Best lighting for simple portraits

Started Dec 13, 2007 | Discussions
Shop cameras & lenses ▾
Bobalooie Regular Member • Posts: 291
Best lighting for simple portraits

After a job loss of some 30 years, I've been encouraged to follow my passion and dream and maybe try and make a small and simple living. I live , eat, and breathe photography...what would your best idea be for a simple, and inexpensive lightimng for portraits. I've mostly used existing light with great results. But I would need a more consistant source of light..(so I could consitantly eat) lol

Sorry, long winded I know...

question being.....Best, or prefered, inexpensive to start...portrait lighting.

Thanks in advance......

RDKirk Forum Pro • Posts: 14,717
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

Depends on your tastes. A lot of photographers do well with "high impact" lighting--creative use of accent lights. It's a hip look that's very modern and popular.

I'm doing my most salable portraits right now by reaching back in time. I'm using a single very large, square softbox to emulate an artist's window light, along with a large, close reflector to brighten the shadows.

-- hide signature --

RDKirk
'TANSTAAFL: The only unbreakable rule in photography.'

Neil McKenzie Senior Member • Posts: 1,371
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

Bobalooie wrote:

After a job loss of some 30 years, I've been encouraged to follow my
passion and dream and maybe try and make a small and simple living. I
live , eat, and breathe photography...what would your best idea be
for a simple, and inexpensive lightimng for portraits. I've mostly
used existing light with great results. But I would need a more
consistant source of light..(so I could consitantly eat) lol

Sorry, long winded I know...

question being.....Best, or prefered, inexpensive to start...portrait
lighting.

Thanks in advance......

I think a good place to start would be:

  • A Nikon SU800 flash controller (you can use the built in flash on the D80 but this works much better).

  • An SB800 flash or two.

  • A convertible umbrella (shoot through white with removable black back)

  • A light weight light stand and hot shoe swivel head

  • A collapsible 5 way reflector.

This will give you a powerful and portable solution for many portrait situations and events.

-- hide signature --
photolando Senior Member • Posts: 2,100
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

I have to agree. I do see a lot of "cool" or "edgy" type portraiture out there but to be honest, very classic lighting and posing still out sells anything else. I do a lot of classical type portraits and sell 16x20s and 20x24s all the time. Most people really don't want a big "artsy" type portrait on their walls. And you make a lot more money with larger prints than you will 5x7s and 8x10s.

My lighting is a med. or large Chimera as my main, a large reflector and a hairllight and maybe a background light. Use mostly Rembrant or closed look lighting. Doesn't get any more simple than that. But learning how to place the light and pose the subjects is where the talent comes in.

Mike Collins
--
'Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.'

RDKirk Forum Pro • Posts: 14,717
Both these statemenst are extremely true

Most people really don't want a big "artsy" type portrait on their walls.

And you make a lot more money with larger prints than you will 5x7s and 8x10s.

-- hide signature --

RDKirk
'TANSTAAFL: The only unbreakable rule in photography.'

BBGunWB Regular Member • Posts: 405
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

I just bought this kit:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/298604-REG/Impact_401470_Tungsten_Miniboom_Three_Flood.html

from B&H as an early Christmas present from my wife. ("I can never figure out what you want, order what you want yourself this year" )

I figure its a good, flexible start without investing in extra flashes.

BB

YoungJedi Senior Member • Posts: 2,637
Big mistake...BBGunWB

Pretty much the same setup I bought when I got into shooting. I have a flashlight that puts out more light..lol...Those constant lights are never enough and they are really hot.

Not saying some people cant work wonders with them...but in all honesty, you have to use such slow shutterspeeds and open up the apuerture so much that you never get good results...Just saying what happened to me...Thats all;)

BBGunWB wrote:

I just bought this kit:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/298604-REG/Impact_401470_Tungsten_Miniboom_Three_Flood.html

from B&H as an early Christmas present from my wife. ("I can never
figure out what you want, order what you want yourself this year" )

I figure its a good, flexible start without investing in extra flashes.

BB

Pom ZJ New Member • Posts: 23
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

Go with xxx.alienbees.com 2@AB400 is a good start if you need more power just up the ISO, get one LG4X it will let you controll 4 light from one location.

If it is a business then spend some and you'll be eating more in no time....Pom

Sold 16x20 (cust. home 2 speedlite )

Martin Caie Veteran Member • Posts: 3,816
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

I also prefer classic lighting and poses, but do the other stuff for fun, too. The third and last images in Mike's gallery are the kind of shots I like when it comes to artificial lighting.

I love nothing more than doing an outdoor session with but one camera and lens. It's simply wonderful to jump in the car like that and have nothing else but your wallet, keys and 'phone to worry about.

So my recommendation for a kit is a three-light kit, preferably able to be powered from both AC and DC currents, with at least one softbox, preferably two, and some umbrellas and a good reflector or two.

I would get Alien Bees or White Lightening without hesitation. One thing that can be overlooked is the ability to tone down the lighting as many units can't provide such low output as this company. Seldom will you hit the uppoer limit of power output - it's usually the other way that is of most concern.

Mick Ruthven Senior Member • Posts: 1,760
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

The basic choice is between continuous light sources and strobes. For a very portable solution using low-cost regular strobe flash units, see strobist.com. There are also threads in this forum about that site and the techniques it teaches.

pfiltz Veteran Member • Posts: 6,033
Basic

stuff. No high tech branding equipment is needed.

1 large SB w/strobe of your choice
1 med SB w/strobe of your choice
1 strobe for hair of your choice using grids, sb or snoot
Reflector w/stand
2 light stands
1 hand meter

A couple nice looking b/g's as well.

It's not about the mfg of the gear. It's all about how you use it.

