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07/09/2007 03:26:09 PM · #1
So I'm looking to set up my studio - FINALLY. I have enough money but I'm really not all that schooled on lighting set up etc. I've really only been doing on location work for myself and working weddings as an assistant for a local photographer.

I went on AlienBees because it seems that everyone recommends them - I was looking at their packages and I have enough money for the top package - about $1,600 - but do I really all of that stuff? It comes with four flash units, a giant soft box, a clear and white umbrella, three stands, a wireless remote, bags and honeycomb grids.

I would love to experiment with it of course. I just wondered what people thought. The next package down is $700 and comes with 2 flash units, two stands, clear and white umbrellas, and flash triggers.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

Thanks so much! I need all the help I can get!
07/09/2007 03:33:37 PM · #2
Make your own package.

I just got mine last week:
2 B800s, 2 B400s, Large Softbox, set of 4 grids (10, 20, 30, 40)
Backlight stand, boom arm attachment, spill kill reflector, set of 20 gels, radio trigger tx and rx.

I am so happy.

I had some light stands and umbrella already.

ADDED: If you order 4 lights, you get a 20% discount on all accessories in that order.

Message edited by author 2007-07-09 15:34:16.
07/09/2007 03:35:17 PM · #3
Wow sounds good to me! So you were happy right? I just want to make sure they're a reputable source before I go about ordering. How long did it take you to get them?

Thanks!
07/09/2007 03:36:36 PM · #4
If you don't know what you need, do you really need it at all?

What are you planning to shoot that makes you think you need strobes?

Does the photog you shoot for use strobes?

I'm not saying that your need isn't valid, but often, people buy strobes with little forethought and wind up with expensive dust collectors.
07/09/2007 03:46:18 PM · #5
The photog I shoot for does in fact use strobes. I want to shoot portraits - family, children, seniors etc. - before I get into weddings. Also, if need be, I'd like to take the set up on location if someone wanted that sort of thing.

What would you recommend?
07/09/2007 04:05:12 PM · #6
Originally posted by FairyWings:

The photog I shoot for does in fact use strobes. I want to shoot portraits - family, children, seniors etc. - before I get into weddings. Also, if need be, I'd like to take the set up on location if someone wanted that sort of thing.

What would you recommend?


Can you use their setup a few times? Maybe shoot a few portraits? Help them in their studio? Ask them some questions and seehow the process works before dropping big cash on stuff you may or may not really need.

Generally, 2 lights are enough for simple location portraits since you can take advantage of ambient light, which is one of the reasons for shooting on location.

When you get into a strictly studio environment, you may find that 2 lights are not enough since you will have to light everything.

I've seen setups where 12 or more lights are used to great effect and, on the other side of the coin, it's pretty easy to find spectacular work done with a single light.

My point, and I do have one, is that if you have access to someone else's strobes, take advantage of it and see what works best for what you want to do. Maybe you can get by with 2 lights. Maybe you really do need 4 or 5 lights and all kinds of grids, barndoors, umbrellas and softboxes.

If you can't use their gear, start small and basic, but be prepared to buy more stuff as you need it.

Message edited by author 2007-07-09 16:07:07.
07/09/2007 04:06:56 PM · #7
If you are going to be using them on location, then you may want to consider buying one of their Vagabond portable power units.

I have four B400 lights with stands, booms, softboxes, and lots of other accessories. It's all good stuff, and their customer service is excellent.

The only problem I've had was with the RadioRemote One wireless controller system. It wouldn't fire my lights consistently. It's a problem they know about and acknowledge. I had the units for almost a year before I decided to return them and they refunded my money without a quibble. They were going to replace the RadioRemote One with a new 300mhz system, but those plans didn't work out.

07/09/2007 04:11:13 PM · #8
STROBIST!!!
07/09/2007 04:32:44 PM · #9
I just broke down and bought lights a little over a year ago because I wanted to experiment. I didn't have any concrete objective in mind. After experimenting and taking what I thought were pretty good pictures, I went whole hog and bought a great custom AlienBees kit. I'm so glad I did. Even if your objective is to simply learn about light and the way it falls on various human and non-human studio subjects, and you have the means, and you are a hobbyist who really likes getting into things, studio flash units are an indespensible learning tool in my opinion. I have never regretted my purchase of ABs, and I have taken my best pictures with them (not all are in my DP portfolio!).

edit for lack of hand/eye coordination

Message edited by author 2007-07-09 16:33:47.
07/09/2007 04:43:57 PM · #10
I ordered mine on a Tuesday July 3rd, and got them on Friday, July 6th. (It was over the 4th of July Holiday too.) I had it shipped by UPS Ground. If you order before noon, they ship them out that day.

