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photo:flash_studio

studio flash

studio lighting

  • conventional studio lighting has diverse range of lighting options, but usually involve:
    • AC powered monobloc lights with modeling lamps and slave triggers on lighting stands, combined with accessories such as soft box for main light, umbrella for fill light, snoot (+/- honeycomb) for hair light, and possibly barn doors or color filters for background lights
    • while you may be able to get away with just 2, for versatility you need at least 4-5 light sources which becomes expensive
    • the advantages of monobloc lights are:
      • accurate daylight colour balance
      • not hot like tungsten light sources and thus more comfortable and less risk of burns
      • AC powered so no need to worry about recharging batteries and also, usually fast recycle times
      • incorporate a modeling light to assist in accurate positioning of light
      • buying monoblocs:
        • buy the most powerful you can afford (200-400Ws as a minimum)
          • you will outgrow smaller units as less versatile
          • a 250Ws monobloc with softbox allows f/8-11 at ISO100 for head shots
        • if 2nd hand avoid those with brown tinge which may indicate excessive use & check cords
        • how easy is it to change the fuse & where is the optical sensor positioned?
        • how many manual settings are there?
        • most recommend Elinchrom or Bowens, although Prolinca may suffice
  • now, instead of monoblocs, we could use a wireless TTL flash set up, but this is fairly expensive and often complex and requires wireless TTL compatible equipment such as Nikon's i-TTL, so instead, I have suggested a cheaper alternative using old technology which can give just as professional results although the recycle time may limit ability to take some shots, and it will require a bit more thought and trial & error.
  • alternatively, a ring flash gives nice circular catchlights:
  • a must have is a radio slave set up:
    • if you value your camera, get rid of as many cables as you can, I have tripped over the cable and even pulled a camera off a table by moving a studio light which was tethered to the camera. My Olympus dSLR hit the floor on both occasions but fortunately no damage done - don't risk this, get a radio slave
    • if you work with other photographers who have their own lighting, you may need one with more than one selectable radio channel so you don't accidentally trigger their lights.
    • note - these do not provide wireless flash TTL functionality.
    • wireless radio slaves:
      • Pocket Wizards:
        • the leading high end radio trigger with up to 1600' range but expensive.
      • Alien Bees Cybersync Wireless Triggers:
      • cheap Chinese-made ones from EBay stores:
        •  even a cheap one from Hong Kong or China for $35 or so - do a search on Ebay for radio slave.
    • I bought a RD616 radio slave which has 4 channels and the receiver can be plugged into a studio flash or via its PC sync socket to a normal flash with a PC sync cable. The latter is a problem as there is a design fault which results in the internal contacts breaking for the PC sync if the PC sync cable rotates at the connection to the unit. The studio flash connection though is not a problem.
  • almost a must have is a good flash meter:
    • although you can successfully use trial and error and check the histogram on a digital camera, accurate adjustment of different lighting ratios is best done with a flash meter that can read down to 1/3rd stop increments.
    • the Minolta Flashmeter IV has been a standard with professionals but is a bit complex to use, the Flashmeter V is better and simpler to use.
    • the Gossen Luna-Star F2 is a simpler design, and more compact & uses standard 9V batteries and takes a 5deg spot meter but it only meters to EV -2.5. It displays ambient reading as well as the flash reading and can give you contrast range as you sweep it around with button held down.
    • the Sekonic L-558 Dualmaster has a 1 degree spot meter as well as optional radio trigger for Pocket Wizard wireless flash sync
    • the Sekonic L-358 has radio trigger but spot meter is optional.

Studio lighting on the cheap

  • the following gives an example of using 4-5 second hand Metz 45 series flash guns with slave trigger devices attached ($A30 each although you can attach one to a 1 to 4 flash sync module and thus fire other flashes by sync cable).
  • these flash units will need to be mounted on either lighting stands, tripods or just sat on the floor or tables.
  • this means that we will not have the luxury of TTL flash metering (so we really need to buy an accurate flash light meter or just rely on our measurements and check results), nor will we have modeling lights (but instant feedback of digital will help us here), and our recycling times may be limited to 5 sec on NiCd batteries.
  • furthermore, we will need to make our own:
    • snoots:
      • these are important for two main reasons:
        • shape the light to give a smaller light source:
          • why on earth would you want to make your flash light source even smaller than it already is? 
          • I have found that bouncing a flash off a ceiling or wall often makes the effective light source too large with resulting flat effect on the subject, so one either has to move the flash closer to the wall or ceiling or use a snoot to make the area of light hitting it smaller.
        • minimise light hitting unwanted parts such as the face, background and camera lens when using it as a hair light.
      • I have made my own by buying a sheet of vinyl and making a conical shape from it which just squeezes over the Metz flash head - this is one reason why I chose to have all the same size flash heads so that one size fits all.
    • “soft box”:
      • whilst you can buy mini-soft boxes to attach to these units, they are not altogether cheap.
      • a cheap effective alternative is using a diffuser screen positioned between flash and subject, the advantage of this is that by varying the position of the screen, one can change the effective size of the light source without having to make any changes to our exposure calculations, as long as the flash is kept in the same position. It will mean either making a screen or buying one and either having someone hold it or making a stand for it.
    • barn-doors:
      • so far I have not come up with a simple was of making these for the Metz, I just use a piece of vinyl and attach it using a rubber band, but this lacks the versatility of a true barn door attachment.
  • so now we can design a standard studio lighting set up such as this:
    • main light:
      • 1 Metz 45CL-4 flash aimed at subject via a diffusing screen, or alternatively bounced off a white wall or ceiling at an appropriate angle & position for the main light effect
    • fill light:
      • 1 Metz 45CL-4 flash bounced off an umbrella located near the camera on opposite side of main light, or alternatively, fill may be provided by a reflector bouncing the main light
    • background lights:
      • one or two Metz 45CT-1 flashes aimed at the background +/- snoots for shaping +/- filters for colour
        • these may need to be set on an auto setting and flash reading checked, for example, so that a white background is over-exposed by 1-2 stops to ensure detail is not visible.
        • I have chosen 45CT-1 flashes here as they are significantly cheaper to buy and are adequate for this purpose.
    • hair light:
      • 1 Metz 45CL-4 flash with snoot, set to Winder mode (GN 8) and mounted on a lighting stand +/- boom and aimed at hair for the hair light effect and distance from subject set to over-expose hair by 1/3-2/3rds stop depending on effect and colour of hair.

