to ask about (when ordering equipment).
I knew nothing about the differences between hot lights and strobe lighting, and certainly didn't know what a C-stand is or how children's building blocks and sticky-tack can be essential items in a commercial studio.
Try calling one of the pro-retailers of photography equipment without knowing EXACTLY what you want . You won't get an answer if you don't know the right questions to ask.
So you must first ask yourself what kind of photography you will be doing. Portraits? Stills? Commercial work? Large-format work (using complicated view cameras)?
Once you know this, it is my advice that you learn a little about this type of photography and what others are doing in this particular field of work.
Strobe Lighting vs Hot LightsStrobe Lighting is used in most studios because it is a white light souce that does not require special films or filters. Hot lights are also know as tungsten lighting sources and must be used with tungsten-balanced film, or balancing filters to correct the yellowish tones that tungsten lights produce on normal film (think of the mucky tones that tint our photos when taken indoors by lamp-light with no flash). I almost always use strobe lighting when doing studio portraits, and will use hot lights only when I have very patient subjects (who can stand the HEAT) and am going for a more dramatic effect. The same goes for commercial stills; though hot lights are used much more often in commercial studios since the subject is often non-living matter. More time and precision on preparing the shot is usually expected for commercial shots, so hot lights are appropriate.
Affordable Backdrop SolutionsDepending on your needs and intentions for a photoshoot, you may use a wide variety of resources for your backdrops.
I started off by purchasing plain white and black fabric from Wal-Mart for $1.00 per yard and used duct tape to secure it to a wall as a make-shift backdrop.
With a few dollars, you can use PVC piping from a hardware store to build your own backdrop stand.
If you have enough funds to invest in a portible unit , I would recommend the Savage Port-a-Stand that can extend to over 9' high and 107" wide (and it's offered for less than $95.00)! Savage offers a variety of paper rolls in different colors and sizes that fit perfectly on this type of stand for as little as $19.50, which is well worth the price, if you have enough room to store the large rolls.
I recommend the paper backdrops if you are looking for a professional, consistent, and smooth backdrop surface. Fabric tends to wrinkle, produces shadows, and shows imperfections. A lot of photographers also use muslin, which is known for its wrinkled appearance and often tie-dye-like coloring. Muslin backdrops tend to be more expensive than paper, but are easier to keep (they're supposed to be stored in a big ball; all wrinkled), have a longer usage life (they are very durable and can be washed) and are easy to travel with.
Whichever backdrop system you use, it is recommended to keep subjects at least five feet away from the backdrop to prevent dark shadows (of the subject) being cast onto it.
C-Stands and Children's ToysWhile working in Manhattan, I learned a lot about the importance of using your imagination when stocking a studio. I discovered the importance of having C-Stands in a commercial studio; they can be positioned in ways that tri-pods can't and can hold anything from lights, reflectors, and diffusion to heavy objects (like glass) to photograph through. A C-stand comes in a variety of sizes, but is best used with a grip arm and grip head...these metal parts make it possible to manuver (whatever it is you're positioning into) the perfect angle. You must also consider what miscellanous objects and tools may be needed in your studio. We used children's building blocks and sticky-tack to position men's ties for a still-life magazine shot. Rugged tree branches, screens, glass, and old metal were used to create special effects on subjects and on backdrops. Rugs, marble, antique table tops, metal slabs, mirrors, and sheets of laminate all make great surfaces for still-life commercial shots. Autopoles are also great to have when dealing with larger studio scenarios. Mirrors can be positioned on C-stands with clamps to reflect the smallest stream of light onto a still-life in a way that would be impossible to do with a light. Glycerine is a perfect solution to forming perfect "raindrops" or "tears" exactly where needed. And don't forget LOTS of tissue paper and batting to use for stuffing and shaping clothing shots!
Finally.....Again, I remind you that you must form your own systems and opinions on what works best for YOU. I would love for others to share their reviews and experiences with lighting systems, studio equipment, accessories, and different techniques. If interest is expressed, I may expand (in a different post) more on what I know on such topics. I would greatly appreciate any comments and contributions you have on lighting systems, backdrops, studio equipment, accessories, props, and techniques. I strongly encourage you to please rate this post so that these (neglected) topics may be explored further, and we may all learn from eachother.
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