Everything was packaged really well and was really easy to set up. The large softbox took me a while, but it really is pretty big. I really need to get a heavy duty stand for the large softbox just cuz it's so big.

I would order again from them. Actually I am starting my next wish list.
07/09/2007 04:44:58 PM · #11
You really can't go wrong with Alien Bees or White-Lightning products. My suggestion, no matter what kit you get, is to start with one light at low power and work your way up to adding more power and eventually more lights as you feel you need.
07/09/2007 04:52:35 PM · #12
I'm just curious - but why does everyone seem to suggest starting off with only one and adding along the way? Too confusing? I just wondered...thanks!
07/09/2007 05:00:38 PM · #13
Originally posted by FairyWings:

I was looking at their packages and I have enough money for the top package - about $1,600 - but do I really all of that stuff?

Holy crap that is a lot of...stuff. I would suggest building your own package, if you've got the cash. Maybe start with 2-AB800's, 1-AB400, 13' stands, wireless triggers (wires are a HUGE pain, and positioning sometime prevents the slave eye from seeing the flash), various umbrellas or softboxes (the foldable softboxes are Bad-Ass!)...then evaluate the necessity of other items...if you don't need it or don't know how you will use it, don't get it and spend money on something else. I would suggest having at least one AB400, if you have to crank power down for hairlight or background light. You get 5% off your accessories for each light you order. My $0.02!
-drew
07/09/2007 05:01:40 PM · #14
Originally posted by FairyWings:

I'm just curious - but why does everyone seem to suggest starting off with only one and adding along the way? Too confusing? I just wondered...thanks!


Yeah.

It's sort of like buying a DSLR. Do you buy a body with one lens and use that until you figure out what else you need or do you go crazy and buy several lenses and figure out what to do with them later?
07/09/2007 05:04:53 PM · #15
Originally posted by FairyWings:

I'm just curious - but why does everyone seem to suggest starting off with only one and adding along the way? Too confusing? I just wondered...thanks!

I started with two, then bought a third. I use one light about 65% of the time.
07/09/2007 05:11:43 PM · #16
Originally posted by FairyWings:

I'm just curious - but why does everyone seem to suggest starting off with only one and adding along the way? Too confusing? I just wondered...thanks!

Multiple light setups can be confusing to a beginner, but I think the main reason is money. Lighting equipment is expensive, and you don't need multiple lights to get started on the learning curve. If you can afford them, then there's no reason why you shouldn't buy them. However, even if you have multiple lights, it's probably a good idea to start learning how to use just one light. Once you've learned what you can do with one light, then move on to two lights, and so on. Just remember that adding more lights adds more complexity, and some times adding more lights is the wrong thing to do.


07/09/2007 07:52:57 PM · #17
Originally posted by Mick:

Originally posted by FairyWings:

I'm just curious - but why does everyone seem to suggest starting off with only one and adding along the way? Too confusing? I just wondered...thanks!

Multiple light setups can be confusing to a beginner, but I think the main reason is money. Lighting equipment is expensive, and you don't need multiple lights to get started on the learning curve. If you can afford them, then there's no reason why you shouldn't buy them. However, even if you have multiple lights, it's probably a good idea to start learning how to use just one light. Once you've learned what you can do with one light, then move on to two lights, and so on. Just remember that adding more lights adds more complexity, and some times adding more lights is the wrong thing to do.


Hence the Strobist route.
If you already have a flash unit (if not can get a cheapo one for <100 bux) and get a peanut hot shoe slave or the cheap-o ebay radio wireless triggers, a light stand, umbrella and voila a great way to learn for under a $100.
It forces you to learn and you can get great results.
Plus you are super portable.
Check it out if you haven't - //www.strobist.blogspot.com/
07/09/2007 08:00:46 PM · #18
Originally posted by rswank:

Originally posted by Mick:

Originally posted by FairyWings:

I'm just curious - but why does everyone seem to suggest starting off with only one and adding along the way? Too confusing? I just wondered...thanks!

Multiple light setups can be confusing to a beginner, but I think the main reason is money. Lighting equipment is expensive, and you don't need multiple lights to get started on the learning curve. If you can afford them, then there's no reason why you shouldn't buy them. However, even if you have multiple lights, it's probably a good idea to start learning how to use just one light. Once you've learned what you can do with one light, then move on to two lights, and so on. Just remember that adding more lights adds more complexity, and some times adding more lights is the wrong thing to do.


Hence the Strobist route.
If you already have a flash unit (if not can get a cheapo one for <100 bux) and get a peanut hot shoe slave or the cheap-o ebay radio wireless triggers, a light stand, umbrella and voila a great way to learn for under a $100.
It forces you to learn and you can get great results.
Plus you are super portable.
Check it out if you haven't - //www.strobist.blogspot.com/


Where can you buy a flash (one with enough manual control), a slave (or wireless triggers), a light stand and an umbrella for under $100?

