Best type of light for portaiture?

Started Apr 18, 2013 | Questions thread
Sailor Blue
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Re: Best type of light for portaiture?
In reply to TristatePhoto, Apr 20, 2013

TristatePhoto wrote:

Sailor Blue wrote:

I agree with Barrie, get studio strobes and lights with 300-400Ws of power are excellent choices.

To find out what types of lights and lots more information about what equipment you need to set up a small home studio read my article.  I wrote it to help people like you avoid my costly mistake of buying the wrong equipment.  I did that the first time and the equipment quickly wound up in the trash can, a complete waste of my money.

Sailorblue - Digital Photography Review - Equipment Guide for Setting up a Small Home Portrait/Glamor Studio

If you are budget limited then start out with only one light.  Well know and respected professional photographer Zack Arias did that, and has an excellent DVD tutorial to show how to use only one light for great results.  Thomas Park has a nice tutorial here on dpreview too.

Zack Arias - One Light Workshop • Photography By Zack Arias

Thomas Park - The One-Light Studio: Digital Photography Review

Portraiture is all about light control.  Highlights and shadows on the face is what gives the face a 3D appearance in a flat image.  Controlling highlights and shadows also allows you to sculpt the face to make it look slimmer or broader or to emphasize or deemphasize features.

Umbrellas are a bit like a light grenade - sending light out in all directions and creating a lot of stray light.  Stray light is your enemy in a small room.

In a small room you will find that softboxes give you greater control over where the light goes than an umbrella and are worth the added expense.

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Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.

I'm going to be the first to disagree.

Your prerogative, and I might agree if your name was Joe McNally.  Few other professionals have reached his level of capabilities to see the light so they still use studio strobes as their first choice.

Studio strobes have modeling lights.  With modeling lights you can see the highlights and shadows and get the lights positioned exactly right before you ever press the shutter.  With hot-shoe flash you guess at the light position, take a test shot, chimp, adjust the light position, take a test shot, chimp, repeat, repeat, repeat, etc., etc., etc.

Oh, and in the studio Joe McNally uses studio strobes.  He knows you pick the best tool for the job.

Joe McNally’s Blog

Why spend so much money on studio strobes that are heavy and require huge battery's to use on location when you can get a cheap $70 flash that can be used on camera to bounce flash indoors, is highly mobile and easy/fast to set up, and you can get 4 of them for less than the cost of a studio strobe and have a whole studio set up with 4 flashes.

There is nothing wrong with having hot-shoe flash units, they are just not the best choice for what the OP wanted to do - studio portraiture.

Check out the weight of the Mini Vagabond from P. C. Buff if you think that you need huge batteries for location shooting with studio strobes.  I'm sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

You can even overpower the sun with 1 of these flashes if you know how to use the inverse square law to your advantage.

Try doing a full length portrait in bright sun using hot-shoe flash units and tell me that again.

How many did it take? I figure it would require something in the 20-25 hot-shoe flash units range to match a 1600Ws studio strobe.  A 1600Ws studio strobe is what I would start with for outdoors in bright sun light, and it might even take a 2500Ws one.

Why not use the right tool, a high powered studio flash, even if you have to rent it?

The truth is that speedlites have gotten to the point where they have the power (especially with battery packs) to be used to shoot anything just as good as studio lights would be yet they're much less expensive and more versatile in their uses.

I have yet to find any hot-shoe flash that can match the power of a 300Ws studio strobe, let alone a 1600Ws or 2500Ws one.

Wait, there is one hot-shoe flash that comes close.  The Quantum Instruments Qflash Model T5D-R is equal to a 160Ws studio strobe and only costs $706.

Hot-shoe flash units are great, in their place.  Doing portraiture simply isn't the best place for hot-shoe flash units, that is where you want studio strobes with their modeling lights.

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Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.

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