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Old 02-07-2012   #11
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

As others have said, you can start with one light or more. I consider 3 to 4 studio strobes pretty much a Swiss Knife set. It is enough for many jobs, but you may need more for complex jobs.

Shuttereye is dead on about the power you want for studio strobes for a small studio.

Too much strobe power is usually the problem in a small studio, not too little power. keithdewey3 is right about you needing power adjustment - down to 1/16th is good but 1/32nd is even better. Don't buy studio strobes that don't have power adjustment.

Buy quality lights from a reputable dealer with a good reputation. Paul C. Buff (AlienBees), Adorama (Flashpoint) and B&H (Impact) are three examples of good companies offering quality studio strobes at budget prices.

Never buy a studio strobe without fittings for a speedring - and anything that uses a "Universal" speedring is complete junk.

Buy studio strobes with a common speed ring - Bowens, Elincrome, and Paul C. Buff are the most common. There are lots of third party suppliers of speedrings, diffusers, and other accessories for these common speedrings.

Umbrellas are cheap but throw lots of stray light around a studio, reducing your ability to control subject lighting. Softboxes give you greater light control and are generally worth the added expensive.

If you need to do a lot of location shooting or only have a temporary studio look into umbrella opening softboxes. You usually damage classical softboxes when assembling or disassembling them, a problem the umbrella opening softboxes avoid. PLM's with a sock, or the Softlighter are also good choices. These last two are umbrellas but they act like softboxes.
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Old 02-07-2012   #12
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

Broad question. Maybe if we knew what you liked to photograph we could be of better help.

Dabbling in studio photography does not necessarily mean buying lights. Roll a table to a sunny window and use foamcore for bounce.

You will learn a lot quickly. After a couple of weeks of that your lighting style will be a lot clearer.
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Old 02-08-2012   #13
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

You may want to check out a book called "Minimalist Lighting" by Kirk Tuck. It's a book specifically about lighting on a budget from the perspective of a commercial photographer.

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Old 02-08-2012   #14
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

Listen to what keithdewey3 and Sailor Blue are saying about the adjustable power controls. I got a set off Amazon for $250.00 and they work great. They came with two umbrellas, three lights. two soft boxes, stands, remote triggers barn doors and gels. And again I say they work great, they will last for awhile with care, however they only go down to 1/8 power. Its not enough in my studio/living room I have had to get creative on reducing the power using transparent material. For what I needed to do and have done they work, do I what AB"s yes, someday.

So start with as good/many as you can afford and learn as you go.

One other thing get a flash meter at the same time as your first light, it makes its a lot easier to set up the lights.
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Old 02-08-2012   #15
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

... or one could start out the "strobist" way... who's mantra is "more brains, less money" to start off with.

A single flash, stand, umbrella is more than enough to get started in the path to mastering light. It is also a lot more portable than studio heads that need a power outlet.

For a start, thats the perfect place to begin from. One can learn and at the same time find which direction their photography desires and needs take them. Once they know (and very few know this when starting out), then they can make more targeted hardware purchases that meet their needs.
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Old 02-08-2012   #16
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

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Originally Posted by jerryph View Post
... or one could start out the "strobist" way... who's mantra is "more brains, less money" to start off with.

A single flash, stand, umbrella is more than enough to get started in the path to mastering light. It is also a lot more portable than studio heads that need a power outlet.

For a start, thats the perfect place to begin from. One can learn and at the same time find which direction their photography desires and needs take them. Once they know (and very few know this when starting out), then they can make more targeted hardware purchases that meet their needs.
Speedlights really don't cost that much less...........More portable yes, but then you don't have modeling lights. I guess you can get some cheap knock offs like the yongnuo flashes, but decent speedlights like the Canon or Nikon offerings cost more than an entry level studio strobe and the strobe will be more powerful.
Depending on what the OP wants to do there are always continuous lighting options as well, including LED set ups.
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Old 02-08-2012   #17
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

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Originally Posted by scatterbrained View Post
Speedlights really don't cost that much less...........More portable yes, but then you don't have modeling lights. I guess you can get some cheap knock offs like the yongnuo flashes, but decent speedlights like the Canon or Nikon offerings cost more than an entry level studio strobe and the strobe will be more powerful.
Depending on what the OP wants to do there are always continuous lighting options as well, including LED set ups.
No the upper line of speedlights are certainly not any less expesive, and in some cases more.

Modelling lights... I grew up without them, got good at seeing what I wanted before the light was even placed, so now that I have them... it is sincerely rare that I need them.

Even a mouse in a field knows from what direction that hawk circling above him is coming from... lol

For the tradeoff of size, portability and in general less money, there is NO question that studio heads (even lower end ones like the B400) are much more powerful than speedlights. The real answer to the question is.. do you need that much power?

For me 90% of the time I run speedlights at between 1/8th to 1/2 power and do super well. Other times, like my last little play outing earlier this week... nothing less than 1,000 W/s gave me what I needed.

There is no one tool that does it all... best we can do is make choices that give us what we need and can continue to grow with, and that gives us the time to work, save and then buy what we want.
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Old 02-08-2012   #18
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

I would say the minimum is "whatever you need to do the work that you want to do the way you want to do it."

I hate using reflectors, so I am of the main and fill light camp. So two to start with. However, you should be able to hair light or edge light for separation = 2 more lights and then a back ground light or two. So 5 to 6.

So for minimum, it is two lights with umbrellas and for what I like to do, 5-6 lights with umbrella, multiple sizes of soft boxes, beauty dishes, grids, and strip lights.

You can always learn faster if you can see it as you do it. That is why most photo schools teach with hot lights at first. Also, one reason is that they are cheap and don't really know what is out there as far as strobes go. At least back when I was getting taught.
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Old 02-08-2012   #19
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

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Originally Posted by kgphoto View Post
I would say the minimum is "whatever you need to do the work that you want to do the way you want to do it."
No doubt, I totally agree. Except that you and I and others know what we want, we've played with this for a while, know the direction we want things to go.

Beginners don't have that luxury, so the only choices are to maybe get lucky or spend too much or make bad purchases that force them to buy the same, but better, hardware again.
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Old 02-08-2012   #20
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Default Re: How many studio lights do I need to start out?

Or just listen to our advice !


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