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Old 10th of April 2010 (Sat)   #1
munzzzzzzz
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Default Ideal height for studio lights?

What is the ideal height for mounting studio lights?

I know that they need to be higher than the subject, and typically when I see setups for portraits of adults they are a few feet higher than the person, but is there a general rule in terms of feet, percentage, etc, or is it "get them as high as you can"? The reason I ask is that I'm trying to figure out how large I can go on a modifier (either octagonal softbox or PLM) being limited by 7' ceilings. My "subject" is my 2.5' tall son, so I do have a lot of room to go up, and I want to go as large as possible on the modifier while still being able to get it high enough above him. Thoughts? I'm leaning towards a 64" PLM, a 60(ish)" softbox, or a 48" softbox.

Keep in mind that I can mount from the ceiling, so it could technically be right on top of him shining straight down, but I recognise that isn't really the ideal setup.
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Old 10th of April 2010 (Sat)   #2
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

I doubt that anyone can really give you a firm answer, as the position of the light has everything to do with how the light falls on the subject, the position of the subject (sitting straight, leaning over, etc.).

The key would be to have equipment and space that allows you to move the lights. The monster modifiers limit the ways you can move them. Reflectors are your friends as well.
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Old 10th of April 2010 (Sat)   #3
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

There really isn't an absolute, but think of it like the sun. You wouldn't want it directly above the subject because it would create hard shadows under eyes/nose/other deep features. So think of the times of day you can shoot outside and get pleasant results (especially overcast days if you're using a softbox), and how you can get good results using flash in conjunction with the sun to get good results. Place accordingly for the light you're going for and you're good.
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Old 10th of April 2010 (Sat)   #4
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

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Originally Posted by munzzzzzzz View Post
What is the ideal height for mounting studio lights?
That's a bit like asking "how long is a piece of string?"

Realisticly, I think you should perhaps have been asking what sized light modifier would best suit your subject, but even that is a little general.

Personally, I would not bother getting anything bigger than the 29" height of your son. That size will be big enough if you are wanting to get even lighting on him when he is standing. If you have a 30" octa you will get plenty of soft light on him by placing it relatively close and it's size will give you plenty of scope for light placement.
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Old 10th of April 2010 (Sat)   #5
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

Yeah, I know, it was a pretty general question, and it does have just as much to do with the size of the modifier. The thing is, I've been to two different studios with him now, and at both places 1) they had large modifiers (4-5 ft), 2) they weren't very high, and 3) they didn't move them at all. In fact, at one of the places the lights were permanently mounted in a fixed location (they had multiple spots to shoot with different setups at each). I don't think I'm going to be changing up how I shoot much, so I was thinking (hoping) I could mount something like a 48" octo from the ceiling in just the right spot and pretty much leave it there. Is this practical?

At his age I don't have too much time to try different things, so the idea is to be able to bring him in when he's in a good mood, shoot for 15 or 20 minutes, and be done, but do this on a regular basis.
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Old 10th of April 2010 (Sat)   #6
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

Yeah, I know, it was a pretty general question, and it does have just as much to do with the size of the modifier. The thing is, I've been to two different studios with him now, and at both places 1) they had large modifiers (4-5 ft), 2) they weren't very high, and 3) they didn't move them at all. In fact, at one of the places the lights were permanently mounted in a fixed location (they had multiple spots to shoot with different setups at each). I don't think I'm going to be changing up how I shoot much, so I was thinking (hoping) I could mount something like a 48" octo from the ceiling in just the right spot and pretty much leave it there. Is this practical?

At his age I don't have too much time to try different things, so the idea is to be able to bring him in when he's in a good mood, shoot for 15 or 20 minutes, and be done, but do this on a regular basis.
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Old 11th of April 2010 (Sun)   #7
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

high enough or low enough so the catch lights in the eyes look good. and good would be where your creative instincts tell you to put the lights.
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Old 11th of April 2010 (Sun)   #8
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

Quote:
Originally Posted by munzzzzzzz View Post
Yeah, I know, it was a pretty general question, and it does have just as much to do with the size of the modifier. The thing is, I've been to two different studios with him now, and at both places 1) they had large modifiers (4-5 ft), 2) they weren't very high, and 3) they didn't move them at all. In fact, at one of the places the lights were permanently mounted in a fixed location (they had multiple spots to shoot with different setups at each).
The operators of some photo studios do tend to get into a production mode and do not necessarily attempt to optimize the results for every client by changing their setup around for each client. If their results are "good enough" to sell consistently, they may just work with one basic lighting setup in their studio.

You need to work with various setups to learn about lighting and to choose what's best for your situations.
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Old 11th of April 2010 (Sun)   #9
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

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Originally Posted by umphotography View Post
high enough or low enough so the catch lights in the eyes look good. and good would be where your creative instincts tell you to put the lights.
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Old 11th of April 2010 (Sun)   #10
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

You want to start with your catch lights at 10 (o'clock) or at 2, depending on what side of the subject the light is at. That will likely give you the most flattering look.

After that, go crazy.
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Old 11th of April 2010 (Sun)   #11
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

Yep, subject dependant and lighting style wanted
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Old 12th of April 2010 (Mon)   #12
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

munzzzzzzz i have a small basement set up for taking pics of my 3 yr old and find beauty dishes work best for me, i leave the softboxes and plm's alone when he's down.
i ceiling mount a couple of dishes, no stands and let him play. it's not likely he'll sit long enough for rembrandt lighting anyway.
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Old 12th of April 2010 (Mon)   #13
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Default Re: Ideal height for studio lights?

Yeah, I definitely understand that you never really get a chance to "pose" a child his age. I want to go with a larger light for a few reasons:

- it should obviously provide softer lighting
- it should cover a larger area, giving him more room left-to right
- it should allow me to pull the light further away from him, making it less of a distraction and decreasing the change in exposure caused by him moving closer to me

That much I've been able to establish, but I obviously still have much to learn that I need to have lights in hand to experiment with. I still need to buy modifiers too, and that's kind of where this question came from... I won't know what it takes to get the look I want until I have it in hand but obviously have to buy something before I get to experiment. Sort of a "what came first, the chicken or the egg" type of problem.

Fortunately all of the options I'm considering are relatively inexpensive so I may just end up buying a few different options so I can see what I like best. At least with the PLM it is easy to fold up, so maybe that is my first choice. Does that seem to make sense?
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