How difficult is studio lighting?
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Old 02-08-2007   #1
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Default How difficult is studio lighting?

I'm interested in trying out shooting portraits and thinking about getting an Alien Bee to start. When using it, will I be shooting in manual mode most often because of the metering or is it possible to start out in P mode and and work my way to Av Tv and manual as I get more comfortable and creative with it? Thanks!

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Old 02-08-2007   #2
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

Good thinking, one light, maybe an umbrella if you're shooting people and a reflector panel is all you need to get started. Shoot manual, if you're shooting digital you can get by without a light meter by guessing and chimping... pretty soon you'll know what the exposure is going to be within a stop or so before you even start.

Auto modes won't work because the camera doesn't control the flash duration. Manual is the only way to shoot most of the time anyway. Learn how to use the histogram to judge exposure when you chimp. Look up 'Exposing to the right' as it relates to histograms and you'll see what I mean.

Good luck and have lots of fun.
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Old 02-09-2007   #3
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

Rizavee,

Welcome to PhotoCamel. You will find lots of friendly and good advice here. Blinky is right. You can start with just one light and a reflector, and once you have those down move on to more lights.

Lets touch on exposure. Digital only has a 1/3rd stop overexposure limit. If you overexposure your highlights more than 1/3rd of a stop they will block up and will not have any detail in them. Assuming you have Photoshop, here is an inexpensive way to meter your flash unit. Set the camera on manual, shutter speed around 100 or so (but NOT above synch) seat a person in front of the camera, place the light beside you at a comfortable distance for both you and the sitter and where you can easily manuver the camera. Set the light at the lowest power setting. Set your camera at the widest aperture (lets say it is F 4) then make a series of exposures at every full stop down from there (F 5.6, F 8.0, F 11, F 16, F 22.) DO NOT MOVE OR ADJUST THE LIGHT YET. Load the images into Photoshop and click on "Window" and choose "Info" the drop down menu. I usually get the eyedropper from the toolbox then I place it over the brightest part of the skin of your subject. Whichever exposure gives you an "R" reading of about 235 is the correct aperture for that light at that power setting at that distance ONLY. You CANNOT use any other aperture, any other power setting, or any other distance from the subject. Assuming you moved nothing, I would then repose the subject take some kite string, tie it around the light stand, and pull it straight out until it touches the area of the subject that you placed the eyedropper on, then take a piece of masking tape and write down the F stop that gave you the 235 reading.

I would not move the power setting of the light until I got a meter. You can vary the distance you place the light from the subject, but every time you do you will need to do the above test again. Eventually you will have a long string with tape at certain intervals all with a different F stop written there.

If you are familiar with the "inverse square law" and are not mathematically challenged like I am, you could mathematically figure out the other correct f stop numbers from the first one you obtained.

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Old 02-09-2007   #4
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

"If you are familiar with the "inverse square law" and are not mathematically challenged like I am, you could mathematically figure out the other correct f stop numbers from the first one you obtained."

And you can do that easily if you consider the distance from the light to subject as f-stops, instead of feet/inches/meters etc.

For example: If you have a correct exposure when the light is 11 ft. from your subject then you can move it closer to 8 ft and know you have an exposure that's brighter than 1 stop. ( f11 compared to f8 ). Move the light closer still to 5.6 ft and you are 2 stops brighter than when it was 11 ft. away. Conversely if you move the light farther away from 11 ft. to 16 ft you will lose a stop.

Treating distance measurements as f-stops for exposure calculations works as well when computing bellows factors in close-up photography as it does in lighting. Just measure the increased lens to film/chip distance in mm or cm etc and compare it to the focal length of the lens.

For example: using a 105mm lens (10.5 cm) in a close-up might increase the lens to film/chop distance from 10. cm to 16cm, an increase of approx. 1 stop ( f 11 to f 16) .

No need to be mathematically intimidated by the "inverse square law" . Distances as f-stops is the deal.
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Old 02-16-2007   #5
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rizavee
I'm interested in trying out shooting portraits and thinking about getting an Alien Bee to start. When using it, will I be shooting in manual mode most often because of the metering or is it possible to start out in P mode and and work my way to Av Tv and manual as I get more comfortable and creative with it? Thanks!
You need to shoot manually. If you are shooting digital you can figure out the exposure by shooting test shots and viewing the histogram. I still use a flash meter to get me close, but the histogram is the primary tool for exposure control. A meter will help in determining ratio's but from your question I would start with one or two lights or a light and reflector and move on from there.
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Old 02-17-2007   #6
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

Don't make it too difficult.
Start with one light and a reflector (white/silver).
Make the studio PITCHDARK so you can see what you are doing.

Set the camera for manual 1/125 and the aperture you want to use (and is measured on the strobes) and start with looking what light does.
Move it arround, try an open reflector, a difusser etc.
LEARN what happens and how it looks, no theory can be taught without knowing what the light does.

For seeing the light, you have to understand the light, but to understand the light you have to see the light.

Greetings,
Frank
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Old 02-17-2007   #7
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

Frank is right. In one of my earliest classes in portraiture the master photographer who was teaching the class said, "your camera room should be as dark as your darkroom." In my tutorial "Studio Portrait Lighting-A How To" (in the Tutorials sub-forum under Lighting and Technique) I demonstrate that exact concept. I also show this technique in my video, Photographing The High School Senior in The New Millennium.

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Old 02-23-2007   #8
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

To add to some posts once you 'see' the light, you'll eventually see the 'quality' of light...s/b's w/grids, reflectors w/grids, beauty dish, even umbrella's, spots, fresnel's...once you learn to 'see' the light then learning 'quality' features from differing source's...including window light, simply ambient w/reflector...then you just may finally find your sight and style...w/people it seems more difficult though a lot of people do it...so look at thousands of photo's and study the one's that intrugue you and you find interesting...after all, that's how everyone really starts...
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Old 02-25-2007   #9
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rizavee View Post
I'm interested in trying out shooting portraits and thinking about getting an Alien Bee to start. When using it, will I be shooting in manual mode most often because of the metering or is it possible to start out in P mode and and work my way to Av Tv and manual as I get more comfortable and creative with it? Thanks!
When using flash skip the p-mode and Tv mode altogether. Start in Av or
better yet manual.
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Old 02-26-2007   #10
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Default Re: How difficult is studio lighting?

Av will never work because it measures the modellight and not the flash.

Start out with 2 flash units and 2 reflectors (white).
Start to see what one unit does and add reflectors.
Later on start with the second for background seperation or accent/hair light.

First learn to see the light, than use it.

Use arround 1/125 in the studio and measure the strobe with a light meter, pointed towards the lightsource.

Greetings,
Frank


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