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How to set up my Softbox lights and Flash?

Stephen Martin , Jan 26, 2010; 09:42 a.m.

Hello,
I am trying to get some help and advice on how to set up the lighting equipment I have to take some studio style shots.
This is a list of the equipment I have. Also to note that I wanted to use this equipment as a start rather than going off and spending a lot of money on lighting before I know what I am doing.
1) Canon Speedlite 580EX II
2) I use a Canon 5D Mark II to shoot with, (W/Tripod)
3) 2 x Softboxes. Well, I recently created 2 myself with some DIY skills. This is where I wanted to save money at the start before making any investment. You can see a picture and video here of my creation. The 2 softboxes can either be configured with a 200W bulb or a 500w bulb.
4) 60W Lamp (More a regular household lamp on a stand)
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First of all I am not sure what an ideal set up would be when combining all of this equipment, maybe there is none and it is just playing around until it starts to look right...
a) I would really like to incorporate my Flash somehow. I am trying to actually see if I can get it hooked up wirelessly and put it into 1 of the softboxes. But for now I can only assume it needs to stay mounted to the camera at the front of the shot.
b) I understand the concept of the softboxes and by putting 1 either side of the subject at an angle I can reduce the shadows created. However, should 1 be used as a main light and the other as a fill light? If so, should I have the 200W in the flll and the 500w in the main light?
c) A key light is important, however I am not sure how strong it has to be or where the ideal placement should be. Is it possible to use the lamp above, or is that just too weak....
-----
Either way, I would just love some advice from the community on what I could do with what I have.
Thanks for the help
//Stephen

Responses

Matt Laur , Jan 26, 2010; 11:14 a.m.

First, I would be very, very careful with that rig. They are basically fires waiting to start, or portrait subjects waiting to be badly injured. Don't turn your back on those hot lights for a second, and be sure to sandbag those stands to avoid unpleasantness.

What you're asking (about placement) depends on the look you're after. Sure, try the brighter light as a key, and the less-bright one as fill. You might consider using your strobe off-camera, behind your subject, as a hair light ... but you'll need to gel it in order to get the color temperatures to match (since the hot lights will be much warmer-looking).

For some ideas about placing lights, and how they'll impact the look of the subject, check out any of the gazillion free online lighting tutorials (including this forum's huge archives, or free areas like this).

Bob Sunley , Jan 26, 2010; 12:01 p.m.

I'd really want you to have a couple of fire extinguishers handy with those lights. :( That looks like foam core type art board, you will have maybe about 10 seconds warning that it is going to go poof from the heat trapped inside the box. A cell phone with 911 or the fire dept's phone number programmed in it is also a good precaution.

What you should do is set one up outside with a 500 watt bulb and turn it on for 30 minutes. If it isn't scorched or worse after that time, you might be safe using in a building. There is a reason soft boxes for hot lamps cost way more than ones for electronic flashes, they are made of fireproof materials.

The ones you made would be quite safe if only used with a flash and not a 300 or 500 watt hot lamp.

Stephen Martin , Jan 26, 2010; 05:34 p.m.

@Matt, thanks for the tips and warning...Will defo make sure to always keep an safe eye when in use...Thanks for the link too, I will check it out..

@Bob, same thing, thanks for advice on fire hazard...
One thing, do you advise me to camera mount the Flash while using the softboxes? Or is that just stupid thing to do?

Thanks again

Devon McCarroll , Jan 26, 2010; 06:20 p.m.

Hi Stephen,
Mounting the flash on your camera will give you some very unflattering light. I agree with Matt on using the strobe as a hairlight. You can mount it on a lightstand behind and above your subject, with a gel as he described.
And if you're using regular household bulbs (I haven't looked at the pics and video yet), you might want to try daylight balanced flourescents instead. They are much cooler and will likely be a little less of a fire hazard!

Tom Meyer , Jan 26, 2010; 08:22 p.m.

Wow. from the looks of that video, I think you took a couple of days to make it. It seemed like the sun was up, then down and then the hot lights came on, the morning came again and... how long did it take you to do that? Aside from admiration at the amount of energy and carpentry skills you exhibit, I am very impressed and that you got that gorgeous assistant (or is she really the brains of the outfit?) to hang with you through the whole thing... well, what could be bad about that? Make another one, I'd say. Just don't use it.

The only downer (aside that you can't really mix hot lights and flash without some pretty specific color correction on at least one of those light sources) is this: you could buy Paul Buff's White 42” 16 Rib Parabolic Umbrella for about $26 and get much better looking light and greater control... t

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