Advice on a lighting kit please.

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Tim
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#1
Hi,

I've decided I'm missing out on an area of photography where I believe my creativity might get me some interesting shots. I'm planning to do some artistic stuff with a female model shooting indoors. Currently I only have either the on-board camera flash or a speedlite at my disposal. I've been scoping the Bowens Gemini 400RX Twin head softbox kit. Would this or a similar two head kit get me up and running with the addition of a couple of reflectors? I need to get this sorted soon so I can spend a pile of time acquainting myself with the camera and lighting combination. I will primarily be using a 7D mk2 for now with the kit. I am looking at booking a model and location for three weeks time, hence my needing to get what I need asap. The Bowens kit is currently at the upper end of my budget, so I figured I'd make myself skintish on a two head set I can add to, which will hopefully be reasonable rather than get more items of an inferior quality. I appreciate that in reality the quoted product is not expensive when one starts looking at higher end gear, I just cannot for now justify blowing a big pile of cash on something I might be crap at.

Many thanks

Tim
 
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Phil
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#2
The common mistake is to go to a camera shop looking for lighting.

Whilst the Bowens kit is nice, there's better cheaper alternatives.

Look at a 2 head starter kit from Lencarta. They do a good deal on upgrading the standard softboxes and on their website there's some great tutorials too.
 
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#3
Agree with Phil - nothing wrong with Bowens, but it's nothing special these days, and more than you need to pay. My suggestion would be Lencarta, or Elinchrom. If any of your ideas includes fast movement, you'll need to pay close attention to flash durations - and be aware that manufacturer's claimed figures almost always over-state by a substantial amount!

The other thing is not to buy everything at once because you won't know what you want before you've had some experience.
 
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#4
A big thank you to both of you for replying. I'll check out the Lencarta and Elinchrom kits. If it's the case that manufacturers tend to overstate the spec regarding duration I'll try and get something which has sufficient headroom to account for a little exaggeration.
I'm hoping a two head kit will be sufficient to the extent that I'm not going to feel completely under-dressed on my first shoot. There will be natural light to add to the mix as well, I also have a space at home where I can have a backdrop and the lighting set up in-between my going elsewhere to shoot which will give me the opportunity to experiment.

Many thanks

Regards

Tim
 
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#5
If you've never used lighting before, leave one in the box.

You can do loads with one light, and the biggest mistake made by newbs is when they start with 2 which fight each other,

1st rule of lighting, there's one sun. And it's above us.

2nd rule: larger light = softer shadows. Bearing in mind, the closer a light, the 'larger' it appears to be. keeping the lights out of shot can be a problem if they're close enough.

3rd rule: you don't always want soft shadows.
 
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#6
Thanks Phil, I really appreciate the advice. I've been on the Lencarta website and they certainly seem to have some bundles which will suit my needs. I just need to give them a call on Tuesday to see how soon they can get them out to me as the stock holding looks a bit hit and miss.
They definitely have kits that I'm interested in so hopefully I can get some ordered.

Regards

Tim
 
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#7
Yes, always start with just one light. And very often, that's all you'll need. Less is more. Each light has a different and independent purpose - the main key light, background light, accent light for hair etc. Even if you have six lights, the key light will be doing 90% of the work.

Power - as a rough guide, 400Ws will give you something in the region of f/16 at ISO100 in an 80-90cm softbox at 1.0m so for portraiture you'll usually be at quarter power or less. If you want to shoot at very low f/numbers for shallow depth of field effects, the problem is often too much power rather than too little, but brightness reduces quickly with distance (inverse square law) so for say larger groups where you also want a higher f/number for more DoF you'll be at full output. With studio flash, you can effectively increase the power by raising ISO and with modern cameras that has very little impact on image quality. Raising ISO one stop doubles the effective power in exposure terms, two stops quadruples it and so on.

Flash durations. Most studio flash quotes t.5 figures and rule of thumb is to multiply by three to get something close to an actual shutter speed equivalent effect, ie 1/1000sec at t.5 freezes movement more like 1/350sec.

The comment about not buying everything at once is mostly about modifiers and they make far more difference than the brand of flash. (And knowledge and experience trumps both, but that's another story.) A medium size softbox is probably a fairly safe bet (or maybe umbrellas?) but what shape, the folding mechanism (or lack of), smaller modifiers for harder shadows, what about grids etc? When you get into the detail, there's a lot of choice. If you buy a lot of stuff before trying a few things first, guaranteed you'll have some items that never get used and will be missing some others.

ps Lencarta offer a swap-out service with their kits, so you can say get a Profold softbox* instead of the standard kit jobbie and just pay the extra, retaining the kit saving.
*Unless you have a permanent studio set-up, avoid basic softboxes that have to be assembled each time - they will drive you mad.
 
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cowboy

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#8
If your giving it a go you could try and book a local studio for a couple of hours. They will have someone on hand to give you a hand if you get stuck and if you find it's not for you you haven't spent a lot.
 
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#9
Thanks HoppyUK for the informative advice. I'd probably go with a two head purchase and like you suggest start with using one. I'll have a word with Lencarta and maybe swap the package options to Profold soft box I might get one box and one umbrella. I have a permanent space where I will use the set up but I plan to be taking the kit out a fair bit so yes the Profold boxes would be preferable.

Many thanks.

Cowboy, thanks for the suggestion in respect of try before buying. I'll look into it although to be fair I'm a pretty full on character and if I buy, I'll get to grips with it regardless of any other consideration lol.
I'm booking a model for a couple of weeks time so I don't have much choice. All part of the fun and excitement having to fumble through.

Thank you

Tim
 
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#10
as the stock holding looks a bit hit and miss.
They definitely have kits that I'm interested in so hopefully I can get some ordered.
They just changed/updated website, so are having a few glitches. I think if you order early in the morning they post the same day. Orders definitely seem to post out once per day, I have found them very efficient.

The other thread running at the moment might be worth a look
https://www.talkphotography.co.uk/threads/lencarta-moving-future-proofing-what-to-do.620283/

Also a general search of Talk Photography for 'Lencarta' might pull up useful stuff.
 
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#15
Admit it Garry, you enjoyed saying that didn't you. :)
Yep! But what have I let myself in for?
It's wet and freezing on the farm, and very hard work... But staff start coming back to work tomorrow...
 
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#16
Yep! But what have I let myself in for?
It's wet and freezing on the farm, and very hard work... But staff start coming back to work tomorrow...
We're part way through winter with it's cold, dark mornings and cold, dark evenings.
Spring and summer will soon be here and those clays aren't going to shoot themselves!
 
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#18
A quick update. I spoke to a really helpful person at Lencarta and ordered a custom bundle which should arrive at the weekend. Thanks for the replies, much appreciated. I ended up smashing my budget but as I have an out building I now plan on making into a studio I'll immerse myself and get proficient at using studio lighting. I anticipate that I'll have a raft of questions and will be a regular lurker in this part of the forum.

Regards

Tim
 
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#20
Thanks Terry, Good luck with your shed/studio conversion. I hope all goes well for you.

OK, My kit arrived and after a quick check that everything is as ordered I had to have a quick play. Now bearing in mind I was very apprehensive about how the gear might work or otherwise in my hands, I found it all very easy to set up. I couldn't resist testing the transmitter on the camera and one of the heads with a 100cm Profold softbox. I actually bought 1 x Superfast 300 and 1 x Elite pro, 1 x 100cm Profold Softbox, 120cm Beauty Dish, 2 stands and the transmitter kit which altogether was assembled by Lencarta as a custom bundle.

I have a pile of learning to do and a bigger pile of mistakes to make along the way. I am however very chuffed with the kit and the service from Lencarta. This is my third single shot using one head and guessing everything else.
I'm no longer scared witless about learning to use the lighting, yes it'll take time to get good at using it but actually making it work out of the box is really easy.

Beth SBox.jpg
 
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#21
You've got the right approach - using a single light until you've got the basics, before adding a second light..

Suggestions:
1. Move the light closer
2. Move it higher, until the catchlights (in this case, the reflections of the softbox) are nearer to the tops of the eyes
3. Move it central, right now its off to the left a bit

Having said that, what I mean is central to your subject, so if her face in pointing to one side or the other, get it straight in front of where her face is pointing. This isn't a rule but it's a good starting point.
Before I retired, I wrote quite a lot of tutorials that are on the Lencarta lighting blog, they may help you. https://www.lencarta.com/studio-lighting-blog/
 
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#22
Thank you Garry, I'll have a go at applying your pointers over the remainder of the weekend, it's very helpful of you to add your observations and thoughts to this thread. I'm a little limited for height with the softbox, so tomorrow I'll get my subject lower as well.
We're just having a pile of fun right now with the kit but tomorrow I'll have a more focused session and hopefully get a step or two further forward.

