Pet portraits - help with lighting equipment

hias

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Hi,

I had a talk with my wife yesterday, about a call from the pet shelter where we got one of our bunnies from. They wanted to know if he is ok, has friends, enough room, food, etc. (yes, they have).
Sadly, he died last year because of bad teeth what resulted in abscesses, and two surgeries. Looked pretty good after the second one, but the abscess came back, and the poor thing didn't make it anymore.
We realized we just have some crappy phone pictures of him, nothing to put on the wall or something (was a nice bunny). And we raised the idea of taking some nice pictures/portraits of our other bunnies.

First and foremost, I have to admit, I have absolutely no clue where to start with studio and lighting stuff. Usually I'm shooting landscapes, nature, wildlife, some macro, everything that's out in the wild, with natural light, of course.
Artificial light is a big mystery.


Camera and lenses aren't a problem, I have a e-m5II, 17/1.8, 45/1.8, 60/2.8, 12-40/2.8, 40-150/2.8 and a Canon FD 50/1.4 with adapter.
I may use the 45 and 12-40 for this.
I also have a rarely used flash, Godox TT350 with X1T-S.


Reading through some articles I have an idea, but I'm absolutely not sure, and there are still questions:

I thought about buying some backdrop I can clip to a wall or wardrobe. One of the bunnies is black, one white with red/brown/grey spots, one brown with grey spots, and a very frizzy one with natural colours, a greyish background should do.

Next, I think 2 softboxes?, umbrellas?, don't know, would be good to get the furry details (the black one is really black, pitch-black, his fur eats light!).
How big? Are hexagonal ones ok? Or better rectangular ones?

Static light (is it called like that?) would be the way to go I think, maybe they get scared from flashes.
So I may need 2 lamps(?) or something to mount to the softboxes. Or flashes however? Some experience anyone?

As stands for the softboxes (umbrellas?) I'd use some tripods I have lying around, is this practical?
What do I need to mount them to a tripod/ballhead/plate (arca)?


Anything else? Any recommendations how you would set this up?


I'd go the trial and error route as I usually do on how to set this stuff up. And, of course, use tutorials. But I appreciate any tips.


So, I need...

- 2 Lights. Or use flashes? If flashes, I'd buy one more Godox 350. Or bigger?
- Softboxes or something, size...
- Mount thingy to attach to tripod?
- Backdrop

What are good goto brands (available in EU/Germany) that make quality stuff and don't empty my wallet on a whim? I also don't want it to break apart from just looking at it.


I will most likely use this gear in the future too, maybe also for peoples protraits, so it's absolutely not for one-time use.
Most of my friends come from the Metal/Rock scene, all tattooed, pierced, bearded - lot's of interesting portraits to take.

It would be nice if you could point me in the right direction.
 

RichardC

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Used to photograph dogs as a sideline to wedding/portrait studio that I worked at.

You will need to scale this down :)

It was years ago, with Elinchrom studio lights. For a dog we would use a large soft box to the left as the main light, another light to the right with a brolly as a fill (2:1), background was invariably brown canvas (any plain colour) lit directly by another light (key light +1 stop) with a gel to give a halo effect and a degree of backlighting.

Black/dark coloured dogs required another light, from the back, with snoot, directed at the shoulder (key light + 2 stops). Looked terrible without this extra light, so I'm pretty sure this will apply to any black furry thing.

For something the size of a rabbit, the whole lot could be done with a speedlight based system (24 inch soft boxes or brollies x2, flash with honeycomb or snoot for a directable accent light, another with a dish for your background), but you would need to rig up some sort of modelling light (torch/elastic band) on your snoot. Godox do a wireless speed light system for Olympus. I use Olympus flashes with Cactus transceivers.

Continuous lighting may look easier. Never used it. Suspect you would need something quite powerful if you go down that road and I wonder if it will need to be close to your subject so could get in the way.
 

inkista

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I don't have a pet or do pet photography, but one of my best friends is an HRS volunteer. :) The hard part may simply be getting the bunnies to sit still long enough for a photo. :D But this is totally doable.

