JAS Photos 5:56pm, 8 February 2009
I was wondering if anyone has ordered a continuous light set up from cowboystudio.com - the reviews I've read online were good - just wondering if it's worth the investment to buy a package that includes two stands, umbrellas, light bulbs, background and background stand? It's pretty inexpensive and thought it might be a good place to start - I use mostly natural light for portraits but would like the option of having some studio lighting on hand for those dark, rainy northwest days - I'd love any thoughts or suggestions about what type of lighting equipment and where to purchase it :) Thank you!
Nicholas Cooper 9 years ago
continuous lights meaning always on? if so, stay away only because you will hate powering those things on location with portable power due to the short amount of time you can use them before running out of juice.
I LOVE continuous light - maybe because i come from doing film? - i rent "soft boxes" at the photoshop on NW 19 @ Marshall (sorry the name passes me right now) and they have information there about light kits. You can also find info about kits in the back of many photography magazines. Good luck!
JAS Photos 9 years ago
Hmm - Nicholas - I hadn't given the power situation much thought - I'll keep that in mind - thank you :)
Black Panther - maybe I'll go visit the shop you're talking about, I'm so lost when it comes to off-camera lighting, I can use all the help I can get :) Thank you both!
DougBPhoto 9 years ago
Strobe systems are generally preferred, and not just because you're asking on a strobist group... they produce more light and give you more versatility to get different shots.

Are you looking at something for strictly in-studio work or something to take on location also? (Where the consumption would matter, depending on if you're using a battery pack or a generator).

There are lots of options for what you can do.

The main benefit of a continuous light system is that you can more easily see exactly what the light is doing, but the drawbacks are that they don't produce as much light (less shutter speed, less depth of field) and many are hot-light systems and can get HOT really quick.

Regarding what coyboysystems.com is selling, I suspect they are selling generic made-in-china strobes or basic bulb systems for the continuous lights.

You might be happier getting off-camera flash units in the true strobist tradition, or something like Alien Bee strobes (www.alienbees.com) or Calumet Genesis strobes (www.calumetphoto.com/item/CF0502K1/)

If the NW 19th and Marshall is Pro Photo Supply, I buy a lot of gear there but I have never found much info about lighting kits there and they tend to charge pretty full retail.

Hope this helps,

JAS Photos 9 years ago
Thank you Doug - that helps immensely! I've actually been hearing similar things in the natural light group I'm part of - so I think I'll have to head in the direction of alien bees - although I need to check out Calumet - is one easier to use then the other?
I'm thinking I'd like to use them mostly in studio - well no, that's not true, I'd like to use them for supplemental lighting for on location shoots as well, like a client's home - so I guess strobes would use less power then continuous lighting.
Thank you again!
DougBPhoto 9 years ago
The bees seem to hold their value pretty well, with used ones in good shape selling for 70%-75% of new if not higher (not good for buying used) so if you upgrade later you should be able to get money back out of them, or some people hold onto them as backups when they move up.

One possible issue with the bees is I think their accessories (like speedrings for softboxes?) may only be available through the manufacturer (I am sure someone can correct me).

I don't know much about the calumet genesis units but I have heard they have a little more lighting control than the bees and their speedring matches a bigger maker so more accessories 'may' be available for them.

There are alway spendier, those two are pretty much the lower priced entry level units that I know of.

Strobes actually do have a brief current spike/draw to recharge after the flash is triggered and that "could" be an issue at a client's home, but the bees do have a battery pack that works for out in the field or could cover you if there was a problem at a client's location.

Continuous lighting will have an ongoing current draw, and if hot lights that can be significant, if cold-lights (like daylight balanced fluorescent) the draw would be less.

I am sure some on this list use bees so you could post a new discussion asking about Bees, I don't know if anyone uses the Genesis. There is also a studio in town who rents their studio and has Bees so you could rent a brief time there for a shoot and get hands-on before buying.

Sorry, no easy answers. Glad to help, I'm constantly researching these things myself, just no $$ to pull the trigger.
Nicholas Cooper 9 years ago
I am heading towards alien bees myself, and something that will probably be of help is replacing the modeling light with something else. I am planning on swapping them out with the low watt incandescent bulbs that are daylight balanced so if I plan on going on location I can use the modeling lights here and there without using as much power.

I figure a bulb running at around 150W brightness but only consuming 7-15W of power a bonus, especially if on location with portable power. :D
JAS Photos 9 years ago
Hmm well I searched Alienbees, right now they're just a little out of my budget, plus I don't have a lot of time between now and the shoot and I'm not sure they'd be here in time without rushing them.
Then after reading the strobist's lighting 101 (finally), I'm wondering if just using two 580's off camera reflecting off of silver umbrellas would do the trick and be just as easy as if I rented bowen's monolights (a kit of two)? Grr I knew off camera lighting was complicated, but I didn't know there were SO many options! :)
nikonpdx 9 years ago
The "bees" use a standard Balcar mount which is also what White Lightning lights use. Accessories are readily available through Photoflex, Chimera, etc. Paul Buff (of white lightning fame) also has accessories available as I believe he bought out the AB line. As a suggestion, you might check ebay for White Lightning Ultra units if you're going the studio strobe route. I wouldn't lock myself into just that line of thinking though. David Hobby (strobist guru) does some very nice work with just Nikon SB800s and umbrellas, and it's extremely portable.
DougBPhoto 9 years ago
Balcar mount, excellent, that was the one thing I had yet to confirm.. I thought Buff introduced the AB line and has both products.. white lightning and AB.. and yes they sell modifiers direct, what I was unsure of (and you clarified) was modifiers made by others).

