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synthetic Registered since 08th Dec 2007Wed 29-Oct-08 07:07 PM
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"Debating Speedlights or Monolights"


Springfield, US
          

Hey guys... I have some questions regarding lighting and wondered if I could get some advice and opinions. Currently, I have a D200 I use with SB-600. With winter coming on... I have been wanting to start setting up a small spare bedroom as a studio for indoor shooting like stock photography, macro and possibly portraits.

I need to do this on a limited budget though since my 17-55 purchase this year kinda taxed me... but it was worth it . I would like to keep it under $500 USD if possible. I was considering adding either a SB-800 or SB-900 to my SB-600 for lighting realizing that I would still need some type of other light for setup however but then wondered if it wouldn't be better to get a 2 monolight setup to use instead?

I am torn... I like the idea of the 2 flashes with with off camera especially for traveling as I have considered getting into on location photography but wondered if I would get better results indoors with a cheap studio setup? Any thoughts?

-Dean
aka Synthetic Tone
My Photoblog

  

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HBB Moderator
29th Oct 2008
1
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txrpls
31st Oct 2008
3
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HBB Moderator
31st Oct 2008
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txrpls
01st Nov 2008
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29th Oct 2008
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synthetic
31st Oct 2008
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HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter MemberWed 29-Oct-08 07:40 PM
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#1. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 0


Phoenix, US
          

Dean:

The NIkon SB series speedlights are basically point sources which produce harsh shadows when used for portraits. Various diffusers and light modifiers are necessary to soften their light. The SB series (SB900/800/600) can be used with umbrellas and other devices to produce softer illumination.

Studio lighting ranges from inexpensive reflectors with flood lamps in them to very expensive strobe systems costing thousands. Reflectors with flood lamps (often called Hot Lights) are on all the time and produce a lot of heat which can be uncomfortable for subjects.

Studio strobe lights are more powerful and more expensive and come in a wide range of power levels. I recently tested the Promaster 300 C units for a friend and found them an excellent bargain. They are 300 Watt Seconds, five stop range, internal cooling fan (very important), 150 Watt modeling light, optical slave sync, seven inch reflector, 24 X 36 inch soft box, stand, etc. A two light set including all of the previous equipment and carrying cases sells $550 US at one local store here in Phoenix. This two light set could be easily transported for off-site work.

There are other inexpensive studio strobe systems available.

Hope this helps a bit,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

  

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txrpls Registered since 19th Dec 2007Fri 31-Oct-08 11:31 AM
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#3. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 1
Fri 31-Oct-08 12:19 PM by txrpls

San Antonio, US
          

Hal,

Any chance of getting a shot of the controls on the back of those strobes. I have searched the net and found nothing. Also what is the name of the store in Phoenix that sells them.

Thanks,
Mark

  

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HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter MemberFri 31-Oct-08 02:51 PM
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#6. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 3
Fri 31-Oct-08 07:00 PM by HBB

Phoenix, US
          

Mark:

I will try and get a shot of the controls over the weekend.

The controls include:

Illuminated OFF/ON switch
Modeling Lamp ON/OFF switch
Power setting for modeling lamp ON/OFF switch
Recharge Ready light
Optical slave sensor
Audio ON/OFF switch for recharge ready indication
Test button
Output power setting for flash/modeling lamp (Five stop range: 1/1 - 1/32)
AC power supply socket
Safety fuse (10 amp)
Sync cord socket, can also be used for inexpensive RF triggers or PWs.

The modeling lights are diffused halogen quartz at 150 Watt. They can be set to stay on at maximum Wattage or track the power setting of the strobe.

Strobe output maximum is 300 WS

They include built-in cooling fans

Recycle time is 0.5 to 2.5 seconds depending on power setting

Flash duration is 1/1500 - 1/800 second

Strobe color temperture is 5600K

Sync voltage is 6 VDC

Triggering modes include sync cord, test button and slave sensor.

Recycle indicators include ready light, audio signal and modeling lamp which turns off for the shot and back on when recycle is complete.

Slave sensitivity is 33 feet over a 360 degree radius.

The units come in various two and three light packages, some with umbrellas included and others with 24 by 34 inch soft boxes. They also include stands, 15 foot power and sync cord cables, 7 inch standard reflectors, modeling lamps, and fitted carrying cases.

I purchased two of the Deluxe Two Light Studio kits (four heads total) with soft boxes, as I already own several umbrellas of different sizes. Should you decide to purchase these units, be sure and save the styrofoam packing that surrounds the flash units as you will need them when packing the units for travel.

Go here to look at the sets.

Go here to look at the two-light kits I purchased.

Go here to look at the flash head.

Two stores that I know of sell the Promaster 300C studio flash units:

Foto Forum at seventh street and Camelback: 602-263-0084

PhotoMark at 22nd street and McDowell: 602-244-1133

You should call for prices as I believe they are a bit different.

Let me know if you have any questions. I have been testing the units for several weeks now with various light modifiers (snoots, grids, soft boxes, umbrellas, barn doors, filter packs, etc.) and am very satisfied with them for the price.

Regards,

Edited to add two images of the unit. I also use my SB800s with these units, placing them in the SU-4 mode and clamping them to the Promaster light stands or light stands of their own. (I do have a dozen lights stands, one for each SB800 in the herd.)

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.





Attachment #1, (jpg file)
Attachment #2, (jpg file)

  

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txrpls Registered since 19th Dec 2007Sat 01-Nov-08 02:01 PM
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#11. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 6


San Antonio, US
          

Hal, Thanks for the information. It looks like from the controls of the modeling light and the strobe is synchronized with the same control. I have an old set of Elinchrom 500s that I have piecemealed together. They work well but are not very portable in the present configuration. Are the stands that come with your set up sturdy? It looks like I could get a complete set up for the price of a couple of soft boxes.

Mark

  

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HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter MemberSat 01-Nov-08 03:31 PM
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#12. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 11


Phoenix, US
          

Mark:

The modeling light can be set to "OFF", "ON" and "Tracking Strobe" positions. Very handy.

