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Introduction to Off Camera Lighting

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    Posted: 20 December 2009 at 15:23
Welcome to our "Introduction to Off Camera Lighting", kindly written by Nico (aka Octupi). This is the first of a series of articles that will host on Dyxum on this popular, but sometimes confusing subject. Over time, more articles will be added, which will go deeper into the topics that Nico has introduced. We hope to have a comprehensive Sony/Minolta guide. This is where you the reader can help. If you have the knowledge and the time to put a small piece together, I'd love to hear from you. Please PM Frankman if you can help. Many hands make light work (pun intended).

Without further ado.... enjoy -- Frankman, Knowledgebase Editor






Introduction to Off Camera Lighting



Written by: Nico Costello



Preface:

First, I知 honored and humbled to be asked to write this document. I知 always willing to provide input and assistance to those that are looking for information, so when I was asked to put this information together I naturally was interested. I値l be the first to admit that there are more qualified members on Dyxum to do this, so by no means am I the definitive authority. Some would say I知 the sucker to say yes.   Dyxum has played a big role in my growth and this is a way that I can give back and hopefully help others as well.



Introduction:

Unlike outdoor or available light photography, where light is there and you decide how to use it, in indoor work you start by deciding what light source to use and how to use them. In the next sections we値l discuss both Flood and Flash photography and the items you値l need to do either.

By the term Flood, we池e referring to continuous fluorescent or incandescent light; constant source of light. Floods can be broken up into two categories; floodlights and spotlights. We値l primarily only be discussing floodlights in this document.   By the term Flash, we池e referring to instantaneous lighting; aka strobelights.

Light is light, regardless of the source. The quality of the light it痴 intensity, duration, direction and color vary with its source. We値l try to touch on each of these qualities over the length of this document to help explain how and where they play a role in your decision of which light to use.

We will also take a look at the items/accessories needed to be successful in using off camera lighting while using your Minolta/Sony camera.



Floodlights

Although most studio photography today is done using strobelights, continuous light is still extensively used. They are a great place to start when first learning to use off camera lights since you can see exactly what you are going to get. WYSISYG lighting if you will. This makes it easier to set/position your lights, watching the modelling on your subject as you move the lights around.

These lights typically use color balanced bulbs, and you can buy them in different Kelvin amounts to gain the color balance you are wanting. Daylight is around 5500k, while a 3200k bulb is yellower than daylight.   For reference you household bulbs run about 2800k, so even more yellow.

For portability there is one other choice in Floodlights, and that is the use of quartz halogen lights. These lights are more powerful than the typical incandescent lights and burn about 600-1000watts for an average unit. They are also more expensive and consume more amps so it痴 wise not to go overboard or be familiar with your fuse box in your house. 

How to avoid electrical overload:

A typical house-current circuit can handle 15amps. Watts are calculated by multiplying volts times amps, and since house-current is usually around 110volts (USA), the average circuit can handle 1,650 watts (110x15=1650).

Sources for Floodlights:

You can always google: continuous lighting photography and get a ton of sites available. Here are a few:

Calumet Photographic - Continuous lighting

B&H Photo - Lighting and Studio

Linco Inc

Bowens



NOTE: links are not a recommendation, purely sources. I am not endorsing any vendor in this document.



Strobes

As noted earlier, Light is Light. The basic difference between flood and flash is the duration of the light. Floods stay on before, during and after your exposure while flash/strobe give off a burst of light for an instant during exposure.

Flash Sync

The flash from a strobe only lasts for a secondactually a millisecond, usually 1/1000-second or less. Your camera manual will state what your fastest sync speed is for your model. For instance, here are a few maximum sync speeds. If your camera is not listed, check your manual:

Sony a900 = 1/250 (SSS off)

Sony a900 = 1/200 (SSS on)

Sony a850 = 1/250 (SSS off)

Sony a850 = 1/200 (SSS on)

Sony a700 = 1/250 (SSS off)

Sony a700 = 1/200 (SSS on)



By not exceeding your sync speed you guarantee that you expose the entire frame to the burst of light from the strobe. You can shoot at slower than the flash sync speed just not faster. The stated flash sync speed is the fastest you can use and not get black banding in your image.

