Budget camera for best studio results

Started Oct 21, 2012 | Questions thread
Guidenet Forum Pro • Posts: 15,748
Re: Budget camera for best studio results

I think both Nelson and Bjorn hit it on the head, but there's one thing missing and that's budget and what you mean by "studio."

How much do you want to spend for everything? When you talk studio in your home, are you talking a couple of monolights with a backdrop or talking about just using a speedlight mounted on the camera or off to take the kid's pictures during the holidays?

If you're talking about a real home studio with a real backdrop and a couple of inexpensive monolights, your needs may be somewhat different. The camera is completely unimportant in my book if you're under a couple of thousand dollars. They are all pretty much the same thing. The kit lens is just fine. You've no need for a fast f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens as you're not going to be blurring the background. That's why you bought a backdrop.

You'd probably be well off with something like 85mm for good tight head and shoulders. Nelson is right about a perspective that is more flattering. Heck, outdoor portaits I often shoot with a 300 f/2.8 Nikon from a distance. Inside my studio, the 85mm is my most used portrait lens, though the 105 and 150 come in handy too, but I shoot only FX (full frame anymore). When I shoot DX, my 85 was still my most used focal length for head and shoulders or even mid-body shots. I've shot portraits with most everything once in a long while though. Children so a little better with somewhat wider glass at times. They have small noses, by and large.

You'll want one flash/strobe at the least on a light stand. You'll want another or just a big reflector on another light stand. You can multiply your lights with reflectors up to a point when you're starting out, but I'd advise 2 monolights and a reflector on three light stands as a good starter for the home. I'd use something like a softbox on my Key light, a shoot through white umbrella or maybe another box for the fill light. I'd use the reflector as a hair light aiming down from above to the side. You move it in and out to control the hair lighting. You can feather it for contrast too.

You're going to be shooting at various f/stops like f/5.6 to f/8 not wide open depending on the power you have. I'd start with small 160 - 320 watt second lights. I'd also recommend the always be the same power, not all the same for shooting but all the same capability. It makes things way easier long term.

I'd invest in a cheap radio trigger from eBay or similar. You can also use a single sync cord (Sync cords come wth the lights) to fire the Key light and the others will slave, but PC cords are easy to trip on and they have a way of breaking their connectors. You just need a transmitter on the camera and a receiver on the one light. The rest slave. Later you can get fancy if you want. You could even trigger it all with your popup flash but then it can contribute to the light which I hate. A $20 radio trigger is the best cheap way.

Then the most important thing is learning how to use it. That's pretty easy for starter stuff, so just start. Most lighting companies offer one, two and three light or more kits where you get everything to get you started. For inexpensive but good lights, I'd start with Interfit or Paul Buff. Flashpoint might be too cheap.



I use up to six Alien Bee B800 models and love them, but might upgrade to Eisteins soon. I'd advise less watt second for home starter kits though. B400s or similar in Interfit.  The B400 puts out from 5 Ws to 160 Ws which is plenty of power for a good home studio. Here's some packages and examples of how to set up. Backdrops aren't included. A good one light kit starts at $372 USD.

1 AlienBees™ B800 Flash Unit
10-foot General Purpose Light Stand
1 51-inch White PLM™ (with 8mm shaft)
1 PLM51-BOC 51-inch Black Outer Cover
1 PCBBAG Paul C. Buff™ Single Light Carrying Bag


Here's a great tutorial to help start you off



This is kind of fun to show you what various modifiers do.


Most of all have fun and make it a great holiday season coming up.

Please ignore typos.

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Cheers, Craig
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