Sunday, 20 January 2019

Do I need studio flash gear?

Do I need studio flash gear?

Photo friend Susan Menis asked me today about lighting because she wants to get into flash lit portraiture. Susan had done a flash workshop at a local retailer and naturally they push their gear during the workshop.

Susan knows that I do flash portraiture and asked me what I thought, I've responded to her directly but it occurs to me that this is likely to be a common question so I'll adapt the answer I gave her here.

The short answer is no, you don't need a big studio light setup unless you're going to in a 20m x 20m x 10m studio and need to light the entire set. Susan was told that battery flash isn't powerful enough or flattering - in the wrong hands blasting directly into someones face, sure they're ugly but they are very much powerful enough and can certainly be used in flattering ways.

I have a pair of Lumopro LP180 battery flashes that I use for portable studio stuff and they're great. They are very powerful and spend most of their time dialled way down - usually at 1/4 power or less. With small flash your lights need to have the lights closer to the model which means you need to be careful not to blow them out.

You may remember the gluttony shoot with Britty? That was done with one big softbox with a big 800 watt second flash and the two battery LumoPro's in a garage with some natural light. Worked fine. I use Cactus 5 triggers and they're great. Towards the end of the shoot the big light was turned off and only the battery flashes were in use. This shot is one of those with battery only.

Strobist is an awesome resource and will show you what is possible with just small lights I can't recommend it highly enough. I recommend Strobist so highly I've never bothered to compete on my blog because why would you? So much information there. Go ahead go there, feed your brain.

I definitely would not be going out and investing thousands on big lights because there are alternatives. If I had had my LP180's earlier I probably would not have even bought the studio lights. The big ones live in their boxes under my bed and rarely see daylight, the LP's go all over the place.

For your beauty dish I'd grab a flood light receptacle on a cord that can take a PAR38 warm white LED bulb that is around 150watts equivalent (about 40w) that you can buy from bunnings and mount it on a $20 light stand from ebay/china. The beauty dish itself is just a polished aluminium bowl - also from ebay.

When I do use it my big 800 w/s light spends 90% of its time dialled down to nearly zero so it does not overpower everything. Only very occasionally do I push this light up high when I'm doing high key and I want to blast the crap out of everything. Note at the full power, close range and directly onto the model this light actually hurts and will give the model sunburn after only a few direct flashes so you've got to be very careful.

The LP180's are usually around $300 but often come up on special as low as $200. The main reason I like them in particular is that they are very configurable, portable and easy to use. They are adaptable to all sorts of situations and best yet don't need anything more than a pile of cheap AA batteries. I buy the bulk packs from Aldi because they're cheaper than brand batteries and last just as long.

I've got piles of el cheapo light modifiers from ebay and some that I've made and a few traditional commercial ones and some I've picked up at swap meets. I hardly use any of it.

Backgrounds are overrated too - you can get cheap 3m x 6m backgrounds on ebay or you can just head down to spotlight. It's rare you want to portrait an entire body, head and shoulders stuff is the deal most of the time.

If I had to distil things down here's what I'd go and get to start with...
2 x LP 180
2 x light stand mounts from Dragon Image (they have a hot shoe to hold the LP180)
1 x Cactus trigger set (trigger one LP with the cactus and leave the other on flash sync)
2 x reflective silver umbrella
2 x white shoot through diffuser umbrellas (a lot like a softbox)
2 x light stands

If you want a soft box, then grab one of those and a suitable mount for it since most of them assume you're going onto a big light although there are some which include a strobist mount.

In time get a big reflector/diffuser that has gold, silver, black and white - plenty of these around with their covers that go inside out. I also have a second smaller one for highlighting key areas.

I've got a tube and honeycomb for hairlight when I want it but to be honest I hardly ever use it, I prefer natural hair light from the sun - flash always seems so well, flash.

You really don't need to spend much at all, it's all about how you use it.

Model: B La'Belle Shoot: Gluttony

This is a #createbuddy post.

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