Studio Strobes 101 – Getting Started
Ready to start using strobes at the studio, but unsure of how to do it? Here is a quick, basic guide to show you how to sync our lights to your camera. We use AlienBees studio flashes at FD Photo Studio. Broken down into steps, here is how to get shooting:
Before we start: Make sure to set your camera on ‘M’ or manual mode. This will guarantee consistency in your shots. Every camera is different, but here are some basic guidelines: Set your ISO to it’s lowest setting, usually ISO 100, or 200. This will give you the best quality images free of digital noise. Next, set your white balance (most cameras have a ‘flash’ setting for white balance, but you can also set this manually). Another factor that differs by camera is the max sync speed. It is a safe bet to set your camera’s shutter speed at 1/200s or 1/125s. Setting a shutter speed that is too fast will cause half of your frame to black out, if you are getting black lines in your frame, that means your SS is too fast! A speed of 1/200s or 1/125s will allow you to take a clear image with no camera shake, as well as properly account for the sync speed of the flash.
Let’s get started with the strobes, here are 5 basic things you should know before beginning your next shoot:
1. Connect: Make sure that the trigger is connected to your key light, or main flash. The photo below to the left shows how we connect the trigger in line with the power cable, as well as using a sync chord attached to the strobe. Place the radio trigger (shown below on the right) on your hot-shoe with the controls facing you. Make sure the frequency channel on the strobe’s trigger matches the one on your camera.
2. Turn On: Power the strobe ON!
3. Set the Light: You adjust the exposure of your image three ways; your camera’s aperture, the power level of the strobe, and the distance of the light to subject. No need to change your shutter speed (unless you’re balancing flash with ambient light, but that’s another article all together). These three factors determine how your subject is lit, and how light falls on your background.
4. Modeling Lamp: This button toggles the modeling light on and off. The modeling lamp is a continuous light that will not affect your photo once the flash is fired. It serves as a rough example of how light will cast on your subject, and aids in focusing when you’re composing a photograph. Very helpful for getting a clearly focused picture!
5. Adding More Strobes: Need more light? It’s easy to add additional flashes using this system. Each unit has an optical ‘slave’, meaning that more strobes will fire automatically when the main flash fires. The slave sensor detects the burst from the main strobe light, and fires at the same time as the key light, giving you endless amounts of flexibility for creating the look you want!
Those are the basics of getting started using flash. Good luck on your next shoot!