For a while I’ve considered replacing my current ARRI 800watt tungsten video lights for some LED equivalents. The reasons are various, but mainly due to the amount of heat the tungstens give off when lit. In my studio in the Summer it’s a little too hot with two 800watt lights running, and the video content I shoot is not conducive to having the doors open! The other reason is the cost of running them, two lights pull 1.6Kwh and over a full day’s shoot is quite expensive on the electricity bill, especially when you extrapolate that over the year. I’ve investigated various LED video lights and there’s a wide range of varying qualities out there. In the mean time I placed the Arri’s and Chimera softboxes on eBay and thankfully they sold for a price I was happy with. After that I was then in a position to order a LED kit
The main benefits of LED lights are:
They do not get massively hot when on, even at full power. Tungsten bulbs produce only around 10% light from the energy its fed, heat is created from the remaining 90%
They last longer than their tungsten equivalents
50,000 hours as against 2,000 hours (dependant on the type of tungsten bulb)
Light output: a 30watt LED bulb is roughly equal to a 150watt tungsten bulb
They are generally more robust and smaller
They are dimmable from 0-100%
Providing you purchase a good set, they are colour balanced and do not suffer from colour shift when dimmed.
I ended up purchasing a 3 point lighting kit from iKan which comprises of:
2 x 1000 (1000 refers to the number of LED bulbs)
1 x 500
complete with 3 stands, 3 carry cases and 3 remote controls
iKan Large Location Kit
The 1000 units are equal to a 500watt head, and the 500 a 250watt head. However as they won’t be having softboxes and because they are smaller in physical size, I will be able to get them near to the models without overheating them and them getting in shot, so they should be the same as the 800watt heads they are replacing. The 800watt heads also had sofboxes on which stopped up to 2 stops of light with both baffles fitted.
The full kit listing:
Approximately 35cm. x 35cm.
Integrated Wireless Control
4 Switchable Banks of LEDs
Integrated Barn Door Intensifiers
AC 110 to 240 volts.
DC 12v-14.4v Pro Battery Options
Daylight Colour Temperature
Approximately 35cm. x 17.5cm.
Integrated Wireless Control
4 Switchable Banks of LEDs
Integrated Barn Door Intensifiers
AC 110 to 240 volts.
DC 12v-14.4v Pro Battery Options
Daylight Colour Temperature
Every unit comes with an RF remote control giving you command over the light’s power and the ability to regulate each of the four banks of LEDs. The Ikan remote operates on three separate channels so three lights can be controlled with the same remote.
1 x ID 500 LED Light
2 x ID 1000 LED Light
3 x Light Stands
3 x Utility Light bag
1 x Stand Bag
I’ve not used them yet, so will post an update as soon as I have.
Models and photographers alike, often comment on the two 6′x3′ mirrors that I have installed at one end of my studio, these are typically behind me when I’m shooting. The idea came about after a conversation with Page 3 model Abigail Toyne, who said that when she was being photographed for The Sun newspaper the photographer always had a full-length mirror behind her so the models could see what they were doing. This was in the days of film where it was not possible to show the images on the back of the camera. I thought this was a great idea and installed two large mirrors on one wall opposite the shooting area that I normally use. The mirrors are used by every model to review their poses, tweak them according to my lighting before I take the shot. They have saved so much time, as it’s easier if both parties can see what’s happening and then act on that feedback. Sometimes when I’m shooting private commissions, I have to remind my customers to look at the camera, rather than at their reflection – but that’s a small price to pay for the added confidence it gives the.
I’m pleased to pass on this idea as it’s saved me countless hours and missed opporunities as I don’t have to spend so much time fine-tuning a model’s pose. Once I’ve explained hte concept and the lighting set-up all they do is look in the mirror and confirm their pose is right before then directing their attention back to the camera. If they need to be tweaked, I just have to say, I need some light on your <insert body part> and they can move to let the light fall onto that just by looking at their reflection.