First and foremost, I have to admit, I have absolutely no clue where to start with studio and lighting stuff. ...Artificial light is a big mystery.
This is just me, but don't go for a studio setup first. Just start shooting your bunnies like they're indoor wildlife. You know their rhythms and what they're comfy with and not, so start there. Then, add on-camera flash with bounce (and a BFT).

To me, it's a lot easier to learn how to use flash if you start with one light. And it's easier to start with on-camera flash and bouncing than off-camera strobist lighting because all you need is the flash, and you'll be likely to have TTL/HSS. It's also easier to chase a moving subject this way than with a light on a lightstand. :D You can still learn how to balance flash against ambient, and the importance of light direction, quality, and color. Neil van Nierkerk's Tangents website is a great place to learn this. He's a wedding/portrait photographer.

Once bouncing gets to be too limiting, then it's time to go for off-camera flash with the Strobist. Lighting 101 is a good place to start.

... I also have a rarely used flash, Godox TT350 with X1T-S
Is the TT350 the -S or the -O version? The X1T-S won't work on Olympus as anything other than a manual transmitter.

If it's the TT350-O, you can just start with that on-camera. If it's the TT350-S, I'd recommend picking up an XPro-O transmitter (or the Flashpoint R2 Pro II update when it comes out), and seeing how much function you can get out of the TT350 as an off-camera slave (the TT350 isn't made to do cross-brand TTL support like the TT685/V860II speedlights are, so it may not work in TTL/HSS).

... Next, I think 2 softboxes?, umbrellas?, don't know, would be good to get the furry details (the black one is really black, pitch-black, his fur eats light!).
How big? Are hexagonal ones ok? Or better rectangular ones?
This is like getting a camera system. Don't try to get it all at once. Start slow and low. And start with one-light. Just one. Because buying and figuring everything out can be information overload if you don't start small. One light. One modifier. Pick either an umbrella or a softbox. Most of us start with an umbrella because it's cheaper and easier to setup/breakdown.

Umbrella throws light everywhere, and is a little harder to control spill; a softbox gives you an edge to work with (forms a gradient in the light), but size/distance may be more problematic if you need to cover larger subjects (say, all your bunnies in one group).

... Static light (is it called like that?) would be the way to go I think, maybe they get scared from flashes.
Continuous light is much more useful if you want to shoot video as well as stills. But you can't get nearly as much light output from an LED panel as you can from a strobe. And the black-background/white-background thing typically depends on lighting your subject at a different level from your background (see: Zack Arias's white seamless tutorial).

But I also mentioned the BFT above. This is just a piece of black craft foam that you use as a flag to shade off direct light from the flash from hitting your subject (so all the light from the flash is the bounced light). This has the side effect of not blasting anybody directly in the face with flash. It may keep your bunnies from freaking out (may not; depends on the pet; I've shot cats who ignored my flashes completely).

So I may need 2 lamps(?) or something to mount to the softboxes. Or flashes however? Some experience anyone?
Each light typically requires a lightstand, some way to attach it to the stand (an umbrella adapter or bracket), and a modifier (unless you want hard light and shadows). See the Strobist link I put in above, for how it all goes together.

... I'd use some tripods I have lying around, is this practical? ...What do I need to mount them to a tripod/ballhead/plate (arca)?
Yes, and no. Tripods tend to take up a really big footprint on the floor, and tend not to go has high or low as you might want to place the light. You have less freedom to angle the light downwards, etc. You can use them in a pinch at the beginning, but you'll probably move eventually to lightstands. To use a tripod or anything else with a 1/4"x20 threaded bolt on it, just get a spigot. The umbrella swivel/adapter or bracket can then clamp onto the spigot.

... What are good goto brands (available in EU/Germany) that make quality stuff and don't empty my wallet on a whim? I also don't want it to break apart from just looking at it.
Depends on the size/weight of the lights, and what you consider a good budget. The low-end stuff, I'd look at Godox.

