Ep 61 Let there be light! Lighting kits for all levels and every budget

ep 61 artwork

When you want to take your photography to the next level, one of your first purchases is a lighting kit. But this can be a daunting prospect. There are so many options, so many brands, and umpteen accessories to choose from. So what’s the best way to ensure you have the right lighting kit?

In this episode, Gina and Valerie discuss what your first lighting purchase should be if you’re a newbie. And then the accessories you can add to this as you progress as a photographer. If you’re a pro-photographer, Gina reveals the equipment you need if you want to get serious. We outline lighting kits at $200, $400, $700, $1500, $3000 and $7000 depending on your budget and experience.

#ginachallenge #seeinglight

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show notes

Listener question

Hi Gina!
Going out on a limb here and hoping you can help!

BTW, you and Valerie are doing a fantastic job with the podcast! I’m learning a lot (even though I’m playing catch up on the podcasts)! I’m drowning in information overload!!

I’ve been researching the best “starter” camera for me to upgrade to. there’s so much information, it’s just exhausting! I have to confess, for year I’ve only been using the following cameras: Fuji Finepix S700, waterproof Fuji XP, or iPhone.

I’m very comfortable with all three of them and I’ve had great success with taking good photos.
Problem I see is that no one is going to take me seriously as a photographer if I show up to a shoot with these.

I want to upgrade to a “big girl” camera. So I can be taken seriously about my new endeavor!

I listened to one of the early podcasts about what every photographer should have at their disposal. And then reading more on the Internet. I’m just confused!

I know what I want from my camera. Sometimes I just don’t get it with the ones I have.

My wants:

  • Versatile shutter speed (I need to capture pets and kids in action as well as get that still life)
  • ability to do rapid continuous photos (and on a timer if needed)
  • crisp images
  • macro shots
  • and it’s got to be durable (I’m a klutz and I’m hard on my equipment)

I know (from listening to the podcast) some of this will be based on the lens I choose.
I’m just not sure the best base to go with.
I’m not tied to a brand which is making it harder!
Bottom line, What type of camera would you recommend I start with?

Thanks in advance for any recommendations you can offer!

Heather Humphrey
“Confused in Florida”

Gina and Valerie answer this question in the episode.

Photo critique

Pic by Mike Hickman

Mike Hickman's composite photo for the WIlliamstown Percussion performance
Above: Mike Hickman

 

Now that I have released this to my client (alright, I really just volunteered to do this for my daughter’s high school indoor percussion ensemble and to add to my portfolio), here are the behind the scene shots and final Photoshop composite. I “knew” what to do, but this is my first real composite, and I’m happy with it! Thanks for looking, and thank you Gina and Valerie for a great podcast that has helped with lighting, directing, posing and courage to undertake this photo!
The band performance will be performed in indoor gymnasiums and is based on “Dante’s Inferno”. These are the actors (other band members that don’t play percussion) and there will be 5 “shadows” wearing morph suits. If I can get a video posted later, I’ll share it.

All photos tethered to Lightroom and taken with Canon 6D with Sigma 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/100 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, umbrella’d flashes on subject left and right and two bare flashes on the 4×6 backdrop, with the middle photo gelled red on camera right.

Gina and Valerie critique this in the episode

Let there be light! Lighting kits for all levels and every budget

Useful links

How to Create Awesome Portrait Lighting with a Paper Bag an Elastic Band and a Chocolate Donut

Image showing how a night portrait lighting effect was achieved with bokeh in the background

Lighting 101 – A Beginner’s Lighting Kit
Lighting Equipment 101: Why to Invest and What to Buy

Websites for gear, reviews and tips:

Strobist
LumoPro
Yongnuo
Digital Photography School

Speedlights:

Yongnuo
LP180 Quad-Sync Manual Flash (4 ways to sync)
Neewer NW-985C E-TTL 4-Color
Canon
Nikon

  • What gear should you invest in? When is it ok to buy knock-off versions?
  • Pro-level gear vs. enthusiast-level gear
  • Light stands. Invest well and save.

The questions to consider before buying a light stand are similar to the tripod questions:

  • How high will it extend?
  • How easy is it to set up?
  • How heavy is it?
  • How stable is it?

I prefer my models to be lit from above and slightly to the side, so I place my portable lights on the following setups:

MacGuyver boom 2 stands $100
Lightweight $100-150
Lumopro boom knuckle
boom arm

Portable boom (location) $200
Manfrotto combi boom

Heavy duty boom (studio) approx $700
Manfrotto Heavy duty studio boom

Portable vs studio lighting
Consider this:
1 speedlight = 80-100ws
1 battery operated light = 4 to 8 speedlights

Other things to consider:
What is your shooting style, and how much can you bench?
The quality of light
More heads = more options
Number of flashes per charge
Recycle time between flashes

NOTE: Don’t believe the literature. Test the flash and count how long it takes to recycle between frames. My ideal recycle time is 1–3 seconds.

Accessories
All lighting systems have unique ways to attach modifiers and accessories. You should know how compatible your flash unit is with your current accessories and how easy is it to add modifiers to the light.

I now use the same brand for my portable lighting and my studio lighting so I can mix and match all my lighting accessories.

