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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 31 Jul 2013 (Wednesday) 23:19
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Why bother with studio strobes...speedlight not enough?

 
Wilt
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Jul 31, 2013 23:19 |  #1

Folks seem to want to try to learn lighting with speedlight-based kits. But why does that impede the learning how to master the setup? Simply, because you cannot SEE the effects of placement, you have to guess the effect. Or have a less appealing photo which is merely 'illuminated' , and not 'lighted to show off' someone or something at its best. I talk about this principle on POTN a lot. I decided to use this opportunity to illustrate my points in action.

My youngest stepdaughter is getting married soon. Little details still being worked out, like how the florist would like to augment table decorations. Jackie told her mother, "Send me a picture" after her mother explained that the suggested addition would increase the apparent height of the centerpieces and the glittery characteristic would dress up the arrangement. So now I had a request to 'take a quick picture and send it in an email'. Enter studio lighting...

Here is a series of shots. First of all I set the light on the right with a snoot, and I wanted to set the light on the left with a grid. I wanted to feature the light falling upon the 'set' so that it would illuminate as little of the back wall as possible, and also illuminate the table as little as possible, both accomplished with 'feathering' the light falling upon the set. No complex and time consuming 'set design' here, as I was not being paid and the request was for an emailed picture 'as soon as possible'. The work was done in my family room with distracting things around, not in a pro studio without bothersome cr*p laying all around the set. That's why I needed to control how my lighting fell (didn't fall) on adjacent things.

Speedlights would make it all total guesswork, and probably not even possible without a ton of shoot and chimp shots. By using studio flash with modeling lights, I could immediately SEE how the lighting fell on the 'set' and adjust it to suit my goal, with no guess work or shooting and chimping. I wanted to exhibit the 'sparkle' via critical angling of the subject piece along with critical placement of the light. Again, that would be a total guess with speedlights, but the modelling lights allowed me to immediately SEE how the lighting could create sparkle the best at certain key locations (like at the end of the tallest piece).

now for the series...

IMAGE: http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/POTN%202013%20Post%20Mar1/Lightingprojectstudio_zpsfa5ec8d6.jpg
...In the top row the first shot shows the right side snooted light, the second shot shows the left side gridded light, and the third shot shows the combinationof the two. This represents how my eye saw things, with no flash just the modeling lights. My positioning was done in a couple minutes, and verified. Now, time for the final shots, shown on the bottom row...

I shot three strobe-illuminated shots, at various exposure levels, to determine which exposure resulted in the most appealing balance of sparkle vs. 'ordinary' level of brilliance of the piece. Lastly, here is the shot I emailed, in which I adjusted the Tone Curve to best illuminate the piece while de-accentuating the table and background wall.

IMAGE: http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/POTN%202013%20Post%20Mar1/IMG_8026_zps8afa7972.jpg

Home studio shooting in a few minutes effort, three shots in total (keep in mind the first three shots were simply to illustrate the process for posting on POTN and illustrate how I could SEE the results of placement!), and optimized to well present the proposed accents to my stepdaughter.
BTW, she absolutely loved the piece and is telling the florist "Go ahead!" Mission accomplished.
BTW, I am not the hired gun...I am the husband of the mother of the bride. Let some other sorry soul slave his a$$ off
...I am enjoying the wedding and free drinking -- it will have an open bar and the B&G are footing the tab!

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BTNorris
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Aug 01, 2013 02:08 |  #2

Thanks for sharing! Just a couple questions...

It looks to be 2 lights, no mods except snoot/grid, and roughly same power?

What drove the decision for 1 snoot and 1 grid?

Hard to see the difference in how the 2 lights play on the object, but I do see the softer shadow on the left (from the snooted-right, if I read correctly) -- could you tell a difference in the "quality" of reflections from each light?

And finally, if the hired gun doesn't do these objects justice, did you volunteer to PS your version in? (yeah, right!)

Anyway, nice work!


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Whortleberry
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Aug 01, 2013 02:57 |  #3

Wilt: This is what I call the "Three-tone Dad" scenario - the one which goes
"Daa
a-a-a
a-d"
on a rising tone - with cajoling overlay! It also usually accompanies the most dangerous four letter word in the English language - J U S T.

So you end up with "Daa a-a-a a-d, can you just....." which is usally the precursor to something which either takes 3 days to "just" accomplish or costs you mega-bucks. I think you got off very lightly here! :lol: In England, we'd call that 'experience and using the right tools' - I'll bet it's much the same in SoCal. (Yes, substitute step-dad as appropriate)

Yes, studio lighting definitely helps in a lot of places. But then you and I started off in film days when every single exposure cost us money whether it was right or a total foul-up - that definitely focusses the mind quite markédly. Shoot - chimp - reshoot - rechimp - reshoot again - end up looking and feeling like a chimp(anzee) may be some people's preferred method of working but I'm definitely with you on this. Studio lights, using the modelling lights, makes life so much easier. Not always the answer of course but proof positive in this case that quick and dirty isn't always the answer.

