How To Choose A Studio Lighting System

Dependable — Versatile — Expandable

For sure, there’s no shortage of lighting systems on the market, and the range of choices and price points can be a little overwhelming.

Most of the “kits” offered on the general market aren’t configured for the “set it and forget it” setup that Pam likes to use.

To solve this problem, Pam has put together a full range of Not Your Normal Photography® lighting systems that are perfectly-matched to what we teach in the course…

The Not Your Normal Photography® lighting systems are a perfect way to get started. They’re complete and fully-functional, and in most cases, all you’ll ever want or need.

We didn’t have to skimp on quality, either — the flash units, light stands, umbrellas, and soft boxes are all solidly-made and feature rich!

The Lights

Pam chose Interfit’s “Stellar X” mono lights for their superior combination of “build quality,” features, and price.

Let me tell you a little bit about them…

First up, the exterior housing of each light is made from rugged aluminum with a rubberized finish, not flimsy plastic as is often the case with lights in the lower price ranges. I was actually quite surprised the first time I held these lights and felt how solid they were!

Heat is the enemy of studio lights and the circuits that control them. That’s one reason many “budget” lights don’t last. The Stellar X mono lights are fan-cooled which can extend the life of the lights and prevent malfunctions from heat build up.

Another “life extending ” feature is the camera-friendly (especially for digital) 4.3 sync voltage. A safe sync voltage is important if you’re connecting your camera to studio strobes via a sync cord — higher voltages can damage your camera’s electronics!

Ok, solid fan-cooled housing and sync voltage that won’t fry your camera is a good start, but it’s the performance and “nice touches ” that count. And one of the “nice touches” is the built-in infra red sensor. This means you can trigger the flash unit with a very inexpensive IR flash trigger that fits on your camera’s hot shoe.

For Pam and me, wireless flash is the only way to go, and this is the easiest and least expensive way to do it we’ve seen yet!

On the performance side, the output of these mono lights is fully adjustable over a 5-stop range (from full power down to 1/32 power). Recycle times are quick, and there’s a visual (and audio if you like!) indicator, to let you know when the lights are back up to full power.

A nice new feature is a swival mounting bracket which has been designed for easy repositioning and balancing of large or heavy softboxes.

You’ll also get an S-type bayonet mount for reflectors and a built-in halogen modeling lamp so you can see how the light from the flash will fall on the area or subject.

Both the halogen bulb and the flash tube are user-replaceable, too. This is another “nice touch” that helps keep your lights working for you at all times — you won’t have to send your lights back to the factory for a blown out tube! — and lowers your total cost of ownership.

All right, there you have it!…well, actually that’s just a start… as an owner of these lights, you’ll have access to a full range of accessories and additional items to build your systems as needs arise!

The Light Stands

The last thing you want to do is put a nice light on a lousy, flimsy, shaky, light stand! These high-quality sturdy stands are made from high-grade aluminum for light weight and strength. They feature nylon-reinforced collars and thumbscrews with a solid-brass head fitting for your lights. They’re also air-cushioned to give maximum protection to the lights attached to them. Multiple sections allow for easy and precise adjustments

The Systems

All of the Not Your Normal Photography® Lighting Systems are 3-light systems that feature one main light for the front, and two lights for the backdrop, however, as you’ll see, we’ve made it easy to turn any of them into a nice 4-light system (one main light in front, and 3 lights on the backdrop) — complete with storage cases that are roller bags!

To upgrade a system, just add the upgrade that matches your system or choose any desired upgrade to match your needs.

For example, if you purchase Lighting System 3, the Lighting System 3U upgrade will turn it into a 4-light system complete with an extra roller bag!

Softbox Substitution

If you would like a system that includes a softbox (you’ll still get 2 white umbrellas with the systems), go for the “S” option.

Lighting System 3S, for example, is exactly the same as Lighting System 3 except that the large white umbrella is substituted with a softbox.

Why would you want a softbox? Softboxes diffuse the light more than an umbrella and many photographers like the results a softbox gives them.

Since you still get 2 umbrellas with the softbox systems (3 umbrellas come with the regular systems) , these are a nice alternative — you’ll have your choice of using a softbox or an umbrella — at only slightly more cost.

Special note — the softboxes included in the “S” upgrades are the standard softboxes, not the Ultra Pro versions featured in the softbox section of the NYN Photo Store. If you’re serious about softboxes, getting the the pro model softboxes is a better option.

The BIG difference in the systems

Mostly power. Additional power allows you to shoot in larger areas and at smaller f-stops.

