I like to look at lighting in two ways. As sculpture or as painting. As sculpture when you start with an overall wash of light and like painting when you commence in complete darkness. It is for this reason that I would like to suggest lighting systems and accessories that may assist you in attaining your final goals in lighting your subject or scenario. These examples relate more so to interior lighting situations, but can also apply to close quarter outdoor scenarios. If shooting out doors, you will need a much more powerful lighting set up to compete with the light already surrounding you.
There are several lighting systems out there and most of them provide a vast panoply of lighting accessories and add ons. If they don’t have what you want, you can often use other manufacturers accessories and adapt them to your systems mounting hardware. However, I would suggest that you find a brand that have the modifiers available to achieve your present and future lighting goals. I have designed my own system for one of my lighting techniques and this system does not exist in the market place.
You may wish to consider either getting the power pack system and flash heads with modelling lights that plug in to the power unit or several independent monoblock flash heads with modelling lights. I would recommend getting at least two heads or mono blocks. Three would be better. As to which brand, again that depends on your budget. You can have a complete system for around 2000 dollars or euros. It also depends on the size of space you will be working in which will determine the output required for the job. My own personal kit which I use when not doing a job (for testing or personal projects) are the following. Two Multiblitz Profilux 600 ws monoblocs and two Multiblitz Compact Lite 200 ws monobloc units. I have 6 Honey Comb Grids, 2 snoots, 2 barn door modifiers, four 7 inch silver bowls as well as 4 Multiblitz umbrellas and a Multiblitz 60 cm soft box which I have used only once. I have a multitude of black scrims which can cover any part of the umbrella or softbox, I wish to obscure, made of black material and Velcro or gaffers tape to attach to the umbrella or soft box. I have several home made scrims anywhere from 30 cm to 1 meter square as well as home made cones and black card mini scrim modifiers. A scrim is a panel that can be used to either redirect (white) or block (black) light from hitting an object.
In almost every discussion I have had with photographers, the greatest frustration expressed is the lack of control over their light source. There is just too much light going everywhere. It is for this reason that I often opt for the paint with light rather than the sculpt with light approach. It is more akin to a half empty or half full approach to lighting. I prefer to build my scenario from complete darkness than to sculpt out the light from an existing light source. Umbrellas are akin to sculpting where highly focused snoots and honeycomb grids are more akin to painting. However, even those tools may not give you the desired effect, as they cast a very definitive circle on to the photo landscape. That is where the art of dodging with scrims come in to play. Scrims can be shaped in anyway you desire and can be done so using wire hangers or wires to construct the shape of the modifier you wish to employ. Of course, the distance from the light source will have a major effect on how soft or sharp the gradation from dark to light will appear in your image. That is where experimentation comes in to play. You may also wish to use another technique that I have used called “Controlled Vignetting” mixed with scrims to add further dimension to your image. By moving an opaque object near your lens you can add a further dimension to your photo. I often use my hands to do so, or plants, vases, glasses etc. I have also used semi opaque scrims to effect the softness and hardness of my light source.
One of the problems with the use of scrims, is the need for stands to support them. So be prepared to buy several. You can purchase clips at most hardware stores.
In my next instalment, I will discuss the use of flags, scrims on umbrellas and soft boxes as well as other types of modifiers available to shoot with.
Here is a good link to many brands of lighting, from continuous to flash/strobe.
What Kinds of Lighting Accessories are Needed to Sculpt or Paint with Light?