PDA

View Full Version : Advice for a beginner with a strobe



chrism
3-Sep-2015, 14:10
Goethe was right (even if it killed him to say it). I need more light. Continuous lighting, with several bright CFTs (these (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/479657-REG/Impact_VA_902_VA902_Three_Lamp_Fluorescent.html)) isn't giving me enough, especially when using paper negatives. So I bought a single strobe kit (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/390686-REG/Impact_EX100A_KI_One_Monolight_Kit.html) and want to play. My initial plan is to use a digital camera and set it to manual, correct ISO, shutter of 1/60 and play with the aperture until I get something that looks right, then transfer the settings to the LF camera and shoot. Initial tests with the set up suggest for HP5 at ISO400, I require 1/60 and f16 - and that's with the strobe set to about half power. Is this a reasonable and valid approach, or should I buy a flash meter?

Second question: if it has to be a flash meter, any advice on a decent cheap-ish model and does anyone know of any online tutorials for their use?

Chris

Peter De Smidt
3-Sep-2015, 14:36
You'll have to do a little testing to see if the digital exposure will be a good guide to the film one. My guess is that you might get a better correspondence if you rate the HP5 at EI200, but this should be easy to test for yourself. You can also (probably) adjust the contrast of the dslr image to better match your film results. What you're doing is, in effect, making a modern Polaroid exposure. The trick, even in that case, is to know how the test exposure will relate to the real one.

Jim Jones
3-Sep-2015, 15:34
If you can find the guide number for your flash, it will help. That was all many of us had to work with long ago. Also, the modeling light on my White Lightning tracks close enough to the strobe output that an incident meter reading could be used with a fixed offset to the indicated exposure.

ghostcount
3-Sep-2015, 16:20
... if it has to be a flash meter, any advice on a decent cheap-ish model and does anyone know of any online tutorials for their use?

Chris

Sekonic L-308. In Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=search_videos&search_query=joe+brady&search_sort=relevance&search_category=0&page=), search for "Joe Brady".

Do not forget bellows factor when translating exposures from either digital camera or meter particularly at portrait distance.

jp
3-Sep-2015, 16:44
The only flash meter I've used is a Minolta Flashmeter IV. It works well and is pretty affordable used. Digital works too, but think of it as a meter rather than a judge of tones as digital responds differently to highlights and shadows than film, just as films can differ.

Heroique
3-Sep-2015, 18:47
Goethe was right (even if it killed him to say it). I need more light.

Reminds me of King Claudius' famous line in Hamlet: "Give me some light!"


If it has to be a flash meter, any advice on a decent cheap-ish model and does anyone know of any online tutorials for their use?

Like Ghostcount I love the L-308, esp. its small size and reasonably low cost – the Minolta Flashmeter IV has many fans here, too.

I fit my L-308 in my shirt pocket and it takes a single AA battery. How's that for convenience? Ambient, reflective, and flash measurements. Mine once survived a fall from a cliff when it bounced off boulders like a pinball. I've shared this story somewhere in a long lost thread. The upshot is the surprisingly shock-resistant plastic. Easy to use and interpret, too.

richardman
3-Sep-2015, 23:23
I have been using Profoto for over 10 years. Initially with 35mm film and I bought a Sekonic L-358 with built-in Pocket Wizard and it's the best thing since sliced bread.

Then I moved to digital and the flash meter is less useful so I sold it.

Then I move to 4x5, so I purchased another L-358 with built-in PW, and it still is the best thing since sliced bread.

if you use color neg films or good B&W film (such as the HP5), you have so much latitude that a basic 18% gray incident reading with the flash meter is sufficient for most if not all cases.

StoneNYC
4-Sep-2015, 00:21
Same advice as RichardMan, been using Profoto for 7 years with a Sekonic L-758DR and I wouldn't shoot without it unless under duress.

I would say that with some of the complicated cinematic lighting I use, even digitally I use the meter to check.

I find HP5+ at box speed, especially with strobes is more than enough, I wouldn't shoot at 200 for sure, but really it depends on your methods.

You don't need to get the fancy one I have, but having one that supports the pocket wizard frequency, and a few used pocket wizards like the Plus II model that are older but solid and reliable you can get them pretty inexpensively

Good luck!

chrism
4-Sep-2015, 02:59
You've given me much to go and read about - thanks, guys!

mdarnton
4-Sep-2015, 07:27
I think you may wish you bought something bigger. I use these, http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/569952-REG/Interfit_INT474_Stellar_Xtreme_300_Watt_Second.html , and one of them in a softbox gives me around f/16-22 on digital @ EI 200, with the box about four feet from the subject. On 8x10 xray film, which I think is around EI 50, counting the bellows extension for a portrait, I use between f/5.6 and 8. With paper (EI 3 or something???) it's going to be much worse for you than that. Also, if you haven't figured it out yet, shutter speed is irrelevant; effective shutter speed is the speed of the strobe, around 1/800 or so, depending on the strobe.

