The world of professional photography is full of gimmicks. This especially applies to camera gear and the plethora of opinions out there about them. It most certainly applies to studio and lighting accessories. Today you can very easily burn through thousands of dollar$ and not even have a usable lighting solution. From overpriced and over engineered light stands and background solutions to over powered lights and flashes.
I am always wary and on the lookout for these traps. For me the only thing worth spending on is the best lens available for the job. Not even the latest and greatest camera body supersedes that.
Earlier on I realized in order to completely side-step this whole charade, I would have to learn off camera flash photography. I had no desire to collect big bulky studio lights and oversize diffusers. At the time I had just purchased the Canon 7D shortly after it was released. It presented a tremendous value, even for the price back then. My lighting solution was and still is simple. I picked up two used Canon 430EX flashes and an Interfit Strobies kit. This is the kit that comes with a soft box, beauty dish, barn doors, and much more. The 7D has a built in ETTL wireless flash transmitter, so setting up and controlling multiple flashes couldn’t be easier. This is a feature I sorely miss in the Canon 5D Mark III however it has forced me to shoot not only full manual camera but full manual flash which I feel has definitely improved my photography.
For studio space, when shooting indoors in a controlled and private setting, I use my outdoor office space. I picked up a long wood closet hanger rod/beam and some wall mounts at Home Depot for under $20. I also bought a 9 foot wide roll of seamless background paper for around $60 and mounted it on the closet rod and voila! Spare workshop clamps and masking tape keep everything secured.
I often use both 430EX speedlites mounted on extra tripods (why buy a light stand you can’t use for anything else?). One with a soft box for fill lighting and the other with a more directional filter, like barn doors or honeycomb, etc for highlights. Both usually sit 90-180 degrees from each other and opposite elevations.
Below is a quick photo I took of my rough studio solution. You can see some shots from my first photo shoot with this setup here:
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