Safety
Most portable flash kits are not water-resistant. Make sure to keep them well protected in extreme weather and around water.

My portable lighting of choice is the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra. It’s a mid-priced system that suits my needs perfectly.

Light Shapers
Before selecting a light shaper, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Your skill level as a photographer
  • Hard light vs. soft light
  • The size of area you are trying to light
  • Your model

Softboxes, octaboxes, and umbrellas all produce a very similar soft, or diffused, style of light. The main differences are the catchlight produced by each modifier and how much the light is spread, which is influenced by the size of each modifier.

Remember, soft light bounces all around the subject and fills any shadow areas. It’s by far the most flattering light source and is very similar to soft window light or the light outdoors on an overcast day.

Soft light can be used as a main light, or as a fill light in conjunction with a hard light modifier.

Hard light creates hard, dark shadows. The smaller the light source, the harder the light relative to the subject.

Hard light can be used for dramatic effect or when shooting outside in full sun.

Size of the area you are lighting

If you are trying to light large groups of people or a large area, it’s best to work with large softboxes or umbrellas.

If you are trying to light very small areas, such as a single person in a moody shot, it’s best to work with smaller, more contained light modifiers like beauty dishes, grid spots, or softboxes with grids.

Light modifiers and skin tone
Hard light will emphasise imperfections, so as a general rule, I prefer to use hard light modifiers on younger skin tones and for character portraits.

Soft light modifiers give the most flattering light and are the best choice for most portraits.

Hard light modifiers like beauty dishes can be used in conjunction with a softbox to soften the harshness of the light for a really nice result.

The ultimate portable lighting kit: Shoestring budget ($200)

*All prices are given in United States Dollars (USD).
● 1 Yongnuo YN-560II Speedlight $70
● 1 Yongnuo RF-603N Flash Triggers $30
These are very cheaply made lights, not designed for heavy duty use but perfect for beginners.
● 1 CowboyStudio Pro 30-inch Octagon Umbrella Speedlite Softbox Brolly Reflector with Grid $38
● 1 CowboyStudio Umbrella Mount Bracket with Swivel Tilt Bracket $15
● 1 LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5-foot Stand with Ground Spikes $40
● 1 Sandbag $7 USD

The ultimate portable lighting kit: Two-shoe budget ($400)

*All prices are given in United States Dollars (USD).
● 2 Yongnuo YN-560II Speedlight $140
● 2 Yongnuo RF-603N Flash Triggers $60
These are very cheaply made lights, not designed for heavy-duty use but perfect for beginners.
● 2 CowboyStudio Pro 30-inch Octagon Umbrella Speedlite Softbox Brolly Reflector with Grid $76
● 2 CowboyStudio Umbrella Mount Bracket with Swivel Tilt Bracket $30
● 2 LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5-foot Stand with Ground Spikes $80
● 2 Sandbag $14

The ultimate portable lighting kit: Entry-level ($1500)

*All prices are given in United States Dollars (USD).
● 1 Einstein™ E640 Flash Unit $500
● 1 Vagabond™ Lithium Extreme $400
● 1 VLX™ Spare Battery $150
● 1 Manfrotto 1004BAC Master Stand $100
● 1 LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5-foot Stand with Ground Spikes $40
● 2 Manfrotto 026 Swivel Lite-Tite Umbrella Adapter $60
● 1 Yongnuo YN-560II Speedlight $70
● 2 Yongnuo RF-603N Flash Triggers $60
● 1 Westcott 301 Photo Basics 40-inch 5-in-1 Reflector $40

The ultimate portable lighting kit: Mid-range ($3000)

*All prices are given in United States Dollars (USD).
● 1 Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Hybrid Li-Ion PRO Set A Battery Set with 2 Heads $2100
● 1 Elinchrom EL 26185 Rotalux 39-inch Deep Throat Octagonal Softbox with 2 Diffusers $375
● 1 Manfrotto 026 Swivel Lite-Tite Umbrella Adapter $30
● 1 Avenger A2033LKIT Steel 40-inch Sliding Leg C-Stand with Grip Kit $200
● 1 Manfrotto 1004BAC Master Stand $100
● 1 LumoPro LP605 Compact 7.5-foot Stand with Ground Spikes $40
● 2 PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver $250
● 1 Elinchrom Reflector and Honeycomb Grid Set $250
● 1 Westcott 301 Photo Basics 40-inch 5-in-1 Reflector $40

The ultimate portable lighting kit: High-end ($7000)

*All prices are given in United States Dollars (USD).
1 Profoto B1 500 AirTTL Location Kit (2 heads with inbuilt battery) $4000
● 2 PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver $250
● 1 Manfrotto Alu Master Air Cushioned Light Stand Quick Stack 3-Pack $330
● 1 Profoto 505-705 3-Feet Octagon Softbox $550
● 1 Westcott 301 Photo Basics 40-inch 5-in-1 Reflector $40

#ginachallenge #seeinglight

0 Response
  1. This is an extremely accommodating post for all picture takers, uncommonly for the individuals who have begun learning photography. I will suggest it without a doubt, thank you in any case!

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