The stands are adequate for normal use. In a busy studio you will probably want a sand bag on the legs when using the soft boxes at the higher elevations. I acquired a Manfrotto boom/counterweight for use with one of the soft box units. This lets me position the soft box directly over the subject. For this one, I use one of my twelve ProMaster LS-3 light stands (one for each member of the SB800 herd) which has a larger base and is a bit sturdier.

If memory serves, I paid $550 plus tax for each of the two-light soft box sets described earlier. I'm not sure which of the two stores, as I buy regularly from both of them and they both carry these units.

Hope this helps a bit.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

  

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Wayne Registered since 05th Nov 2005Wed 29-Oct-08 09:52 PM
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#2. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 0


US
          


>I need to do this on a limited budget though since my 17-55
>purchase this year kinda taxed me... but it was worth it .
>I would like to keep it under $500 USD if possible. I was
>considering adding either a SB-800 or SB-900 to my SB-600 for
>lighting realizing that I would still need some type of other
>light for setup however but then wondered if it wouldn't be
>better to get a 2 monolight setup to use instead?


But not too cheap.

The least cost is surely one more SB-600 and an umbrella kit. You can do all manner of things with that.

FWIW, I started with two SB-800 in umbrellas and now I have added four Alienbees studio lights. These are simply "different", hard to compare.

For being portable (battery operated), with quick automatic TTL setup, the Nikon speedlights are unbeatable. Using the Nikon Commander in the D200, you "throw" a couple of lights out there, one in Group A and one in Group B, and the commander instantly and automatically sets them to be equal intensity at the subject. This is a very big deal. The commander menu allows you set a lighting ratio too, so that fill light is maybe 1 stop less strong. This is fully automatic wireless remote multiple flash point&shoot. Very fast setup. Allows fast things the manual AC powered lights would never be able to do.

The speedlights work really well in umbrellas too. And in the living room too. You can shoot close umbrella TTL portraits at near f/8 ISO 100 (near full power - slow recycle). You can also shoot down around f/2.0 if you wish (not true of studio lights). And the SB-600 works as well as the SB-800 in this environment (which is not true of using them with studio lights).

See http://www.scantips.com/lights/umbrellas.html (scroll down the page) about umbrellas and mounting hardware.

Downsides: The CLS preflash will cause many pictures of blinking subjects. You can use the cameras FV Lock to bypass this. You probably capture some blinks now from TTL, but it gets worse, so consider FV Lock necessary. And the slower recycle is not a plus. And all those AA batteries to recharge is not a plus.

And the camera commander is limited to be able to only control two lights. Other commanders can do three. But what if you have main and fill and background and hair lights?


For a more leisurely and studied setup, the Alienbees (or that type of studio lights) are unbeatable. Primarily because you can add all manner of modifiers, umbrellas, softboxes, grids, you name it, they are designed for that. They are a little more power too, but not often necessary. Sometimes too much power, forget all about shooting at f/2.8, and think f/8. They have much faster recycle, near instantaneous for rapid shooting, which is a big deal sometimes, right that the subjects best moment. You do need a flashmeter, to set the levels of the individual manual lights. Any TTL automation means you do not have full control, but this manual way, you can piddle half an hour getting all the lights just right. And no handfuls of AA batteries to recharge. But not so portable.

  

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synthetic Registered since 08th Dec 2007Fri 31-Oct-08 12:02 PM
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#4. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 2
Fri 31-Oct-08 12:03 PM by synthetic

Springfield, US
          

Thanks for the links and advice. I guess I was moved to consider the additional SB after seeing what McNally does with them with on location shots. He makes it looks so easy

Maybe I will go ahead and go for a SB-800 with umbrellas for now and add some Alienbees or similar studio lights later down the road.

Should I be able to command my SB-600 from my D200 currently as remote flash? I was experimenting and never fully understood the options for this from the manuals. I understand it should be possible with a SB-800 or 900 as commander but I thought maybe it might sync with the D200 built-in flash... is this correct? Any ideas on how I set that up if its possible?

I really appreciate you guys taking the time to share your experiences and opinions with me. I have been shooting mostly landscapes using natural light since getting the D200 and only used my SB-600 for rare indoor shooting where I just relied on bouncing it off the celings. Beyond that... my knowledge of flashes and studio lighting is limited to trial and error

-Dean
aka Synthetic Tone
My Photoblog

  

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Wayne Registered since 05th Nov 2005Fri 31-Oct-08 01:11 PM
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#5. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 4
Fri 31-Oct-08 02:11 PM by Wayne

US
          

>Maybe I will go ahead and go for a SB-800 with umbrellas for
>now and add some Alienbees or similar studio lights later down
>the road.

You can continue to use the same umbrellas and stands with the SB-800 or the Alienbees lights. The AB has its own umbrella mount, but the umbrellas and stands are the same for both, so the umbrellas will never be wasted money. The umbrellas make a huge difference.

>Should I be able to command my SB-600 from my D200 currently
>as remote flash? I was experimenting and never fully
>understood the options for this from the manuals. I understand
>it should be possible with a SB-800 or 900 as commander but I
>thought maybe it might sync with the D200 built-in flash... is
>this correct? Any ideas on how I set that up if its possible?

Yes, sure. See http://www.nikonians.org/nikon/d200_and_cls/ about how-to-do-it. Easier than it appears, just put the SB-600 or the SB-800 into its REMOTE menu, and put the D200 internal flash and menu into COMMANDER mode. If you have two flashes, put one one Group A and one in Group B (so the commander can control them individually).

The SB-600 works as well as the SB-800 for use with the Commander, whether in umbrellas or not.

But the SB-600 lacks manual mode features for use with the studio lights. Studio lights are Manual mode, and the SB-600 does not even have a PC sync connector. Whereas, the SB-800 does, and it also has its SU-4 mode, where it becomes just another optically triggered slave, same as any of the studio lights, and works well with them. The big difference then is that the speedlight is simply not designed to add all the lighting modifiers like softboxes, grids, etc. But the speedlights do work very well with umbrellas, using the standard umbrella brackets and shoe mount. So... if planning studio lights, the SB-800 (or SB-900) is the speedlight to mix with them.

