In the Studio: Light is Light

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

A long time ago, when Mary and I were starting out and went shopping for studio lighting equipment, an experienced portrait photographer that we knew told us that, “light is light.”

What he was trying to say was that it doesn’t matter what brand or kind of lighting equipment you use—speedlights, power pack and head systems or monolights—the most important aspect of any gear is the amount, color, direction and quality of the light it produces. Expensive computer controlled lighting systems may be convenient and those I’ve tested for Shutterbug have been amazing for the amount of control they provide but shooters just getting started might not be able to afford them.

Ask yourself some questions: Do you have a home studio, even one like the small 11×15 foot shooting space in my basement? Or do you have to convert your living room, as Mary and I did when we got started 30 years ago. After the shoot, we had to convert the shooting space back into a living room. Do you have to shoot in location? Most importantly what is your budget? Once again keeping in mind that “light is light.”

One alternative is to buy inexpensive and dependable lighting gear like the studio lights that I’m currently using. My current setup includes two 320 Ws Buff DigiBee DB800 monolights and a 320 Ws Alien Bee B800 monolight. Yes, it’s purple. These monolights are simple to use, powerful and more importantly affordable, especially for their power output. They work for me, all the while keeping in mind that “light is light.” You can read about them in Shooting with my New DigiBee.

Another alternative is to purchase used lighting equipment. I had a friend upgrade his studio by selling the inexpensive monolights he’d been using quite successfully and replacing them with a used but comprehensive high-end power pack and head system. Did it improve his photography. I dunno, I only know this approach worked for him. Those last three word are extremely important. What works for him may not work for you depending on your particular situation.

How I made this shot: For this portrait of Bella Fire in a sexy mood, the main light is a DigiBee DB800 placed at camera right with a 48-inch Plume hexagonal Wafer softbox attached. Another DigiBee DB800 is at camera left and slightly behind Bella with a 18-OMNI Reflector attached, softened by a triple-layer Diffusion Sock. Camera used was a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (at 45mm) with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/7.1 and ISO 200. Backdrop is a 5×7-foot collapsible Lastolite Urban Collapsible Background.


If you’re interested in learning how I shoot portraits and use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere which is available new from for $22.78 or $13.75 used, as I write this. Interested in learning how to shoot better portraits and want hands-on training, check out my one-on-one workshops.