Look into a Lowel kit. The kits are reasaonobly inexpensive, and they put out a huge amount of light in spite of being relatively small fixtures. They are *hot* so be mindful of that.
Add large piece of foam core and you have a large, bright, soft light that makes an excellent beauty light. If you get a kit with a pair of Totas and a one or two DP lights, you can flood the room with soft ambient light and use a DP light as a rim light and/or kicker.
I usually only use beauty light and a kicker; if the kickers is soft enough it doubles as a rim light.
I'll second on the Totas. In tight quarters a single Tota and a bounce card can do wonders.
Lowel/Tota are great quality fixtures and usually a good used buy so shop around before buying new. Just taking a quick look here in the US I found a kit with 2 Totas, an Omni and a DP with accessories for $200.00
@WhiteCranePhoto for local ads there will be a lot of in and out fast. Amorson will end up in that situation where he's supposed to shoot something at a restaurant, in an hour, during a meal rush. A camera light will be a good thing to have for emergencies. If nothing else, he can frame a shot, hit record then quickly take a step to the side and hand hold the light panel!
The shoot about floorboards is a good example. He'll have overhead fluorescents coming down on the floor giving hideous 'front light' so a cheap camera light can be, say, placed on the floor, facing parallel to wood grain to pick up some dimensionality.
@Amorson White Crane is right in that a camera light tends to become a front light, which i. s ugly. If you get a light panel with a diffuser it helps, but not as much as you think. Bouncing the camera light can help, but not as much as you think, because an on camera light is usually designed to be useful for only about 10-15 feet.
In (over)general(izing), shooting with available/natural light is best. If that doesn't work, a "real" light kit is a great option, but I am assuming two things: 1) you're going out either alone, or with the guy who hired you as your producer--either way, you'll be doing all the work; 2) you'll be scheduled to go shoot an entire project in 60 to 90 minutes.
These are important assumptions, because all my suggestions are based on this scenario. If you get a crew, and/or a half-day (4 hours) or more on a shoot, then you have time to carry a light kit. If you have to get in and out fast, a couple of camera panels are light, cheap, fit in a camera bag, can be held out at an angle to get some direction, or quickly tossed on a light stand, chair, table top, held by your producer, etc to at least get SOME lighting when you're rushing.
My secret weapon for one-hour shoots is a little box of LED Keychain lights in all the colors (red, green, blue, orange, white)--the ones that not only squeeze, but have a locking on-switch. Good for 5-10 feet, they fit in a pocket. I did a shoot for a bar where they wanted the slow pan of all the bottles. Bar was super dark, so I turned on some keychains and stuck them behind the bottles for colored backlight that refracted through the bottles. I check my local dollar stores every few weeks and pick up batches for a buck each. Usually these things have about ten hours of usable battery light.
You should hit YouTube and search for "Film Riot Lighting." They have tutorials and hints ranging from clip lights and shower curtains to DIY to full kits with barn doors and snoots. Lighting is a massive topic.
@Triem23 you just described why most local ads look terrible.
If you're not going for heavily stylized lighting, you should be able to make a reasonably nice looking image without that much work. Spend some time getting used to setting up a minimal lighting solution, rather than relying on available light; 9 time out of 8, available light will look bad, especially with the prevalence of sickly green top lighting with fluorescents.
A basic beauty light is something you should be able to set up in 10-15 minutes. If that's too much time for your shoots, you need to step it up. You should be able to do that for your clients.
@WhiteCranePhoto any ideas of what kind of beauty light I can get?
@Amorson You ought to be able to pull off a good beauty light with relatively minimal expense.
All you really need is a nice bright light (like a Tota) that has a pretty good spread, and either a China silk (ideal) or just a big foamcore bounce board. Foamcore is cheap and lightweight, and the matte white side makes a great bounce light. Look for some lighing tutorials using Octas, and think along those lines. If you're lighting a single person, I'd go with something like a Tota blasting into a bounce board on one side (which side depends on whether you want the shadow side toward the camera or the key side toward the camera -- I usually use the former). The Tota + bounce will be your key light. Line it up so that the person is close to the far edge, i.e. the bounce is mostly in front of them. Then put another bounce, which could be another foamcore but this time the shiny side, on the far side of the person, more behind them and angled toward the person's back; just beware of flaring the camera.
That gets you the look of a 3-light beauty light setup with a single fixture, and would work nicely for a one-person shot. It's actually a common technique in beauty photography, though most beauty photographers use more fixtures to do the same thing, and usually they use strobes.
With more time, expense, and room, you can get an even prettier soft light using a Source Four, defocus the beam, and project it onto a China silk which then you position like you would an Octa, but the smaller Source Four Junior Zooms (recommended over the bigger monsters) are bulkier and cost more than Totas.
What they won't tell you however is that you could also go to the nearest equivalent to Home Despot and snag some work lights, put extra-brights in them, and use Home Despot foamcore instead of foam core from an arts and crafts store, and get pretty close to the same result as a Tota. You might need to use two or three to get the exposures you want, but they're dirt cheap.
I lit almost an entire feature film using work lights, a set of Ikan ILed ones (that cost a total of $300), and a bunch of table lamps, supplemented by an inexpensive gel kit...
There were a few scenes where that wasn't enough, where we used plunked a Kino Flo Divalight on a bigass C-stand outside a window to simulate evening light and that sort of thing, but that probably accounted for no more than 10% of the film.
And it looks kind of like this:
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