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Unread 06-05-2014, 02:58 PM   #1
figment1986
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Home / Mobile studio question

What is the best recommendation for getting supplies for a home / mobile studio... I want to improve my photography by being able to shoot more than just at unpredictable locations. I need to be affordable to a point as well... I would get a studio for real but im not professional enough IMO and i work 4-5 days a week already long hours... so I would loose more money in the end. I'm looking at backdrop recommendations, and lighting recommendations.

I currently have a Digital Rebel T3i camera.
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Unread 06-05-2014, 04:47 PM   #2
nathancarter
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What's your budget, and what sort of transport do you have? Here's some commentary on individual components, not including camera and lens:

1. Lighting.
Three Speedlights - currently the 430EXII and two Yongnuo YN-560II. For most studio work, you don't need ETTL: In fact, ETTL can hinder more than help, since it may change the light output depending on the subject matter. The YN-560III is absolutely worth the price difference over the YN-560II, since the newest version includes a built-in receiver, and I believe the power can be adjusted remotely with certain triggers (niiiice).

The Godox/Neewer V850 and V860 also appear to be very capable contenders for Speedlights - when I wear out my YN560IIs I might switch over.

If you have a little more to spend, one or more studio strobes with modeling lamps can make a huge difference in precise portrait lighting. Downside, they either need an outlet or a big battery pack, they're heavier and harder to transport, and Speedlight modifiers may not work on studio strobes. I have entry-level Elinchrom studio strobes, but Paul C Buff products (Einsteins and Alienbees) are a good choice for entry-level studio lights.

2. Triggers. Things are rapidly changing here, so I'm a little reluctant to give specific recommendations. And, you might make your trigger selection after deciding on your lights. I have Cactus V5s, and while they were pretty good for the price 3 years ago, I don't think I would buy them again given the current tech.

Ideally, look for something that will allow you to remotely control the power of your lights; this will be such a huge convenience when your light is far away or on a tall stand. If you have Yongnuo YN-560II, I think there's a transmitter on the way that will remotely control power; right now the RF-603II will talk to the built-in receiver for triggering but not power control (I think). The Godox flashes don't have a built-in receiver, but you CAN control the power remotely with the FT-16 transmitter and receiver.

As an alternate/inexpensive solution, get an inexpensive trigger like the Cactus V5, a single receiver for one of the flashes, and put the rest of your flashes on optical slave mode. This is cheap and easy to set up, but if there are other flash users around, they'll mess you up.

The Elinchroms can be remotely controlled with the Skyport series triggers, except for the Skyport Eco (which is the one that I have, ugh) which is a simple trigger. Presumably, there's something out there that plays nice with the Einsteins and Alienbees.


3. Light modifiers.
Here's the big decision, and you can spend a lot or a little here. Many novices start with simple and inexpensive shoot-through umbrellas. For Speedlight portraits, I personally prefer the look of a brolly box or softbox over a shoot-through umbrella; the brolly box has less rapid falloff, less of a center hotspot, (IMO) more pleasant wrap light, and less uncontrolled spill.

A beauty dish is another option to consider; it gives a little bit different look, and is more robust for outdoor shots - a little less likely to fall over in a slight breeze. And though it's a little heavier than an umbrella, it's easier to carry around on a stick since it's not easily broken like the ribs of an umbrella.

Here are the brolly boxes that I use with Speedlights - after 3 years of hard use they need a replacement but they still mostly work:
http://www.amazon.com/PBL-Reflective...ref=pd_sim_p_4

4. Stands etc:
At a minimum, you'll want about one stand for each light, and the associated accessories to make other stuff work with them. Generally, the more you spend, the better you get - but there are some inexpensive gems out there. These are my starter light stands; they're now my backup stands - after 3 years, lots of travel, some spills and thrills, they're getting a little worse for wear, but I still use them often:
http://www.amazon.com/STANDS-LOCKING.../ref=pd_cp_p_3

Taller and sturdier are better. I wouldn't go any shorter than 7'6".

To put Speedlights & umbrellas onto the stands, you'll need umbrella adapters.
Quality Manfrotto:
http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-026-.../ref=pd_cp_p_1
Less expensive:
http://www.amazon.com/CowboystudioUm...18Y6ND744CC7KZ

If you have studio strobes, generally the strobe has a built-in mount to go onto a standard light stand, and the light modifier will mount directly to the strobe head, so you don't need adapters like that.

