Studio flash lighting
Most lighting equipment falls into one of three different classes: Light Sources, modifiers and grips
Light sources are any number of things that emit light onto our scene. It could be available light such as the sun or tungsten light, or it could be artificial such as flash units and strobes.
Light modifiers in studio photography are anything we attach to (or hold in front of) our flash or light source, to control the light pattern it normally emits. These would include umbrellas, softboxes, and reflectors.
Grips expand to encompass all the stuff we use to support and hold our gear. Be it your camera, or lighting equipment such as stands and clamps. (Source: http://photography.tutsplus.com/articles/an-introduction-to-indoor-and-studio-flash-photography--photo-4229)
Light source: What is a studio flash?
Studio flashes are units used in indoor studios. They offer far more light output than small battery-powered units, are usually mounted on telescoping stands and can be attached to various light-modifying devices for considerable flexibility. These flash units are powered by AC (mains) power and are not portable, like on-camera shoe-mounted flash units. They are fitted with flash tubes and modelling bulbs.
Sometimes they connect to the camera by a simple electrical cable with PC connectors, and sometimes they are hooked up to optical slaves and trigger in response to a burst of light from a master flash unit. Studio flash units are not, however, generally automated in any fashion. They can’t interface directly with the camera’s electronics the way Speedlite shoe-mounted flash units can and thus do not meter through the lens. They are typically triggered by simple electrical signals (“fire now!”) from the camera or a slave trigger.
The photographer dials in a power setting on a controller box and the flash pumps out the amount of light specified when triggered. Metering requires a separate device - a handheld flash meter - to measure flash output and determine the output setting correctly. (source: http://photonotes.org/articles/beginner-faq/flash.html). Flash can freeze the action, with very fast exposure times, and give you all the depth of field you need.
When choosing a flash, photographer tend to look at data such as the guide number of the unit, the power as well as the recycling time and the flash duration.
There a numerous brands that manufacture studio flashes. In our shop, we propose studio flashes from FotoQuantum which have Bowens mounts and studio flashes from Walimex.
A lighting configuration between 2 to 4 flashes is recommended. The background light is placed behind the subject(s), on a high grid, or low to the ground. Unlike the other three lights, which illuminate foreground elements like actors and props, it illuminates background elements, such as walls or outdoor scenery. This technique can be used to eliminate shadows cast by foreground elements onto the background, or to draw more attention to the background. It also helps to off-set the single eye nature of the camera, this means that it helps the camera give depth to the subject. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-point_lighting)
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Alternate text: 4 point lighting setting
Different power and usage
Studio flash output is measured in watts per second, or Joules. The choice of power output is determined by the type of photography as well as the size of the studio/room.
Flashes with less than 100W or synchro flashes
These flashes are used as fill lights. We propose synchro flashes of 55W. They work as slave flashes which are triggered by the main flash unit. They have an E27 socket.
Flashes with power between 180 and 250W are used in small photography studios. They are well suited for small product photography as well as half body portrait photography.
These flashes are used with big product photography as well as full body portrait photography or fashion photography
Powerful, they are used in big studios for group pictures, and other types of photographies which require an important amount of power.
Flashes can be usually triggered via different methods. The most reliable method would be a sync cord. However it would mean you would have wire tangled in your studio. This is why some photographers favour a wireless method such as radio trigger or infra-red trigger. Radio triggers usually comes with a receiver which will be plugged in the studio flash, and a transmitter, which will be plugged on the hot shoe of a camera. It is usually recommended to have 1 receiver for each flash unit. They can be used within a certain distance range according to the model. The infra red flash trigger can not be used in a bright surrounding as the natural infrared will interfere with the flash trigger. The trigger has to be used outside daylight in a darkened studio environment. Slave method: all flash heads have a built-in photocell, allowing the flash to 'see' the flash from another head and fire in perfect synch. On some models this can be switched off if required.
Studio Flashes have bayonets which will allow you to use a multitude of accessories. Each accessories will provide you with different lighting effects which will enhance your shoot.
A classic light modifier would be a brollie. It exists in different sizes and colours. It is usually fitted through the standard reflector of the flash. A white umbrella helps to soften the light and make it even. The silver umbrella provides harsh and bright light whereas a gold brollie give a warm tone to the pictures.
Useful, the softbox is a good addition to a studio flash. It comes in different size and shape and is usually fitted with a front and rear diffuser as well a speed ring and softbox adapter. The main advantage of softboxes is that, they produce very soft shadows, almost to non-existent. The octagonal softboxes / octaboxes reproduce the effects of umbrellas, whereas the striplights allow narrow lighting for a ‘spotlight’ look. The rectangular softboxes are useful when wanting a source of constant light from head to toe of a person. The square softboxes are ideal for portraits and nature.
A beauty dish is used in beauty and fashion photography. It gives a round effect to a person's pupils. The Snoot and barn-door create a spot light. A fresnel box is a focusable spotlight which can be adjusted via a knob on the back of the light from "spot" for a narrowly focused beam, to "flood" for a wider beam