Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event

Started Feb 9, 2013 | Discussions
JoannaR
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Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event
Feb 9, 2013

I know there likely isn't 1 perfect product for all these scenarios but use your imagination.  : )

I'm going to specialize in documentary pet photography (primarily dogs and cats and possibly horses) with a side business of food photography and photojournalistic essays (environmental portraits, etc.) So I need a portable lighting setup that can be used sans outlet, and I'm leaning more towards continuous light vs. strobe (so as not to scare pets).

I'll be utilizing a lot of natural light for all of these genres, so I don't need something so powerful that it's producing ALL of the light, more for just fill/kicker lights.

I really don't know the first thing about lighting and even reading dozens of tutorials doesn't really narrow down what I should be looking for.

Any suggestions?  Should I be looking at strobes anyways?  Keep in mind I plan to get an on-camera flash unit too but I'm looking for something so I can really craft the light to be as flattering as possible.

Thank you!

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event
In reply to JoannaR, Feb 9, 2013

I'm not a pet photographer but I do know that many of them use strobes.

Continuous lighting is low intensity lighting and that requires using long shutter speeds, which means that you need to shoot from a tripod and that the subjects can't move. Pets and people move, which is why most studio strobes are so popular.

For portability you can use hot-shoe flash but you can't beat the AllienBee lights with the Vagabond portable power packs when you need more power. The cost is about the same as high quality hot-shoe flash units too.

Paul C. Buff

I recommend you read my guide to equipment for a small studio before buying any lighting.

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

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BAK
BAK
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Re: Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event
In reply to JoannaR, Feb 10, 2013

This is just for fun, right?

I'm a dog photographer, and I don't know what documentary pet photography is.

But maybe it is something like a day in the life of Twinkie and it includes indoors and outdoors and a ride in the car and a visit to the swimming pool.

You should think about whether you understand the evolutioon of photography well enough to integrate pictures that move with your still images.

And pictures that move require constant light.

I've never seen flash bother dogs or cows, but only the slack of braininess shoot machine gun shots of animals.

With studio lights, you get constant illumination from the modeling lights, so they are often a good bet.

When you pick a studio flash, this will mean you need to pick one with bright modeling lights, which may mean Alien Bees are out. I think each model has different standard modeling lights, so it is worth checking.

FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY. Are you talking about so probably fuzzy snapshots of what the waiter brings in some restaurant, or are you talking about  real food photography. If the latter, your photo school teachers can make suggestions. Beginners don't do food photography; the food rots before they get the shot.

If I was doing snapshots in restaurants just for fun, I'd use a camera-maker hotshoe flash on the end of a off camera shoe cord, and probably a Gary Fong cloud model Lightsphere. I'd just hold the Lightsphere over the food. The cloud model provides softer light than the clear one.

Using flash with moving horses is pretty difficult. The easiest way is to pump a lot of light into the arena, covering a large area, so you can take a couple of shots as the horse moves. The farther away the light, the less the falloff. But the farther away, the more you need power to get adequate illumination.

And you need a small aperture so that the flash freezes the action and the ambiant light does not allow for the exposure of blur.

BAK

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JoannaR
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Re: Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event
In reply to BAK, Feb 10, 2013

I appreciate your reply BAK and I'll try to clear up any confusion.

I AM talking about professionally. I'm passionate about pets, food and telling a deep, meaningful story, so I want to focus on pet photography, food photography and essays.

Pet photography is my forte, where I'm happiest and where the majority of my business is going to come from. I'm more than halfway done with my formal business plan and have my products and pricing set.

Food photography is something I want to learn and I'm dedicated to doing it right, and have already spent some time shooting food for a few area restaurants - free marketable images for them and learning for me (plus free food).

Essays about people and situations - this would be along the lines of what you see in National Geographic, a written piece with strong photos to go with it; this is more of a personal project I'm exploring to see if there is a way to commercially present it.

Documentary pet photography would be along the lines of what you see Jamie Pflughoeft, Charlotte Reeves, Illona Haus, Britt Croft, etc. I prefer the term photojournalistic, but it's longer and not as self-evident to potential clients, whereas nearly everyone knows what documentary style will look like. This is going to be all on-location, primarily outside but also occasionally inside the owner's home/other buildings. For that reason I'd like something I can use to illuminate poorly lit rooms or just enhance the environment in general. This will be in addition to my diffused flash to ensure I'm getting those catchlights.

I didn't initially mention videography but yes, it's something I'd love to learn as well to offer a whole "day in the life of" package.

Food photography . . . it's spellbinding when done right. There's so much to learn about it that I know I'm not at the point where I want to be, but I do want to get started with the right lighting gear and knowledge to head down the right road.

If it helps at all I've got a 5DII.

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Darrell Spreen
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Re: Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event
In reply to JoannaR, Feb 10, 2013

Chancelynn2002 wrote:

Food photography . . . it's spellbinding when done right. There's so much to learn about it that I know I'm not at the point where I want to be, but I do want to get started with the right lighting gear and knowledge to head down the right road.

I have done a little food photography (I'm probably at the same point on the learning curve as you) -- I have been working with speedlights for portability and for easy setup in some very small working spaces.

This website may not help you decide on lighting equipment, but I have found it to be very helpful  for ideas and inspiration.  Some of the links are apparently old and not working, but most will work.

http://www.foodportfolio.com/otherfoodshooters/

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JoannaR
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Re: Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event
In reply to Darrell Spreen, Feb 10, 2013

Darrell, that's excellent, thank you so much!

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event
In reply to BAK, Feb 11, 2013

BAK wrote:

Using flash with moving horses is pretty difficult. The easiest way is to pump a lot of light into the arena, covering a large area, so you can take a couple of shots as the horse moves. The farther away the light, the less the falloff. But the farther away, the more you need power to get adequate illumination.

And you need a small aperture so that the flash freezes the action and the ambiant light does not allow for the exposure of blur.

BAK

BAK, have you tried using a better beamer for horses in the arena?  Not as elegant as large area lighting but a cheap and an effective way to extend the range of a hot-shoe flash.

Better Beamer - Amazon.com: The Flash X-Tender

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Albert Drybrae
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Re: Lighting Kit for Pet/Food/Portraits/Event
In reply to JoannaR, Feb 17, 2013

Chancelynn2002:

Since you are using a Canon camera, why not use Canon 580EX ii with an ST-E2 so that you can go wireless with your flash? You can add as many flashes to you system as you want and get inexpensive accessories such as softboxes and umbrellas.  You can make key and fill ratios which can really enhance your photos.  Learning to use Canon wireless does have a learning curve so don't expect everything to work perfect at first.  I also want to pass along that I have done hundreds of cat and dog photos with electronic flash and never have any of the animals even noticed the flash.

Al

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