Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Studio Lighting Setup For Photographer On A Budget

translucent shoot through umbrella 

Firstly, I would like to begin by saying that all or atleast most of the photography lighting equipment and gear out there is very expensive. I cannot emphasize enough on photography and lighting as they are two sides of the same coin.

After checking out the prices of photography light kits online, I decided to put together my own DIY style photography lighting setup. Its been a long time now since I have been thinking about it and I wanted to setup my own cheap, unique and effective lighting system under a budget. So I started asking, looking around and found many inexpensive solutions.  

In Hyderabad, where I live, like everywhere else, photo goods are expensive as hell. I originally wanted to put together a strobe/flash system but after much calculations realized it will cost me nearly INR 30,000 (approx. $550) for all the lighting and related accessories. 30,000 for me is not a small amount. So I started considering other options i.e cheap manual/semi automatic flashes instead of strobes. Remember if you are buying strobes you will also have to buy sturdier stands to support their weight. With flashes you don’t have that problem. 

Btw this article is NOT about Strobes Vs Flashes, but Expensive Vs Inexpensive lighting.
I feel using a flash system instead of the strobes is not only economical but it is also very portable. Can you put strobe lights in your cargo pants? I don’t think so haha. 

I did look for information on many online forums before preparing this lighting setup. We shall compare flash system with the strobe system in relation to their cost and related accessories.

A pair of elinchrome strobes on stands with soft boxes

Here is a list for the costly strobe system:

       1.Two Prolinchrome strobes – INR 18,000
       2.Two stands – INR 3,000
       3.Two reflective or shoot through umbrellas – INR 300
       4.Two simpex triggers – 1,200
       5.Umbrella mounts for stand – INR 700
       6.Cables/connectors – INR 3,000

This is just a basic list. With some more accessories the total cost of the setup will come to nearly INR 30,000.

Lets see how we fare with the flash setup we have devised.

Note: The all manual Yongnou flashes have no TTL or iTTL but you can use them to trigger other flashes/lights/strobes in Pilot/Commander/Master mode. All you need is appropriate camera settings. I am mentioning Yongnou because they have good reviews online. Some of their latest models do support TTL. You can add your own favorite brand in the list. Btw the Yongnuo YN560-II at just $77 is a great flash gun.

Yongnou 560EX flashgun (pic stolen from Yongnou site)

Some photographers swear by proprietary flash guns from Canon and Nikon. Its their opinion. The supposed quality itself does not justify the high price of these flashes that cost more than two strobes. Both Canon flash and Nikon flash are extremely expensive. Nikon’s Speedlight SB-910 and Canon’s 600 EX-RT Flash guns both cost INR 33,000+. Yes, a single flash gun from Canon or Nikon costs almost as much as 4 strobes. Yeah ! its crazy expensive and also ridiculous. But if you are really crazy about proprietary flashes then you can buy them on the used market for much less. 

Remember there many even thousands of inexpensive flash gun brands like Yongnou, Polaroid, Vivitar, Metz, Nissin and many many unknown brands. The mechanics inside any flash is almost same, so there are very much repairable and salvageable if they give trouble or anything.     

Sigma flash

With this list we are trying to go as low as possible money wise. If you have some more bucks you can choose accessories with more/better specs.

        1.Two Yongnuo manual flashes - INR 4,000
        2.Two Yongnow triggers – INR 2500
        3.Two reflective or shoot through umbrellas – INR 300
        4.Two light stands – INR 1400
        5.Umbrella mounts for light stand – INR 700

       The costing of this list is coming to a grand total of INR 8,900.

       So with this photography lighting setup you are saving INR 21,100 (approx $383). Yes a huge amount indeed. This setup is extremely useful for a small studio that is primarily into portrait photography.

Light stands

You can buy pro gear when you start making money off of your assignments, until then you have to make do with what you have and get creative.

When you are working with manual/inexpensive flashes like Yongnou or Vivitar etc you have to understand their limitations and have to turn these limitations into your advantages. On that note I would like to add that there is no shame in being poor and having no money for expensive gear. It’s really the disadvantages that teach you great lessons. In life you have two options, either you can drown your problems with a truck load of money or learn to work with your limitations and turn them into learning opportunities, creating, developing ingenious ideas and having lot of fun along your journey as a photographer.



monstermayank said...

Which flash did you get for 2000? Is it available online? I want to set up a small studio lighting setup at home too for practise.

Viisshnu said...

Mayank Yongnuo flashes are available for around Rs 2500, I am presently using a Vivitar 3200A auto thyristor flash at home. It costs Rs 1,000 only.

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