Studio lighting a little more expensive

  • 2007:
  • to add to my options, I have just purchased a studio lighting kit made by YinYan Flash
    • Chinese-made but no longer distributed in Australia
  • this studio lighting kit (normally available for ~$A1350 but now superceded by the more durable metal C series ) consists of:
    • two CY-300C studio flashes:
      • output adjustable from quarter power (75WS, GN32), half power (150WS, GN45) to full power (300WS, GN64) - in retrospect, I really miss being able to reduce the power even further as with the new units on the market.
      • trigger either by PC sync cord (6V trigger according to manufacturer so safe for digital cameras), optical slave trigger or test button
      • recycle time 1-3sec
      • flash duration 1/600th sec - 1/1000th sec
      • 60W modeling light adjustable from 1/4-1/2-full power
    • one CY-200C studio flash:
      • as for the 300C, but output adjustable from quarter power (50WS, GN26), half power (100WS, GN37) to full power (200WS, GN52)
    • two 0.7×1.2m soft boxes:
      • when used with the CY-300C give an effective GN of 13, 18, and 26 at the respective power settings
      • this means that at 2m from the subject, one needs to use f/6.3, f/9, and f/13 at ISO 100 respectively, or open up by 1 stop at ISO 50.
      • for my Olympus C8080 which has minimum aperture of f/8, I would need to use ISO 50 and 2.4m at full power or 1.6m at half-power.
      • but for lower depth of field, I could use f/3.5 at 50ISO at ~4m at half power or ~2.9m at quarter power
      • when using a 2nd softbox for fill-in at 1 stop less exposure, it is easiest to have it at the same distance as the main softbox and just reduce its power by half that of the main softbox.
    • barn doors with honeycomb grid and optional coloured filters:
      • I would use this or the snoot with its honeycomb grid on the CY-200C mainly to provide hairlight
    • three light stands
  • cons of this flash system:
    • the quality of this kit is not up to the more professional quality of the Bowens or Elinchrom, but at a half the price, it will do my needs for the time being, and I doubt one could tell any difference in the end photos, it is just that one has to be more careful with the fittings and perhaps longevity & repair may be an issue.
      • the material sockets for the rods to insert into in the softbox need a bit of reinforcing
      • the light stands are a bit flimsy and liable to fall over if a softbox is raised to full height and knocked forward
      • the soft box fittings do not attach to the light reliably using a bayonet fit and when rotated into position results in the soft box being angled at about 20deg from the vertical.
      • plastic support tends to crack if over-tightened & plastic housing may be an issue - this has been resolved by the current model which is now metal cased & has metal support.
    • the flash has a less bright modeling light (60W compared with 250W in other systems) which makes auto-focus & assessment of modeling a little more difficult
    • the flash units themselves have less power options (1/4, 1/2 & full) - the new metal C units go down to 1/8 - and longer flash durations than high-end models.
    • optical sensor is at the rear instead on of top of the unit & thus more likely to not “see” the trigger light & thus not be set off - the new metal C units have it on top now.
  • studio flash care:
    • studio flashes have capacitors that require a little pampering called “forming” to ensure the capacitors last which just involves leaving the A-C power turned on for a specified time to “recharge” the chemicals in the capacitor. It is not necessary to flash the tube at the end of forming.
    • Constant flashing of your electronic flash power supply puts a tremendous strain on the flash capacitor and shortens its life. Forming is just the opposite, by having a constant calm voltage applied to the flash capacitor it helps to rejuvenate the chemical properties. This is very similar to slow charging a car battery to give it an extra boost.
    • Flash power supplies that are not used on a daily basis, or ones that are stored for long periods of time definitely need forming.
    • inactive or stored flash units:
      • if not used for months at a time, form the capacitor for 6-8 hours each day over a 3 day period prior to using it on an assignment.
      • if not used for more than a year, it will be advisable to bring the unit to an authorized repair service. The repair service has special equipment that will bring the Flash Capacitor voltage up very slowly.
    • During slow periods or between assignments it is advisable to form the capacitors at least once a week for 4-5 hours.
    • If your electronic flash is being used 2-3 times (or more) a week make sure that the main power switch is on during set-up and break down of the set. This will bring a steady calm voltage to the flash capacitors giving them the forming time they need. Don't just turn on the model lamp circuit; make sure that the 100% charge circuit Ready Indicator Lamp is on.
photo/flash_studio.txt · Last modified: 2016/11/01 13:03 by gary1