Watt/seconds for Infinite white

Started Apr 13, 2013 | Discussions
ConanLloyd
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Watt/seconds for Infinite white
Apr 13, 2013

Hey there!

I am setting up a temporary home studio to do infinite white shots with.  I already have my Calumet backdrop stand and a roll of 53" Arctic white, now I need to get strobes.

I have read, read, and re-read Zack Arias' awesome Infinite White tutorial and want to get started.  My only problem is budget.  While i would love to go for the Elinchrome or Alienbee strobes, I can't until next tax return or until "the hobby becomes somewhat self sufficient" according to the boss.  I figured in the mean time I can part with $2-300 for a beginner kit and wanted to know the minimum W/s I would need to get decent infinite white in a small space? (12' X 20')  Would 2 lights at 100W/s do it?

Any help?

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Conan D. Lloyd
http://conanlloydphotography.com/

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hotdog321
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to ConanLloyd, Apr 13, 2013

Well, pure white is entirely dependent upon exposure, so, yeah, 100 w/s would do it, especially in a small space. Just shoot one of the lights directly onto the white and light your subject normally. Heck, I use a couple of simple speedlights all the time for environmental portraits and you can do plenty with them, so a white background would be a snap. I always to have more power available "just in case," but you can do a lot with a couple of small lights.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to ConanLloyd, Apr 14, 2013

I can make a white muslin background pure white with 25Ws of strobe power, but to do that I have to work at ISO 400-800. Normally I use a pair of strobes at about 100Ws and shoot at ISO 100-200 at 1/160sec and f/5.6 to f/8.

Remember that you positively don't want to overexpose by more than 1 stop if your subject is only 6' from the background.  I keep mine to 0.7 plus/minus 0.2 stops.

As the subject to background distance increases you can overexpose a bit more, but keep it to about 1.5 stops at 10'-12'.

If you overexpose the background by more than these amounts you will start having problems with light from the background bleeding around the subject, turning their edges pure white.  You will also get broad light source lens flare, which causes a loss of image contrast.

Please don't buy cheap low quality studio strobes.  I did that the first time and they quickly wound up in the trash - a total waste of my money.  Buy quality and you won't regret it.  Please read the article I wrote to help others avoid my expensive mistake.

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

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ConanLloyd
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to hotdog321, Apr 14, 2013

Thanks a bunch, I pulled the trigger on a cheap set for now.  If I can do some shooting for a few bucks then I can invest in better lighting.

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ConanLloyd
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to Sailor Blue, Apr 14, 2013

I read your post and respect it.  Unfortunately, i have to drop a coupe hundred on a cheap set as a "proof of concept" for the boss. Once I show that i can make the prints and get some folk to purchase them, then she will be more amenable to me dropping $600-$1000 on a quality set up.  It's the same reason I have cheap radio triggers instead of pocket wizards.

I did, however, learn from your post and have used it to plan my studio roadmap. So I thank you heartily for the advice, please keep it coming.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to ConanLloyd, Apr 15, 2013

ConanLloyd wrote:

I read your post and respect it.  Unfortunately, i have to drop a coupe hundred on a cheap set as a "proof of concept" for the boss. Once I show that i can make the prints and get some folk to purchase them, then she will be more amenable to me dropping $600-$1000 on a quality set up.  It's the same reason I have cheap radio triggers instead of pocket wizards.

I did, however, learn from your post and have used it to plan my studio roadmap. So I thank you heartily for the advice, please keep it coming.

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Conan D. Lloyd
http://conanlloydphotography.com/

Zack Arias is a very highly regarded professional photographer who started out about 13-15 years ago with a single AlienBee B1600 and a 60" umbrella.  You can do the same thing.

The only thing you must be aware of is that with a single light you can't shoot seamless white.  A white background will go gray, but gray makes a nice background for portraits.

zarias.com :: The blog of editorial photographer Zack Arias

Zack Arias - One Light Workshop • Photography By Zack Arias

I would recommend starting with a B800 or a Flashpoint DG600 unless you will be shooting outdoors.  These lights are powerful enough that you can shoot at f/5.6 to f/8 with that 60" umbrella by using ISO 200-400, which is perfectly acceptable with todays DSLRs.

