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Old Aug 15, 2009, 8:44 PM   #1
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Default Beginner to off camera lighting/ studio lighting

Hi all, Iím back

I may have some other questions in other forums later. I am really trying to read and get some understanding of what would be best for me, but I think I am more confused as ever now (my normal state of being btw).

Soooo.... I am a beginner. I have a Sony Alpha300. Current lenses are: Minolta 70-210 AF "Beercan"; Minolta 50mm 1:1.7 ; and Sony 18-70 3.5-5.6. I am thinking of going to school for photography. There is an Art Institute on-line division - 4 year bachelorís degree, based in Pittsburgh, which I have applied to.

One of the equipment requirements is to have studio lighting (to include at least 3 monolights, umbrellas, soft boxes, and radio slave). So of course I come here. There is so much to decide: Strobe/Flash vs. cool-flo/Continuous: Watts needed: various dif manufacturers: And I have no practical knowledge.

I need something as affordable as possible; but enough stuff to be effective. There is a seller on e-bay http://tinyurl.com/mnjz89that seems to sell various kits from very basic to lots of stuff; not sure if the equipment is good enough to where I'll hate it a year down the line or not; and what is the minimal equipment I should get to set up a small portrait studio somewhere in my house to learn with ? (I think I have a small room I can use where I can eliminate most outside lighting). Is there stuff I can make by going to Menards that will do just as well and be cheaper?

I've been reading the posts by Benjamin; I want to try some of the stuff he explains, but I'm one of those visual people (I need pictures of what to make-so if anyone made the stuff he describes and can take a picture of it).

I also need to decide on and buy an external flash unit for my camera -the hvl-f42am is what I'm looking at, but is it worth the extra 100 to get the 56am instead? (then I'd only need to find a sync cable and save on having to buy an off camera shoe -but... omg... more decisions... do I go single, dual or multi?) I need to find the cheapest light meter I can get away with - I am finding those to be quite the spendy item!! the cheapest one I found that sounds decent is a Sekonic L-358 for $200.

K, I would sooo appreciate help in putting some order to all this. A shopping list of sorts? LOL And you can e-mail me (I know there are shy people out there) [email protected]

Bye for now, Maggie

Last edited by Mahgie; Aug 15, 2009 at 9:05 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old Aug 17, 2009, 8:09 PM   #2
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For strobe check out this site, it is the bible of strobe photography
http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html
There is a TON of information on that site.

One thing that I want to warn you about is the wireless trigger that you get. Since you have a Sony dSLR, make sure the trigger you buy works with it. Sony tends to do everything different and they want to keep everything closed to themselves. I do not own a sony camera system but when I was reading about flashes and triggers, most of them have little quotes that say something like "Will not trigger/fire Sony camera/flash".
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Old Aug 18, 2009, 8:12 AM   #3
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That's a rather complicated subject.

Your camera has the ability to wirelessly control a compatible Sony external flash (HVL-F36AM, HVL-F42AM, HVL-F56AM, HVL-F58AM) via the on camera flash. Note that the HVL-F56AM is discontinued (I'd go HVL-F58AM instead if you want a better unit).

Another benefit to the HVL-F58AM is that it lets you control multiple flash groups with ratio control (not available with other Sony flash models). This would require using the HVL-F58AM as the controller (versus the camera's flash), using HVL-F42AM or HVL-F58AM flashes as slaves. Here's an article on the subject:

http://www.friedmanarchives.com/news...9-01/index.htm

But, for studio strobes (versus using remote Sony flashes), you'll want to use a different technique. For example, if you want to use a generic radio trigger (versus one designed for a specific camera brand), you'll need to use an adapter that turns the hotshoe on your A300 into an ISO standard shoe. Gadget Infinity sells them (and theirs gives you both an ISO standard shoe, and a PC Sync Port). Here's an example:

http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/produc...cat=275&page=1

I use a hotshoe adapter with my KM Maxxum 5D and Sony A700 so I can use non-dedicated flash models in their hotshoe (and use a PC Sync cord attached flash via that port on the adapter with my Maxxum 5D). I've got some inexpensive Sunpaks I use that way (small Sunpak 222 Auto, larger Sunpak 333 Auto). Note that when you go with a non-dedicated solution, you'll want to use manual exposure (since the flash will not be aware of the camera settings being used).

Gadget Infinity also sells the Cactus brand of radio triggers, where you could use a transmitter on the camera and receivers at the remote strobes. But, you wouldn't be able to trigger your Sony flashes that way, as they're designed to use metering preflashes and need more communication from the camera than you'd get via a generic radio trigger. You'll need the hotshoe adapter I mentioned to use this type of setup.