The strobist gear is great if you don't need much power and you don't mind waiting for the flash to charge.

I agree that it can be a good way to learn, but it's not really a viable long term commercial solution. Especially since the OP mentioned doing this as a business.
07/09/2007 08:08:57 PM · #19
I can't shoot faster than the Alien Bees. It's awesome. I missed so many shots with the 2 SB600s waiting for them to recycle. Even with full batteries it was a few seconds waiting for them to beep

I use TRACK mode with the modeling lights and when they come back on, it's ready for the next one. It really helps a lot.

I am still practicing, but here are a few from my 1st shoot.

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07/09/2007 08:26:24 PM · #20
Originally posted by FairyWings:

I'm just curious - but why does everyone seem to suggest starting off with only one and adding along the way? Too confusing? I just wondered...thanks!


I would get set of 3 right away. However if you creative you can use less lights. I've seen setups for high key portraits with just one light. That's right, high key - 1 light. It did involve 3 light pannels but they heck of a lot cheaper than lights.

As soon as I get some space I'll order my bees!!!

Nick
07/09/2007 10:49:10 PM · #21
Also need to evaluate your location for your light set-up. AB800's might be overkill. I use AB400's at home and on location and find that they offer plenty of power. I have also attempted to shoot with someone who I took a portrait class with who had 2 AB800's and we could not dial them down enough for the space we were in.
07/10/2007 09:47:27 AM · #22
Originally posted by Spazmo99:

Originally posted by rswank:

If you already have a flash unit (if not can get a cheapo one for <100 bux) and get a peanut hot shoe slave or the cheap-o ebay radio wireless triggers, a light stand, umbrella and voila a great way to learn for under a $100.
It forces you to learn and you can get great results.
Plus you are super portable.
Check it out if you haven't - //www.strobist.blogspot.com/


Where can you buy a flash (one with enough manual control), a slave (or wireless triggers), a light stand and an umbrella for under $100?

The strobist gear is great if you don't need much power and you don't mind waiting for the flash to charge.

I agree that it can be a good way to learn, but it's not really a viable long term commercial solution. Especially since the OP mentioned doing this as a business.


Note that I said "If you already have a flash unit" and mentioned you can find one that does the job for <100 if you don't already have one.
The rest of the gear for a single flash setup - slave trigger ($20?), stand ($25), umbrella ($25), trigger ($35) would be around 100 bux.
So if you don't have a flash a single wireless setup for $200.
07/10/2007 10:02:29 AM · #23
Originally posted by rswank:

Originally posted by Spazmo99:

Originally posted by rswank:

If you already have a flash unit (if not can get a cheapo one for <100 bux) and get a peanut hot shoe slave or the cheap-o ebay radio wireless triggers, a light stand, umbrella and voila a great way to learn for under a $100.
It forces you to learn and you can get great results.
Plus you are super portable.
Check it out if you haven't - //www.strobist.blogspot.com/


Where can you buy a flash (one with enough manual control), a slave (or wireless triggers), a light stand and an umbrella for under $100?

The strobist gear is great if you don't need much power and you don't mind waiting for the flash to charge.

I agree that it can be a good way to learn, but it's not really a viable long term commercial solution. Especially since the OP mentioned doing this as a business.


Note that I said "If you already have a flash unit" and mentioned you can find one that does the job for <100 if you don't already have one.
The rest of the gear for a single flash setup - slave trigger ($20?), stand ($25), umbrella ($25), trigger ($35) would be around 100 bux.
So if you don't have a flash a single wireless setup for $200.


It's entirely possible to have a flash, but that flash could be almost useless for "strobist" type work.

Take for example my 420EX. Sure, it'll fire if connected to a regular sync terminal, but, it will only fire at full power. Not so useful if control is needed. Many of the el-cheapo flash units use an onboard sensor to control output, they also lack any manual control.

So, just having any old flash unit isn't enough, it has to be a flash unit with the right capabilities, which, in many cases means buying another flash unit.

Sure, it's also possible to use the built in wireless setup that allows TTL control, but that gets really pricey.

A single AB400 kit costs about $300. Which, when you consider the huge increase in power, the faster recycle time and not having to depend on AA's, is really getting a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks.
07/10/2007 10:32:23 AM · #24
Thanks everyone! This has been extremely insightful! I appreciate all the comments and tips. I'll have to think some more about it ... :)
07/10/2007 03:15:47 PM · #25
Someone over at FM was asking about one-light setups.

I thought that it might be a good read for the OP
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