Advantages of Strobes over Floods

1.     Intense light even small strobes put out much more light than a 500watt flood, so you can user smaller apertures to gain greater DoF

2.     Duration Speeds of up to 1/50,000-sec will stop action, using Floods you depend on shutter speed alone.

3.     Coolness Floods are hot (even Fluorescents build some heat). This can be beneficial when shooting heat-sensitive subjects.

One thing to remember is that with Strobes you will take some experimenting and testing to get the exposure and desired effect. We値l get to that in a bit.

Note that there are variations of Strobesfrom speedlights, Monoblocks, Pack & Head units. I知 only listing the Monoblock units here, as they tend to be the most economical approach and most common. Speedlights are those that can be used off camera but also on Camera (ie. Sony HVL-F58am). Monoblocks are self contained units that plug into a wall outlet or power source. Pack and head units are a system where you buy the number of heads you want and they all plug into the 菟ack which is the power source and also the controller for the lights.



Choosing the right Light

Unfortunately this is a catch 22. What is right for one photographer may not be right for the next. I personally started with incandescent flood lights, which worked well for what I was doing at the time. It taught me to position the lights properly and I could see what I was doing as I needed all the help I could get. I started with something simple <$250. I then moved into a more powerful flood system that I thought would last a while. I was wrong and ended up with what I have now 3 AlienBee 800痴, transmitter, 3 recievers, and many modifiers and accessories that go with it all. Now I make a decent income from all of this so it is justified in my pursuit. If I didn稚 have the income coming in I would most likely still be using continuous light.

Some considerations when choosing your lights:



Monoblocs

Monolights offer a wide range of features. B&H proved a summary of the different features here

Guide numbers when looking at Monoblocs:

Electronic flash units with fixed reflectors are usually rated with a guide number for a specific ISO (usually ISO 100). The guide number is used to calculate the lens f/stop setting for a good flash exposure when both the ISO rating of the film and the distance from the flash to the subject are known.

To determine the f/stop needed, divide the guide number by the distance. To determine the distance that can be illuminated, divide the guide number by the f/stop.

A simple chart I made when comparing different brands of lights before I purchased the AB痴 to decide if I could get the amount of light for what I planned on shooting using certain powered systems:









Considerations when choosing Hot Lights (flood):



B&H provide some good advice here



Modifiers (for both Flood, Speedlights and Strobes)

Modifiers help to "shape" the light. There are a large number of commercially available modifiers to suit a range of tasks. You can even make your own.

Sources for Modifiers

A Better Bounce Card

Mila grid

Honl Photo

Lightsphere

Presslite vertex modifier

Demb Flip-it

Lightsphere

Lumodi Beauty Dish



Connections for Sony/Minolta cameras



Shooting with Sony/Minolta cameras we have to figure how to fire our strobes off camera. There are actually many options out there, although we usually need some form of adapter to allow it due to our proprietary hotshoe.

To connect any transmitter to your hotshoe you will need a FS-1100 or FS-1100 clone. This is designed to connect to your shoe and provides a standard iso shoe on the top to connect your transmitter. Some have PC Sync ports on them, some don稚.

If you plan on using a speedlight off camera and trigger is with a receiver you may also need another adapter, such as a FS-1200. This allows you to mount your speedlight to it and also has electronic inputs to connect your receiver to. Sony also makes an Off Camera Shoe (FA-CS1AM) for $50. The other option is to buy a Hotshoe to PW/Cybersync/Skyport connector from FlashZebra (Item #0141) for $28.50. I have one of these for each of my speedlights.

Sony does make a Hotshoe Adapter (FA-HS1AM) for $130, although I see no real advantage to this over the FS-100 clones available for $40.

