Thursday, September 13, 2007

Setting up your lights on your hardware

So now you know what methods you can use to trigger a flash and how to make your camera make those flashes work. Now it's time to set up your gear to some light stands.

After this post, you will know exactly what kind of gear you need to make sure you have a complete kit.

In the world of professional photography and big studio lighting, flash photography (in the sense we are discussing it as) doesn't even exist. All the light stands are much more heavy duty and all take a variety of adapters. So don't take this information as the end all of light stands. If you want to know more detailed info on any types of light stands or how they are used in a more commercial environment, please post a comment and I will go into more detail at your request.

Which lightstand should I pick?

Which light stand you choose is completely up to you. In this section, I'll go over the basic outline of what makes stands different from one another.

I'll go over some of the basic terms that you'll see when looking at light stands and what they mean:

Damped (or air cushioned):

These light stands have an 'air shock' in them. What this means to you is that if you loosen one of the retaining nuts on the lightstand, it won't come crashing down right away. It will slowly let itself down while you hear a small hiss of air. This addition is nice, but can be annoying if you are trying to break down your gear quickly. You have to wait for the air to release out of the chamber before you can completely collapse it.

Free Sliding:

This is the same exact type of stand w/o the 'air shock'. When you loosen a sleeve it comes down with the quickness!

Stud size:

Most common sizes are 3/8" and 5/8". Which size you pick depends completely on what your use for it will be. For all lighting purposes mentioned in this blog, the 3/8" stud will be fine. (As my photography knowledge base and 'goodies' grow, this may change.)

These are just the basic terms. This will be enough for you to make an educated decision on what type of stand you want to buy though.

Folded light stand w/ 3/8" brass stud attached:

NOTE: You always want to make sure you can use your gear w/ new purchases down the road. If you have ambitions to build a big studio, make sure to get the 5/8" stud. The studs are usually fixed to the light stand, so when you buy a 5/8" stud, you are getting the more heavy duty light stand to go w/ it.

NOTE II: A light stand is exactly what it says it is. There are no clamps or brackets to attach anything to. This is why you need an umbrella adapter mentioned in the next section.

Umbrella adapters:

There are a few different types of umbrella adapters on the market. For all intents and purposes though they are the same plastic construction. There is a guy machining them and selling them on Ebay, but these are very hard to come by. I'd trade a piece of glass for three of them though. Since they are built like tanks and parallax corrected for proper light alignment (I'll link to this term when I post that blog).

What this adapter does is connect your light stand to your umbrella and flash. In the image provided, you will see the bottom 'port' that clamps over the stud on the light stand. Then the port on the top will connect to your flash.

WARNING! All of the umbrella adapters I know if have metal shoes where the flash attaches. Make sure to put electrical tape on the 'cold shoe' (the metal piece where the flash attaches) , so that it does not short out your flash contacts and cause great sadness.

In the image below, you see a visual representation of what this looks like and it's functionality.

Umbrella adapter:

With these two items and the flash trigger of your choice. You now have a basic light kit that you can use to light your photographs.

Putting the pieces together:

Here I will briefly discuss and show you how all these pieces fit together to make a light setup (or "light rig")

A side by side view of a light stand and umbrella adapter:

A side by side view of a optical slave about to be attached to a flash:

A side by side view of a optical slave about to be attached to an umbrella adapter and flash:

F.Y.I...You don't need a light stand to use your flash. You can get creative by using bungee cords to hang it from door knobs or branches. Use gaffers tape to tape a flash to the wall or ceiling. This Umbrella stand is just the first step in getting a basic light setup so when you show up to shoot something, you don't look like a complete toolshed!

In the next post.

I'll discuss umbrellas and how they can be used. Along w/ a killer tip to make your umbrella last twice as long for less than 25 cents!


Anonymous said...

I bought 2 good lightstand from China awhile ago, but very clueless about how to set up the whole lighting. My teacher gave me your link. Your pictures and explaination about brass stud and umbrella adaptor are very helpful to me. Thanks. I need to set up the Floodlight with reflector -- not flashlight at this stage yet. Can you give me some help about it? I wish you have a picture of that too.

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