Enjoy the wedding. Delight in the free booze. REVEL in the fact that the bill goes elsewhere!!


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Aug 01, 2013 11:01 |  #4

nice job on illustrating your point. I'm just laughing since I can hear you wife saying something to the effect. "
Just take a picture, can't you do that without making a production out of it"


---------------Camera, Lens, Flash stuff.. but still wanting more

  
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Wilt
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Aug 01, 2013 13:21 |  #5

BTNorris wrote in post #16171809 (external link)
It looks to be 2 lights, no mods except snoot/grid, and roughly same power?

Light with grid was 1EV brighter than the light with snoot, according to the power dialed into the power pack. Both were equidistant from the object being photographed. In the modeling light photos, they appear equally bright because I adjusted exposure to take a shot depicting area of light coverage, irregardless of intensity differences.

BTNorris wrote in post #16171809 (external link)
What drove the decision for 1 snoot and 1 grid?

I simply did not own two narrow grids! Actually, I did not own two grid holders, or I else could have used two grids of different angular cutoffs.

Hard to see the difference in how the 2 lights play on the object, but I do see the softer shadow on the left (from the snooted-right, if I read correctly) -- could you tell a difference in the "quality" of reflections from each light?

As both sources were equal in size as viewed from the subject position, one would not expect any difference in 'quality'. So the specular highlights ought not be drastically different. The characteristic of a grid can be seen in the shadow edge cast by the subject (below). Not casting shadows on a backdrop in my shot, I did not care about shadow edges cast by the subject.

The difference between snoot and grid -- that mattered to me -- really was the transition zone between illuminated area and the un-illuminated area at the edge of the cone of light. This comparison from the Visatec/Bron web site allows you to see the difference.

IMAGE: http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/Principles/snootgrid_zps4b52a90c.jpg

Because the cone of light from one modifier was so much larger, I had to angle that source much more (relative to the subject) so that so much area behind the subject would not be illuminated...the feather angle was greater. The comparison seen above leads you to think snoots might always cast narrower areas of light than grids...in my case, the snoot cast a larger area of light that a narrow grid. That is why the modeling light shot taken with the snoot illuminates an area of wall, while the one with the grid shot does not.

And finally, if the hired gun doesn't do these objects justice, did you volunteer to PS your version in? (yeah, right!)

Snowball in Hell come to mind?!

My stepdaughter's aunt is the florist (owner). I was thinking last night that I ought to give her the shot to use in suggesting that type of decorative add-on to other clients of hers. [done]


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Wilt
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Aug 01, 2013 14:20 |  #6

Whortleberry wrote in post #16171833 (external link)
Yes, studio lighting definitely helps in a lot of places. But then you and I started off in film days when every single exposure cost us money whether it was right or a total foul-up - that definitely focusses the mind quite markédly. Shoot - chimp - reshoot - rechimp - reshoot again - end up looking and feeling like a chimp(anzee) may be some people's preferred method of working but I'm definitely with you on this. Studio lights, using the modelling lights, makes life so much easier. Not always the answer of course but proof positive in this case that quick and dirty isn't always the answer.

Ignoring the question of expense, since 'digital shots are free!', there is a really tangible difference between 'illuminating' and 'lighting'.

  • trying to find the edge of the illumination field so that I could control the light field falling on the background,
  • trying to rotate the subject to the correct angle, in combination with
  • determining the angular placement of the light on the floor and
  • altering the light's elevation
  • and adjusting the camera elevation to best capture the glint

so that glints of light are strategically located along the subject being photographed in an appealing way

...would have been really tedious and and time consuming, when you cannot see the effect and have to shoot a shot and inspect it on the computer until trial and error yielded an acceptable (not optimal) result. That is the point to be learned from this thread.

The expense, in this case, is the labor and time...assuming you could even accomplish a near-optimal shot after a lot of trial and error chimping.

I do not always 'light', I do not always use studio strobes. If shooting a wedding party with more than two folks, I 'illuminate' with speedlights. In part, one cannot optimize lighting for more than one person. And it is too much bother and hazard having AC cords running all over the place at a wedding or reception!

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BTNorris
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Aug 01, 2013 14:38 as a reply to  @ Wilt's post |  #7

Thank you, Wilt, I really appreciate the time and thought you put into your posts - they are really ...errr... illuminating!


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Aug 01, 2013 15:23 |  #8

Wilt,
That's an excellent example of the value modeling lights add to light placement etc.
It also illustrates that the more focused the light source the greater the benefit a modeling light adds.


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pinolero ­ newbie
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Aug 01, 2013 16:11 |  #9

Wilt, thanks for sharing your knowledge. I'm pretty new to lighting and was wondering if I could get some clarificaiton.

I have a small little studio in my garage and have three speedlights with umbrellas. I am using it to shoot my 3 yr old daughter and 1 yr old son.