If you are using Strobes (monoblocs) and don稚 want to go wireless Sony does offer a Sync Terminal Adaptor (FA-ST1AM) for $180 and mounts in your hotshoe. I don稚 think this is an economical solution. They also offer the Triple Connector (FA-TC1AM) $70, although this also requires an Off-Camera Cable (FA-CC1AM - $60).

Sources for Connectors

Sonystyle (USA)

Amazon Seagull SC-5 Hotshoe Adapter

Gadget Infinity

FlashZebra



Transmitters and Receivers

When working with Strobes (and off camera speedlights) you will need some way to fire them. That can be done in a wired mode using the Triple Connector from Sony and sync cords, or more easily by using a transmitter and receivers. The transmitter will need to be fitted onto a FS-1100 and then put on your camera. The receivers will plug directly into monoblocs (with supplied cable/adapter) or if you are using the receiver on speedlights you will need either FS-1200 w/ pc sync ports or Hotshoe to PW/Cybersync/Skyport connector from FlashZebra (Item #0141).

Keep in mind, whatever system (of strobes) you decide to use you will be shooting in Manual on your camera. Don稚 let this scare you off, as once you get a feel for it, it痴 really not that big a deal. You might want to buy a flash meter, but it痴 not required as you can use the histogram on your camera to decide what you need. I personally use a meter as I find it easier to get my exposure quicker, especially when shooting in bright ambient light or dark backgrounds (high contrast scenes). Your mileage may vary.

You will need one Transmitter and I recommend one Receiver for each light. While most lights, be it speedlights or monoblocs, usually have a built in slave trippermeaning you can use one receiver on a light and trip the others by the flash of the first, this can lead to issuesline of sight, other light sources tripping your lights, etc. Therefore spend a little bit more and buy the extra receiver, in the end you値l be much happier.

Also make sure the system you buy into supports multiple frequencies so if you are having problems w/ false triggers you can change frequency to fix it.

Sources for Tansmitters/Receivers

Elinchrome Skyport

PCB CyberSyncs CST & CSRB or CSRB +(Only need the + receiver if getting a CyberCommander)

Pocket Wizards

Radio Poppers (not thoroughly tested w/ speedlights, but work with Strobes)

Cactus



Using Light

Assuming that you致e decided on a light source lets now discuss some about using your light.

In the beginning it is recommended that you start with one light. This will quickly teach you how positioning the light impacts your image. While one light isn稚 always enough, you can certainly create outstanding images with one light or one light and a reflector. Use a reflector on the shadow side (opposite side of the light) to fill in shadows. White reflectors are softer light and need to be positioned closer to the subject where Gold and Silver have more punch and you can vary the distance more. Reflectors are your friend and you should have at least one in your kit. A good 5in1 Collapsible reflector will serve you well.

Setting the Key Light

Basic Placement 45 degrees to one side of the subject.   Place it on the side opposite to the direction in which you致e placed your subject face. If the face is turned camera left, place the light camera right. The easiest way to determine proper placement is to watch the nose shadow. It should extend from the nose to the far corner of the lips.

Terminology

Key Light Main light source

Fill Light Secondary light, used to fill shadows created by the Key Light.

Rim Light placed behind the subject to provide a 途im or glow on the edges of their frame to provide separation from the background

Hair Light similar to a rim light, placed above or above/behind the subject to provide separation

Background Light provides light on the background

Gobo An object that goes between a light and the target of the light. Can be used to cast shadows or created drama.

Flag Something to block light from hitting an area of your scene.



Commons issues when using strobes

1.     Unwanted background shadow

a.     Move subject farther from the background

b.     Use bounce flash

c.     Change the angle of the light to so the shadow falls outside the image

2.     Deep Eye Shadows

a.     This occurs when you bounce light off an umbrella or ceiling from and angle that is to high in relation to the subject.

b.     Move the light back farther, allowing more fill

c.     Drop the light lower

3.     Ghoul Lighting

a.     This occurs when you light is pointed up at your subject

b.     Check the shadow of the nose, it should never point upward on the face, make sure it is pointing level across the face or downward.

