From the time when I shot my first session in my living room to when I first opened the studio in Valdese, the number one topic I’ve been asked about is… getting started with studio lighting! I do not claim to be an expert in this topic, but I have found what works amazingly for me and I want to start a blog series to share about that with you. In this first post, I’m going to share the basic tools that I believe you need to get started with studio lighting.
First of all you need a lighting unit to work with… obviously! Here is what I prefer in the studio (this is different than my speed light system for weddings).. AlienBee Flash Unit. You can order them in lots of fun colors and that absolutely doesn’t matter haha, but the 400, 800, and 1600 tell you how powerful the light unit will be. I personally bought an 800 and I never really go above the lowest setting. It has been absolutely perfect in every situation I’ve ever used.
Okay, here is where I need to put two disclaimers. These amazon links are affiliate links which means I could make a few cents if you buy these products, however these are ALL products that actually use. I found the links within my past orders history and I’m still using them today 🙂 The other disclaimer is that I’m a deal seeker. I could have bought every item from the Paul C Buff website, but I found better deals on Amazon and these items are years old and still working!
So now, to explain the actual products.
The first is a light stand, which simply holds your light. You want to make sure you get a heavy duty one that can bear the weight of the light AND modifier! I love this one:
Here is the purchase where you need to make your own decision… light modifiers. Why? Well because these will be based on your style. I’m going break down the 3 that I have and another that I’ve used.
Rectangle Softbox: I bought this shape when I was first starting out. I believe this works great for most types of portraiture, and I’ve personally used it for everything from cake smashes to portraits!
Octobox: I bought this to use later and it is the main one that I use now. This is because I prefer the catchlights that this shaped softbox leaves in my subjects eyes (round vs. rectangle). It just feels more natural to me and I feel like it’s better for portraits.
Beauty Dish: I love this smaller modifier. There are different ways to use this and actually achieve a softer look or more fashion forward look, but I’ve personally used this when I needed a more direct light inside!
Umbrella: I personally don’t use these because most of the time I don’t want light spilling over into my background, etc.. The other modifiers do not do this. I think the light spill with umbrellas can sometimes make an image look a little flatter vs. a soft box with a dark backing that doesn’t allow spill and produces more direct light. This is really subjective though and depending on your setting light spill may be a good thing, but I just don’t think it works well for my style!
Triggers/Receivers: These are key, and I, along with several other photographers I know, have always used these. Triggers and receivers allow your camera to communicate with your light and tell it when to fire without using a cord! This is especially important around newborns and kiddos where a trip over a cord could be horrible! If you care for these well they will last a long time and you won’t need to use any others!
Reflector: So you only want to work with ONE light to get started? That’s totally doable, but you’ll likely need this next item! You may already be using a reflector outside to reflect light back to your subject, and it works the exact same inside. Use it opposite of your studio light to fill in light on the side without a light! I use the silver or white side of the reflector for this, and prefer a longer one in studio!
So that’s all I use to light subjects in the studio! I also either use seamless paper, cloth/glitter fabric, or a paper backdrop from Lemondrop Shop Backdrops and I am mostly using just one light!
I’ll be sharing more to help your journey with studio lighting soon, but I hope this helps until then!