What I have basically done, is the night before shooting. I change the setttings on the speedlights and right them down. Then go look on the computer once I have shot a bunch of shots with different settings.

Keep the favorites, and use those settings for the next day.

I like the thought of being able to see the results instantly.

My questions are, first are these the lights that are always on? Or are these the alien bee/ white lightinging type lights? (Mabye Alien bee's and such can always be on - I'm just not familiar enough).

If they are always on, do they have an option where you can have them on, then set them to flash after you have the setup and the power output?

I ask this because I would imagine if the lights were on the entire time, they would be distracting and/or bothersome to my kids - which it's a tough enough task getting them to be still with just the flashes of light.

Maybe that's a non issue. I don't know. The whole world of lighting is new, and I'm eager to continue learning.

Sorry, these questions probably seem very rudimentary - but I'm unfamiliar.


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Wilt
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Aug 01, 2013 16:23 |  #10

The lights that I use are similar to Alien Bees in usage:


  1. There is a constant source modeling light (typically incandencent, usually halogen on pro level units), depending upon manufacturer and model btw. 150-250w
  2. There is a momentary source flash tube


You can turn on/off the modeling lights independent of flash tube.

'Hot lights' are very bright incandescent, typically 500-1000w bulbs.

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pinolero ­ newbie
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Aug 01, 2013 16:34 |  #11

Wilt wrote in post #16173463 (external link)
The lights that I use are similar to Alien Bees in usage:

  1. There is a constant source modeling light (typically incandencent, usually halogen on pro level units), depending upon manufacturer and model btw. 150-250w
  2. There is a momentary source flash tube


You can turn on/off the modeling lights independent of flash tube.

'Hot lights' are very bright incandescent, typically 500-1000w bulbs.

OK, so if I understand. You are illustrating the advantages of strobes over speedlights?

In this instance that you can model the lights to see what you're getting. Compared to the shoot and test that needs be done with speedlights.

If this is the case, I think I may need to upgrade to strobes once the budget allows. When I started up, I simply got in the most economical way possible as my budget was tight.


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Wilt
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Aug 01, 2013 16:48 |  #12

pinolero newbie wrote in post #16173502 (external link)
OK, so if I understand. You are illustrating the advantages of strobes over speedlights?

Sorta...I was demonstrating why you want a constant source of light to help in optimally positioning your lights, and even to help position your subject (like in the opening post). How you actually make the exposure is a totally different issue, not meant to be the discussion point of the thread. The studio strobe vs. speedlight topic was simply to get folks to think about why they ought not build a 'complete light kit' using only speedlights.

One might derive this constant source benefit from even a high wattage halogen desk light, or photoflood lamps, and not necessarily a studio strobe with integrated modeling light...all three have constant sources in them!

Now the fact that speedlights do not have any 'constant' source immediately handicaps their use for certain types of photographs -- like the purpose illustrated in the OP.


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pinolero ­ newbie
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Aug 01, 2013 17:28 |  #13

Wilt wrote in post #16173553 (external link)
Sorta...I was demonstrating why you want a constant source of light to help in optimally positioning your lights, and even to help position your subject (like in the opening post). How you actually make the exposure is a totally different issue, not meant to be the discussion point of the thread. The studio stobe vs. speedlight topic was simply to get folks to think about why they ought not build a 'complete light kit' using only speedlights.

One might derive this constant source benefit from even a high wattage halogen desk light, or photoflood lamps, and not necessarily a studio strobe with integrated modeling light...all three have constant sources in them!

Now the fact that speedlights do not have any 'constant' source immediately handicaps their use for certain types of photographs -- like the purpose illustrated in the OP.

OK, so I understand what you were saying now. Thanks for the sharing. I know this was very helpful to me.

I know this definetly puts me on the path to saving up for some constant lighting (I'll probably end up getting some strobes). I can definetly see the advantages in the setup stage. That way I don't have to spend a ton of time in prep.

Thanks again.


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Aug 01, 2013 17:58 |  #14

pinolero newbie wrote in post #16173650 (external link)
OK, so I understand what you were saying now. Thanks for the sharing. I know this was very helpful to me.

I know this definetly puts me on the path to saving up for some constant lighting (I'll probably end up getting some strobes). I can definetly see the advantages in the setup stage. That way I don't have to spend a ton of time in prep.

Thanks again.

Goal accomplished, this thread helped one person to 'see the light'! :D


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Aug 01, 2013 21:03 |  #15

Wilt wrote in post #16173726 (external link)
Goal accomplished, this thread helped one person to 'see the light'! :D

You know, some of the Canon speed lights have modeling lights when you hold down the DOF preview button on the camera. Of course, it lasts only a few seconds and flickers incessantly. I never use them. My Einsteins, on the other hand, track the modeling light to match the power setting and use 150w bulbs so quite bright.

For anyone that wants to learn how to light, this one feature makes studio lights the only real choice.




  
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Why bother with studio strobes...speedlight not enough?
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