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BDD Jul 4, 2010 12:34 AM

Stops and the Bowen Lights
Why is it that they only have 5 stops? (a Stops dial plus a Tenths dial) How is that enough? When most lenses/cameras have many more. Sorry for the nubie question. Had to ask as I'm later planning on buying a 2-light/1 battery setup to start with (along with a light meter & transceiver...maybe a few receivers unless built-in to light).

Mark1616 Jul 4, 2010 2:56 AM

I'm not fully understanding your question in regard to the lenses/cameras part but will answer what the 5 stops mean with the lights.

The 5 stops are the relationship between full and minimum power that you can choose to set the lights at. So if it is the 200w version then you have 6w through to 200w being 5 stops difference, if it is the 500w version then the range is 15w to 500w again 5 stops. So the stops alone tell nothing about lighting power just the relationship.

I have a 200w setup and the 5 stop range is enough to allow very controlled and balanced lighting, for example you might want a very close soft light at low power (when you are close you need less power for the same exposure than if you are further away), then use another light pulled back to give a more hard light, you need to mix the powers to get the balance you desire.

Hope that helps.

BDD Jul 4, 2010 8:13 AM

Thanks Mark. I guess what confuses me (having zero experience with studio lighting) was when I'd hear photographers say "I'll set the key light to f/11..softbox 1 to f/8...etc." (!) when on the Bowens lights there's only 5.

Mark1616 Jul 4, 2010 8:19 AM


Originally Posted by BDD (Post 1114509)
Thanks Mark. I guess what confuses me (having zero experience with studio lighting) was when I'd hear photographers say "I'll set the key light to f/11..softbox 1 to f/8...etc." (!) when on the Bowens lights there's only 5.

The aperture (f stop) is not the ratio between stops but the actual light reduction amount (f stop is literally stopping light getting through the lens by making the aperture smaller).

The difference between f11 and f8 is one stop/twice as much light (f 8 being the brighter) so depending on the ISO and shutter speed that could be achieved with these lights in many different ways so not to worry. With my 200w elinchrom lights setting f11 or even f16 is not an issue without maxing them out (depending how far from the lights the subject is) so all is good.

Mark1616 Jul 4, 2010 8:22 AM

Just to add.

I would go for some googling on the basics of exposure (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) which will help put things into perspective. Honestly as well if you are starting out with photography I wouldn't go down the studio lighting route straight away as it is hard, and learning photography without lighting is hard so you are just making it really hard LOL.

I would spend a good 6 months photographing people using natural light outdoors before trying to add the setting up of nice lighting in the studio as there is just too much to worry about with the posing, framing, camera settings etc.

BDD Jul 4, 2010 12:26 PM

Hello Mark,

I think I understand the basics of exposure. I've been shooting since the 80's. :) It's "studio lighting" that I'm totally new to. And would like to get into in the near future.

You mentioned setting your Elinchrom light to f/11...that is what I don't understand. How do you do that on a light that has only 5-7 stops? This is what I've been asking. :)

Mark1616 Jul 4, 2010 2:36 PM

It's about using the power to give a required aperture of f11, so for example that could be level 4 on the lights, if I used level 3 without changing anything then I would need f8 as I've reduced the light by a stop thus need a stop more light.

I've not watched the video so not sure of the context but it can be a few different things. For example I might desire to light from behind an left with light falling on at f8 and from the right front at f11. This is simply meaning that the left will be in more shadow.

BDD Jul 4, 2010 4:31 PM

Ok, I got it now. You adjust the "stops" on the light till (which might be 4 depending on the situation) you get "f/11" or your desired f-stop (measured by your light meter). Btw...which light meter are you using these days? A Sekonic? Do you do a lot of shooting with your Elinchrom setup these days?

A few lights, I think from Bownes (the Gemini Pro 1000 and 1500) can give you 2 more stops of power. Do you find in your shooting that you even needed to come close to 5? Would having 2 more stops potentially be a good thing? (not that I plan to start out with one...LOL..maybe a 250/250r Travelpak.

Mark1616 Jul 4, 2010 4:38 PM

I don't do much studio stuff as I don't have the space and currently I'm living in Egypt with it all in the UK.

I use a Sekonic is it the 308 or something, can't remember, it's the little one but does just fine. I've never had a situation where I've struggled with the range of lights, I also use 3 old/cheap 200w lights for the backgrounds when I want to blow them out or light them a bit. They have two options full power or half and that is it. With the 5 lights I can do all that I desire which has been simple to say the least. I really want to take it a step further but it's a case of having the time to invest in using them.

BDD Jul 4, 2010 5:30 PM

Egypt!!?? Nice. Sounds interesting. Full of photo opportunities. Hope to go there one day.

5 lights. Sounds like a good number I guess. But given the time (if you have it) then possibly the number of "needed" lights would be any one's guess. :D I could see it (for some) becoming sort of an addiction to allow for more creativity. Or for those not wanting to constantly move softboxes or umbrellas.

If you had the space, time and money...I could see some one setting up a ceiling mounted track system (which Bowens offers as you probably already know). But Bowens says you need almost 10 feet or more. Not too many home owners with such a setup.

Have a good weekend.

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