FWIW, I used two SB-800 with two AB, using AB for main and fill, and SB-800 for background and hair (wrapped a piece of black paper around the hairlight to make a snoot). Worked well enough, but I added two more AB, to be able to add grids, and because the SB-800 hairlight is hard to aim without modeling lights.

The speedlights can very roughly be said to be approximately 75 watt second equivalent power, WHEN IN UMBRELLAS. The SB-800 will meter one stop less than a AB B400, with both in the same umbrella (individually). The AB will recycle Ready very much faster, near instantaneously, instead of a few seconds.

  

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Drbee Silver Member Nikonian since 05th Aug 2004Fri 31-Oct-08 07:33 PM
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#7. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 0


Naperville, US
          

Dean and everyone:

I've been going down this same road, decision wise. I took a class from Calumet Photo here in Chicago that featured their monolights. I'm really thinking about this from a portrait perspective and what impressed me about the monolights (as a novice) was the modeling light capability. I'm going to know very little about portrait lighting but i like the technical side of anything - the modeling lights would allow me to see/visualize the setup as I'm moving the lights around.

I think CLS is great, but in my experience the modeling aspects are quite minimal and to anyone who sees and hears the "buzz" of the SB modeling feature, a bit arcane and disconcerting.

Since we have experts on this topic from both camps, what is your experience and preference on modeling lights, is it that important, and which capability, monolight or SB would lend itself to this task best. I'm thinking from a people portrait perspective.

Can you do portraiture without the modeling features?

Best Regards,

Roger
It is still ISO, aperture and shutter speed, right?

  

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HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter MemberFri 31-Oct-08 08:15 PM
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#8. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 7
Fri 31-Oct-08 09:55 PM by HBB

Phoenix, US
          

Roger:

Great question, one that has not been explored recently.

On-all-the-time "Hot Lights" (flood lamps in reflectors) obviously eliminate the modeling light question, but they can get uncomfortably warm for both subject and photographer. Unless your budget is extremely limited, I would avoid them.

I agree, the Nikon SB modeling light feature is better than nothing, but distracting at best. Studio lights, whether monolight of power pack versions, offer much better modeling light capability, particularly those where the modeling light can be set to track the strobe head in power settings.

Quartz halogen modeling lights typically burn at much warmer color temperatures (2800-3200 K) than the much bluer speedlights (5500K), which is something to keep in mind when using them. Flesh tones and other surfaces will look different under these two quite different light sources.

Sure, portraiture can be done without modeling light features. You are reduced to trial and error until you get good enough to know exactly how to set up the lights and select their power level for a given pose. I suspect some professional portrait shooters have a handful of well known configurations where they know from experience exactly what will occur and little, if any, testing is required.

As you already know, a good meter is essential with studio lighting systems unless, again, you are working with a well known configuration that does not change much from shot to shot or, you have plenty of time for trial and error.

Charging a client for trial and error lighting testing is probably not the best way to create a professional impression.

Studio lighting systems offer a much greater selection of light modifying options, including: soft boxes, umbrellas, barn doors with filter slots, grids, snoots, etc. Nikon speedlights are limited in this respect. Yes, a few options are available, but nothing as extensive as studio light accessories.

As mentioned earlier, I am also getting into studio lighting and already know that I will be using my SB800s in conjunction with the studio lights. They are perfect for that smaller bit of light needed for a spot that is not too big, in just the right place, where a large studio unit would be too bulky and overkill.

Hope this helps a bit.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

  

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Drbee Silver Member Nikonian since 05th Aug 2004Fri 31-Oct-08 09:05 PM
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#9. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 8
Fri 31-Oct-08 09:06 PM by Drbee

Naperville, US
          

Good point about using the SB and Studio lights together. I've been thinking about a two light system but been wondering about things like hairlights and/or background lighting. I think the SBs could fill in (no pun intended) till I get my feet on the ground. Right now I use a hodge-podge of SBs in a SU4 configuration for static stuff so I'm learning some of the ropes there.

I'm using an Sekonic L-358 meter and that is working out quite well as I'm learning.

Best Regards,

Roger
It is still ISO, aperture and shutter speed, right?

  

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Wayne Registered since 05th Nov 2005Fri 31-Oct-08 09:12 PM
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#10. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 7


US
          

>Can you do portraiture without the modeling features?

Sure, but the modeling lights are obviously helpful and convenient. But you can always study your results in test pictures.

One example, some consider doing One Light Portraits with a flash and a reflector. That reflector is difficult to aim well without modeling lights (the flash is not "on" at the time, to aim it by eye). A flash hair light is difficult to aim too. It's good to be able to see what you are doing, to make them be optimum.

Little cheap products have small modeling lights which won't be very useful. The Alienbees come with 100 watt lamps, which are not very bright, but you can replace them with 150 watt halogens, if you can find them (standard lamps, every place has the 100 watt size, and I finally found the 150 watts at Lowes). Larger professional lights typically use 250 watt modeling lamps.

But modeling lights are no automatic solution. The big problem with modeling lights is that the fill light might be set one or two stops different power level than the main light, due to desired lighting ratio, due to different modifiers (umbrella or softbox), due to light stand distance distances, etc. You simply meter the big lights to be exactly what you want them to be, but then what about the modeling lights? Lights commonly have tracking features, so if the main light is at 1/16 power, so is the modeling light at 1/16 power, but then this is back to being very weak again (so that tracking feature is likely not usable). It is no automatic solution. You can judge angles pretty well, but not ratios, simply not the same as the metered flash. So test pictures will still be necessary. Be thankful we don't have to wait for film to be developed.

Speedlights and studio lights are simply "different". Sort of like comparing a nice car to a pickup truck. They can do the same things, in some degree, but they are simply different, and each is better for different things.