5. Sandbags!
If you ever think that you might work outside, get some sandbags and USE THEM. If a breeze knocks your lightstand over onto a client, and the client gets clobbered in the eye with a light, you'll wish you had stayed home. Fill them with pea gravel - if they bust open or unzip, gravel is SO MUCH easier to clean up than sand.
http://www.amazon.com/CowboyStudio-Y...dp/B0072B0T5G/


6. Backdrop & backdrop stands.
I'll see if I can type up some about backdrops later.
White seamless paper should be in every studio photographer's arsenal. "Thunder Gray" paper is good too; it can be easily colored with gels or dropped to clipped black. Some heavy-duty cloth or canvas backdrops are nice, depending on what you shoot. By wary of cheap muslins, the ones that come in inexpensive kits are straight-up garbage.


7. Miscellany.
There are some other must-have and nice-to-have accessories too. I love Manfrotto Super Clamps, but they're kinda pricey if you buy new. Still, get one if you can swing it, to clamp a Speedlight in just about any location.
Plastic spring clamps, cheap ones from Harbor Freight, get a sackful of assorted sizes.
Nylon cable ties or zip ties are great to have on hand.

Batteries! If you're using Speedlights and triggers that are powered by AAs or AAAs, Eneloop brand rechargeables almost can't be beat.


gotta go, I'll try to follow up more later.
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Last edited by nathancarter : 06-05-2014 at 04:51 PM.
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Unread 06-05-2014, 06:40 PM   #3
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nathancarter gives a pretty good list, but one equally important consideration if you want a mobile studio is logistics, ie. how are you going to carry all this stuff? An assistant? A large backpack? A vehicle? Multiple trips? All day versus a few hours?

First recognize the constraints along these lines. Once you are familiar with the physical considerations, ie. how much space and/or weight you are able to deal with, then you can start to prioritize. What is absolutely necessary, what is nice to have, and what is probably unnecessary. If you want mobile, this is the key.
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Unread 06-05-2014, 11:51 PM   #4
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Both guys above have an extremely valid points.
I ended up building my own cart system to manage this goal.

Now, that said, the mobile studio is prudent when you're shooting large events (Weddings, parties etc); that gets you more sales.
If you are looking at the solo portrait sessions, I'd say forget the backdrop; learn to use your available space first.
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Unread 06-06-2014, 01:36 AM   #5
figment1986
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Some details, I already have "1" Speedlight 430EXII (it's a few years old but works well still) so you suggest getting a second one with remote triggers then to place on small stands to help with the lighting on the sides to help eliminate the shadows? (I understand 3 point lighting... it's been a while since I did it though)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Foques View Post
Both guys above have an extremely valid points.
I ended up building my own cart system to manage this goal.

Now, that said, the mobile studio is prudent when you're shooting large events (Weddings, parties etc); that gets you more sales.
If you are looking at the solo portrait sessions, I'd say forget the backdrop; learn to use your available space first.
The main reason for the backdrop, is so I can gel / edit the backdrop... right now if i use whats availible then it's very erattic... and a simple white / black / grey backdrop can work with any costume or concept. but trees near by home... or the pool near my home... not so much.
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Unread 06-06-2014, 07:41 AM   #6
Ashurachan
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About backdrops :
- white fabric is a nightmare, just forget it even if it seems cheap.
- white paper is very nice ^^
- if you want something black, black velvet is the best (it's my personal favorite for studio). Black velvet is blacker than any other black fabric, so you can even shoot someone wearing black clothes on it.
- Try to get the tallest stands you can, if you want to do a full body shot with someone tall with a short lens, you'll need that extra foot.
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Unread 06-06-2014, 08:35 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by figment1986 View Post

The main reason for the backdrop, is so I can gel / edit the backdrop... right now if i use whats availible then it's very erattic... and a simple white / black / grey backdrop can work with any costume or concept. but trees near by home... or the pool near my home... not so much.
To me, this sounds like you have need to learn the background management. Busy backgrounds are, typically, a problem, but there is always a way around it.
In a bit over a decade of my shooting, I can hardly think of a place where I couldn't get background to work for me.
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Unread 06-06-2014, 09:25 AM   #8
nathancarter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by figment1986 View Post
Some details, I already have "1" Speedlight 430EXII (it's a few years old but works well still) so you suggest getting a second one with remote triggers then to place on small stands to help with the lighting on the sides to help eliminate the shadows? (I understand 3 point lighting... it's been a while since I did it though)
I'm not sure I get your phrasing here. Your words say that you understand 3-point lighting, but your question indicates that you don't.

No, I don't suggest a second 430EXII. A couple of non-ETTL slave lights (the Yongnuo YN560III or the Godox V850) would complement the 430EXII quite nicely. And, some triggers so you can get them off the hotshoe.

For standard headshot portraits, yes: 3 Speedlights are adequate for a standard 3-point-lighting setup, with a main light, a fill light, and a hair/rim/edge/kicker light. Generally, none of the lights should be on the camera hotshoe when you're using this setup (though I suppose with very careful power ratios, your fill light could be on the hotshoe... I wouldn't).

