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I am creating a basement room into a photo studio. I will be doing people portraits and using backdrops. I plan on trying many different shots... from high key to low light body scrapes.

from what i read hear and elsewhere it seems like i should head into the flash/ strobe direction over continuous lights.

I’m looking at some kits but they all seem inadequate in many ways. I’m at a cross roads and would like to know if there are any kits that are worth their price and have

  • umbrellas or soft boxes
  • flashes
  • flash triggers and receivers
  • black/white/green backdrops w/ stands
  • stands for all the stuff.

or do i go piecemeal and get each item separately?

I want to shoot for quality but keep everything to a reasonable price for my first studio setup and can always upgrade parts when and where needed or wanted.

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1  
I would personally go with individual parts over a kit. I would also strongly suggest figuring out a shoot you want to do and then figuring out the minimal equipment you need for the shoot. Rinse and repeat, this will help you minimize the amount of stuff you really don't want/need. For example pick up tiggers, umbrella and a stand and see how far you can get, before deciding what to purchase next. –  Patrick Hurley Oct 16 '13 at 18:17
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This seems like a good question, but requests for specific buying advice are considered unhelpful because specific answers become outdated very quickly. Accordingly, I've removed that part of the question. If you get general advice about how to put together a home studio, I'm sure you'll be able to find products to suit your needs. –  Caleb Oct 16 '13 at 18:25

2 Answers 2

You might consider a hybrid of the two options you have set out in your question. You could buy a basic kit that contains elements that meet some of your requirements and then supplement such a kit with additional piecemeal purchases. What you don't want to do is buy an ultra-cheap kit in which most if not all of the items aren't up to the task for you nor do you want to buy an expensive "all-in-one" kit that includes many items you don't need.

For instance , the stands that come with a kit might not be quite robust or tall enough to use with your main lights, but they might be perfectly acceptable for use with reflectors or smaller hair lights or low mounted backdrop flashes. If you are going to need stands for those roles anyway, buy the kit but also buy a couple of nicer stands to mount the lights that came with the kit. Then use your SB700 on one of the kit stands to light your backdrops. The nice thing about most light stands is that they almost universally have one of two thread sizes on the tip. Adapters to convert one size to the other are cheap and readily available to allow an almost endless variety of holders to be attached to the top of the stand that will support whatever item you need the stand to support.

A lot depends on whether you decide to use conventional studio flashes or whether you choose to use portable strobes positioned off-camera as your light sources. For a home studio on a tight budget, there is much to be said for the second option. In that case you will probably go piecemeal. There are also many online resources devoted to Do-It-Yourself flash modifiers and stands that you can try on the cheap when using portable strobes. But if you choose a couple of small studio flashes, then buying them with a small kit that only includes items that are needed and usable for your setting could be a good way to save a little.

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I'd hazard that most good quality setups are going to be from buying pieces. Things are too situational to do right, do you want heavy, stable permanent stands or light, flexible, portable stands, how tall does the backdrop need to be, how much power is needed in the lights, how much area do they need to cover (and thus how much diffusion is needed). These are all factors that are specific to the situation and need to be answered to determine the best setup for your studio. They also all make it so that a one size fits all solution isn't going to do as good of a job as a custom one.

Your best bet is to buy the right individual items to meet your needs and in a way that allows for ease of upgrading (like getting a good primary light/light control and then get cheaper lights for your secondary flashes, you can also get stands that support using umbrellas (or adapters for umbrellas) even if you don't get the umbrella's yet and go for a smaller, cheaper soft box in the short term. Since it's a home setup, I'd look for sturdy but affordable stands.

You also need to decide if you want to stick with your camera maker's flash system or a third party system. You can use things like pocket wizards for wireless control with a third party system (if it doesn't support it outright) or, if you go with your camera manufacturer's system, most of them have built in wireless sync options.

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