View Full Version : Still Life Lighting Equipment List?

20-Apr-2016, 08:48
I mostly shoot 4x5 landscapes, but want to give still life a try. I'll be shooting mostly B&W for now, so not too concerned about color cast of the lights. What would be a good setup in terms of number of lights and ws? Also, I'm just shooting in my apartment so I don't have a ton of room and don't want to start any fires!

I'm already making my way through the Light Science and Magic book.

I've been looking at Alien Bee and White Lightning units.

20-Apr-2016, 09:33
For still life and learning about light, since nothing's going to be moving, I'd start with a 500W photoflood in a 12" reflector on a stand (maybe $60 or less), and a bunch of white foamcore as reflectors. Strobe has a way of not looking exactly like you thought it would, where hot lights are a lot more simple to read if you're just starting to mess with light. After you figure out one light, you can buy another, or maybe not. More lights don't mean better light, especially if you don't know what you're doing with them. Outside, one sun seems to suffice. :-)

20-Apr-2016, 11:35
If I go with continuous lighting, do I want tungsten or fluorescent? Fluorescent doesn't get hot, correct?

Peter De Smidt
20-Apr-2016, 12:32
What's best depends a lot on what you're shooting, film speed, and desired aperture. For a recent shot, I used flash, but I added some accent light using Ikea LED gooseneck lamps.

20-Apr-2016, 13:00
Light Science and Magic was the textbook I used when teaching studio lighting in college... great book.

Up to last year my favorite compact portable lighting setup was Dynalite's Road Series 2 head kit.
Finding a pre-owned kit is not that hard and will save you a lot of money.

I've always taught simpler the better and never use over 2 lights if you can. Large reflectors are essentially light sources themselves. Look for them under "Panel Reflector". The ones with plastic tubular frames and stretch fabric were my favorite to use. They break down to take up little space and totally portable.

Then I started to use LED light banks and they're now my preferred lights. If you shop around, you can find some great deals on them.

Greg Davis
20-Apr-2016, 16:03
I shoot still life on a table next to a window that gets direct light in the morning and indirect in the afternoon. I also have a 500w two light strobe kit by Bowen that I really like. A few reflectors, small soft box, and a lot of black foam core lets me make the light look like anything a want. I added a set of honeycomb grids off eBay to add variety.

Jim Jones
20-Apr-2016, 21:04
Study painting with light. It takes one incandescent light and a little know-how. You could use a fluorescent or LED light, but incandescent is simpler.

21-Apr-2016, 03:10
A lot will depend on the size of the sets you will be shooting... If it's just a small table top still life set, you might do just fine with some hardware store clamp-on reflectors, direct or bouncing off foam-cor, foil, wall, sheet, etc... The lamps can vary in wattage, and be LED, CFL, incandescent, etc... This depends on if the room can be darkened so ambient light won't mess with your lighting job... You can then use any of these, but just with a longer exposure... (Brush up on bellows and reciprocity factors...)

I have been using these for B/W macro recently using some old microphone boom stands to hold the clamp-lights, and this turned out to be very versatile, and gave great control over the light positions... And the CFL's near my head didn't set my hair on fire!!! The cheap reflectors have an even fall-off, and an enlarging timer can be used to time the longer exposures without operating the timed shutter speeds (so no camera shake)... Having a good meter that reads fractions of a stop is a must... This will get you going...

If you venture into portraits, all this will change... Bright hot lights, or strobe will required for the larger camera... (Don't cook or stun your sitter!!!!!)

Get started!!!!!!!!

Steve K

Jim Edmond
21-Apr-2016, 05:47
"an enlarging timer can be used to time the longer exposures without operating the timed shutter speeds (so no camera shake)"

DOH! I never thought of that! Thanks

bob carnie
21-Apr-2016, 05:59
I like the soft tent with small background inside - white walls and white plexi on bottom.

With this you can go out and buy home depot work lights and put one inside the tent shining up and the others on the outside shining through the walls to create the lighting.

This is only good for small objects but work perfectly for me -

21-Apr-2016, 08:21
If I go with continuous lighting, do I want tungsten or fluorescent? Fluorescent doesn't get hot, correct?

The advantage of hot lights, tungsten over fluorescent or LED, or strobes, also, is that the bowl-type reflectors have a natural hot spot, then fade out gradually towards the edges. Bowl reflectors on strobes do not do this because the tube is so large and usually located at the back of the reflector, not the focus of the reflector, so the reflector really only acts like a fixed barn doors. I didn't realize how useful this hot spot was until I switched to strobes. For the work I do, strobes have other advantages, but if it were still convenient, I could work better with hot lights. Soft lights are in vogue right now, and strobes are better for that, but the things you can do with soft light, only, is necessarily limited.

You don't need to worry about setting your house on fire any more than you do from your stove. You don't put pillows on your stove, for instance, and I wouldn't do that with running hot lights, either. A little intelligence can go amazingly far in this regard.

If you are absolutely set on spending money, I now use three Interfit 300WS monolights and a cheap fourth light for hair lighting. The Interfits are inexpensive, but they do all the tricks; they have a Bowens (as standard as it comes) reflector mount, so there are tons of accessories you can get from them from every supplier, not just the maker of the lights, they're inexpensive, and they have been 100% reliable for me for the last 10 years or so with medium level use. Don't buy the digital model--it's more pain to page through menus when what you want used to be assigned to a knob or switch! But as I said, you won't learn as much about light as you would with one hot light in a bowl. :-) Interfits aren't the only inexpensive monolights, but they're the ones I know. Before Interfit I used Dynalites, which were fine, and nicely compact, but they're $$$ and the reflector mount isn't standard. They used to be (don't know about now) a common light for journalists because they pack well and they're tough.

Regardless of what you get, listen to the people who say start with one light. That's Lighting 101, and you need to start at the beginning. You would be surprised what you can do with one light and some reflectors--it's really not an impediment.