data asset management

BUILDING THE HOME STUDIO PART 02: CONTINUOUS LIGHTS & LIGHT STANDS

BUILDING THE HOME STUDIO PART 02: CONTINUOUS LIGHTS & LIGHT STANDS

On our last segment of this series, I provided you with information on actual shooting necessities like cameras, lenses and harnessing tools for your investment. I also addressed concerns on actual shooting space within your home. Once you have your space situated, the shooting gear that’s right for you and you’ve learned how to use that gear (and you’ve mastered your manual settings!), it’s time to start building your studio. So let’s talk about continuous lights.

 

Benefits of Continuous Lights

There are many benefits to using continuous lights as a first light set or as an added set to your existing studio. For beginners, you get to see your end result before taking the shot. Beginner photographers can use continuous lights as a tool to see light quality and different light ratios by moving a light around their subject at different heights and angles. Continuous light uses are not limited only to beginner photographers though. Other reasons a photographer might choose a continuous light setup include:

  • There’s no worry about getting the right flash exposure or sync speed when using continuous lights as it’s much like shooting in the daylight, allowing your mind room to be more creative.
  • People tend to be more relaxed under constant light than under a flashing strobe, especially when you are shooting babies and young children.
  • Continuous lights allow you to shoot at wider apertures so that you can draw focus more on your subject or part of your subject – leaving the rest out of focus.

 

The Downside

The only real downside to continuous lights is that there are very few modifiers out there for them, with barndoors and scrims being the most common and readily available.

 

Continuous Lighting: Hot & Cool Lights

There are three types of continuous lights: tungsten, fluorescent and LED. Each light has its own personality where the light tonality is concerned and which to use is really up to the personal preference of the user. I’ve worked with all three and personally fell in love with LEDs, but that’s just me.

 

Color Temperature

First let’s take a quick look at color temperature as the different lights have different color temperatures. Color temperature is based on the Kelvin scale of 1000 to 10,000. The lower the number on the Kelvin scale, the warmer the color. The higher the number, the cooler the color.

 

Kelvin-Scale

Kelvin Scale

 

CRI

On a scale of 0 to 100, the Color Rendering Index or CRI measures a light’s ability to reveal accurate colors, hues and skin tones. Think washed out vs. vibrant. The higher the CRI number, the closer the light is to perfect light. I would not recommend anything less than a CRI of 90 when choosing lights.

 

Tungstens

Tungsten lights, literally hot lights, are quartz halogen lights that require a lot of amps – I would not recommend tungstens studio lights for small home studio spaces – especially in older homes – because they may not be properly grounded and can actually be a cause for an electrical fire. Since they require so many amps, you really can’t have much else going on at the same time on the same circuit otherwise you will overload the circuit, like I did, trying out a couple of Mole Richardson Tweenies and blowing the electric out in the whole front end of my apartment! If you choose to go with Tungstens, be sure to figure out your home circuits and what each they can handle before plugging in your lights. Also, be sure that if you plug a second Tungsten into an outlet or surge protector, that you do so on a separate circuit.

One other thing to note with Tungsten lights is that with smaller spaces, the heat alone produced by these lights can be very uncomfortable, except when shooting in the winter! I did, however, find an interesting alternative that could withstand the circuits of my old building and produced beautiful light for a portrait. The Lowel Rifa 66ex – 750 Watt Light at $475.11 each at Adorama. It’s originally a fluorescent light setup but you can get an alternate Tungsten light to swap out and use with it.

 

Lowel-Rifa-Tungsten

Image courtesy of the Lowel manufacturer website.

 

I only used one light for this beautifully soft portrait below. I liked that the light is inside the umbrella, which is collapsible, which is a plus for storing in small home studio spaces.

 

Lowel-Rifa-Fluorescent

Photo taken of model Deeksha using the Lowel Rifa 66ex. ISO 800. Shot at F/2.8 and 1/125 of a sec.

 

Another great choice for a Tungsten setup is the Interfit Photographic INT457 Stellar XD Twin Softbox Kit – retailing at $485.95. This kit works pretty well and you get two lights in the kit – but at only 300 watts each.

