Best type of light for portaiture?

Started Apr 18, 2013 | Questions thread
mbloof Senior Member • Posts: 1,376
Re: Best type of light for portaiture?

Lena Hale wrote:

I'm in the market for lights ideal for portraiture. Instead of going through every type of light I'd like a recommendation of where to start.

I like to take self-portraits, but my shooting space for it is very limited and my only light sources are windows and regular lamps unsuited for lighting a photo. I want some very bright lights suitable for portraits so that I don't have to use low shutter speeds to get decent light- I have trouble sitting still so I really need quick speeds and can't get away with that with the current lighting (and I don't like to increase the ISO).

If there are any accessories I should consider getting with the light, please suggest them!

Greetings, you have not mentioned what camera that your going to fire these flashes with or if your simply playing with self portraits or wishing to learn about lighting and/or take portraits of others.

While taking self portraits with a default camera kit (built in flash, camera on tripod, timer shutter mode) is possible the images are less then ideal as the flash is to close to the camera lens. If you wish to simply get some better looking self portraits the cheapest way to go is getting a decent 'hot shoe flash' which has a moveable/swivel head in which you can 'bounce' the light from a nearby wall. Having a hot-shoe flash will improve your other types of photography as well as the built in flashes are generally weak and to close to the camera lens.

A bit more expensive is adding a 'flash modifier' to your new hot-shoe flash. These can run from a few dollars to a $100 or more.

If you have a bit more $$ to spend getting a light stand and a 'sync cord' (depending on your camera) will allow you to use 'off camera flash', use larger flash modifiers and place them (and the flash) somewhat where ever you wish.

'Hot shoe' flashes can be cheap, almost always battery powered but generally don't have nice features like 'modeling lights' and fast recycle times.

If your interested in learning lighting in general and have more cash to spend I'd recommend getting a few books on photographic lighting. Here you can research the different types of lights that can be used and the advantages of each type.

Personally, I started out with a single hot-shoe flash and quickly added a 2nd with a light stand and umbrella. This setup is rather portable and can be used almost anywhere. At some point I wished to get more serious about lighting and after reading a few books and on the recommendation of some pros at the local supply store I bought a pair of studio lights.

Ether way you go having controllable light source(s) that are away from the camera lens will enhance the quality of your portraits.

I'd recommend getting a remote trigger for your camera so you can take multiple pictures without having to use/rely on your camera's self-timer. The problems of self portraits is getting the camera+lighting aimed the way you want along with you and facial expression all at the same time. I find that practicing facial expressions in a mirror BEFORE hand works much better than trying to have a mirror to see yourself in while attempting a shoot as the mirror will more often than not cause lighting problems with the shoot.

I'd agree with some of the other respondents that the so called 'modeling lights' are fairly to completely useless depending ONLY on how much ambient light you have in the room and if your using manual or automatic focus on your camera.

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