Yes, the 580's should be a fine start.. the only drawback will be a slower recycle and a bit less power, but for now, you should be fine.

Hopefully using the 580s and umbrellas will help you to get your light stands and background stands cheaply. That is where your cowboystudios or ebay listings might be helpful.
JAS Photos 9 years ago
Thanks Nikonutah- after reading the strobist lighting 101, I think I'll hold off on purchasing lighting and eventually will go with a 580 and off camera set up similar to what is described on their blog. Seems a little (ok, a lot) less intimidating then jumping into studio strobe lighting.

PhotoSportNW - thank you so much for all your wisdom and research on the subject - truly helpful! I rented a Bowen 500w kit (two lights etc) from Glazers in Seattle for the weekend, to light the big group and also managed to rent the background stand and muslin backdrop - now I just have to learn how to use the bowen lights ASAP! Glad no one is paying me for these photo (it's for my Grandma's 90th) :)
Thank you all so much for your advice!!
[ninjaphoto] 9 years ago
One of the very cheapest versions of continuous light is the clip-on lamps that you can usually find at the hardware store. Basically, it's a lightbulb housed in a metal dish with a camp attached. They go for $12 and can be a great learning tool. Definitely useful for understanding angles of lighting and how they hit the subject. Sometimes WB can be a bit tricky.

I am also an owner of an Alien Bee 800, which has me done well over the years.

And yes, the spot on NW 19th is Pro Photo Supply. www.prophotosupply.com
They have a rental section as well as the occasional good deal on used equipment.

Hope this helps. I'm not much of a traditional strobist. Cheers!
Hardlinejoe 9 years ago
I've used everything from construction halogens to clip on lights, I started using off camera flash for the portability issue. When it comes down to it though, I love working with hot (continuous) lights and love the look. If I was shooting in a studio and I didn't have to worry about energy consumption, I'd definitely go with hot lights.
JAS Photos 9 years ago
You know, now that you both mention it I think my dad purchased a construction halogen for lighting, cheap, but really hot after a few minutes ;)
Ninjaphoto - probably wouldn't hurt for me to pick up a few of the clip on lights just to experiment with - thank you for the idea.
HardlineJoe- Do you have preference as to specific brand/make of continuous lighting? I don't have a studio, so I suppose it could be silly to even think about going that route for awhile -but one can dream :)

Another question, if I may - with a group of 25-30, indoors, with the two bowen strobes, would it be wise to do some backlighting between them and the grey muslin backdrop?
DougBPhoto 9 years ago
if you have the one or two flash units (like the 580) you could position it behind them to try to get id of shadows on the background if you can pop them with a visual slave (maybe like peanuts).
DougBPhoto 9 years ago
those little flashes on a little base would work great... you could even add some colored gels to play with the grey background..
Hardlinejoe 9 years ago
I really don't have a favorite brand, as I don't have my own pro set, I've just used other peoples. One thing to check for is to get a kit that doesn't just use the cheap reflectors on a light stand-those tend to be cheap crap and you have less control.
gabby flower [deleted] 9 years ago
I had a set of continuous lights and I sold them. I now use alien bees or speedlights.
Stereoblind 9 years ago
I tried a continuous light setup, was limited to 1/30th shutter speed. Other than that it was great for portraits.

I like shooting movement with crisp edges so I had to get strobes.
DougBPhoto 9 years ago
I found out more last night about the compact fluorescent continuous lights that I've seen with a high "effective" equiv wattage, the problem is that their light is not directional, so while they are cool, they don't produce as much light as they claim. (Plus they seem to produce most of their light at a right-angle to the bulb.. )

As mentioned by Steroblind, you're gonna get very slow shutter speeds until they are able to produce stronger CF lights with a more directional output.

I am hoping they will improve with time as they are still fairly "new".
Mark Chamberlin - SmarterPics PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Mark Chamberlin - SmarterPics (member) 9 years ago
I have both quartz halogen hot lights and studio strobes as well as small units for field work. Each has their time and place in my work. I think the "constant" lights are great for dialing in critical lighting because you see exactly what you are going to get. It is a lot harder to control though because of the heat. You are pretty much limited to softbox types of reflectors or honeycombs. They are substantially cheaper than studio strobe systems. I use Spyderlites with good results. 1000W and 500W.

The best, cheapest and easiest for the newbies, I think, is the small flashes. You can get by with Vivitar and not pay the fortune for Nikon/Canon units. You can also use cheap optical slaves to get started with.

My two bits. Good luck.
JAS Photos 9 years ago
Well after all of your wonderful help and words of wisdom, I rented the Bowen 500 strobe kit with two strobes, and promptly fell victim to the lovely stomach flu! Didn't even take the strobes out of "box" - *sigh.*
silverwolfe PRO 9 years ago
@ jas - bummer about getting sick, did you still get to go to your grandma's 90th??

I'm a newbie here still, but re: the compact flourescent bulbs - I've used them in the silver shop reflectors, and they worked well. I got the 'equivalent' 150 or 120w spirals - looked thru them all to find ones that had 'daylight' kelvin temp!!! they worked beautifully as fill w/daylight from the side for a maternity shoot ;)
JAS Photos 9 years ago
Silverwolfe- No I never even made it to the party - drove up to Seattle for it and spent Saturday through Tuesday being sick and helping care for the 6 other sick people in the house - not a fun time! Oh well.

Thank you for the heads up on the compact flourescent bulbs, sounds like your setup worked well and did the trick for your photos - I've been learning so much from this group, can't tell you all how much I appreciate all your advice and help!
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