The Nikon Commander/Remote SB system is fantastic, esp for for portability and fast setup, and point&shoot automation of multiple lights. You can put them into umbrellas and do very serious studio work, very nice work, to the extent that a couple of lights will do it. The downsides are line of sight triggering, blinking in subjects, slow recycle, no modeling lights, lots of batteries to recharge. With the commander, you cannot use a handheld flash meter, or add other manual flash gear. Not everyone has that goal however, and the commander does its own metering in TTL mode. You can use several lights in the same control group, but the commander can only individually control two groups (or three with the non-camera commanders).

The studio lights seem more elaborate, requiring a more serious approach, heavier stands, slower setup, which with background and lights and a hair light, may take an hour (from the move-the-coffee-table-out time to the first useful picture). This includes the hand metering of individual lights, but which is all important and helpful, and the biggest plus, for consistency and easy repeatability. But then (in that fixed situation), you do have more, assuming you are into Manual flash and have a flash meter (if not, you're in trouble). The only one automatic feature is that if you leave the power switch on, they will come on when you plug them in. But the reason you do this is because you do have absolute full control of every little detail, the opposite of automation. However again, you are the only thing making things happen. Lots of available accessories like softboxes and grids. And you can do anything imaginable, nothing is impossible, except rapid setup for fast motion which the automatic speedlights might actually pull off sometimes.

Starting with speedlights in umbrellas, and later adding a couple of studio lights seems a good plan. You will always have use for both. If those speedlights are SB-800 or SB-900, you will be able to use them all together.

  

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Arkayem Moderator Awarded for his high level skills in flash photography Charter MemberSat 01-Nov-08 07:39 PM
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#13. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 7


Richmond Hill, GA (Savannah), US
          

>Dean and everyone:
>
>I've been going down this same road, decision wise. I took a
>class from Calumet Photo here in Chicago that featured their
>monolights. I'm really thinking about this from a portrait
>perspective and what impressed me about the monolights (as a
>novice) was the modeling light capability. I'm going to know
>very little about portrait lighting but i like the technical
>side of anything - the modeling lights would allow me to
>see/visualize the setup as I'm moving the lights around.
>
>I think CLS is great, but in my experience the modeling
>aspects are quite minimal and to anyone who sees and hears the
>"buzz" of the SB modeling feature, a bit arcane and
>disconcerting.
>
>Since we have experts on this topic from both camps, what is
>your experience and preference on modeling lights, is it that
>important, and which capability, monolight or SB would lend
>itself to this task best. I'm thinking from a people portrait
>perspective.
>
>Can you do portraiture without the modeling features?
>
>Best Regards,
>
>>face="Tekton"]Roger
>It is still ISO, aperture and shutter
>speed, right?


I do portraiture all the time without true modeling lights. However, I have also worked in a commercial studio with monolights and true modeling lights, so I can tell you they really are nice.

I go with what I can afford. I need the portability of speedlights for my wedding and event business, and I can't afford to add monolights to my studio right now, so I use my speedlights in the studio as well.

The modeling light feature of the speedlights is not that bad once you learn to use it. You just have to warn your subject about what is going to happen first

I do nearly 100% of my studio work with three speedlights using CLS TTL (key, fill, and hair). Sometimes I put my last speedlight behind the subject to light the background, but you only can control three channels independently, so the background light is usually assigned to the 'hair' group. Then, I adjust its power by moving the hair light closer or farther away.

Russ
http://russmacdonaldphotos.com/
http://NikonCLSPracticalGuide.blogspot.com/

  

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synthetic Registered since 08th Dec 2007Mon 03-Nov-08 02:39 PM
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#14. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 13


Springfield, US
          

Ok... my update... thanks for the link to the guide on speedlights... I finally realized my SB-600 was on the wrong channel. Once I had the channels set right... I was able to get it to fire off while placed on a tripod along with the built-in flash. The guide help me to understand a few other things as well as advice posted here.

So... this has opened up some options for me now. I played with the one SB-600 and pop-up flash for a bit and realized I would probably still need at least one more and the umbrellas to get something satisfactory so that is my next purchase. I am eyeing some umbrellas, stands, adapters for the stands and probably a SB-800. This should get me started and hopefully I can use next year's tax refund to help get some studio lighting.

I am really psyched though about being able to use the SB-600 remotely... this will no doubt come in handy on those landscapes where things are back lit or not enough light for detail in foreground. Wish I had learned this sooner... thanks again for everyone's input

-Dean
aka Synthetic Tone
My Photoblog

  

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Chan Tran Registered since 04th Dec 2003Mon 03-Nov-08 03:11 PM
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#15. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 14


Aurora, US
          

I don't know about cost but for indoor studio work, monolight or studio strobes with separate power pack are much better than the SB's speedlight. You have modeling light, light modifiers like umbrellas, softboxes etc.. and with a flash meter they are very easy to use.

  

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73z1 Registered since 06th Apr 2007Wed 05-Nov-08 11:57 PM
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#16. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 0


Sacramento, US
          

I'll throw in my $0.02 for what it is worth. Of course everyone has a different view and different requirements for their studio work, so please don't think that I feel anyone is wrong in their approach. I will address a couple of things that I think are incorrect.

I have owned and used a set of old Ascor studio lights for more than 25 years. When I worked professionally I used them to take thousands of film portraits. They still work well to this day and at times a studio light setup just cannot be beat. A good light set is a good investment.

That being said, I find the Advanced Wireless Lighting system that Nikon has implemented to be a quantum leap ahead in most ways. With a D200 in Commander mode I can remote control a large number of remote Nikon speedlights. Being able to adjust the power levels and use TTL from the camera is magnificant. With no wires from the power supply to the studio light heads, you eliminate one of the biggest issues I have with using studio lights. People don't trip over the wires, your distance inside is very good, and the speedlghts are a lot easier and lighter to transport.

As Wayne stated, "The least cost is surely one more SB-600 and an umbrella kit. You can do all manner of things with that." I agree. For the money I would recommend to the OP that he consider getting some inexpensive, but good quality umbrellas with stands from B&H or locally, and another SB-600 or two. That gives him an easy to transport and setup, 3 light kit for less than the $500 budget limit. (Four lights if you add the D200 flash at times.) I use SB-800s which I find superior in several ways to the SB-600, but for consistency between menus and output, I would recommend staying with the same type of units and the SB-600 is an excellent unit which the OP already owns.

In post #2, Wayne also has a lot of other advice about the pros and cons of using Speedlights in place of studio lights and I agree with him wholeheartedly. Except for one statement concerning the D200 flash in Commander mode. "And the camera commander is limited to be able to only control two lights. Other commanders can do three. But what if you have main and fill and background and hair lights?" The Commander mode of the D200 can control a larger number of flash units than 2. It can only control 2 Groups. The SU-800 and SB-800 speedlights can control 3 Groups. You can use more than one flash in each Group. I recently shot some SB-800 portraits for friends using 2 SB-800s that were bounced into silver umbrellas and one SB-800 as the background light. I used my D200 with the 2 front SB-800s in Group A and the background SB-800 in Group B. By modifying the distance the umbrella was from the speedlight I could modify the amount of light the main or fill provided. It is also possible to use both umblrella lights setup the same and just have one closer than the other to affect the main/fill ratio. I could have used Group A for the main, Group B for the fill, and set the rear SB-800 on Manual SU-4 and tweaked it to get mey background set. That way, I would be able to change my main and fill ratios on the fly with no change to my background.

As has been stated, the SB-800/600 is harder to use as a hairlight and aim without a full-time modeling light, but I find that for a hairlight, the built-in on-demand modeling light works fine. It isn't something you need on except to aim and that doesn't take all that much time. I have cut the bottom off of an old large white square bottomed translucent prescription drug container and the top section fits on one of my SB-800s very nicely. The light coming out of the mouth is well controlled enough that it looks like a spotlight on the subject. Using that on the speedlight and the modeling light, I can aim the hairlight pretty easily. Wayne's suggestion of using a black rolled foam sheet is a good one also.

As to doing portraits without full-time modeling lights. Again I agree with Wayne that modeling lights are not an automatic solution and can mislead you at some ratio levels. The best solution is either take test shots, or have a known setup. As HBB said, "I suspect some professional portrait shooters have a handful of well known configurations where they know from experience exactly what will occur and little, if any, testing is required." It is best to test in advance well before the shoot if possible. Certainly before the subjects arrive for the shoot. When I shot portraits on film for a living, we tested our setups in-house and measured everything using a piece of marked line. At time of setup we would use the line to setup the lights and background. Then known values were set on the lights and a flash-meter used to confirm that all was correct at the subject location and the background. For really important shoots, a polaroid was taken. With digital, you can shoot and chimp. Since you can get instant feedback, you don't need a flash-meter, but a decent one is always handy and saves time. I still have my Luna-Pro F flash meter and it helps me get a 'standard' setup in place quickly. My Luna-Pro F can add several flash outputs, so the preflashes from the D200 isn't an issue. If you want to eliminate the preflashes, use FV Lock or buy the Nikon SG-31R Infrared panel available from BocaPhoto for $12.95. The meter can also be pointed so that only one flash is read at a time, allowing me to adjust each flash or studio light individually if needed. Just saw a nice used one going cheaply at a camera swap meet a while back.

The one area where I have found an issue with using speedlights instead of studio lights is when the ambient light is extermely low. Then the focus is hard and AF is unpredictable. That is when I found that the 'modeling' aspect of the studio head modeling lights wasn't so important as the 'lighting' aspect. You could attach an SC-29 to one of the SB-800s and use that SB-800 as Commander and/or main or fill with the SC-29 auto-illumination working extremely well for AF. The down-side is that you are now tethered to one of the speedlights. The up-side is you have 9 feet of play and if using an SB-800/900, you can have 3 Groups not including the SB-800/900 in use.

The SC-29 will work with the SB-600 as well for remote cabled flash, but the SB-600 does not do Commander mode and your ability to use the D200 Commander mode is disabled.

The studio setup that HBB mentioned appears to me to be a good one and HBB is a quality guy, so I'm sure it is well worth the cost. The power and other features available in a studio setup are nice, but being able to setup a mini-studio just about anywhere at a moments notice, without needing external power, makes the use of speedlights an extremely competative alternative and my first choice whenever possible.

"... you see, but you do not observe."
- Sherlock Holmes

  

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Wayne Registered since 05th Nov 2005Thu 06-Nov-08 12:45 AM
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#17. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 16


US
          


>Except for one
>statement concerning the D200 flash in Commander mode. "And the camera commander is
>limited to be able to only control two lights. Other
>commanders can do three. But what if you have main and fill
>and background and hair lights?"

No argument at all, just an explanation. This was about the word "control". Yes, you can use more than one flash in one group, but they receive the same signals. What if you do have main, fill, background and hairlight? Which lights would you combine into same groups? (rhetoric) A rather awkward situation, easily solved with studio lights.

Perhaps what the CLS system needs is an option to parallel multiple commanders, using channels to increase the number of control groups. Not sure what kind of delay that would add however.


>I could have
>used Group A for the main, Group B for the fill, and set the
>rear SB-800 on Manual SU-4 and tweaked it to get my
>background set.

SU-4 mode is not supposed to work with Commander/Remote. Not the same system. The preflashes will trigger manual optical slaves early, before the shutter is open. Manual commander mode will suppress the remote preflashes, but there are still the commander signals flashed. Optical slaves will not work with Commander, they trigger and waste themselves before the shutter opens. Yet I do realize that somehow the SB-800 does seem to often be able to pull it off. Black magic. Perhaps it can trigger again that soon, and at partial power, still has power left? However, triggering with the preflashes must disrupt the iTTL metering of the other lights. Simply different systems, supposed to be incompatible.