 

Interfit

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

Fluorescents

Fluorescent lights are an excellent alternative to Tungstens as they closely match daylight in CRI and are much cooler to the touch. One of the top choices for fluorescent lights out there right now is the Westcott Spiderlite TD6 at $429.90 each at Adorama. All-metal, the Westcott Spiderlite TD6 has the versatility to be used as either a tungsten or fluorescent light with the simple switch of bulb types. This bad boy puts out approximately 1200 watts of daylight power with replacement bulbs costing around $6 each.

 

Westcott-SpiderLiteTD6

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

An alternative choice for fluorescents is the Flashpoint CoolVee 7 at $199.95 each which includes a reflector and a softbox for each light.

 

Flashpoint

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

LEDs

LED lights are much cooler lights, and much more compact than tungsten and fluorescent lights making them a great alternative if you are looking for more portable lights. The newer LEDs have color temperature and intensity options, which puts them a little more on the pricier side of continuous lighting.

I had the chance recently to use a set of Fiilex P360EX Variable Color LED Lights at $895.00 each. These LEDs have a CRI rating of >92. At least two of these LEDs are needed for shooting individual portraits. Each light comes with a warranty and barndoors for modifying and shaping the light to your liking.

 

Fiilex

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

The great things about using these LED lights is that they vary in light temperature depending on which way you turn the smooth rotating temperature knob, a few stops of which you can see below.

 

Fiilex-LED-01-Hot

Hot. ISO 800. Shot at F/1.4 at 1/80 of a sec.

 

Fiilex-LED-02-Warm

Warmer. ISO 800. Shot at F/1.4 at 1/80 of a sec.

 

Fiilex-LED-03-Cool

Cooler. ISO 800. Shot at F/1.4 at 1/80 of a sec.

 

They offer a kit: the Fiilex K302 3-Light P360EX LED Lighting Kit for around $2,849 at Adorama, which has everything you need to get started shooting with continuous lights. The kit includes three (3) of each:

 

  • P360EX Light heads,
  • P360EX barndoors, and
  • Light stands;

Plus,

  • one (1) 15″x15″ Softbox with speedring, and
  • one (1) nice padded case to carry it all in.

This is a really a great deal for all that is included and the high CRI rating.  After using all three types of lighting in the past, I would recommend these lights over the fluorescents and tungstens for a first (and possibly only) continuous light setup any day of the week. They are versatile in color temperature, portable (really small) and create beautiful light quality. I’m actually contemplating getting rid of my old continuous light setup and making a new investment in a set of these!

Another interesting choice for versatile LED lights is the Westcott Ice Light 2 at $499.90. This is a great handheld, wraparound, daylight and portable light with an output of 1740 lumen and a CRI rating of 96. It can mount to a lightstand or tripod or be used handheld at any angle you want.

 

Westcott-Ice-Light-2

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

You can even shoot and hold the light at the same time should you not have an assistant available. The Westcott Ice Light 2 lasts about an hour on a full charge.

 

Much Needed Support: Tripods

Continuous lights are invaluable pieces of equipment. They allow you to see what you are going to get as far as the end result image prior to clicking the shutter and they produce beautiful flawless light. Unfortunately, they tend to not produce enough light and often times require you to crank up your ISO and slow down your shutter speed which means you will need a tripod for a tack sharp image. It’s about time we talked about tripods now anyway…

 

Manfrotto-MT055CXPRO03

Image courtesy of the Manfrotto website.

 

There’s nothing shameful or amateur about using a tripod to keep your camera stable when you take any shot whether it’s out in the field or inside a studio. All professional photographers own and use a tripod regularly. If you are shooting in a small space, a tripod can be a great tool to get that spot-on tack-sharp image every time. You can read more on tripods through an article I recently wrote on how to choose a tripod that is right for you.

 

Lightstands

As you begin to add expensive pieces of equipment like lights to your home studio, you’ll want to make sure you buy proper light stands to support your investment. Regardless of the type of lighting  you may use now or in the future, light stands are a piece of equipment that you will want to think a little more long-term about as there are so many types, sizes and options available.