The shots below are from when the studio was just finished, so it looks a little sparse!
I’ve just released a date for my next small group photography workshop at my studio, it’s on Saturday 21st May 2011.
These sessions are for up to 4 photographers allowing plenty of time for shooting, reviewing and getting to know everyone – as well as learning! Our model for the day will be Joceline Brook-Hamilton, one of the UK’s top full-time professional models. Joceline and I will be on hand to help you learn and ensure you get the most of the day.
The workshop details:
Saturday 21st May 2011
10.00am – 5.00pm
Professional model – Joceline Brooke-Hamilton
Location, my studio, Rushden, Northamptonshire
Lunch & refreshments included
We will cover the following topics during the session:
Different Lighting setups
Working with models
Review and set activities will form part of the day so ensure that when you leave you can put the things you’ve learnt into practise. Sessions are informal yet structured and allow time for questions and discussion.
Some of the equipment available to use is:
Elinchrom studio flash heads x 6
Broncolor ring flash x 1
ARRI constant lighting heads x 5
Broncolor Mobil 2 kit x 1
Elinchrom 6 foot Octa Softbox x 1
Elinchrom 5 foot Recta Softboxes x 2
Flats, reflectors (various)
Grids, barndoors (various)
Umbrellas, snoots (various)
Backdrop system and rolls
Plenty of props, accessories and clothes
Below are some of my and delegate shots from previous workshops to give you an idea of the type of thing we will be shooting. The style covered during the session will be art-nude and erotic mainly, but we will be doing portraits too.
So far all my bondage work had been learnt from books or from websites on the Internet and as I like to learn new things, and try to do them to the best of my ability, I thought it was about time to get some proper tuition. When my studio was built I installed some anchor points in the overhead beam with the intention of doing suspension work. However, so far I’d not tackled any suspension work as I knew you had to know what you were doing as the consequences of getting it wrong can cause serious injury or worse.
After deciding to get some bondage lessons the next task was to find someone to teach me. I researched a few riggers who offered tuition and finally settled with Rob Macdonald. The main reason I chose Rod was that he is also a photographer and hopefully he would know where my motivation was coming from. Bondage is not a lifestyle choice for me but I love incorporating it into my photography, so I felt that Rod would understand this drive and my desire to learn bondage to improve and expand my creative repertoire. Thankfully Rod said yes he’d be pleased to teach me. We discussed a model for the session and I suggested that I was thinking of asking Clover who is an experienced bondage model, and thankfully when asked Clover was excited to be asked and was available for the dates given. Rod suggested two 4 hour sessions and I asked for them to be one month apart. This gap would give me time to practice and get the first session embedded in my head before he piled on more knowledge and skills. The first session was booked for Sunday 13th February.
Sunday 13th February – session one
The tuition day started with me explaining to Rod that although I’d been incorporating bondage in my photography I’d been self-taught. I was to start in at the deep end, so to speak, as Rod asked me to show him how I would tie a chest harness, a tie I often use in my photography. I was a little nervous about demonstrating my bondage technique so early on in the session however Rod’s style was relaxed and easy going and I soon felt comfortable. After the initial demonstration of my skills, Rod explained that I was not doing some basic things well, or at all, which by the end of the session I appreciated how these fundamentals were affecting the quality of my tie and the final visual appearance of the ties. The fundamentals that I learnt were around keeping a steady rope tension and little techniques for tying off at strategic places to keep the tension in the tie. This together with getting the model to spin round rather than me walking around the model whilst tying. Like most things once you know it’s obvious, until then you never really think about it.
I did think it was strange being a trainee for the day, as I’m normally on the other side and delivering the training session. I am a qualified trainer and it’s what I do as my day job. This session did remind me what it’s like to experience a tuition session from a delegate’s point of view. This was invaluable and helped to remind me about the worries, concerns and fears that can go through a delegate’s mind.
