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Home studio lighting - advice

Discussion in 'Other Brands & Accessories' started by GeekGirl, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. GeekGirl

    GeekGirl Well-Known Member


    I'm considering purchasing a home studio lighting kit, I don't really know where to start and before I do a lot of research I want to ask your advice.

    I'm looking to take lovely portraits of my children (4YO and 9 months). Shooting in available light indoors doesn't always yield the best results largely due to motion blur. Using flash, either on body or via bounced speedlight I've found a bit harsh and not too baby friendly. So I'm thinking soft box or brolly lights might be the way to go. I don't know whether continuous or strobed would be better for my needs, happy to hear about either.

    I'm strictly amateur so I need something very easy to use and set up. It must pack away easily (and compact) for attic storage. But here's the worst part - ideally it needs to be under £300. Am I mad? Does such a thing even exist? What should I be looking for? What should I avoid?

    If the honest answer is that's its best not to bother unless I have a bigger budget then that's useful to know too....I may manage to save more if I can be patient....

  2. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    If pictures of the children is the sole reason to set up a studio then I wouldn't invest a lot of money. Once the novelty has worn off they will run (or crawl) a mile to avoid :). As the cheapest option I'd investigate why the bounced flash is proving overly harsh. It may be that a bit of experimentation will solve the problem. You can try putting a white sheet over the back of a door, or clothes horse and bounce off that in case you have a gloss surface that it picking the light up like a mirror. Another thing to try is to cut the contrast setting down on the camera (or in post-processing if shooting raw) to get a softer result. If using mixed light you can also reduce the flash power a bit - the camera will have a flash exposure compensation setting - so that the flash isn't doing the heavy lifting. This fill-in will give a softer look to 100% flash.
  3. beatnik69

    beatnik69 Well-Known Member

    Do you have any flashguns at present?
  4. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    she has a speedlight. Makes it a Canon or Nikon system.
  5. beatnik69

    beatnik69 Well-Known Member

  6. MJB

    MJB Well-Known Member

    Before spending money you could try putting a piece of white tissue over your flash.
  7. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    My (very limited) experience is that it's not a challenge of equipment, but one of space. Even cheap modifiers (umbrellas, soft-boxes) need space to be effective, including height.

    Apologies if you know anything I'm about to write.

    The minimum you need is a speedlight (which you have), one modifier (an umbrella is cheapest, a soft-box not that much more expensive), some way to mount the speedlight to the modifier, some way to hold them off the ground, and some way to trigger the flash when it's not on the camera. You can easily get all of that for under £300. Do you have the space?

    With modifiers, bigger is better (for softness).

    Soft box - https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00JQXG0OC - not that big but better than nothing.

    Not as easy to put away as the documentation suggests, but it does go away in to a small space.


    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001M4HXB2 (expensive, good quality)
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00XYUAMCO (slightly cheaper, and it shows)

    These are lightweight stands, they'll just about cope with that soft-box and a flash but not much more.

    I went for wireless triggers

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N9X3XQR (transmitter, goes on the camera - make sure your model is supported)
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B06ZYXLM6K (receiver, goes on the flash)

    You might need a bracket (I can't remember if the soft-box mount goes on to the stand or on to a mounting bracket, but these are handy if you buy an umbrella)

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000JLO6OG (expensive)
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01LW7P8O3 (cheap)

    That'll do you for a single light setup. Wireless triggers are overkill, you can do the same with a long wire. You don't get TTL with those triggers, so you have to manually expose rather than trusting the ETTL feature of an expensive speedlight (so I bought a speedlight without ETTL).

    Good luck - it's worth it if you want it to be worth it.
  8. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I meant to reply to this ages ago and then life rather happened.

    The main reason why a speedlight creates harsh light is because

    a) it's a small light, and small light sources give off harder edged light than large light sources. You can make a speedlight 'effectively' bigger by using a soft box and by getting closer to your subject.

    b) a speedlight gives off horrid light is because it points directly at the face of the sitter throwing shadows behind them and it's not flattering. You can change the direction of the light from a speedlight by twiddling the top round so that it points up, behind or to the side - and use a large reflective surface to bounce the light back to your sitter from a different direction. This also has the effect of dispersing the light, mimicking the effect you'd get from a bigger light.

    You can also take your speedlight off the camera and buy a stand so that you can move it around, and a speedlight adapted softbox to increase the effective size of the light source. You can trigger it with a transceiver set or a cable.

    The other, more expensive option is to buy a studio flash head and softboxes and umbrellas to suit. And triggers or cables. Don't do what someone else on here did recently and buy a softbox without realising that it needed a flash head to go with it.

    This may be only my experience, although I don't think so based on conversations I've had with others, if you don't have your studio lighting set up (which ever version it might be) on an almost permanent basis, it won't get used. Financially you'd be much better off learning how to bounce the light from your existing speedlight. It's not as if studio lights are a magic pill for getting better shots - there's just as much of a learning curve to go through. And small children can move fast. You can't follow them around the garden with a studio set up but you can dash around with a speedlight on your camera and a reflector.
    EightBitTony likes this.
  9. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Well-Known Member

    For your sort of usage I would go with continuous lighting. Flash is much brighter, but judging how it looks is more difficult & I doubt your kids will be keen on waiting around. (Mine certainly weren't).
    To get a soft light, you really want some sort of modifier, a large softbox or umbrella would be ideal but it can be done with a bedsheet on a home made frame as well.

    If you set a custom white balance the lighting doesn't have to be designed for photography, but it doesn't do to mix cheap light sources unless shooting B&W.

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