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Old Nov 2, 2004, 8:38 AM   #1
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I'm an experienced photographer with natural light and shoe-mount flashes, but I've been giving a lot of thought to getting studio lighting, almost as a natural growth of my "art". The problem is that I don't have a studio, and I worry about spending $1200-2000 on all the equipment, even if I go with one of the "best buys", like Alien Bees.

I was looking at the Calumet website recently, and I see that I can rent two 750ws travelites, stands, and umbrellas for $40 for the weekend. I'm thinking that this might be a relatively inexpensive way to try this out. On the other hand, it might be impossible to really try something in that short a time frame. And, it doesn't include a flash meter, which is another $20. (I'm thinking of just getting a Sekonic anyway, since I have taken to shooting with a couple of slave units and my SB-800 on manual, even if I don't go for studio lighting.)

Do people think that this makes sense? And, how long is a realistic time period to see what I think? Is there anything else that I should be getting, or anything I should do to get a good sense of this?

Thanks!
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Old Nov 2, 2004, 9:42 AM   #2
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Questions:
Do you already have the space set aside to shoot in?
Do you have backdrops? (You will find a huge difference when you shoot using a dark background vs a white one).
Do you have subjects lined up & confirmed for that weekend?
Are you willing to shoot 8hrs a day to get the most out of the short time you will have the lights?
How much is shipping to & from Calumet for the gear?

Observations:
Since you will need a light meter anyway, you might as well buy one outright.
There's a good reason that studios own studio lighting...it works (& works well).
Personally, I wouldn't try to decide based on one or two days of experimenting (I still experiment with lighting at shoots).
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Old Nov 2, 2004, 9:51 AM   #3
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Kalypso -- Thanks for the thoughts and questions. I don't really have a spot (just an unused bedroom), and I don't have backdrops. That might really end the question, or at least push me in the direction of something portable that I might use "on location". I was thinking that for $40, I'll find out that, given my lack of space, I should save my money on getting my own equipment.

The Calumet part is easy -- they are just a couple of miles from where I work.
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Old Nov 2, 2004, 10:56 AM   #4
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1) Renting is a good idea. If nothing else it gives you an idea of what you are missing with the lights so you will know what pieces to buy.

2) Using a bedroom is fine. Be sure to look carefully at the areas of the bedroom and move out clutter and simplify the stuff as much as possible. If you are going to use a bed as a prop make sure to getthe correctlinen. A simple pattern will look dirty on film use flats or extreme patterns.

3) Another option, find a local photo studio in your area. Talk to the guy at the studio and see if he would be willing to rent it to you with lights. An hour with an experienced person is worth an entire weekend mucking around by yourself.

A quick search on Yahoo resulted in the following http://www.cameras.com/
http://www.cfnap.com/studio_space.html

Just to give you an idea of pricing in your area..


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Old Nov 2, 2004, 11:01 AM   #5
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CastleDude --

Thanks for the lead on studio rental. I've been to the first place (it's where I got my D70), but never heard of the second. I'll check it out.
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Old Nov 2, 2004, 2:12 PM   #6
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IMO, if the $40 is an inconsequential sum to you, then what the heck, you might learn something. In reality, I doubt you will get much useful out of such a short experience in such limiting conditions as you describe. You might get lucky and get some nice shots or you might get mostly junk - you really won't know what you did/didn't do with the equipment to cause your results. That would require bracketing all exposures, same with the flash output, distance to subject, etc etc. You would need to keep pretty complete notes on everything to look at the results and decide anything meaningful.

But, if you're just looking for the 'experience' of using the lights to see if it suits you, then $40 isn't a lot. I agree with castledude about working with a pro and studio. It would be far more useful with much less wasted time.
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Old Nov 2, 2004, 6:31 PM   #7
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I have to agree with that last reply...you might stumble into a right combination, but having someone teach you is far superior...I was at a lecture by photographer Al Gilbert and I learned more in a few minutes with him than I ever could on my own; but then I took what I learned from him and applied it and experimented AFTER.
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Old Nov 8, 2004, 7:27 PM   #8
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If you don't have the money to buy a good light meter, (those sekonics are awesome but expensive) you might want to get a digital camera target while you save your $$. You didn't say what camera you have but if it a decent dslr then it'll have a histogram on back. Shoot a picture of the target (it has calibrated black, gray, and white sections on it) and adjust the exposure so the black and white sections are on the edge but not clipped, and the gray is in the middle. With digital, this is the most accurate way (IMHO) to get an exposure.
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