I was a little concerned that I’d remember everything, for example I’ve already forgotten the names of most of the knots and ties Rod showed me. Makes mental note to write them down on the next session. The only ones I can remember are the Boola-Boola, a non-tightening cuff knot and the Cat’s Paw tie. At least I did remember to take some photographs, which proved very useful, to which I’ve referred to on a number of occasions since. My next session is booked for March 13th.
Left to right – Clover, John Tisbury, Rod Macdonald
Once the order had been placed with Hilton Studios and planning approval gained I had to make preparations for the arrival of the studio. This meant moving our existing rear fence line to accommodate the new studio, fortunately we’d just had some extra space as a result of a land purchase which could not have come at a better time! So over the course of two weekends I dismantled our existing rear fence and moved it back 4 metres which would mean that the studio would only encroach by 1 metre into our existing garden. I checked with Hilton Garden Studios that the internal dimensions of the studio were 6m x 5m and I’m glad I did as they had to make a quick increase the external size to accommodate this request, otherwise I’d have lost about 400mm on each internal dimension once you’d taken off the thickness of the walls, phew.
The images below show the build over a couple of weeks, I took shots as and when, and I tool a whole time-lapse day of the roof being slated which is quite amusing to watch. The final few images below show the finished interior and my meager start at filling it up. I made sure that almost every item I bought into the studio was on wheels to give maximum flexibility for shooting, the only exception is the stand rack by the doors.
I’ve been using the studio on a weekly basis since it was finished in Feb 2010 and I’ve found over time I tend to use two walls for shooting against, with a third having two 6′ x 3′ mirrors on it. The final wall is the one with the entrance doors on it, and it is the storage wall. The studio is so well insulated, I have a DeLonghe oil heater in there and I run it all the time throughout the Winter just to take the chill of the room but it’s powerful enough to bring the room up to 25 degrees, which it stays like for hours without having to add more heat. One of the shots in the gallery below shows a cross-section of the walls, which are 3″ expanded foam. I went for a solid American White Oak strip floor which was a good move, over the laminate alternative. The wood gives a superb feel and colour for some shots, and works really well in contrast to the grey I have painted on one wall.
I’d been having problems with the Manfrotto backdrop support system, in as much as it had broken and was a pain to use. The background system supports 2 paper rolls and 1 roll of vinyl and there’s the problem – the Manfrotto system is not designed to hold the heavy vinyl and after about 12 months of use it decided enough was enough and snapped at the chain guide.
Close up of damage to chain guide
This breakage results in the metal chain jumping off the sprocket whenever I’m trying to bring down or roll up the backdrop. This was becoming a challenge and an exercise in much swearing and skinned hands – it got to the extent that I didn’t want to use the vinyl backdrop! When it got to this stage I decided I had to to something as it was daft not wanting to use the backdrop because it was too much hassle. In fairness to Manfrotto the system is not designed to take the weight of a vinyl backdrop, but as it was now of limited use I decided I needed to find a stronger backdrop system that was designed to hold vinyl. I searched the web and came across Colorama’s backdrop system, Rolleasy. I’ve a freestanding Colorama backdrop support system which is very well built and looking at this product it looked to be engineered to the same high quality. A phone call to Morco and the order was placed, details of this product are on their website.
The shots below show the installation of the new system, they do a ceiling and wall mounted option. I went for the wall mounted option, both systems give the advantage that your bottom roll of paper sits higher than it does with the Manfrotto system, plus as it can take 5 rolls as apposed to 3 of the Manfrotto system. Price wise it is more expensive than the Manfrotto system, however it’s not really comparing apples with apples so it’s a little immaterial to compare it against the Manfrotto price point if you are using vinyl.
The system took about 3 hours to install and was fairly straightforward. The kit comes with straight edges for the paper rolls and an aluminum tube for the vinyl roll. So that was a case of unrolling from the old tube and re-rolling onto the aluminum tube. The cardboard cores are fixed with jubilee clips, which is a little Heath Robinson, but works and prevents the rolls from rotating freely whilst on the support pins. All in all I’d say 10 for quality, 9 for ease of installation and I’ll let you know how I get on with in from a usage point of view.