If money is not an issue, more power is generally a good thing as long as you can control it (our mono lights all have power controls so you can turn down the power if you need to!).

But keep in mind that lots of power may be overkill for what most of us do. This is one of those areas where it’s nice to have nice equipment, but it’s not necessary to get the job done!

So, let your budget and “comfort zone” be the guide here.

Remember, Pam started with a lighting system that was several orders of magnitude worse than anything we offer at the NYN Photo Store. System 1 — our least expensive system — would have been a dream-come-true for Pam during her first few years in business.

So, if you can afford one of the higher-level systems, great. But if you can’t, don’t worry about it — start with what’s doable for you!

Basic power systems — With a basic power system (systems 1-3), you’ll get a very workable amount of power, plus great quality and features at a very affordable price.

You’ll have room to grow, too, with a full-line of compatible add-ons and accessories. With affordable systems like these, there’s no reason not to get started with studio-quality strobes!

Upgraded power systems — The upgraded power systems (systems 4-6) feature more power, of course! You’ll get the same great features, quality, and available accessories of the basic systems, at an excellent “bang for your buck” price. These are the recommended “systems of choice” for most people starting out in the studio.

TIP — System 3 includes three 300-watt lights which makes it a great and economical starter kit. It is also very easy to upgrade this system in the future to a high-power 4-light system — just add a high-power light for a main light and use the three 300-watt lights on the background. For entry-level value while preserving upgrade options for the future, System 3 is hard to beat!

Accessories

A Barn Door and a Snoot is included with all the Not Your Normal Photography® Lighting Systems. You’ll also find a great selection of accessories for your studio lights in the accessories section.

Build your own system

The systems Pam has assembled will fit most needs, but if you want to build your own system, or add to the systems we offer, all the “parts” are available at the NYN Photo Store.

And don’t forget…

The following items are sold separately…

Flash Meter — As you probably know, your in-camera light meter is useless for measuring light from studio strobes. While it’s possible to figure out your exposure (which f-stop to use) by trial and error, a flash meter makes this process so much simpler. And at the price of this meter, it’s downright silly not to have one!

With this meter, you’ll be able to easily measure both incident and reflected light. ISO settings range from 12 to 1000.

IR Wireless Flash Trigger — ever since I tripped over one of Pam’s sync cords, pulled her camera off a table, and trashed one of her lenses, we’ve been using a wireless flash trigger.

At the time we purchased Pam’s wireless system, they were a little “pricey,” (and some of them still are!), but still worth every penny.

Now, because the Interfit mono lights have built-in IR (infra red) sensors, going wireless is inexpensive enough to fall into the “no-brainer” category. All you need is one unit which fits on your hot shoe!

Important… This flash trigger is designed to work with the Interfit mono lights and systems offered on this site. While it’s possible this flash trigger will work with other brands of lights with built-in infa-red sensors, we have not tested it. You will also need a clear site line between your transmitter and at least one flash. If that’s not the case — for example if you shoot through a doorway with only one light on a black backdrop like Pam does — you will need the wireless radio transmitter that can go through walls!

Wireless Radio Transmitter — If you have a wall or other obstruction between your camera and your lights, or you need to trigger from a long distance you will need to pick up a wireless radio transmitter.

Backdrop Stands — There are alternatives for backdrops, but the most popular way to do it, and the solution we use for our white backgrounds, is seamless white backdrop paper.

To use this type of paper you’ll need a sturdy background support system that’s wide enough to fit standard 109-inch wide seamless backdrop paper. The “Large” background support has sturdy 102-inch (8.5 ft.) backdrop stands and a 3-section 10-foot cross pole which gets the job done nicely. The entire backdrop stand folds up and fits in the included storage and carrying bag.

And, if you’re using the Not Your Normal Photography® Black Backdrop, the “Small” background support system (8-foot wide, 7.8 feet height) is the perfect size.

 

Heavy Duty Boom Stand and Arm — If you want to use 3 lights on your backdrop and can’t mount your 3rd light on the ceiling, this is the way to do it!

This combo includes a heavy-duty stand (that can also be used as a light stand) and a heavy-duty boom arm with a counter weight.

The boom arm weighs 12lbs. and extends from 47-83 inches.

Backgrounds — Pam uses three types of backgrounds — white seamless paper, Superlite® wipeable white, and the Not Your Normal Photography® Black.

For help on deciding on a backdrop, see the guide to choosing a background!

As always, if you have any questions, or need any help, be sure to contact us!