4.     Glare from Glasses/reflective surfaces

a.     For glasses you can change the angle of the light or the angle of the glasses slightly on the face

b.     Polarizing filters can eliminate this as well.

Once you master one light and a reflector, add another light. A fill light. Now you essentially have a Key, Fill and hair/rim or background light. This is true because you can continue to use the Key and reflector as fill and use the additional light as rim/hair/background light.

Setting the Fill Light

The function of the fill light is to fill shadows created by the Key light. Another function is to add light to the eyes. The Fill should be positioned closer to the camera than the Key Light, at about the same height as the camera and on the opposite side of the Key Light. A 4:1 ratio works nicelywhich means the Key Light is 4x the strength of the fill. This becomes a personal preference and takes experimentation to find what you and your subject prefer.

NOTE: These recommendations/rules are for traditional portrait setup. Rules are important to know, this way you know when to break them.



Resources Good Reading on Lighting





Strobist - check out the lighting tutorials

Neil van Niekerk

video tutorial studio lighting tutorial by Ken Henderson

Master Lighting Guide (An excellent book)





Edited by Frankman



Welcome to the next instalment of our lighting series. Again, courtesy of Nico (Octupi). Thank you Nico.







Light Modifiers



This is by no means an exhaustive list of manufacturers or types of modifiers. This is put together to aide you in your understanding and decision making of what type of modifier may be needed in your kit. There are no magic products that will meet all of your needs.



Definition / Description of light modifiers

The below descriptions are interpretive to give you an idea of what to expect from each type of modifier. Most can be found for either speedlights or monoblocs.

     Snoot = a cone or tube accessory to focus your light into a spot light

     Grid = come in a variety of density, 10 degrees through 40 typically. Used to narrow the beam of your light similar to a snoot, but has a softer edge/fall off.

     Flag = used to prevent light from falling on your subject

     Gobo = an object placed between the light and target to cast unique shadows

     Reflector = used to bounce light in a given direction

     Gels = used to alter the color of your light to better balance it with ambient

     Bounce Card = used on a speed light to direct some of the light forward onto your subject while allowing the majority of the light to be bounced off another surface

     Umbrella = can be used as a shoot through or in bounce configuration. Good for lighting a large group. Spill light is hard to control, not as easy to feather the light. Results in almost round catchlights.

     Shoot through = more light loss, softer

     Bounce = depending on the surface color can be soft light (white), hard light (Silver) or warm (gold). All are still a bit harder light than a Shoot through

     Soft Box =usually have internal and external diffusion. The internal can be removed to reduce the softness of the light. Light is very soft and easy to feather onto the subject. Light is controllable as there isn稚 much spill. You can even reduce spill more by the addition of a grid cover. Results in square catchlights.

     Strip Box= same as a soft box but these are longer than they are wide. Good for hair lights or side lighting full length portraits.

     Brolly Box =(made by PCB) This is an umbrella that you shoot through that has an enclosed back that wraps around your light source to eliminate spill out the back and helps reduces some of the power loss as the inside of the back cover is reflective to help bounce it forward as well. Results in almost round catchlights.

     Halo =(made by Westcott) Same as Brolly box

     Octabox =8 sided softbox. Same light qualities, can use grids to control the light. Closer to round catchlights. Good for groups or lighting large objects.

     Beauty Dish = high intensity round accessory. Depending on interior bounce surface the light can be very hard (silver) or softer (white). Beam spread is dependent on the shape of the dish. Most that are available have an optional sock to diffuse the light and monoblocs models usually have available grids. Perfect round catchlights. Good for lighting a group.

     Barn Doors = an attachment that has four (4) adjustable panes to act as flags to control spill of you light source.