I’m running a small group photography workshop at my studio in Rushden, UK, covering lighting and techniques for art nude and erotic photography. There will be a maximum of 4 photographers on this session and being a small group I will be able to help with individual needs during the day. We will have a professional model for the day, who will be working to full nude and will sign a model release for any shots.
Joceline and beads
Date: Saturday 13th November 2010
Location: my studio, Rushden, Northants, UK
Workshop contents:10.00am start tea / coffee- basics of measuring and setting up a studio light- camera and lighting settings- different setups and lighting styles
- working with models- reviewing workLunch- group activity- different lighting setups- individual exercises- review days work5.00pm close Pre-requisites:This session is aimed at photographers who are familiar with the use of their camera. Previous use of studio or flash photography is not a requirement. Cost: £240.00 person – £50 deposit secures your place Places are strictly limited and offered on a first come first served basis, there are currently 2 places remaining on this workshop. If you are interested in this session then drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Part 1 of my studio build story left off with the decision to go with the purpose built building in the back garden. Having read the brochures and literature from both companies and done some measuring up to see the size of the building that would fit in the space, I chose a 6m x 5m building, (these are the internal dimensions). Pricing for both companies proved to be a bit of a shock in terms of the difference between them.
The Cube £44,000
Hilton Studios £24,000
I could not see the justification for almost double the price and decided to go with Hilton Studio subject to a visit from a representative and site survey. The survey took place and there were no major problems on-site. Hilton gave many options, like where the doors could be placed the location and quantity of windows and velux windows. The type of flooring and skirting board, interior finish, there was many options to choose from, even down to the quantity and location of light switches and plug sockets. One thing I did want was as much height at possible, so the apex was made higher standard and pushed up to 3.5 metres. The wall height was also made higher from 2.1 metres to 2.5 meters high. I decided to have one set of double entry doors, no windows, and two velux windows in the roof. The velux gave me the option to do daylight work without losing wall space to windows. The velux windows could be blacked out too with blackout blinds to darken the studio for use with flash. I deliberated getting an infinity cove added, and looked at various options, I even visit a studio that was selling their cove, but in the end decided against it and kept with a standard wall and skirting board arrangement. I could always use a paper or vinyl backdrop when I wanted a curve.
Alistair the rep from Hilton Studios said we would need planning permission, but did say it was very easy and they had not had one rejected yet. The reason for planning in our case was twofold; our garden backs onto a bridlepath so it was required for that, plus the planning laws had recently changed and any building over a certain height needed to have planning persmission and the studio fell into that height limit. So I duly filled in the forms and sent them off. I also popped round to our neighbours to let them know about the building, showing them plans and pictures of the finished building, which I hoped would alay their fears about a large building being erected in our back garden. As it turned out, the planning permission was quick and easy and the local planning office were very helpful, and with everything being online made the process much easier. I guess too that the studio being classed as a temporay building, at it’s all made of wood, I think helped the process along.
So we placed our order and Hilton Studios were planning to be on site in early February – as it turned out, just as the snow arrived!
I thought it might be worthwhile documenting my studio build as a reference for others, as when I was trying to look for ideas, information and help before I had mine built it was difficult to find much information. I did find one book titled Designing a Photographic Studio by Evelyn Roth and despite the promising title it was not really helpful for my modest plans. The book was aimed at commercial photographers who were looking after big corporate clients and needed 8,000 to 20,000 sq foot of space, vehicle access, 3 phase electric, catering facilities and a full craft workshop and so on. In fairness I did get a few ideas from the book so it was not a complete waste of time.
