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Studio Lighting Choices.. Confused?

August 06, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Studio Lighting choices ???

Shooting indoors can be a challenge, particularly when you do not have a ready source of natural light such as a large window. Speedlights certainly are a viable option with units being very portable, but can be limiting with power and modifiers.

Studio strobes can (arguably) be more versatile than speedlights depending upon how and when they are used. The question may be though where do I start? There seems to be an ever growing number of companies that produce photography equipment, and quite honestly some equipment can be VERY expensive. Studio strobes themselves can vary in price from $75 to well over $2000.

Is the $2000+ dollar strobe always better than the $75 strobe? The answer is no, not always. But there are some important points to consider:

  • How often do you shoot indoors (every day, once a month)?
  • What do you shoot (People, food, automobiles)? 
  • What is your budget?
  • Who are you shooting for (pleasure such as a hobby,  professional commercial art?)
  • What if any modifiers (Softboxes) do you have or are planning to purchase?
  • Do you shoot outdoors and need light to fill in shadows?
  • Most of the time do you shoot one subject or multiple subjects?

Building the case for the economy strobe

You are a photographer that shoots indoors perhaps a couple times of month as a hobby or as a small business. Most of the time you are shooting one or two subjects at a time, and if you want to shoot something large such as a automobile it is probably outdoors anyway. If you photograph people, you enjoy getting the light in close for that soft wrap around glam look when working indoors. If outdoors, you are pretty good about finding just the right light.  Most of your modifiers are umbrellas or small to medium softboxes. You are not making grand amount of money with your photography, at least at this point.

Economy lights such as the Neewer Studio Flash could be a good way to start. Features on economy strobes may be limited so it is important to compare units within a similar price range. How does it fire (what type of trigger)? How fast does it recharge after a full power burst of light (recycle time). What is its flash duration (important if you are photographing moving objects).

A case for a mid-range strobe

Lets say you shoot at least once per week and maybe even have a business. You may shoot close for glamour or several feet away from your model for artistic purposes or even shoot small groups of people. You have or are planning to purchase modifiers such as beauty dishes, large softboxes or large umbrellas. If outdoors, you may shoot in a variety of lighting conditions. You may even shoot subjects such as dancers.

A common midrange studio strobes are  Alien Bee units. They come in a variety of configurations and are durable and reliable. Many studio's rely on these units on a daily basis. 

A case for a high end strobe

Ok, you have a business with a steady stream of clients who want your services. You are shooting most of the week, and your clients expect consistent color and exposure from shot to shot. You may be shooting commercially occasionally for a magazine. You have a variety of modifers including large umbrellas, octaboxes, beauty dishes etc.. You also shoot outdoors where you must have critical control to the extent possible in a variety of lighting conditions. Your subjects may vary from fashion to dancers.

High range studio strobes such as Prophoto may be the answer for you. The product is well supported and a wide range of accessories are available. The lights are durable and consistent in output and are likely to last many years.

Wrapping up

So there is really not a once size fits all studio strobe. Companies mentioned above have competition, so compare vendors when you are ready to buy. You can even RENT lighting from such vendors such as Borrowlens  if you want to try out a particular brand of mid to high level studio strobes (sorry, no economy strobes here). Some things to look for apart from recycle time and flash duration may be what type of power supply does the light need. It is becoming more common for strobes to have built in power to avoid electrical cords everywhere. An important point is accessories; certain lights need certain adapters such as 'speedrings' in order to attach them to modifiers. Purchasing the right adapters for your lights may be critical. Accessories for economy lights may be very limited depending upon brand.

-Bob Barford is a published photogapher in So. PA




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