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conor Feb 11, 2009 7:43 PM

Ok, picture the perfect setup: you have an infinite wall, curtains, portable walls for blocking light, props, the perfect glass, and strobes on wireless systems. You have a subject ready, and your strobes all laid out.

How can you see anything before all the strobes fire? I mean, you want as little ambient light present as possible to avoid screwing up the color temperature of your strobes, so wouldn't a completely dark room be optimal? How are you supposed to aim a camera at your subject if its dark?


HughesInNC Feb 12, 2009 8:07 AM

Usually the strobes themselves have what's called modelling lights built into them. They are adjustable in strength to help you see where the shadows are going to fall. The modelling light output is in direct relation to the level of output that will be produced by the strobes. They are MUCH less intense than the strobes themselves, so you camera can easily focus on the subject, the photographer can see where the shadows will fall. Hope this helps.

conor Feb 12, 2009 10:02 AM

so, normal camera flashes fired remotely wont work, a person would need proper strobes.

Got it.

Thanks! :)

HughesInNC Feb 12, 2009 10:18 AM

No, obviously, those would work as well, just differently. Usually, studio strobes have modelling lights built into them. If you're using something like Nikon's Creative Lighting ystem, and you've got SB-800's mounted remotely and triggering remotely, then those don't have modelling lights. There's going to have to be SOME existing light, but I wouldn't worry TOO much about that. Your strobes should be MUCH more powerful than the ambient light, and you can set your color balance to the proper color temperature for flash,usually 5500 to 5700.

conor Feb 12, 2009 10:32 AM

In short, start with a dim place, try not to let your ambient light hit the subject too much, and blow everything away with your flashes.

gotcha :)

thanks so much!!

NHL Feb 15, 2009 1:28 PM

conor wrote:

so, normal camera flashes fired remotely wont work, a person would need proper strobes.
Not necessarily ;)

Camera mounted flash and/or their remote wireless slave(s) also have "modeling lights" built-into them:
-> Flash systems from Canon, Nikon, Sony and others have a 'modeling mode' built-into them as well - i.e. when one press, usually the preview button, the hot-shoe mounted flash and their wirelessly remote(s) pulse rapidly so you can evaluate their shadow casts as well...
and here's Nikon's modeling light version:


In short, start with a dim place, try not to let your ambient light hit the subject too much, and blow everything away with your flashes.
Ambient light is usually not a problem as long as they are daylight, natural window lights are fine for example. It's usually the incandsecent lights that are problematics which add their yellow cast but theses lights are so weak anyway that's you don't have to worry about

Africa Aug 19, 2009 5:25 PM

Caveman Studios
Conor don’t worry, studio photogs aren’t running around in cave-like studios hoping their cameras can focus and guessing at composition based on the direction of the model’s voice.:eek:

Even in a well-lit room (a typical fluorescent office), your meter reading would be, at best, 1/60 @ f2.8 at 400 ISO.

A decent studio flash set up will yield 1/250 @ f5.6 at 100 ISO. That is a difference of six f-stops! The studio is yielding 64 times more light than the room or ambient light.

A few things I know about a six-stop, under exposed image:
The best raw conversion couldn’t save it.
Even HDR shooters won’t go there.
It will not create a color shift.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s your theoretical “perfect” studio with “your strobes all laid out” or, “normal camera flashes fired remotely” – instead it’s all about the difference between the amount of light from your flash/strobes and your ambient light.

Once you get to about a four f-stop difference you aren’t going to see a color shift. Let be understood I have never shot a grey card under those circumstances then used a color meter to measure a color shift, I’m just working from more than 35 years of practical experience and more than six years of photographic education.

NC is right about modeling lights but I find them, especially when diffused, close to useless - but you should see if they help.

NHL mentioned window light, he’s close to right but there is a warning, make sure it is not direct sunlight coming through a window – that would be brighter than your strobes could handle. If it is a diffused window light they will be slightly blue so you want to measure how bright they are compared to your strobes, just like you would for any ambient light.


conor Aug 19, 2009 5:36 PM

Thanks for your comments!

My latest shots (posted in the People Photo's thread) were lit with three speedlights (2x SB600 and 1x SB900). the only other light in the room was a 40 watt bulb in a desk lamp facing away from the subject which reflected enough light for the AF to work and for me to be able to frame the photos accurately.

I was pleased to find that the lamp, despite being a rather warm light, didn't destroy the white balance once all the flashes fired.

Cena12 Nov 2, 2010 11:01 PM

Sudio lighting
Flash units are commonly built directly into a camera. Some cameras allow separate flash units to be mounted via a standardized "accessory mount" bracket hot shoe. In professional studio equipement, flashes may be large, standalone units, or studio strobes, powered by special battery packs or connected to mains and synchronized with the camera from either a flash synchronization cable, radio transmitter, or are light-triggered, meaning that only one flash unit needs to be synchronized with the camera, which in turn triggers the other units.

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