Double Garage Conversion
Initially, my idea was to get our double garage turned into a studio, a fellow photographer friend had done this with his garage and created a super shooting space, complete with infinity cove and ceiling mounted lighting tracks. His garage was very similar to mine in size and layout having two single doors, an apex roof a side entrance door and being detached from the house. There were a few problems with this option, like re-housing the two cars! I must be the only person on our estate that uses the garage for car storage. I looked around for a rental garage for one of the cars, but this seemed an expensive option, I also considered selling the car, which I’d built myself from a kit, but was loathed to do this. Still I proceeded with enquiries and measured up and got measurements and a list of requirements from my photographer friend.
A chap at the camera club I go to knew a good builder who had done a garage conversion for him so I arranged for him to come over. He said it could be done and arranged for a structural engineer to come over and draw up some plans. One of my main concerns was the height from floor to ceiling as I wanted an overhead track system with pantographs attached to it. I was looking for a minimum of 2.8 metres floor to ceiling height, and ideally 3.5 metres. So we talked about a vaulted ceiling which meant a change to the roof and metal inserts to provide the strength that we would be chopping away in the roof area. At least it could be done. I looked into planning permission and we did not need any which was also good news. So things were rolling along nicely. I paid the £250 for the plans to be drawn up by the structural engineer and the builder put his quote together. I asked one more builder to come an quote. The more I looked at the space and available height the more my concerns grew about whether the space would be big enough. I wanted to shoot full length so knew that I needed about 6 metres in length to comfortably do this. 6 metres in the garage was tight but possible on an angle, but meant that it would restrict my shooting options. I mulled these constraints over a couple of weeks and all the problems with selling/re-housing the two cars, and finally decided that for me the garage conversion was not a viable option.
An alternative solution
About the same time we were waiting to hear on a bund of land at the end of our back garden that was due to be sold to us. This had taken about 8 years to go through the council and local authority, but finally it seemed that this would come to fruition. This meant another 4 metres to the length of our garden and came just at the right time fro me to decide to use this space for a photography studio – it seemed the perfect solution. The only thing now was to work out what type of building to erect there. After much Googling on various sites, I narrowed my choice down to two options companies who seemed professional, adaptable and offered the type of product I was after, they were:
I realised that I’ve had my studio for over 12 months and I thought it was about time to review any annoyances and/or improvements that I needed to make. Having designed it from the ground upwards it was likely that there may be a few areas for improvement. I’d shot in there many times over the past 12 months from stills to video so 12 months I felt was a good time to reflect on the choices I’d made whilst it was being built and how it was shaping up to everyday use. I wanted to look at the studio from two perspectives;
a) mine as the user of the space and
b) my customer’s from their first impressions and how the studio made them feel.
Well insulated – warm for models and customers
Quality look and feel, clean, light and modern
Separate building away from the house
Viewing and shooting location
Large enough to do full length
Not intimidating to customers
Some settlement cracks need filling in
Needs a fresh coat of paint
1 power socket in the wrong place
So first on the list was the cracks which was easy to resolve with a bit of filler and some sandpaper. Next I tackled the paint. The builders, upon my request, had used magnolia emulsion on all walls, and I felt I’d like a change of colour to give me some variety to shoot against, so I chose a 18% grey.
Studio with one wall painted grey
Well for a number of reasons, one it acts as a great alternative to white or black, for monochrome shots it really comes into it’s own. It gives different reflective qualities to black or white, plus it’s very in vogue at present being used in many high fashion images and looks. There are more benefits too, which I’ll be covering in later blogs. So I paid a visit to B&Q to get them to mix me a colour armed with my trusty Colour checker rendition chart at the ready, but I need not have bothered as Crown do a perfect match and I choose 5 litres of that. I’ve shot against the grey a couple of times now and I’m really pleased with the results and gives a different feel and reflection to the lighting. It’s great to try new things and expand your repertoire. In a future post I’ll publish a blog on the build process for anyone who is interested.
The power socket is a work in progress so I’ll update once that it started.