-- hide signature --

Taking mystery away from lighting.... There are no rules...
Nothing spooky about photography, whether it's studio or outside work.

If you never fail, you never grow....

Regards, Phillip @ Keepsake,

David Edwards Regular Member • Posts: 377
Re: Basic

Where are you going to do these portraits?

If you need to be very mobile and quick, then a speed light setup might be the best way to go. See Strobist.com

If you're going to be in a studio, or have more time to setup on location then the Studio strobes are the answer. Alien Bees or White Lightening are a great value.

Congrats on following your dream!

mg73 New Member • Posts: 2
May I suggest you try this...

My suggestion would be a one light "clamshell" arrangement with a foam core reflector. This is probably the simplest, cheapest setup, gives a highly flattering result, and is very easy to setup.

Go here for examples:

http://www.genero.smugmug.com/gallery/730581#136106948

All the portraits in this gallery were done with this setup.

Equipment:

One strobe: a simple AB 800 or WL 800 or 1600 will suffice. I used a Calumet 750 travelite for all of the portraits.

A large softbox: bigger is better is that it gives softer light. I used a calumet 48".

Light stand for the strobe.

Background of some sort. I use the calumet background stand with rolls of sheet paper. I think the stand was around $125.

White Foam Core board for a reflector: get at any art supply or craft store. A 2x4 foot piece for about $5 suffices for most 1/2 length portraits.

Technique:

1. Seat the model on a stool about 2-4 ft in front of the background. The further away the background, the darker it will be, and also more out of focused it will be.

2. Mount the softbox on the strobe and position is directly in front of the model angling down about 45 degrees. The closer you place the strobe to the model, the softer the overall lighting will be. Try about 4-6 feet in front of the model to begni.

3. For upper body portraits, have the model hold the foam core board in his/her lap so the light from the strobe is reflected up into the model's face. This will even out the lighting and give a classic "glamour" look which is highly flattering to most people and works with men as well a women.

4. Position youself and the camera just underneath the lower edge of the softbox and shoot from there. In other words, the softbox is above you and the camera, pointing down at the model.

You can see the results of this technique in all the portaits on my website. It's a great way to begin because it's simple an requires a minimum of initial investment.

An a simple word of advice for the best results with women: ALWAYS use makeup. Having someone there who knows how to apply makeup is one of the key ingredients to having satisfied women customers. Good makeup is almost as important as proper exposure, post processing, etc...

BBGunWB Regular Member • Posts: 405
Re: Big mistake...BBGunWB

Ah well....

At least the booms and the umbrellas will be re-useable.

BB

Irakly Shanidze
Irakly Shanidze Veteran Member • Posts: 4,644
Re: May I suggest you try this...

oh my god! if your out to achieve flat results, you definitely succeeded. just don't give this kind of advice to someone who wants to make living with portraiture.
--
Irakly Shanidze
http://www.shanidze.com/en

 Irakly Shanidze's gear list:Irakly Shanidze's gear list
Leica M9 Sony Alpha a99 Leica SL (Typ 601)
MichaelRoop Contributing Member • Posts: 509
Clamshell

Thanks, this is all very helpful

I have heard the word clamshell used in this forum but I always thought that it was some kind of lighting attachment. From what you have described it sound like a techinique (i.e. Top part of shell is softbox and bottom is reflector)

Do I have that right?

-- hide signature --
MichaelRoop Contributing Member • Posts: 509
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

I am in the same position of looking at photography as a pre-retirement/retirement career. At this point, though my day job pays too well and they keep on extending my contract.

After lurking here for a while I have invested in an Alien Bee studio set up and some Canon Speedlights. I have done almost all of my shooting in natural light before and I am finding artificial lighting the greatest challenge that I have encountered so far.

Not sure if I will ever be good enough to make a go of it but it is fun trying. I am following this thread with interest. Thanks for posting

Bobalooie wrote:

After a job loss of some 30 years, I've been encouraged to follow my
passion and dream and maybe try and make a small and simple living. I
live , eat, and breathe photography...what would your best idea be
for a simple, and inexpensive lightimng for portraits. I've mostly
used existing light with great results. But I would need a more
consistant source of light..(so I could consitantly eat) lol

Sorry, long winded I know...

question being.....Best, or prefered, inexpensive to start...portrait
lighting.

Thanks in advance......

-- hide signature --
pellepiano Senior Member • Posts: 1,269
Re: Best lighting for simple portraits

I use cheap china strobes ( 110ws ) like the kits you can find on Ebay. They are usually very cheap, a whole set for the cost of one normal cameraflash.

I have two kits so I can have some variation in the setup, For soft light I use a sheet as a diffuser ( yes Im on a budget ).

Heres an example. I shoot in a very limited space in my apartment.

-- hide signature --
YoungJedi Senior Member • Posts: 2,637
Irakly...

I hope you arent serious? You are out of line if not. The shots he linked look great and are far beyond "flat".....People go for different photo styles and his is very very nice. Would sell very well in my town and im sure in most towns.

Irakly Shanidze wrote:

oh my god! if your out to achieve flat results, you definitely
succeeded. just don't give this kind of advice to someone who wants
to make living with portraiture.
--
Irakly Shanidze
http://www.shanidze.com/en

Irakly Shanidze
Irakly Shanidze Veteran Member • Posts: 4,644
Re: Irakly...

i am absolutely serious. the most prominent feature of all this photos is head-on lighting that makes faces look flat. i don't know, maybe it is fashionable in your town, but in professional portrait photography it is considered almost indecent.
--
Irakly Shanidze
http://www.shanidze.com/en

 Irakly Shanidze's gear list:Irakly Shanidze's gear list
Leica M9 Sony Alpha a99 Leica SL (Typ 601)
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads