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portable portrait lighting solution for headshots

Viv Chan , Jul 03, 2003; 04:05 p.m.

Subject: Mobile portrait lighting

I am a TOTAL beginner, so any advice you can offer is much appreciated. I've got a $600 budget to purchase portrait lighting equipment which will be used to take only head shots. Specifically I need to capture subjects' hairstyle and facial features. The lighting needs to be soft and even. The photos will be taken digitally. The entire set-up needs to be portable, fairly easy to set-up with a 6'x 6' footprint if possible (the smaller the footprint the better). I need to be able to reproduce the same lighting conditions with the kit as consistently as possible in locations ranging from low ceiling small office to large open spaces, like a mall. I've been reading up and it looks like I'm leaning towards a continuous lighting solution vs, strobe. I really liked what I saw on p.6 of the Photoflex "Art of Lighting" catalog (http://www.photoflex.com/photoflex/index.html?products/default.asp? product=heavydutyboom&1) but I'm just not sure what my best options are. Any and all advice you can offer would be such a help. Thanks! Viv


photoflex SilverDome

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Tom Menegatos , Jul 03, 2003; 04:10 p.m.

What camera are you using?

Tom Menegatos , Jul 03, 2003; 04:20 p.m.

More importantly ,since you'rea TOTAL beginner... get a few books on portrait shooting. It's not the camera and lights that make good portraits.

John Kantor , Jul 03, 2003; 04:58 p.m.

Continuous lighting will be very hot for the model (and bad for the makeup). Since you are shooting digital you can easily preview your strobe results. Just make sure you have a camera that syncs well with external strobes.

$600 isn't very much, but you can do something similar to the pictured setup, even including the strobe. (And it's a beauty lighting setup - not a portrait setup.) Note that the entire lighting for the subject comes from a softbox up high and a reflecter below, with the softbox positioned to act both as main and hairlight. (If you don't need a white or light-colored background, you don't need the second and maybe third source to light that.)

I think that a small PhotoFlex Lite Dome on a boom would be ideal. A round reflector is a pain to work with that close to a model, so I'd just use a folding rectangular one or a piece of white foam core. (B&H sells foam core holders.)

Your light will be so close to the model that you don't need much power; any small strobe will do. However, since you may be in locations where a/c power is awkward or your time is limited, you might want to consider a battery-powered solution. One monolight which looks like it might be ideal is the Photogenic PerforMax, which works either on AC or separate battery. (I use larger Photogenics and like them a lot.)

Tom Menegatos , Jul 03, 2003; 05:08 p.m.

Since you want to do outdoor shooting as well hot lights are probably out considering your budget. There's no room for lights, stands and a portable generator.

You can probably swing two hot shoe mount flashes with external battery packs (find info on making them yourself), a couple of stands, flash brackets for the stands, a soft box (main) and umbrella (fill but you'll probably use the reflector for fill and the flash for background or hair/accent) (or two shoot through umbrellas), and a reflector. Pick up one of those white or silver collapsible car window shades.

Viv Chan , Jul 03, 2003; 06:36 p.m.

I was planning on using a Sony DSC-F717 Cyber-shot. Its really just a fancy point and shoot camera. 5.24 MegaPixel, 5MP Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar 5x Optical zoom lens. DO you think this will do the job or do I need to secure a digital SLR?

Viv Chan , Jul 03, 2003; 06:54 p.m.

Oh, I got the books too! "Lighting for People Photography" by Stephen Crain has some great exercises in it and shows various ways to set up for a shoot. Once I get some equipment I'm sure I will need to experiment and practice A LOT. So I should be considering strobe lighting? Continuous lighting too hot? Models will not be wearing anything but base makeup and the shoot should be fairly quick per person, only one pose which is straight on.

Ellis Vener , Jul 03, 2003; 09:03 p.m.

Flash is better for people. You can stop motion, the light output is more adjustable. I would gt a medium *32" x 40" ?) Chimera and and a Lastolite Trilite reflector. Chimera: http://www.chimeralighting.com<P>Lastolite: http://www.bogenphoto.com

John Kantor , Jul 03, 2003; 10:46 p.m.

The key is whether the Sony can sync with your flash. Maybe an Olympus E10 or E20 would be better.

Tom Meyer , Jul 06, 2003; 09:19 p.m.

Ellis' recommendation of the trilight reflector is good, but your budget will not make what you need, especially if you buy new.

For a main, research a monolight (AC power) with a Westcott Halo which gives very soft light and packs small.

I have a kit that doesn't even need a electrical outlet. It's a Lumedyne 400ws pack with a battery that yields about 75-100 pops @ 100 iso F5.6. The stand is a Redwing quickstand, the Westcott 45" Halo is the light modifier and it goes in one bag with the tripod and a second Quickstand with a lite disc holder. The Lumedyne bag (a medium sized LowePro Bag) also has a radio slave, and two heads for the power pack battery combo. The camera bag (Tamrac Strongbox) is big enough that I can slip a LiteDisc in the outside pocket. If I need a background, that's a fourth and fifth bag (for it's stands). The above shot was made with this kit using only one head and no reflector. 50mm lens on a Fuji S2 (effective 75mm on 35mm format)

The beauty of the battery powered strobe/ radio slave is the lack of cords on the floor and it's complete portability when set up (the powerpack hangs on the light stand). A monolight would give you this same quantity of equipment, but would yeild faster, consistent recycle times, more (but un-necessary) power, and a cord to the wall. Check out the Dynalight Uni-Jr (AC) and the JackRabbit battery, for DC power.

Unfortunately, you won't easily find this for $600. Consider used Photogenic PowerLights (AC only) and used Lumedune (DC with AC adapter available). Good luck... t


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