Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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Smith Victor K78

Smith Victor K71

I'm not sworn to the SV brand; they were just reasonably priced and I remember using them in school and being pleased with the quality. I'm trying to keep the budget around $500 - $1000, but I'm open to suggestions. Thanks!

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I was also looking at the SV KSB –  miles May 9 '12 at 16:25
    
Halogen lights put off a lot of heat. Product-melting heat, depending upon your product! –  Dan Wolfgang May 9 '12 at 16:45
    
@DanWolfgang - I am shooting chocolate, what do you think? –  dpollitt May 9 '12 at 20:16
    
It depends upon how close the light and chocolate are as well as how long it's under the light... but I'd say the halogen will be a great way to get the chocolate warm enough to create a nice sheen! –  Dan Wolfgang May 10 '12 at 0:11

1 Answer 1

I can't answer the question about which kit would be better, but I would like to offer you a number of things to consider when you are making that evaluation.

Although getting a kit is often a quick and inexpensive way to get a lighting setup, you will almost always get a better result by building your light kit yourself. Here's what I mean:

  • Pick your style of light: Continuous our flash. Continuous will either be very hot or relatively low output as compared to flash. On the other side of the coin, continuous will give you an excellent visual of how your fill is working. Modeling lights on studio flash units can be weaker and shadows harder to perceive.
  • Think carefully about your modifiers and where they will be placed. A big softbox placed over the product will require a pretty stout stand and a boom. In fact, any head placed out over the product requires this unless you have somebody holding the light stand. When you are setting up and composing, you really don't want to be worrying about whether the darn light is going to come crashing down.
  • Think about whether you will be using hard light as well as soft light. These kits did provide a mix, and that should factor into your decision. A reflector with barn doors has its uses. But not always in studio catalog shots.

When I started looking at lights, I became convinced that continuous lighting was the way to go because I was having trouble visualizing how a given lighting setup would work. The more people I talked to about this, the more I discovered that continuous lighting would limit the applicability of my lighting kit. My decision was to get two moonlights, some pretty stout stands, and a bunch of sandbags. I started with a softbox, a strip, a reflector, barn doors, and a grid-spot. That got me a long way and I have tons of excellent shots where I don't feel any more light was necessary. (The moonlights came with umbrellas that I've never felt compelled to use in product photography.)

However, after shooting with variations on the above setup, I later decided to add a boom with counterweight -- that gave me a lot of options in terms of light placement that doesn't get in the way of the shot. I also added a beauty dish because it's so versatile in terms of light falloff and it can be modified with a sock to perform as another softbox.

As the demand for white backgrounds became an issue, I added two more flash heads for background lights and two softbox modifiers. These can be used with reflectors for directional light or the softboxes for a more diffuse light on the background.

The point is, I didn't know exactly how I would use the lights when I started building the kit so I added slowly, evaluating what was missing carefully in advance of adding new gear. The decision to go with studio flashes was, in my opinion, one of the best ones I made. I can't stand a hot set and neither can some of the stuff I shoot, for example food or plastics.

Good luck with this!

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