However, with 3 lights, a couple of stands and clamps, and some basic lighting modifiers, you're not constrained to just basic 3-point headshot lighting. Far from it! You can use anywhere from 0 to all 3 lights, placed in a variety of different locations, to do a huuuuge variety of lighting looks, tailored to the subject each time.

Look at the Dragoncon 2013 albums on my Flickr - almost all of those (except for the ones that are obviously hallway snapshots) were done with 1 to 3 Speedlights.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashurachan View Post
- if you want something black, black velvet is the best (it's my personal favorite for studio). Black velvet is blacker than any other black fabric, so you can even shoot someone wearing black clothes on it.
There's also Duvetyne, aka "commando cloth" which is even more blacker-er than standard black velvet :3
I don't have any yet; it's on my wishlist.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Access View Post
nathancarter gives a pretty good list, but one equally important consideration if you want a mobile studio is logistics, ie. how are you going to carry all this stuff? An assistant? A large backpack? A vehicle? Multiple trips? All day versus a few hours?
Aye, good point. My most basic 3-Speedlight kit compacts down into one lightstand bag and one heavy messenger bag, so it's quite portable. That doesn't include the camera bag, any backdrop, or sandbags. It gets a little heavy when dragging it around a con, but it's manageable. I just bought a little fold-up wagon for when I need to carry the sandbags or anything else heavy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Foques View Post
To me, this sounds like you have need to learn the background management. Busy backgrounds are, typically, a problem, but there is always a way around it.
In a bit over a decade of my shooting, I can hardly think of a place where I couldn't get background to work for me.
Quite agree. While my backdrops are mostly portable, I wouldn't even think of carrying them around a con.
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Last edited by nathancarter : 06-06-2014 at 09:27 AM.
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Unread 06-06-2014, 01:58 PM   #9
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I'm on my ipad so can't type much. But just wanted to say the canon speed liters don't really work with third party triggers. I mean, they can but it's a giant hassle and just silly. Speed light technology has gotten so good from the chinese I just sold my one canon speed light and bought two chinese speed lites, a trigger set and light stands with the money.
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Unread 06-06-2014, 05:07 PM   #10
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and there I am, silly goose, buying another Einstein
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Unread 06-06-2014, 09:57 PM   #11
figment1986
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nathancarter View Post
I'm not sure I get your phrasing here. Your words say that you understand 3-point lighting, but your question indicates that you don't.
I understood permanent 3 point lighting with a television studio... and whatnot. so i knew back, key, and fill... but I'm still learning adapting FILM / Television to photos... they are similar yet different at times. and doing research while trying to do other research is hard... people keep asking for photo shoots and I keep telling them in still learning.
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Unread 06-13-2014, 06:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WonJohnSoup View Post
I'm on my ipad so can't type much. But just wanted to say the canon speed liters don't really work with third party triggers...
My experience has been different. I've been using Canon Speedlights (430EX IIs mainly) and 3rd party triggers for several years now with almost no problems. My current triggers are YN-622cs, and they work spectacularly with my Canon speed lights, offering, TTL, power control from the camera menu, HSS, and even rear-curtain sync.
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Unread 06-13-2014, 10:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulCory View Post
My experience has been different. I've been using Canon Speedlights (430EX IIs mainly) and 3rd party triggers for several years now with almost no problems. My current triggers are YN-622cs, and they work spectacularly with my Canon speed lights, offering, TTL, power control from the camera menu, HSS, and even rear-curtain sync.
Oh, I stand corrected. I had the same speedlite and currently the same trigger system. But when I had that speedlite it was before Yongnuo really exploded and I was using "dumb" ebay triggers. At the time it was an issue that none of the Canon speedlites worked properly with the cheap triggers (without some aluminum foil trick or other). Looks like YN's really nailed it.

Thanx for the headsup!
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Unread 06-23-2014, 01:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nathancarter View Post
The Godox/Neewer V850 and V860 also appear to be very capable contenders for Speedlights - when I wear out my YN560IIs I might switch over.
I got a Godox V860c for Christmas last year. Every bit as reliable as my Yongnuos, and the lithium battery pack is great. I highly recommend them, and plan on picking up another one or two soon. They do work with the YN-622 triggers, with full compatibility with all features.

I'd also suggest getting Selens SE L012 Flash Brackets. They allow you to mount speedlights on the axis of umbrellas, instead of at an off axis angle like most. This will fill the umbrella better for more even lighting. Especially with brolly boxes (my preferred easily portable modifier), these are great. Plus they're inexpensive, yet have good build quality (all metal).



http://www.ebay.com/itm/Selens-SE-L0...:X:AAQ:US:1123

When I bought mine they were under $14 each, the price has been slowly going up, I assume because of popularity.

Last edited by Dark Photog : 06-23-2014 at 02:45 PM.
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