Here is everything you need from Adorama to  get started.

Adorama - Flashpoint DG600 300 w/s Monolight, Blue FP600DG

Adorama - Flashpoint 9.5' Lightstand, 5/8" Top Stud with 1/4-20 Thread L3050A

Adorama - Universal Swivel Holder - Umbrella Bracket 781404

Adorama - 60in Interior Umbrella, Removable Cover, White U60BC

Adorama - Seamless Background Paper, White #28 13452

You can find everything you need to get started with, except the paper, from Paul C. Buff if you chose to buy the AlienBee.

Paul C. Buff

Leave the paper in the box and place it on the floor at the base of a wall.  Pull the paper up and tape it to the wall with blue painter's masking tape.  Remove the tape, roll the paper back up, and store the roll on end between uses.

You are better off with one quality light that you can build a kit from than throwing away money buying cheap low quality lights that wind up in the trash.

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rfactor
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to ConanLloyd, Apr 15, 2013

ConanLloyd wrote:

Hey there!

I am setting up a temporary home studio to do infinite white shots with.  I already have my Calumet backdrop stand and a roll of 53" Arctic white, now I need to get strobes.

I have read, read, and re-read Zack Arias' awesome Infinite White tutorial and want to get started.  My only problem is budget.  While i would love to go for the Elinchrome or Alienbee strobes, I can't until next tax return or until "the hobby becomes somewhat self sufficient" according to the boss.  I figured in the mean time I can part with $2-300 for a beginner kit and wanted to know the minimum W/s I would need to get decent infinite white in a small space? (12' X 20')  Would 2 lights at 100W/s do it?

Any help?

-- hide signature --

Cheers,
Conan D. Lloyd
http://conanlloydphotography.com/

Hi, I am in the same situation as you.  Glad to see you are making some headway.  It is so hard to feel confident about this purchase with everyone always saying go big or go home.  Glad to see you are getting somewhere!  Please let us know what you end up purchasing and how they work out!

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-Ryan-
FZ200

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rfactor
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to Sailor Blue, Apr 15, 2013

Sailor Blue wrote:

I can make a white muslin background pure white with 25Ws of strobe power, but to do that I have to work at ISO 400-800. Normally I use a pair of strobes at about 100Ws and shoot at ISO 100-200 at 1/160sec and f/5.6 to f/8.

When you do this, are you using both strobes on the background and a third on the subject?  Is it possible to light an entire 9' white background with 1 light or are 2 necessary?

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-Ryan-
FZ200

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rfactor
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to Sailor Blue, Apr 15, 2013

Here is everything you need from Adorama to  get started.

Adorama - Flashpoint DG600 300 w/s Monolight, Blue FP600DG

Adorama - Flashpoint 9.5' Lightstand, 5/8" Top Stud with 1/4-20 Thread L3050A

Adorama - Universal Swivel Holder - Umbrella Bracket 781404

Adorama - 60in Interior Umbrella, Removable Cover, White U60BC

Adorama - Seamless Background Paper, White #28 13452

You can find everything you need to get started with, except the paper, from Paul C. Buff if you chose to buy the AlienBee.

Paul C. Buff

Is the Flashpoint DG600 a better purchase than an AB B400 for the $50 difference?  I am assuming the AB B800 would be better than both....

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-Ryan-
FZ200

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ConanLloyd
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to rfactor, Apr 15, 2013

rfactor wrote:

ConanLloyd wrote:

Hey there!

I am setting up a temporary home studio to do infinite white shots with.  I already have my Calumet backdrop stand and a roll of 53" Arctic white, now I need to get strobes.