If you want to stay with optical versus radio slaves (with non-dedicated strobes, not remote Sony flashes), your best bet would be using an adapter to give your camera an ISO standard hotshoe, then use a non-dedicated flash as a trigger (either in the hotshoe or connected via a PC Sync cord, and you'll need a hotshoe adapter to give you that ability). You can't use the built in flash on your A300 as a trigger to most optical slaves (unless they're designed to ignore a preflash), since the camera's flash will always generate a metering preflash (right before the main flash burst). That fools standard optical slaves (they'll fire on the preflash versus the main flash and won't contribute anything to the exposure, unless you're using a "digital aware" slave designed to ignore preflashes).

If you go with a non-dedicated flash, just make sure the trigger voltage isn't too high (as you'll want to keep it around 6 volts to prevent damage to the hotshoe, unless using an adapter with voltage protection built in). Here's a page with user measured trigger voltages:

http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html
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Old Aug 18, 2009, 9:43 AM   #4
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Shorter version:

If you want to use non-dedicated studio strobes, then a Sony flash is not a good idea (you're not going to be able to easily "mix' Sony flashes with typical studio strobes, since a Sony flash is going to require more sophisticated communications with the camera to work, and are designed to use metering preflashes). Your A300 will not allow you to manually control the power output of it's built in flash, either (making it useless for triggering any kind of optical slaves due to a metering preflash, unless you're using digital aware optical triggers, which are far less common). So, get a hotshoe adapter from someone like Gadget Infinity and use non-dedicated flashes via the hotshoe or PC Sync port for that type of setup.

If you want to use a flash for other purposes, then that's different (the HVL-F42AM or HVL-F58AM would be good choices for a single flash solution, and you could control either one via the camera's built in flash wirelessly).

If you want a solution using multiple Sony flashes for lighting (versus non-dedicated Studio Strobes), then I'd get the HVL-F58AM to use as an on camera controller, combined with more HVL-F58AM or HVL-42AM flashes for use as slaves.
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Old Aug 18, 2009, 10:05 AM   #5
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One more thing to take into consideration is High Speed Sync. With a non-dedicated solution (non-dedicated flash models or studio strobes), you're limited by the camera's x-sync speed. With your A300, that's 1/160 second.

But, with a Sony flash solution using models like the HVL-F42AM or HVL-F58AM, you'd have the ability to use faster shutter speeds via High Speed Sync (and you also get wireless high speed sync with a Sony flash solution). That can come in handy for use outdoors in brighter lighting when wider aperture settings are desired for a shallower depth of field (where your shutter speeds may be too fast with a non-dedicated solution).
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Old Aug 18, 2009, 1:32 PM   #6
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Thanks so much!! You guys are great.
I will get the HvL-F58AM for when I'm only using one flash and the hotshoe adapter for when I get into strobes{its the only item that doesn't cost 200+ lol} And the links to the websites are great!! The Strobelist blog one has really good stuff. And in another post someone mentioned diyphotography.net. I will def need to make some stick-in-the-cans, those look very handy. I think me and plastic piping will become very good friends.

I had to laugh at the one using a beer can cooler for a snoot, I mean what a great idea!! And quite collapsible for storage.

I know I have a lot of reading to do; but would having multiple sony flashes be just as good as strobes? I mean is it something that I can use when learning to do portraits? The link to the Sony flash protocol was showing a plant, so don't know if I would be limited to small items if I went with multiple sony flash units. I saw all these neat do-it-yourself stands for camera flashes, and being that they are lighter..... I won't be able to afford more than one flash unit for now, but I like to be prepared. Would one of those studio kits from http://tinyurl.com/mnjz89 be good? or can I get buy spending less? The ones that look good to me are their sp3500 or sp3700 set ups. I will be required to have at least 3 monolights, umbrellas and softboxes when I start the photography classes at AI.

Of course I still need to find an area in the house I can use to experiment and learn portraits. My main subjects so far are the flowers in my mother's large garden and my pets and horses.

Thanks a ton,
Maggie
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Old Aug 18, 2009, 7:03 PM   #7
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There's no one right or wrong way to approach it. You can use multiple flashes for lighting, too (not just for small subjects as in the other article's examples). Here's an older article on the subject (but, it doesn't take the new ratio control features introduced with the HVL-F58AM into consideration).

http://www.friedmanarchives.com/flash.htm

You could also setup inexpensive non-dedicated flashes and use them via either radio or optical slave triggers, tweaking their settings as desired (most have manual power settings on them).
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