Speedlight Modifiers

Honl Photo Snoots, Grids, Flags, Reflectors, Gels

Demb Flash Products Diffuser, Bounce Card

Gary Fong Lightsphere, Origami Diffuser, Whale Tail Diffuser

Vertex Presslite bounce

Alzo Digital Portable Softbox/umbrella

Interfit Strobie kit w/ Soft Box, Globe, Beauty Dish, Barn Doors, Snoot & Grid

Sto-Fen Products Diffusers and bounce

Mila grid Grid diffusion

Westcott - Softbox



There are many DIY modifiers, and many of them work quite well. The question that needs answered is 電o they look professional enough to use in front of a client? If you do not do photography for pay, then you don稚 need to worry about this. If you do, then some DIY items you may not want to use. It痴 about looking professional and justifying the prices you charge. This is purely a personal decision and by no means am I suggestion one or the other, but simply you need to ask yourself that question.



Monobloc Modifiers

Westcott Halos, Umbrellas, strip Boxes, Octabank

PCB Umbrellas, Brolly Box, Soft Box, Beauty Dish, Strip Box, Barn Doors

Interfit Octabox, Softbox, Snoot, Beauty Dish

Broncolor Softboxes, Reflectors, Soft Boxes, Beauty Dishes, Snoots

Dynalite Beauty Dish, Softboxes

Elinchrom Softboxes, reflectors, umbrellas

Profoto barn doors, snoots, grids, softboxes

Smith-Victor barn doors, Softboxes, snoots, strip boxes

Photoflex Octabox, softbox, umbrellas.



- Nico (Octupi)





Edited by Octupi - 16 December 2011 at 17:16
 



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Swede66 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Swede66 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 13:46
What a great article Niko and will sure come in handy for me in the near future. Thank you so much for writing this, your time and effort.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote marlon127 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 14:24
Radio Poppers work with everything and use the same connectors from Flashzebra. You get an added bonus if you use Alien Bees as you can control the power output from the transmitter.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote frankieg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 14:29
Wonderful...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dogears Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 16:03
It's very timely and I have to read it again to fully comprehend, for now - thanks so much for this write-up
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Blair7 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 16:05
Thanks for posting this. It really helps.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Octupi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 16:07
I'm glad you all have found it useful.

As marlon points out, the radiopoperrs will work w/ the other lights, my mistake was I was implying the use of them as they were designed and that is full ttl setup as they would be on Nikon/Canon. They don't provide installation on Sony/Minolta speedlights to do this. I might be able to be done, but they don't provide instructions to do this.

And he is right, you can connect them to AlienBee's and get great control and even HSS out of your AB's.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dave2006 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 16:40
A very well written and useful tutorial, many thanks
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Post Options Post Options   Quote hashbrown Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 16:41
Brilliant! Thank you, really useful.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote marlon127 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 16:47
Originally posted by Octupi Octupi wrote:

I'm glad you all have found it useful.

As marlon points out, the radiopoperrs will work w/ the other lights, my mistake was I was implying the use of them as they were designed and that is full ttl setup as they would be on Nikon/Canon. They don't provide installation on Sony/Minolta speedlights to do this. I might be able to be done, but they don't provide instructions to do this.

And he is right, you can connect them to AlienBee's and get great control and even HSS out of your AB's.


Gary F got the TTL version of the RP's to work with I believe the Nikon version. I don't think he had to do anything special. I will check on it, but it isn't something I'd be interested. I would much rather have a 10ft off camera cable for times I want HSS. Very good article!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote DavidB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2009 at 16:55
Great work Octupi
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Post Options Post Options   Quote KoprivaMedia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 December 2009 at 07:31
A fantastic resource, and the links are immensely helpful! As a frequent scrounger of the lighting forum, I thank you profusely!!   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote MacDonaldJ2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 December 2009 at 07:59
This bit of reading has gotten me geared up to use my new 58AM...sadly it's on backorder though

Edited by MacDonaldJ2 - 22 December 2009 at 08:00
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Post Options Post Options   Quote tomiZG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 December 2009 at 10:37
Thank you very much - this is so much information, from very basic to advanced, all you need to start with... in order to be able to ask the right question (and get all solutions for your lightning issues)

Til today I didn't get the how-to of firing strobes from a sony system - problem solved now

Could you please just add another column in the table - for the metric boys and girls (just looked up on Google: 5 feet = roughly 1.5 meters) - thanks a million
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