 

_DMW0126

Just a fraction of my light stand collection…

 

Considerations for Choosing the Right Light Stands for You

There are several considerations that factor in when choosing light stands for your home studio. Some things to think about include:

 

What is the maximum height of the light stand? While you do not have to extend most light stands all the way to use them as you want, some combi-boom stands (like the one shown above) require at least a 10-foot ceiling height in order to turn it from a regular light stand to a boom stand to use as a hair light. In this case, the height of your ceiling might affect your choices for using certain light stands.
What is the minimum height of the light stand? If you are looking for something that sinks low to the floor to pop light on things like feet/shoes, a pet, a baby at play, etc., most regular stands have a minimum height of 2-½ to 3 feet. In this case, you would also need a floor stand (shown at the far left in the image above) to light things low to the ground.
How much weight can the light stand carry? Whether you are using a portable flash, a small LED light, a heavy tungsten light or a strobe, you will need to make sure that the lightstand you put underneath that light will support it without it collapsing.
How much does the light stand weigh? If you plan to move it from your home studio to the field and back often, a steel light stand probably isn’t the best choice for you. You would want something portable and light.
All of this information is typically found on the light stand package or on the specs page of the light stand’s location on a website.
Types of Light Stands
Tripod Stands

Tripod stands can be useful for both inside the studio and outside the studio because they are lightweight and portable. However, aluminum light stands do tend to wear out a little quicker and can get bent if moved around often if you take them out of the studio and on location – especially those thin cheap stands. If you decide to save a few bucks in the beginning and go the aluminum tripod stand route, check out the Manfrotto 1004BAC 144″ Air Cushioned Aluminum Master Light Stand at Adorama for $114.99.

 

Manfrotto-Stand

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

I own a few of these due to the girth of the column and legs. Note that this is an air-cushioned light stand. This is really important as if you have a heavy light on top of your light stand and you lose your grip while lowering the light, the air cushioning will take the sting out of the light’s plummet to the next level of the stand – which could result in damage without this.

Sometimes you need a short light stands to light feet or to light a background behind a subject and while they are aluminium, I have have found the Interfit Compact Light Stands which Adorama sells for $26.93 to be very convenient to have on hand.

 

Interfit-Stand

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

When purchasing a light stand, don’t forget sandbags!! You will need these to keep your light stand from toppling over..

 

C-stands
Strictly in the studio, C-stands are a great choice as, because of their weight and construction, they feel very solid and tend to last substantially longer than aluminium stands. The downside is that they do not have that air-cushioning option and you would have to be very careful using them.

 

Avenger-CStand

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

I just recently started the process of replacing my old Manfrotto aluminium stands and purchased an inexpensive Avenger 9.8′ Chrome Stell C-Stand 30  found at Adorama for $168.99. Some C-stands have adjustable legs for uneven flooring or for use on staircases. This can also be found in a kit form as the Avenger 9.8′ C-Stand 30 Kit with A2030D Turtle Base C-Stand, D520L Extension Arm and D200 Grip Head for $215.99. The extension arm and grip head are useful when using the stand to hold a light at a particular angle like overhead as a hair light or to hold a flag or scrim.

While I’ve mentioned a few light stands here, the right light stand(s)s for you really depend on your preferences and accommodations posed in the questions I’ve included above.

 

Sandbags

Whatever light stand you choose, don’t forget  to invest in sandbags! While the load capacity of a light stand will hold the weight of your light, it doesn’t guarantee that the gravity from the weight of your modifier hanging off of the light will not have it topple over. A good practice to have is to be sure you position your light over a leg for stability and place heavy sandbags on the legs opposite your modifier to help prevent a heavy light modifier from dragging your entire set up to the ground.

 

Sandbags

Image courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

An inexpensive option for sandbags, which I actually own are the Flashpoint Weight Sand Bags which you can find for $12.95 each at Adorama. Start with at least two per stand, though you may find the need for more as you continue to build your home studio.

 

Building Your Portfolio:
Photography Workflow and Data Asset Management

As you are beginning to build your portfolio with beautiful images in your home studio, I think now it’s a good time to start thinking about workflow and a photo editing software that you would like to include in your workflow. I say this from experience that it’s a good idea to have a good workflow in place at the start, unlike I did, because before you know it, you will have taken 26,000 images and not have any idea how to organize and edit them in an efficient streamlined fashion. I’ve recently written a great article on Photography Workflow and Data Asset Management on the Adorama ALC here.