I have read, read, and re-read Zack Arias' awesome Infinite White tutorial and want to get started.  My only problem is budget.  While i would love to go for the Elinchrome or Alienbee strobes, I can't until next tax return or until "the hobby becomes somewhat self sufficient" according to the boss.  I figured in the mean time I can part with $2-300 for a beginner kit and wanted to know the minimum W/s I would need to get decent infinite white in a small space? (12' X 20')  Would 2 lights at 100W/s do it?

Any help?

-- hide signature --

Cheers,
Conan D. Lloyd
http://conanlloydphotography.com/

Hi, I am in the same situation as you.  Glad to see you are making some headway.  It is so hard to feel confident about this purchase with everyone always saying go big or go home.  Glad to see you are getting somewhere!  Please let us know what you end up purchasing and how they work out!

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-Ryan-
FZ200

I agree whole heartedly with Sailor's advice, I just can't spend the money right now.  For my purposes, it's better to sacrifice $100 - $200 and upgrade later than it is to wait until I can spend the $400 - $800 for the good stuff.  I placed the order and will review when I get them.  I have a friend coming over on Saturday for a pregnancy shoot as long as everything comes in.  Will post pics as soon as I can.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to rfactor, Apr 16, 2013

rfactor wrote:

Sailor Blue wrote:

I can make a white muslin background pure white with 25Ws of strobe power, but to do that I have to work at ISO 400-800. Normally I use a pair of strobes at about 100Ws and shoot at ISO 100-200 at 1/160sec and f/5.6 to f/8.

When you do this, are you using both strobes on the background and a third on the subject?  Is it possible to light an entire 9' white background with 1 light or are 2 necessary?

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-Ryan-
FZ200

Two lights on the background, one on each side usually aimed about 1/3 of the way in from the opposite side then feathered until the light is evenly distributed over as wide an area as possible.  Sometimes you can't get the outer edges to go pure white but if the subject is against pure white then it is possible to make the outer edges pure white in post processing.  Just remember that all post processing takes time, so it is always better to get the image right in the camera and not rely on post processing unless necessary.

You can get a pure white background by placing a single light behind the subject at about mid-back to shoulder height and aiming it at the background.  Having the light (and subject) 10' away from the background gives you better spread and distribution than if the light is only 6' from the background.  You will almost always have to do post processing to make the edges of the image pure white with this setup if you do more than a head shot.

One note - don't spend money on those single power so called background strobes like this one.  They are basically worthless 99% of the time.  Every light you buy must be power adjustable.

B&H - Impact SF-AE80 AC Flash

I use one or two lights for the subject depending on the look I want.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Watt/seconds for Infinite white
In reply to rfactor, Apr 16, 2013

rfactor wrote:

Here is everything you need from Adorama to  get started.

Adorama - Flashpoint DG600 300 w/s Monolight, Blue FP600DG

Adorama - Flashpoint 9.5' Lightstand, 5/8" Top Stud with 1/4-20 Thread L3050A

Adorama - Universal Swivel Holder - Umbrella Bracket 781404

Adorama - 60in Interior Umbrella, Removable Cover, White U60BC

Adorama - Seamless Background Paper, White #28 13452

You can find everything you need to get started with, except the paper, from Paul C. Buff if you chose to buy the AlienBee.

Paul C. Buff

Is the Flashpoint DG600 a better purchase than an AB B400 for the $50 difference?  I am assuming the AB B800 would be better than both....

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-Ryan-
FZ200

The B400 is a 160Ws light and better reserved for use as an accent, hair, or background light.

Safe baseline studio settings are shooting at 2/3 stop slower than the manufacturer's sync speed, ISO 100 to 200, and f/5.6 to f/11.

The DG600 is a 300Ws light, the B800 is a 320Ws one.  To me 300-400Ws is the sweet spot for main light studio strobes since they are low enough in power to work well with 24" softboxes, 24"umbrellas, or with beauty lights, yet they are powerful enough for up to a 3'x5' softbox or 60" umbrella at the above settings.

For larger modifiers like an 8' octobox you need 600Ws to 1200Ws.  For outdoors you need 600 Ws minimum, and even more power to overpower direct sunlight.

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