Your only strategy is first, to turn your strobe up full blast, then move it in closer.

I have a meter, but I don't use it. As long as you have it, and once you figure it out (like everything else, there's a learning curve), a digital camera tells you about lighting direction, reflections, lighting ratio and much more, all in, than a meter can possibly tell. Often with skittish subjects I will run a series of DSLR shots first in a session to get the subject calmed down and used to the process, too, and to explore posing options. Try that with a meter. :-)

DrTang
4-Sep-2015, 08:43
I'm still using my Minolta III flashmeter

it sucks when it needs batteries..but other than that..it's a beacon

Jac@stafford.net
4-Sep-2015, 08:50
I'm confused. First you mentioned using paper negatives, then an HP film. Which are you using? Paper has an ISO of about 3. And 100 W/s is wimpy unless the light is very close to the subject.

chrism
4-Sep-2015, 12:14
I use both, but I'm an amateur dabbler and just entertaining myself. Currently I use three of the CFT lights mentioned in the original post, but I still find myself using 2-4 second exposures, and while that's fine for inanimate subjects, it's hard for most people to keep still enough for a sharp photograph. On the principle that anything is better than nothing, I'm hoping the strobe I have will be an improvement. I can't really justify buying an expensive set of more powerful strobes, especially as I will be retiring in a couple of months (I have used up a year of the 2-5 I was told I might get when first diagnosed with leukemia, and I want to have a year or two having some fun with film before reality comes back to bite me on the ground glass!) I'll make it work.

Peter De Smidt
4-Sep-2015, 13:01
If your subject is static, you can use multiple pops of a strobe to get more power. Some meters, like a Minolta Flashmeter IV, will automatically calculate how many flashes are needed.

Jac@stafford.net
4-Sep-2015, 13:15
If your subject is static, you can use multiple pops of a strobe to get more power. Some meters, like a Minolta Flashmeter IV, will automatically calculate how many flashes are needed.

Peter, do you know if the flash meters properly calculate multiple pops? Multiples do not necessarily sum. I know that multiple exposures on paper under the enlarger do not.

Peter De Smidt
4-Sep-2015, 13:36
Hi Jac, you're certainly right about multiple exposures with an enlarger. I've only used my Minolta to calculate multiple pops with studio flash once, and it worked fine, but obviously I'm not an expert on that use. The attached shot was 4 pops at 2400ws, if I remember rightly.

139263

SergeiR
10-Sep-2015, 08:31
Peter, do you know if the flash meters properly calculate multiple pops? Multiples do not necessarily sum. I know that multiple exposures on paper under the enlarger do not.

They do not sum. Inverse square law. 2 light sources of equal power move you up 1 step :)

OP:

get Sekonic 308 - about cheapest you can get that works reliably nowadays and couple of at least 800w/s heads. Better - 1200w/s. If you don't care about color consistency much (or power fluctuation) - there is always Paul C Buff stuff (alien bees). If you do care - check auctions for Elinchrom/ProFoto gear (might be also cheaper, but will require you to replace bulbs most likely).

Check light modifiers you need.

If you stranded for cash and don't have funky fantasies about shooting super low ISO or lighting huge room with single head - simple portable strobe will do trick for iso 100 just fine. That with wee umbrella will keep you going for portraits for forever.

Alan Gales
10-Sep-2015, 11:45
If you are on a budget you might look for some used Speedotron Black Lines. Profoto is the Cadillac.

I use a Minolta Flashmeter lV. It double as an incident meter too.

Ian Gordon Bilson
17-Sep-2015, 23:19
Ah,yes ; last time I checked,for a 1F/stop increase with strobe,it worked this way. One pop : base exposure.
2 pops :+1f ,4pops :+2f, 8..16..22..32..45...64..you can stop now,because your strobe is a pile of smoking slag.
And the numbers are,oddly enough,just like the aperture scale on your lens.

mdarnton
18-Sep-2015, 05:45
On someone here's advice for learning about shooting portraits, I bought and have been reading Herb Ritts' biography, The Golden Hour. [Off track: It's a great book and I highly recommend it. The whole thing is clips from many different interviews with other people, interleaved into a flow as if they were all in the same room discussing their interactions with Ritts] One thing that I noticed was a comment that he moved his soft boxes so close to subjects that they needed to be cropped out of the edges of his photos. That's a good way to maximize the light output of a weak source, and I am going to experiment with it more. I suspect it's going to be good for an extra stop or two over what I now do.

Peter De Smidt
18-Sep-2015, 06:14
Moving them super close will also maximize their softness.