 

I think this is a good point to break away and allow you to take time to digest some of these next steps in building your home studio project. Continuous lights are not only the best first step in studio lighting because they teach you how to position your lights for your intended vision but they also produce beautiful light with flawless results on your portrait subjects. As we begin discussing light types going forward, regardless of the type of light you decide to add to your gear portfolio, you will need a good quality light stand to support your investment. No matter if you are going with continuous lights or for any use in photography, tripods can be key in getting a tack-sharp image, and I’ve provided you with more information on those here. Lastly, whether you are in the studio or on location, as you are building your portfolio, you need to have a good workflow in place – which includes the use of a way of organizing and backing up your images as well as a preferred photo editing software program – that will get you from capture to distribution.

While the choices in this article are just a few suggestions. I encourage you question yourself about your purposes and needs for what you want to accomplish with your home studio and then read up more on specific continuous lights. Rent them. Try them out first and then make a decision.

 

Until next time…

 

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Photography Workflow and Digital Asset Management (D.A.M.)

Photography Workflow and Digital Asset Management (D.A.M.)

by Dawn M. Wayand
All images by Dawn M. Wayand unless otherwise noted.

 

As you begin or continue to build a growing portfolio of images, it’s  important to have an organized system or workflow in place for moving your images from capture to print or web. Without some sort of process, your images would just continue to accumulate without order, might get shuffled about to different locations and could even get lost. Whether you are just beginning in photography or you are backlogged in images from not having a successful workflow into place, this article contains some helpful tips and suggestions for workflow as well as features of some of the more popular photo editing systems out there today to help make your workflow easier. I’ll also discuss a few pieces of equipment you want to consider to move forward in your workflow.

 

Workflow

Dawns-Workflow-Chart

 

Creating your own workflow may not come to you overnight and even once you create a workflow, it can evolve over time. You may even have to learn a few things – such as the ins and outs of your photo editing program. My workflow is still evolving – even after shooting for 16 years! It’s best to sit down, think about, and list the steps you (would) go through from camera to sharing your images – even create a flowchart for reference and for maintaining a consistent workflow system.

 

Potential workflow steps might include:

  1. Capture Images
  2. Creating a dedicated folder to a batch of images on your computer AND off-site and/or cloud backup system such as Dropbox. Be consistent with your naming convention.
  3. Creating subfolders within that initial folder wherever you save and backup such as:
    1. Originals
    2. For Editing
    3. Proofs for Client
    4. Finals For Client (Watermarked)
    5. For Web (smaller resized watermarked versions for web…)
    6. Behind the Scenes
  4. Transfer Images from Camera to Computer
  5. Backup images to off-site and/or cloud backup system such as Dropbox
  6. Import images from computer into your chosen D.A.M./photo editing software such as Lightroom or Camera RAW
    1. Add metadata & keywords
    2. Apply any batch presets
  7. Cull images (ie. “Rating” in Adobe Lightroom)
    1. 1st pass: might include taking out all obvious duds such as closed eyes or severely overexposed/underexposed images
    2. 2nd pass: might include a more careful examination for sharpness in eyes, focus and clarity
    3. 3rd pass: might include the accuracy you set for yourself such as composition, pose and/or review of any other expectation you set for your work.
  8. Edit images
    1. Enhancing images (easy editing in a program such as Adobe Lightroom)
    2. Fine Tuning images (more complex editing in a program such as Adobe Photoshop)
  9. Watermark final images
  10. Export Files
    1. Save high res file as a JPEG
    2. Save smaller JPEG (or PNG – smaller files size) version of the file for web sharing
    3. Save both versions on computer
    4. Backup both folders of images to external hard drive
    5. Backup both folders of images to any off-site storage
    6. Backup both folders of images to cloud storage such as Dropbox
  11. Share Files
    1. Upload images to website or blog
    2. Upload images to social media
    3. Upload images to photo display sites such as Flickr, 500px or Fine Art America, etc.
    4. Create prints
    5. Create slideshows
    6. Create books

 

This is actually my workflow, but people may work differently. Photographers should sit down and analyze their own methods to get their preferred end result from a capture. Write it down and use it. Once you’ve added and revised your workflow: stick to it and don’t stray. Moving through the exact same workflow each and every time creates a system that – one day, you will start processing your images without even having to think about the “How do I?” or “What do I do next?”

