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 Studio Lighting Setup - Starting Out SIMPLE

There have been several posts in the ILP Forums requesting advice on studio lighting equipment and lighting setups -- specifically one that is aimed toward those just starting out. I thought I would post my own thoughts on the matter.

Simplicity is key when you're beginning...so that you can easily grasp the process. Once you succeed in handling the simple approach, then you can complicate things from there if you choose! haha. Although...it's perfectly possible and acceptable to continue to treat lighting very very simply even when you start shooting tons of portraits for bucks. So much has to do with personal preference. Please don't feel like you're doing something wrong by not setting yourself up with barn doors, snoots, kicker lights, etc. Leave those options for later on when you get a feel for how you want to treat your portraits. Ü

Now, here's one simple way to go:

1 AlienBee 800 Strobe from www.alienbees.com, with a light stand (they'll recommend one). A sync cord comes with the light.

1 Large (36x48) Photoflex LiteDome Softbox, and the appropriate speed ring that connects the softbox to the light (order a Balcar speed ring for the AlienBee) from www.adorama.com or other mail order house), or, if you want to save bucks, one white shoot-thru umbrella (a big one, about 52 inches diameter). Note: Some visitors to our forum have been very pleased with the Photek Softlighter, about $75 at Adorama.com.

1 Handheld meter -- Sekonic L358, or Minolta Autometer VF, from www.adorama.com. (Many beginners have asked me whether a handheld meter is necessary if using a digital camera. Well, you could do without one, but it's a little more time and effort to come up with the correct exposure without one. A handheld meter makes things a lot faster and easier because you don't have to takes test exposures and view your histogram as much. Ultimately, learning how to use a handheld meter can only be good for your venture into portraiture. You decide.)

1 52inch white/silver collapsible Photoflex LiteDisc reflector, from www.adorama.com. Again, if you need to conserve your cash, you could instead use a large 30x40 sheet of white foam core from an art store.

That's really all you need. (If you can spare the extra expense, a backup light is strongly recommended if you plan do shoots for paying clients -- you want the backup to resort to in case something happens to your favorite strobe.)

The background is up to you. Use anything that you think will look good. Personally, I use muslins clamped to a crossbar, held by two light stands -- see below for the way I choose to handle that.

Here's a basic light setup that can be used for one subject, or small group. Very natural looking light :

Simple enough? Take a reading by placing the meter at the subject's face, and with the dome of the meter aimed at the light source. Use that reading. It can be that straight forward. (If you need a start-up guide to using the Sekonic L358, click here for it. )

Here's a background setup that you could use:

The clamps you can get at the home depot, and the stands, crossbar, and stud adapters (to convert the threaded stands into studs onto which the crossbar fits) at Adorama.com or other mail order house.

After some practice with this simple setup, then you can start getting fancy if you want to. But it's very difficult to start out with the fancy methods, so take it one step at a time. May the (diffused) light source be with you.



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