Your quick guide to basic setup
Basic Camera Settings
One of the most confusing factors of studio lighting is the set up. There are many myths and misconceptions about studio lights, so here is a basic guide to shooting in the studio:
1: MANUAL: Your camera MUST be set to manual exposure. SLRs and DSLRs cannot integrate with studio lights on auto, aperture priority or shutter priority like they can with TTL flash. This is because studio strobes have manual power settings.
2: Aperture: The first thing you need to do is choose your depth of field (DOF). Your aperture will determine how much of the image is in focus, whether or not you require a shallow DOF (a single focal plane, with the rest of the image out of focus) or real depth in the focusing. Typically, product / catalogue photographs have a very deep depth of field - F11 to F22, in order to preserve the focus on the whole subject, whereas more artistic forms of studio photography will use a shallow focus as a tool to draw your eye in to the image. Once you have decided on your DOF, the rest of the camera functions can be set up to enable the shot.
3: Shutter speed: In a closed-light environment (i.e. a room where there is no available light other than those which can be switched off), such as a professional studio, the shutter speed is the least critical part of the set up. The reason for this is that, in normal circumstances using ambient light, a faster shutter speed would be employed to freeze motion. In a studio, using a fast shutter speed is not possible, unless you have high speed flash equipment, and HSS capability (high speed sync) on your triggers. For most people without access to such specialist equipment, a studio flash will typically have a flash duration of between 1/500 and 1/2000, dependent on brand. Elemental Trinity Pro and Trinity Nano strobes run at 1/800s to 1/1200s, dependent on the power setting, which means that in a studio, you are using an effective minimum shutter speed of 1/800s. Most triggers only operate and synchronise up to 1/250s, so the flash is almost four times faster than the camera can operate. We recommend setting your shutter speed at 1/200s for optimum results.
4: ISO: ISO is critical to the exposure. Since the shutter speed is set to the available sync speed (around 1/200s) and the aperture is determined by the desired depth of field, the ISO must be set to enable that exposure. As a baseline, studio photographers would usually set their ISO as low as they can possibly going (50 or 100 ISO), to preserve the highest image quality they can. The strobe power is then set to generate enough light for this exposure. This is why traditionally, most big studios have high powered strobes - upwards of 1000Ws to 1600Ws. This enables them to use lower ISO's and higher apertures without compromising image quality. Modern technology, however, has negated the need for high power strobes. Powerful camera chips, like those found in Nikon and Canon DSLRs have incredible noise reduction at higher ISOs. You could use a Nikon D600 at 1600 ISO without even noticing the sensor noise. What this means is, every time you increase your ISO by one stop (i.e. 100 > 200) you are effectively doubling the power of the strobe. A 400Ws strobe at 200 ISO suddenly yields the power of an 800Ws strobe at 100 ISO. At 400 ISO it becomes as powerful as a 1600Ws strobe at 100 ISO, and so on.
5: White Balance: Our strobes are balanced to 5500±100°K, which is close to natural light. We recommend setting your WB to as close to this as possible. If you do not have a Kelvin preset option, then set your WB to FLASH. Do NOT use AUTO WB - our modeling lamps are balanced at 3300K, and so AUTO WB will preselect this and your images will come out blue.
Will Elemental strobes work with your camera?
How to connect the lights to your camera...
For cameras without PC Sync you will need an adapter to connect the lights to your camera, unless you are using a wireless radio trigger connection. We can provide a generic hotshoe adapter for this purpose but we strongly recommend that you consult your warranty card/instruction manual before using a generic hotshoe, as some manufacturers do not support hotshoe connection without a dedicated manufacturers adapter. All of our kits come complete with our Radio Trigger System, so it's ready to go when it arrives.
Minolta & Sony cameras have specific hotshoe configurations and will require a dedicated hotshoe adapter. Contact us for more information.