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November 21, 2012


Replies: 18

Studio/Lighting Equipment

brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012
Trying to set up my first studio I've been putting together a list of
equipment that I would like to buy.

Vinyl Backdrop 7x3.2m (There is a double-sided white & black vinyl backdrop or just a white vinyl backdrop. I know the white is matte on both but it seems that black vinyl normally is not? I'm not sure if it would be better to go cheaper and just get the white or pay more and have the black & white. I've had trouble finding images with black vinyl used as a backdrop so it's hard to decide)
Backdrop Stand 390x450cm
Umbrella Translucent 101cm
Reflector 5-in-1 80cm reflector
Beauty dish 55cm with honeycomb grid+diffuser Elinchrom (any issues with this brand I may not be aware of?)

Okay now I know "no question is a stupid question" but aside from what I already asked, these probably are...
I'm confused about lighting stands, obviously you must need some kind of stand for umbrellas & beauty dishes in most cases but how do you attach the equipment to the stand? It seems like you might need some kind of umbrella adapter? Then you need the flash unit (one for the umbrella & one for the beauty box if say you are using both at once?). I'm just confused as to what exactly "light stand" means and what you can attach to it (in regards to an umbrella/beauty dish/flash unit). And how do you know what piece works with what stand or what flash works with what piece? I guess the easiest way would be to ask the supplier but I wanted to check here first :) & Lastly, do you also need a separate flash on top of your camera to go with the stands or can you just use the built-in flash? Some of you are probably lol'ing so hard but thanks to anyone who replies.

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Devious Comments

SteveCaissie-stock Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012  Professional Photographer
As a possible alternative to getting speedlights and modifiers to go with them, you might check out the stuff made by Paul C. Buff. They have an Australian dealer that might not be too expensive for you in terms of shipping. Here's the link to the Australian website.

To explain some of the terms for you, a light stand is nothing more than a collapsible pole with three feet that allows you to mount a light. As ~ManualFocusPhoto mentioned, all studio strobes are made to fit on them. Speedlights, on the other hand, are made to attach directly to the hotshoe on your camera, and therefore require an adapter if you want to mount them on a light stand.

Studio strobes (like the one referenced in the third link) are usually a lot more powerful than speedlights, but require an electrical outlet. Speedlights are small, light and portable, but require batteries. Regardless of which you get, you will need some way to trigger the lights. Radio triggers (which mount on your hotshoe in place of a flash) are common, but you can also use a very long sync cable if you want to save a bit of money and aren’t worried about tripping over the cord (but make sure that your camera has a sync port – it’s a common feature in higher-end cameras, but not so common in the beginner models). Nearly all studio strobes have something called a “slave” mode, which may be on by default (it varies by manufacturer). In slave mode, the light will fire if it sees another flash going off somewhere else, so it’s possible to fire two or more lights with a single set of radio triggers (one transmitter and one receiver). Not all speedlights can slave, but most of the better ones have that function.

If you buy studio strobes, they generally come with small reflectors (usually around 7" diameter) sometimes with a small hole in them, and there will also be a hole with a thumbscrew in the base of the strobe, where an umbrella shaft goes. To add a beauty dish, you will remove the reflector and put that on in its place. To add a larger soft box, you will remove the reflector and add something called a speed ring, to which the soft box attaches (soft boxes are generally made so that they can work with any type of strobe, but beauty dishes are almost always brand-specific).
brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012
Thank you!!!! That's just what I was looking for. I will be sure
to check out the website, I'm not against ordering overseas even when
it can be a pain & I order clothes whenever I can from the US lol. South
Africa is really lacking on the diversity of products you can get in other
countries, I wouldn't expect it to be on the same level just yet but it can
really make you feel homesick. Unless you like biltong - there's plenty of that.
Seems like there are good, valid points for each but they're each still lacking
in their own way :'(. Now after what you've said I'm looking at this kit:
I'm not sure if I would just buy that kit or try to find the separate pieces
on other sites but:
Since those have an optical slave, will I need a sync cord?
& since they are monolights, can they just be plugged in directly to an outlet?
Bleh now I just realized if I want to use a beauty dish with these, most likely I will need a Visico one?
I'll have to ask them that and I don't really know a lot (anything lol) about power outlet so will
check that as well online.
And I think this is the last question... If I use an external flash for my camera that has TTL will I need
a light meter still?
Seems that there are issues with wind/rain in regards to using Monolights outside but I can always get human
slaves for that if I need them and then a battery pack or something if necessary.
SteveCaissie-stock Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012  Professional Photographer
That seems like it’d be a good starter kit. You will still need something to trigger one of the lights, so either a sync cord, a set of radio triggers, or, in a pinch, you could use the flash that’s built in to your camera. The problem with the third option is that the flash on your camera is tiny, meaning it’s going to give you rather hard shadows and a bright, small specular highlight on your subject. If you dial the power on your on-camera flash way back to -3 EV or so, that’ll help, since any shadows it creates will likely be overpowered by the strobes, but you’ll still see that shiny spot, and if your subject is looking right at the camera, you’ll have the highlights right in the centre of their eyes, which tends to flatten out the eye colour.

In answer to your other questions:

1. Yes, the monolights will plug in to any wall outlet. They don’t take batteries, but they can be plugged into a battery pack, such as the Vagabond that Paul Buff makes. They will recycle slower, but it gives you the option of taking them outside.

2. Yes, if you want a beauty dish, you’ll need to buy one that has the same speed ring style. You’ll need to find out what type of mount the lights have, but it’s likely that you won’t have to buy directly from that manufacturer. Check eBay or similar sites for beauty dishes that will fit. There are lots of inexpensive third-party options for most types of lights.

3. If you use a flash off-camera that communicates in some way with your camera to provide TTL metering, then no, you don’t technically need a light meter. If you buy this kit instead of a speed light, you still don’t need a light meter, because you can always check exposure levels right on your camera’s display. I work part-time as an assistant for a photographer who’s been shooting for 20-odd years, and since switching to digital, he’s never used a light meter. I don’t bother with them, either.

4. I wouldn’t take these outside on a day when it’s raining. And if you’re planning to use the umbrellas outside, I would recommend you have someone hold onto them at all times. The slightest puff of wind can turn those umbrellas into sails and send your lights crashing down. Best-case scenario if that happens is you lose a flash tube and your light gets scuffed up. Worst-case scenario is you start a fire. I’ve never started any fires myself, but I’ve lost a $200 beauty dish when the assistant who was supposed to be watching the light started flirting with the model instead. Needless to say, I never hired her again.
brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012
Wait, I lied lol it is definitely cheaper. I thought I had
typed in the lights by x2 - since there are two - and apparently
I didn't.
brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012
So if I use an external flash on my camera to trigger
the lights, will that work okay? They have some trigger
sets but I would rather not spend an extra R695 or however
much if I don't need to lol I was a bit worried about having
to buy a light meter as well but whew, glad you said that. I'm
thinking of getting an external flash with TTL because it seems
like it will cover some of these bases.

Well I just searched now for Visico beauty dishes and
apparently there is a whole Visico South Africa website so that's very
helpful haha Their kit is listed for the same price which
makes sense but I looked for each piece of equipment to see
how much money you save by purchasing in bulk like that and
it's actually cheaper to buy them separately... unless I messed
up it's R3935 separately then R4995 as a kit so what the hell lol.
They only seem to have 1 beauty dish but maybe they will restock with
more later. It's roughly 20 inches but I was hoping for 22. Or as you
suggested I can search around, I'm sure they're somewhere around on this big
ol' internet.

lol omg I didn't even think of starting a fire.. I think worst case scenario
is they fall over and Earth explodes haha but shame that girl!
SteveCaissie-stock Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2012  Professional Photographer
You can use another flash to trigger the strobes, yes. One trick I’ve successfully used in the past is to aim the on-camera flash either upwards or backwards so that it’s not significantly adding anything to the scene, but the strobes can still detect the flash and will fire. Note that if you plan to ever use this setup at an event (like, if you have a photo booth set up someplace), and there’s anybody else in the crowd with a point-and-shoot taking shots, their flash can trigger your lights as well. That’s happened to me, and believe me, it gets very annoying after awhile.
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012
The rest of the stuff you mention is pretty much a matter of personal choice and preference, but I think the vinyl backdrop would probably be a mistake. Black backdrops are almost always made of velvet, velour, or occasionally muslin, and they are made of those things for a reason. That is because it needs to be entirely non-reflective. If you want a black backdrop you want something that really gobbles up the light and really does come out a deep black, without the slightest bit of sheen. You don't even see black muslin backdrops much, because they are not non-reflective enough. I'd be very skeptical about a black backdrop made of vinyl, unless maybe it is flocked. Even then there would be a question of durability (people will be standing/sitting/lying on the thing and flocking rubs off).
brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012
Hi `FallisPhoto, I'm concerned about the other side of that vinyl as well :)
I've seen some people complain that only the white is matte while the
black is not and is too shiny/reflective. I think for now I should probably
stick with the single matte white vinyl which will save on price. Then if I
want a different colour eventually get paper. I've never heard of flocked though
so going to Google that lol
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012
Oh, a couple of other things. First, paper works well for other colors, but it makes a lousy black backdrop. You really do need velvet or velour fabric for that. Mine is velour fabric with a plastic backing fused to it; The plastic keeps it stiff and wrinkle free. I can clean it with a water hose and a soft brush.

Next, you might also think about getting a roll of canvas tarp and some flat enamel paint and making your own "Olan Mills" type mottled backdrop. [link] [link] You can make one a whole lot cheaper than you can buy one.

You paint the canvas with the darker color, then wad up a rag and add a little white to whatever color you used. You dip the rag into the lightened paint and blot it very lightly onto the canvas. Then you get a big paintbrush and go over the whole thing with the dry brush, blurring the edges and feathering the two shades of paint until the edges are soft. Spread it out so it dries flat and then store it rolled up. Fold the top of the canvas over and rivet it, to form a sleeve for the support rod to go through. If you keep it rolled up, and don't try to fold it, it will stay flat and wrinkle-free. You can clean it with warm water and a soft brush.
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012
Flocking is like fuzz that is glued on, to make something look like velvet. It is a bunch of little short fibers that stand up when they hit the glue. This plastic toy is flocked: [link] They used to flock the insides of a few antique cameras, back in the day, but it does eventually rub off and it wreaked holy hell with the workings of the camera and got on everything, gumming it up horribly. The old Kiev 88 Russian cameras had a flocked interior, for example, and that is one of several reasons why so many of them don't work now.
Delahkel Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012  Professional Photographer
That depends on what type of flashes you're using, studio flashes or speedlights. For studio flashes, they just screw on top of the stand no problem, for speedlights you need and adapter [link] which also has a hole, where you put your umbrella through.
As for beauty dish, if you're using studio strobes, it screws on in front of it, if you're using speedlights, I'd suggest the Kacey Beauty Dish instead, as you can also order it with an adapter for speedlights.

As for light stands, I personally use the Manfrotto ones, as they're pretty sturdy, and can even handle my heavy Speedotron strobes.
brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012
Awesome, thank you! I will have to try and find some of your equipment in
South African stores. If not, I have to consider shipping cost and it usually
takes 3 weeks for orders from the US to get here.

Here is the umbrella kit they recommended as well as the flash:
kit: [link]
flash: [link]

They recommended this for the beauty dish:
but I'm kind of confused as to why this is necessary? :<
"Beauty Dishes are all meant for dedicated studio flashes so you won’t be able to mount them on a strobist setup."
Delahkel Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012  Professional Photographer
Don't see a link for the beauty dish, last link takes me to a battery powered strobe. But yeah, generally, beauty dishes are more of a specialty modifiers, personally, I'd stick to umbrellas and soft boxes for starters, and only add other modifiers as I see fit.

For a strobist setup, that seems to be quite good, can't really comment on the price though, as I don't know the exchange rate, nor do I know what's the common price in your country is.
I would change the speedlight though, Sigma is good if you want to use it as on camera flash in TTL mode, but that's about it, for off camera stuff, I'd suggest a Nissin, or if you want to go full manual (and save money) order a Yongnuo from eBay.
brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012
The link is right it should take you to the battery powered strobe :)
Is something like that necessary for a beauty dish?
If I wanted to start out with just a beauty dish set up what would be all the equipment I'd need?
Sorry if that is a big question? but I really suck at anything equipment-related :x
Now you're like DAMN WHY DID I REPLY lol
Delahkel Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012  Professional Photographer
Neah, it's ok.
For strobist work, if you really want to use a beauty dish, get the Kacey one with the adapter for speedlights.
Problem with beauty dishes is that they're usually made specifically for one type of strobe...Speedotron BD for Speedotron strobes, Elinchrom BD for Elinchrom strobes and so forth. To make it work on other brands is possible, but you need to modify it yourself. For speedlights, the Kacey can't be beat.
brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012
Okay cool, I will try to look around for the
Kaceys but I'll have to keep my fingers crossed because
South Africa's selection is pretty lacking at times.
I've seen a lot of DIY beauty dishes, etc and as you
said just now, read about people modding their equipment
which was like WHAT?? I just got into DIY clothes and now
there's DIY photography equipment with power tools and all
*SIGH* lol
Delahkel Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012  Professional Photographer
Oh, modding equipment isn't THAT hard :p I wouldn't go for a completely DIY beauty dish though, unless you know what you're doing.
brittniO Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012
One other question :<
I'm really interested in the beauty dish, if I purchase a beauty dish should I be bothering with the
umbrella? They're so cheap so I don't think it would hurt but I'm more concerned about the cost
of buying another stand & flash for it. Also if anyone wants to recommend an external flash for a
Canon EOS 550D Digital SLR please do? :3
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