 

Selecting Your D.A.M. / Photo Editing Software

 

Data asset management systems and photo editing software play a crucial role in workflow. I would take a guess that the first time you stepped into Adobe Photoshop, you probably felt very overwhelmed and a little bit lost as to what does what and where to find the control options you need. Photoshop is a very complex but powerful tool that was built by engineers for photographers. On the other hand, Adobe Lightroom has a very simple interface where pretty much everything is self-explanatory. Lightroom was built by photographers for photographers, so what might this tell you when you are looking for a photo editing software program? Simplicity but powerful is good, but sometimes the most user-friendly interface takes the prize.

 

Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom CC 2015 (my screenshot)

 

The number and quality of tools available for editing is a big draw for users purchasing photo editing software. We want to have the ability to do anything to an image, so the more features – the better, right? Not necessarily for everyone. Going back to Adobe Photoshop, how often do you use each of all of the tools in the program? I can only imagine that maybe a good 20% of users have used all of the tools in the program. For those users, a more abbreviated, or express, version of the program is necessary and is available.

CC

 

What about digital asset management features? That’s where the field of software narrows down quite a bit. Adobe Lightroom combines a way to import, organize, cull by rating, keyword, edit and output images into various formats – all within one program – with the additional option to export to Adobe Photoshop for any fine tuning. Know that there is no contest between Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom – they are meant to work together. Lightroom is the quicker and easier way to edit images but it doesn’t have the options to handle everything. Photoshop begins where Lightroom ends. This is why they are now packaged into a Photography plan at the equivalent of $10/month – and you always have the latest version of the programs! We (NYCDPW.com) are actually teaching a 2-day Adobe Lightroom Boot Camp at the end of this month to demonstrate and teach all of the capabilities of all three modules of the Lightroom side of the duo.

 

Some “OK” Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom

 

ACDSee Pro –  a powerful and fast program, however it lacks some of the key features that the Adobe suite offers.

 

DxO Optics Pro 10 – while this program has a few great features, most of which the Adobe suite offers, it lacks the organizing platform found in Lightroom. It also does not work with all professional camera models.

 

PhaseOne Capture One Pro 8 – has many top editing features, however, Lightroom still takes the lead in organizational tools. There is no direct image sharing features in this software.

 

Essential Equipment for D.A.M.

 

Computer/Laptop

 

There is a vast ocean of computer and laptop makes and models out there to choose from for your digital asset management needs – that could entirely be another several articles to discuss!

 

Just a few basic mentions on computers/laptops in general when selecting your workspace:

 

  • A high-power CPU is key for photo editing as software programs take power to start up. You should look for no less than a Dual Core processor.
  • Sufficient RAM or memory is needed to have the program run on the computer/laptop. Look for no less than 4GB of RAM to avoid a slow computer, though 8GB or more would be optimal.
  • Try to get a system with as big of a hard drive as your budget will allow. Camera image sensor sizes are growing, which means you’ll need plenty of storage space for your work – as you work.

 

External Hard Drive Storage Options

 

While there are many brands of external storage out there, Seagate and Western Digital (WD) are pretty much running the show in commercial, desktop and portable external storage options, and that’s not a bad thing. They both make pretty good products and their prices are closely on par with each other. I own multiple PC laptops and one Mac desktop, each having a different purpose, so I also have more than one external hard drive too.

 

Rugged

Lacie 4TB Rugged RAID

Features to consider:

  • Storage capacity – drives start at 500GB and go upwards to 12TB.
  • Transfer speed – USB 3.0 and 7200 RPM makes for a faster transfer speed.
  • RAID option – having the choice of how to use the space on an external drive is key. I choose to split my 4TB memory in half and let my two 2TB drives mirror each other as a safeguard against hard drive failure.
  • Compatibility – Windows or Mac?
  • Portability – portable options can be used and left at the desktop and take up less room but desktop options are also available. It’s a matter of preference.

 

MyBook

My Book 6 TB Thunderbolt Duo

 

Recommendations:

 

Lacie

 

Western Digital

 

Having a good workflow is vital to photography, no matter if you are an amatuer, a hobbiest or a professional. Using a good data asset management and photo editing system is the heart of that workflow. Owning the right tools to make it all run – ties it all together. Before your next shutter spree, take a moment to analyze your system and revise it, if needed. If you do not have one, create one – because if you put it off, before you know it – you’ll create 26,000 images without a way to find any of them!

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments