Family Matters

I am in the process of re-decorating my spare room and whilst it was empty I decided to take advantage of the extra space and try out some of the lighting gear I bought last year to shoot some family portraiture.

Now, it’s a real shame that since I bought this kit last year, it has been just sitting gathering dust! In fact, I hadn’t even fired up the lights at all until last weekend. I bought the kit from a guy who was giving up on his studio, so I took all of the gear from him at a knockdown price. It included two Elinchrom 400BX studio flashes, two stands, a huge Elinchrom softbox (or two.. I still haven’t got it all out!) some umbrellas and some other bits and bobs including a backdrop and reflectors. Basically a full starter studio kit.

So, I started unpacking everything and I had no idea where to start. Building a softbox is not as easy as you might think, at east this one wasn’t! My first mistake was to get ahead of myself and set up the stands and attach the flashes. I then tried to attach the speed ring with the partially erected softbox…. just as I thought I was making progress I kicked the stand and watched it (in what felt like slow motion) fall to the floor. It fell hard on the bulb side and smashed the model bulb and the flash. Unbelievable, a year in storage, out for 10 minutes and broken. I was learning lessons all over the place!

Finally I built the softbox and attached it to my one remaining light. Note for future reference and noob lighters like myself; build your softbox onto the speed ring flat on the floor, once you have build the main body of the box then attached the speed ring and velcro on the reflector and front sheet – don’t rush it. Also, firmly anchor your stands!

In lieu of my broken 400BX I set up my SB-700 with an umbrella to give me two lights to work with. I attached my two cheapy remotes and got flashing! I tested out with some self portraits and got a feel for the set up. Without a light meter or clever remotes it was a bit trial and error, but I got there in the end, aiming for settings that would give me good depth of field for capturing a group of people – so I got to between f5 and f8 at between 200 and 250 and this was giving nice, evenly lit results. 400BX set to 3.0 and the SB-700 on 1/8 power.

This whole plan was leading to me getting my sister round to do some family pics with my 4 month old nephew. The pic I include here was one of my favourites, I used both the wide 10-20mm Sigma which was made it so easy to shoot the group in this small room and the 50mm 1.4 which just always gives super sharp results.
If I had the space I would love to have this set up all the time and get into doing more family portraiture photography, it’s great fun and now I have at least some idea how to do it!

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