>As has been stated, the SB-800/600 is harder to use as a
>hairlight and aim without a full-time modeling light, but I
>find that for a hairlight, the built-in on-demand modeling
>light works fine.

Unfortunately, this "modeling light" function does not operate in SU-4 mode, which was my case (using real Manual mode). In SU-4 mode, the modeling light button on the SB-800 has a different function, to inhibit optical triggering, and the one on the commander camera does not operate SU-4 either.

  

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73z1 Registered since 06th Apr 2007Thu 06-Nov-08 10:26 PM
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#19. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 17


Sacramento, US
          

> Yes, you can use more than one
> flash in one group, but they receive the same signals. What
> if you do have main, fill, background and hairlight? Which
>lights would you combine into same groups? (rhetoric) A rather
>awkward situation, easily solved with studio lights.
>

Yes, I agree that that you are correct in that it can be easier with studio lights. Much easier at times. Once you have the lights and power packs and all of the necessary wiring in place.

As to combining which speedlights into which groups, as I mentioned, a few weeks ago I combined the main and fill in group A and set the background in group B. Moving the fill speedlight further from the subject and the fill umbrella further from the flash on the clamp worked for me. Not the most elegant solution, but easily done and easy to check using the advantage of digital imaging and the instant feedback it provides. I have found that the hairlight exposure value doesn't generally require much change unless the subject lighting and position are changed significantly. A speedlight set to the appropriate remote manual mode setting should be pretty static and not needed in the TTL configuration when using Commander modes. Depending on the subjects shot the same is often true of the background light. Once it is set, it probably doesn't need modifying unless you substantially change the total exposure of the main and fill. The next test shoot I do with family members I plan to use a fixed manual setting for the background and hairlights with main and fill comprising A & B groups.

>Perhaps what the CLS system needs is an option to parallel
>multiple commanders, using channels to increase the number of
>control groups. Not sure what kind of delay that would add
>however.
>

That is an excellent idea. If we could use two or three channels it would allow far more configurations. I would think that using 2 channels for 4 groups shouldn't take much more time to transmit data flashes than it takes when using an SU-800/SB-800 to transmit 3 groups of data flashes.


>SU-4 mode is not supposed to work with Commander/Remote. Not
>the same system. The preflashes will trigger manual optical
>slaves early, before the shutter is open.
>

Yes you are correct for the most part. However, I have found through testing that the pre-flashes are not as big an issue as most would have you believe for a couple reasons. The SB-800 manual says on page 72 "SU-4 type wireless multiple flash - Master flash unit: Speedlights compatible with wireless flash operation, those compatible with the TTL mode, or the builtin Speedlights on cameras so equipped.
Remote flash unit: Except the SB-23, all Speedlights compatible with wireless flash operation or those connected to the optional Wireless Slave Flash Controller SU-4.



I made some test shots using a SB-80DX and two of my SB-800s on the D200. If I set my second SB-800 and my SB-80DX both into wireless Auto mode, they will trigger when the SB-800 is set to Master in the hotshoe of my D200 fires. I pointed the remotes so that the output was visible in the image and can see both flashes firing in sync with the master SB-800. The same is true with the remote SB-800 set to group B and the on camera SB-800 set to Master with only group B enabled. The same is true when using the D200 builtin as Commander.

Limited experimental images lead me to believe that the SB-80DX and the remote SB-800 when in Auto-remote wireless mode, may be firing in sync with the preflashes, but the output is limited by the duration of the pre-flashes. That means that the remotes will expend only as much energy as the master SB-800 used on the camera or the D200 builtin for the preflashes. i.e. nothing worth worying about. The remotes have plenty of power for the flash that syncs with the actual exposure because they turn on and off so quickly with the pre-flashes. I need to use a video camera to really be sure of this theory however. just the same, I can fire the remotes in sync with the camera builtin or hotshoed SB-800 master.


>Manual commander mode will suppress the remote preflashes, but there are still
>the commander signals flashed. Optical slaves will not work
>with Commander, they trigger and waste themselves before the
>shutter opens. Yet I do realize that somehow the SB-800 does
>seem to often be able to pull it off. Black magic.
>Perhaps it can trigger again that soon, and at partial power,
>still has power left? However, triggering with the preflashes
>must disrupt the iTTL metering of the other lights. Simply
>different systems, supposed to be incompatible.

No, the SB-800 and SB-80DX do not waste themselves in remote Auto or SU-4 remote-auto mode. I have tested this and you can too. It isn't black magic, it is that speed and ability of the remote flash units to turn on and off as fast as the master is operating. In remote manual mode, yes the remotes waste themselves before the exposure. So use remote auto mode in SU-4 on the SB-800. (Not sure on the Sb-600 as I don't have one.)


>Unfortunately, this "modeling light" function does
>not operate in SU-4 mode, which was my case (using real Manual
>mode). In SU-4 mode, the modeling light button on the SB-800
>has a different function, to inhibit optical triggering, and
>the one on the commander camera does not operate SU-4 either.
>

If the Guide was correct, then you would be too, but I'm not sure that it is.
You are correct in saying that the SU-4 setting disables the modeling capability if using SU-4 Manual and Auto modes. Likewise, acccording to the SB-800 Guide page 66
Modeling illuminator in SU-4 type wireless multiple flash operation (p. 84)
When the Modeling illuminator button on the master flash unit or the one on the camera is pressed, the Modeling illuminator of the master unit only fires.
Well maybe.

I have just tested this and while the Guide is correct, in operation it appears to be wrong and I think I have discovered an interesting "feature". If I set the Master SB-800 on the D200 to TTL or SU-4/TTL modes with a remote SB-800 set to SU-4 Auto-remote, both units appear to fire their modeling lights when the preview button is pressed on the D200. If the remote is set to SU-4 Manual, then in that case the remote modeling light does not fire and the flash should only fire at Manual power setting.

Interesting Note: As the Guide states, if the remote SB-800 is set to SU-4 Auto mode the modeling lights don't work on it, but when the modeling light of the Master SB-800 is triggered, the remote SB-800 repeats what the master SB-800 or D200 builtin modeling light are doing. The modeling light isn't actually being fired, but the remote matches and repeats the rapid limited energy flash pulses of the master or commander as if it were firing its modeling light.