SergeiR
19-Sep-2015, 11:55
On someone here's advice for learning about shooting portraits, I bought and have been reading Herb Ritts' biography, The Golden Hour. [Off track: It's a great book and I highly recommend it. The whole thing is clips from many different interviews with other people, interleaved into a flow as if they were all in the same room discussing their interactions with Ritts] One thing that I noticed was a comment that he moved his soft boxes so close to subjects that they needed to be cropped out of the edges of his photos. That's a good way to maximize the light output of a weak source, and I am going to experiment with it more. I suspect it's going to be good for an extra stop or two over what I now do.

every time you roughly half distance from light source to subject you gaining one stop of light. So if it was 1 meter way - moving it in about 0.5m will get you one more stop. Then moving it 0.25m will get you another & etc..

Also it will increase transition surface and make highlights smoother (and bigger)

Jac@stafford.net
19-Sep-2015, 14:59
Ah,yes ; last time I checked,for a 1F/stop increase with strobe,it worked this way. One pop : base exposure.
2 pops :+1f ,4pops :+2f, 8..16..22..32..45...64..you can stop now,because your strobe is a pile of smoking slag.
And the numbers are,oddly enough,just like the aperture scale on your lens.

And the accumulated pops still do not sum for a correct exposure, but something less.

Peter De Smidt
19-Sep-2015, 16:42
Some meters will take account of successive pops. My Minolta Flash Meter 3 does so. The exposure based on what it said worked fine.

chrism
20-Sep-2015, 14:43
I ended up buying a Polaris flash meter, which will also calculate multiple flashes. I've played with the meter, strobe and a CFT as fill light with 35mm and 120, but next weekend I ought to try out a real camera with these lights. Fun!

Ian Gordon Bilson
22-Sep-2015, 23:20
The original Polaris meter I bought was fully satisfactory - replacing a Gossen Profisix,stolen. When you use the multiple flash feature, could you post the results? One of our forum members has challenged me about the theory of the maths behind the theory.
I ended up buying a Polaris flash meter, which will also calculate multiple flashes. I've played with the meter, strobe and a CFT as fill light with 35mm and 120, but next weekend I ought to try out a real camera with these lights. Fun!

seezee
10-Feb-2016, 12:55
Like Ghostcount I love the L-308, esp. its small size and reasonably low cost the Minolta Flashmeter IV has many fans here, too.

+1 on the Sekonic L-308 (or L-308s)

seezee
10-Feb-2016, 13:00
On someone here's advice for learning about shooting portraits, I bought and have been reading Herb Ritts' biography, The Golden Hour. [Off track: It's a great book and I highly recommend it. The whole thing is clips from many different interviews with other people, interleaved into a flow as if they were all in the same room discussing their interactions with Ritts] One thing that I noticed was a comment that he moved his soft boxes so close to subjects that they needed to be cropped out of the edges of his photos. That's a good way to maximize the light output of a weak source, and I am going to experiment with it more. I suspect it's going to be good for an extra stop or two over what I now do.

I've been working on a series of portraits & I have a beauty dish positioned about 18″ from the subject's head, with a reflector on the other side for fill light. Camera is very close to the subject, 'though, so the light is not (usually) visible in the image area.

fishbulb
10-Feb-2016, 14:28
My initial plan is to use a digital camera and set it to manual, correct ISO, shutter of 1/60 and play with the aperture until I get something that looks right, then transfer the settings to the LF camera and shoot. Is this a reasonable and valid approach, or should I buy a flash meter?

I have done it both ways... pros and cons to each.

Camera method:
+ get to see the actual shot on the screen, check histogram, and you get digital outtakes of your shot
+ most people have one, don't have to buy a separate flash meter
- have to figure out a way for both the digital and LF camera to trip the flashes/strobes
- digital camera may not have the same range in ISO, aperture, focal length, as a LF camera
- digital camera has greater DoF at same aperture setting as a LF camera, so the picture isn't a perfect representation
- film and digital ISO sensitivities are _supposed_ to be the same, but may vary due to in-camera processing, film types, etc.

Light meter method:
+ faster, don't have to pick up a separate camera to test the lighting
+ less gear to bring with you
- takes some skill to use a meter accurately (light meter readings will vary depending on where you place the meter, etc)
- most people have to buy one
- can't get a live preview of the image, no digital outtakes are created

Randy Moe
10-Feb-2016, 14:44
On someone here's advice for learning about shooting portraits, I bought and have been reading Herb Ritts' biography, The Golden Hour. [Off track: It's a great book and I highly recommend it. The whole thing is clips from many different interviews with other people, interleaved into a flow as if they were all in the same room discussing their interactions with Ritts] One thing that I noticed was a comment that he moved his soft boxes so close to subjects that they needed to be cropped out of the edges of his photos. That's a good way to maximize the light output of a weak source, and I am going to experiment with it more. I suspect it's going to be good for an extra stop or two over what I now do.

Peter showed how close he puts a beauty dish, way closer than I ever tried. I immediately shot the edge of the dish, but it is easily removed even with a wet print.

My X-Ray series just posted had the beauty dish very close, with a gold reflector and a hair light, mit grid hanging right above out of camera view.

I need to keep practicing with still objects.