I will most likely use this gear in the future too, maybe also for peoples' portraits, so it's absolutely not for one-time use....
If this is true, I wouldn't try to expand to a multi-light speedlight setup right off the bat. You may eventually want to get larger-than-speedlight strobes in your setup. Again, Godox is a good place to start, because their system scales all the way up from the TT350 to studio strobes.

But start small. One on-camera speedlight. Then one off-camera light set up. Then reassess what you need.

Final note: if you aren't comfortable shooting in M mode and juggling stops between iso, aperture, and shutter speed, get that under your belt now. You want to have full mastered ambient-only exposure before you go to flash+ambient exposure.

Ambient is controlled by iso, aperture, and shutter speed.
But flash is controlled by iso, aperture, flash power setting, and flash-to-subject distance.

And it's the differences in those controls that let you balance the flash against the ambient, however you'd like (within the limits of your gear).
 

hias

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  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
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Thank you for your replies, all very helpful.

The hard part may simply be getting the bunnies to sit still long enough for a photo.
I already thought about that. Shouldn't be a bigger problem with them. Usually, when you put them in a new environment, they sit still for some time, like "WTF happened now", before they get curious and start to roam around. Maybe do some shots with a plushie beforehand, so I can start right off.

Is the TT350 the -S or the -O version?
It's the O-versions, my bad...

Yes, and no. Tripods tend to take up a really big footprint on the floor, and tend not to go has high or low as you might want to place the light. You have less freedom to angle the light downwards, etc. You can use them in a pinch at the beginning, but you'll probably move eventually to lightstands. To use a tripod or anything else with a 1/4"x20 threaded bolt on it, just get a spigot. The umbrella swivel/adapter or bracket can then clamp onto the spigot.
Spigot, thank you. One of my tripods expands pretty high, it's a monster of a tripod, that should do for a start I think.

Final note: if you aren't comfortable shooting in M mode and juggling stops between iso, aperture, and shutter speed, get that under your belt now. You want to have full mastered ambient-only exposure before you go to flash+ambient exposure.
I shoot almost exclusively in M, just use aperture or shutter priority for quick holiday snaps from time to time :). It's just artificial light I have problems with. I once shot a rollerderby game for a friend, in a sports hall... oh boy, don't ask about the light there. It was the first time in an environment like this, and I questioned my skills very hard afterwards...

This is like getting a camera system. Don't try to get it all at once. Start slow and low. And start with one-light. Just one.
Good advice, I'll do it this way. Thank you. Sometimes I just overthink it.

I've decided to just get 1 Softbox (also Godox? This maybe, maybe a bit smaller: https://www.amazon.com/Portable-Oct...&qid=1543073668&sr=1-7&keywords=godox+softbox) for a start and use the TT350 and X1T I already own, and also utilize this:
Then, add on-camera flash with bounce (and a BFT).
We will see what I can do with that :)
I'll definitely post my results.
 

inkista

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... It's the O-versions, my bad...
No worries. Yeah, start with what you've got.

... I've decided to just get 1 Softbox (also Godox? This maybe, maybe a bit smaller for a start ...
Well, it's convenient and easy to set up as a brolly box, but the lightstand through-the-slit at the bottom part of it limits how much it can pivot up/down (see the last image on the Amazon listing). A Bowens-mount box has more freedom in that regard (you could even use it overhead with a boom arm), but it's a bit bulkier and more of a pain to setup/breakdown, and you'd have to use a bracket.
 

Dolphinjon

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As stands for the softboxes (umbrellas?) I'd use some tripods I have lying around, is this practical?
What do I need to mount them to a tripod/ballhead/plate (arca)?
I spent 6 months using my tripod and a mounting bracket for the flash and umbrella. The tripod took up an obnoxious amount of space and drove me up the wall. My wife told me to order a couple of light stands for my father's day present. That's what I did and suddenly life is so much easier. I should have spent the money on light stands a year ago.
 
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