Additionally, the remote SB-800 in SU-4 Auto mode will trigger the false modeling light symptom in sync with the D200 builtin modeling light activation. You can see (if not directly set) the hairlight aim via the D200 modeling light feature from the shooting position in front of the subject. Don't take my word for this, go try it, because it is interesting how fast the SU-4 mode reacts to the real modeling light output.

Even though Guide is technically correct, when aiming the hairlight, you don't need to be in SU-4 or any other specific mode. You switch out of your regular mode, use the modeling light to aim the hairlight and then switch back to SU-4, Auto-remote wireless, or CLS TTL.


>If the D200 can be put into a manual flash sync mode (no TTL preflash pulses)
>you can control any number of remote SB900/800 units in the SU-4 mode.
>Yes, you will have to set the power levels on each remote unit manually,
>but you achieve full flexibility with them.
>

HBB you are correct. It is quite possible to control any number of remote SB-800 and SB-80DX units via the D200 builtin flash and SU-4 or Auto-remote modes in the two speedlight types mentioned if the builtin is set -- (no flash contribution) or FV Lock is used to preset the flash exposure value. For optical flash mode where other flash units might trigger from the communication pre-flashes the Nikon SG-31R
Infrared panel can be used. Few if any optical slaves react to IR light so the D200 can still communicate with the speedlights without false triggering.

"... you see, but you do not observe."
- Sherlock Holmes

  

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Wayne Registered since 05th Nov 2005Thu 06-Nov-08 11:31 PM
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#20. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 19


US
          

Your colored fonts, esp the yellow, are unreadable here. The aqua is not much better. Not everyone sees a black screen here, mine is a light gray. Maybe that is my fault. I can read them only by highlighting everything (CTRL A) to a reverse video, which is white text on dark blue background. I am just one reader, but IMO, if you need color, consider red or blue, something bold and dark, anything but weak yellow and aqua.

>No, the SB-800 and SB-80DX do not waste themselves in remote
>Auto or SU-4 remote-auto mode. I have tested this and you can
>too. It isn't black magic, it is that speed and ability of
>the remote flash units to turn on and off as fast as the
>master is operating. In remote manual mode, yes the remotes
>waste themselves before the exposure. So use remote auto mode
>in SU-4 on the SB-800. (Not sure on the Sb-600 as I don't
>have one.)

Yes, I have tested it (SB-800 SU-4 mode with commander), and was amazed to see that it appears to work. Not supposed to work. I have not "used" it that way (seems an absurd notion when it will do CLS REMOTE too), but a few test shots appear to work, in sync and at expected power.

I know SU-4 Auto mode is supposed to "follow" the source light. How it can do that without being blinded by its own light, I have no clue. "Following" could be an explanation, but I think only Auto mode follows. Manual mode is not supposed to follow, yet the SU-4 mode appears to sync with the commander anyway. I do not understand it. It seems impossible, but yes, I have seen it work.


>I have just tested this and while the Guide is correct, in
>operation it appears to be wrong and I think I have discovered
>an interesting "feature". If I set the Master SB-800
>on the D200 to TTL or SU-4/TTL modes with a remote SB-800 set
>to SU-4 Auto-remote, both units appear to fire their modeling
>lights when the preview button is pressed on the D200. If the
>remote is set to SU-4 Manual, then in that case the remote
>modeling light does not fire and the flash should only fire at
>Manual power setting.

Guide is the manual?

My meaning about modeling light function not working in SU-4 mode is bottom of page 75, which describes it inhibiting optical trigger. It does not fire modeling lights. I was using Manual mode.

You could change modes to do it and then reset mode back, but this is not handy at height on a boom. The button alone requires a ladder, if it worked. The SB-800 worked fine as a hair light, but a studio light with grid and modeling light works better.

Your quote of:

page 72 "SU-4 type wireless multiple flash - Master flash unit: Speedlights compatible with wireless flash operation, those compatible with the TTL mode, or the builtin Speedlights on cameras so equipped.
Remote flash unit: Except the SB-23, all Speedlights compatible with wireless flash operation or those connected to the optional Wireless Slave Flash Controller SU-4.

is about film technology of a past era. "Wireless flash" there means optically trigged like SU-4. TTL there means film TTL, not digital iTTL. I think that page does NOT refer to CLS Commander/Remote.
To Nikon in the SB-800, there are TTL, DTTL, and iTTL modes, which it keeps separate.

SU-4 mode (being a "smart" optical trigger that follows) was to be a way to do early film wireless multiflash TTL (film TTL). Only the master on camera hot shoe was actually doing TTL, but the slaves following it supposedly could mimic TTL. But how one or more could follow the one master flash, with multiple flashes blinding it, I have no clue.


  

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briantilley Moderator Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003Fri 07-Nov-08 03:51 PM
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#21. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 20


Paignton, GB
          

>Maybe that is my fault.

Yes. The background colour is controlled by the "Preferred Skin" setting in your user preferences.

Brian
Welsh Nikonian

  

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HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter MemberThu 06-Nov-08 03:07 AM
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#18. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 16


Phoenix, US
          

Mike:

I don't own a D200, so cannot be too sure of my comments. If the D200 can be put into a manual flash sync mode (no TTL preflash pulses) you can control any number of remote SB900/800 units in the SU-4 mode. Yes, you will have to set the power levels on each remote unit manually, but you achieve full flexibility with them.

Unfortunately, the SB600 does not include the SU-4 mode. I have had some success with it using the Nikon SU-4 accessory. Others have reported success with various optical slave triggers.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

  

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synthetic Registered since 08th Dec 2007Mon 10-Nov-08 03:21 PM
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#22. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 0


Springfield, US
          

All this information has been great... and a bit over whelming at the same time. It looks like I have my work cut out for me but that is ok. I have a spare bedroom I am currently getting ready to use as a small studio and will be experimenting all winter long.

