So Quality of light…
i am interested in buying my own studio light kit…
And there is an obvious price range… How do you think lower end lighting kits match up to calumet or pro photo strobes etc.? I am wanting to do a project for a friend in town and instead of renting expensive lights from samys, for the same price i could buy a “cowboy studio” pro photo strobe lighting kit. What do you think/
Congrats on moving to the next step – controlling your lighting. Please know that we have a 209 class on campus that will help you learn how to use studio lights and off camera flash units.
As for studio lighting, you get what you pay for. The cheaper kits can be good start, but know that you will need to make replacements. If you are planning on going into the business of photography, then this can be dangerous (and expensive in the long run) as they can fail on you before or during a shoot. Expensive lights can too, but it is far less likely often to happen.
I have not ever touched a Cowboy Studio lighting kit before. I have heard of them, but do not know anyone personally that has used them, so I do not feel qualified to give you an opinion on them. If anyone else reading this has any experience with them, please speak up.
I did do a little research on them and the reviews are mixed. When doing review research, I try to focus on the bad reviews to see if there is a consistent problem. If there is one, is it one I can live with? In this case, the reviews often talk about how cheaply the equipment is made. (When doing this kind of research, be sure to watch where the reviews are coming from too.)
I found one review that gave the guide number (GN) of the 110 watt second Cowboy Studio strobe at 90. This is not bright. Most well made off-camera flash units will give you a guide number of 90.
Let’s back up quickly and tell you how a GN is determined. A guide number is a multiplication of aperture (A) times the distance (D) your strobe is from your subject. In simpler terms… A*D=GN or A x D = GN
So if you know your GN is 90 what this means is that if your flash is 10 feet away from your subject you will need to set your aperture to f/9. Once you put a softbox or a diffuser in front of the light, this will knock off a stop or two. This means you will need to move your lights closer to 7 or 5 feet away or open your aperture up to f/6.3 or f/5. For a single person with a 80mm lens, I recommend you stay around f/8 for starters. For more people, you will need to close down so your depth of field can work for you to keep everyone’s eyes sharp.
You will then need to make sure your shutter is slow enough to be completely open when the flash fires. Some cameras it is 1/60th of a second, some are 1/125, and others are 1/250. If you see only part of your image and the remainder is black, this is caused the shutter being in the way while the flash fired. If you see this, just slow down your shutter. 😉
Now, it is possible to work with off-camera flash units. I have seen it done over and over again very well. If you are interested in this option, check out the Strobist’s blog. (http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/) His has all kinds of DIY (do it yourself) projects and links to projects like this one for a beauty dish – http://davidtejada.blogspot.com/2008/04/beauty-dish-for-sb-800.html.
To get an idea of how powerful this flash units are, the tour bus shown here was lit by them. This was done when the Strobist and Joe McNally were in Austin during their flashbus (http://www.theflashbus.com/) tour. I got to see them in LA when they were there and am a believer in these units now.
Yet, you may have your mind set on actual studio strobes. In that case, I can tell you that I have worked with Alien Bees (http://www.alienbees.com/flash.html)and think they are an exceptional buy for the money. The company that makes Alien Bees also make the higher end lights called White Lighting. The lights are the same technology inside. The only difference is that the Alien Bees are made of plastic instead of metal.
Whew, OK, I am not sure if I am being much help here, but I want to make sure you know all your options. If your camera store is big enough (like one of the larger Samy’s) they may have some of the strobes set up in back for you to try out to see how bright the light is and if it will work for you. You will want to bring in your camera, fresh with batteries and a clean card, along with a friend to model.
If you camera store does not have this set up, then you may want to consider renting… or talking to the guys in the rental department. I say the rental department because they are not trying to sell you anything and get to hear first hand feedback from everyone that rents from them.
Good luck and be sure to read the safety cards on any studio strobes you get. You really don’t want to get shocked by one of those. 😉