Beth Tails 1.jpg
 
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#23
The 2nd is charming, I can see you're going to have a lot of fun with this.

Just to add to what Garry said, in a domestic setting my softbox is brushing the ceiling even with a seated (bar stool) adult. We have typical 1930's ceiling height, nearer 9' than 8'.

I often use the phrase 'if the light isn't getting in the way of the shot, it's not close enough', it's one of those things where it's good to actually see how others work rather than lighting diagrams on the web.
 
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#24
The 2nd is charming, I can see you're going to have a lot of fun with this.

Just to add to what Garry said, in a domestic setting my softbox is brushing the ceiling even with a seated (bar stool) adult. We have typical 1930's ceiling height, nearer 9' than 8'.

I often use the phrase 'if the light isn't getting in the way of the shot, it's not close enough', it's one of those things where it's good to actually see how others work rather than lighting diagrams on the web.
There are definitely some black marks in our ceiling which (is SWMBO listening?) are definitely not from trying to get the lights higher!!

Have fun, experiment. My photography (IMHO) went up a notch once I'd bought my lencarta lights - I experimented a lot more, felt compelled to read more and just liked making pleasing (to my eyes) pics.

Listen to Phil and Garry (he's almost certainly forgotten more about lighting than I'll ever know - wealth of experience and knowledge!!)
 
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#25
Thanks Guys, I am eternally grateful for the easily understandable and concise advice you've given me, Just using a little common sense and thoroughly thinking through your advice, I'm already getting shots I never thought I would in my sitting room. We now have a couple of marks on the ceiling and yes the lighting was in my way to the extent shooting was a little tricky. I swapped the nifty 50 for an 18-200 and took a few more. It has dawned on me that I am responsible for much more of the end result a bit like suddenly becoming the owner of a farm with several fields filled containing livestock. A lot of balls to juggle and keep tabs on. I'm still working with one light from the front using a softbox as a background. I'll stick at one until I better understand keeping each beast watered, fed and all the fences secure.

Once again many thanks.

Beth Potrait A.jpg
 
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#26
Now, isn't the shot above MUCH better? Look at how much more pleasing the shadows and their placement positions are. The background is over-lit, but that's just a detail.
 
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#27
Not much to add to the thread but I am impressed by the changes and in my view improvements of the 3 images. :)
 
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#28
Once again thank you Garry and Huffy. Yes I am really chuffed and I agree about the background being overcooked. I'll keep my eye on it a little more going forward. That's the beauty of making mistakes, accelerates the learning curve and sticks in my head better.
I totally appreciate all input to this thread, really pleased I joined the forum and I look forward learning a whole lot more going forward.

Kind regards

Tim
 
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#29
Once again thank you Garry and Huffy. Yes I am really chuffed and I agree about the background being overcooked. I'll keep my eye on it a little more going forward. That's the beauty of making mistakes, accelerates the learning curve and sticks in my head better.
I totally appreciate all input to this thread, really pleased I joined the forum and I look forward learning a whole lot more going forward.

Kind regards

Tim
I don't know whether this helps or not, but here's a video I made about lighting a white background. Because of the different skin and hair colour, you have more room for error with your model than I had with mine, but the same principles apply.
 
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#30
Great, Thanks Garry I'll take a look later when I've finished being taxi driver, driving instructor and general keeper of the peace. The white background I used and over cooked was a large softbox on which I had the head turned up too much, unless requiring that effect which in all honesty I didn't and as soon as I got the shots on my pc it became very visible. Much appreciated.

Regards

Tim
 
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#32
Coming along well Tim.

Good use of the softbox as a background too.

I'm going to try that!
Thank you. I don't have any backgrounds yet so I thought I'd try the 100cm softbox. With a little more practice and my eye on all the variables I think it's a great way to get a feel for the lighting as I'm a a total lighting newbie.

All the best

Tim
 
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#35
I hope you have a blast with it. I'm really busy this week so not a lot if time to play. I have a week off next week and two shoots booked so I have roughly three clear days before the first to play all day before jumping in at the deep end with my lead boots on.
 
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