To save some cash for the holidays.... I went ahead and purchased another SB-600 instead of the SB-800 or 900 so I will have a pair of them to play with coupled with a pair of Wescott 32" satin umbrellas.

Now its just a matter of getting it all together and taking some time to find what is going to work best for this simple setup. Again... I appreciate everyone's input on this topic

-Dean
aka Synthetic Tone
My Photoblog

  

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texxter Moderator Awarded for his high skills in studio photography Nikonian since 18th Feb 2006Mon 10-Nov-08 06:37 PM
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#23. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 22
Mon 10-Nov-08 06:39 PM by texxter

Plano, US
          

Dean, I am glad you went with the speedlights, they are very portable and powerful enough. I have a set with 2 SB800's and two older flashes, SB-25 and SB-26 in a smal Pelican 1510 with 2 light stands, two umbrellas, adaptors, gels, etc. This is a carry-on size case that I can take anywere with me, together with a camera bag. The portability of these things is terrific.

I do like CLS and like Auto FP sync, and it's worth learning about them. It's a really sophisticated setup.

But my workflow includes Pocket Wizards and a light meter, just because that's I work in the studio and how I can add older non-CLS flashes to my set up. Of course, there is no reason why I can't use CLS sometime, especially with Auto FP, and I do, but only if there is a good reason for it. My default is all manual.

I use 4 AB B800s in the studio with larger softboxes, etc, but I always use the speedlights on location.

The image below was done with a single SB800:
Nikon D300 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 155mm
Camera set to manual f/5 1/160s ISO 200
Flash set to f/5 manually with a light meter.
Taken in the shade with a SB-800 flash in a Photoflex Litedome Xsmall softbox, gelled with 1/4 CTO for a warm look, to camera left. My assistant had a small mirror at camera right to add a little separation, but it's very subtle.



________________
Paco Romero
(website|blog| RSS|Facebook|gallery)

Attachment #1, (jpg file)

  

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brooksfarm pa Silver Member Nikonian since 04th Apr 2002Wed 23-Feb-11 02:29 PM
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#26. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 23


Philadelphia vicinity, US
          

Paco, I've been reading various threads in preparation for upcoming indoor student portraits. Although your outdoor portrait is not directly relevant to my current concerns, I just wanted to tell you how much I like it.

I'm in heavy-duty light learning mode right now. So much so, that I'm not even asking questions, just practicing with recently bought Alien Bee 400/softbox. A friend is helping me adjust to the setup. I'll continue to rely on my SB800 for other work.

Looking forward to viewing more of your portraits.

Dennis

  

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Wayne Registered since 05th Nov 2005Mon 10-Nov-08 09:04 PM
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#24. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 22


US
          


>I went ahead and
>purchased another SB-600 instead of the SB-800 or 900 so I
>will have a pair of them to play with coupled with a pair of
>Wescott 32" satin umbrellas.
>
>Now its just a matter of getting it all together and taking
>some time to find what is going to work best for this simple
>setup. Again... I appreciate everyone's input on this topic


You can do all manner of things with the two speedlights and umbrellas. It should produce stunning results.

Three obvious tips:

1. Put each remote speedlight by itself into its own Group, one in A and one in B. This is what allows the camera commander to individually control the lights. What the commander does then is to equalize the groups power levels to give the same intensity at the subject (automatic setup). Then you can compensate one of the groups in the commander menu, like the fill light to be -1 stop down, to set your lighting ratio. Again, automatic setup. Set the Commanders Group M (the internal flash) to be "- -" to disable it. It still flashes commands before the shutter opens, but it will not contribute to the picture exposure if set to "- -".

2. Learn to use the cameras FV Lock (see camera manual index), as the way to eliminate the pictures of the subjects eyes blinking.

3. Always put your umbrellas as close as possible to the subject, just barely out of the picture. This is what makes their light be as soft as possible. Also reduces the amount of flash power needed.

  

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mholka Registered since 04th Jan 2011Tue 22-Feb-11 04:58 PM
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#25. "RE: Debating Speedlights or Monolights"
In response to Reply # 24


Brownstown Twp, US
          

My only comments is as a returning studio photographer who has been out of the game since the film days.

We used Polaroid backs to build the lighting scene, light by light. Now with digital we can build our scene much quicker.

To some degree the same principles apply. Modeling lights help in setting up the angle and coverage but nothing compares to a test shot of the setup for each individual light source. I always started with the eyes for a portrait. Specifically the highlight eye first (The eye nearest the lens), then built the shadow or low light side (I was almost always going for the triangle of shadow under the low light eye) then the supporting lights for separation or overall blending of lights. But do each light separately and shoot a test shot. You will see very quickly if you have a eye appealing element to the portrait.

Then shoot a series of test shots with all the lights working in unison.

For newbies this can be time consuming and a lot of trial and error. So be patient. But then when you get the lighting setup the way you want, take an extreme wide angle of the studio setup or draw a simple diagram in a notebook with the technical elements/parameters included in the drawing. Don't forget a reference to a specific photo and the shot details.

This will help build your knowledge and have a personal reference of what worked and what didn't work. But more importantly WHY they worked or didn't.

This is the approach any novice should take irregardless of the lighting system (CLS - SB's, continuous lighting or strobes).

Bending light to your will is challenging and sometimes difficult. But with time and patience it CAN be done.... to some degree.

Take your time and document every step and soon you will know off the top of your head what will work for a given shoot. or at least get you close!

Happy Shooting!

Shoot, shoot and shoot some more!

--Martin
www.ExclusivePhotoWorks.com
Nikon Body's
D800e, D300s, D7000, D90, D80, F100

Lenses:
18 - 200 F3.5-5.6 VRII, 70-200 F2.8 VR II,
18 - 105 F3.5-5.6 VR, 18 - 135 F3.5-5.6,
35 - 70 F2.8, 50 F1.4, 70 - 300 F4-4.5,
Sigma 150-500 F5-6.3

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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