He’s fairly new with the concept of studio lighting. Of course anyone who’s read this blog will know that I do not condone building a business (or hobby) on a mountain of debt. Get what you can afford but don’t buy crap either. Never rule out used equipment either. Nor do I condone buying more equipment than you are capable of using. Build as you go is the best way in my opinion. He was going to get 2 Alien Bee 800 heads which is a great purchase. He was asking me about getting parabolics, which are diffused unbrellas, or softboxes etc. Advising someone about which light modifiers to get is like picking out someone else’s undergarments and socks. All are different and personal choice. All serve a different purpose, and none are meant to be the one and only. It also depends on the subject matter and style of photography as to what you choose. As well as size of the studio area, etc.
I know this sounds vague…..but until you’ve used different modifiers, it’s really hard to understand what the best choice is for you as an individual photographer. For headshot photography I lean towards beauty dishes. For shadow play and background light modifiers, I often use softboxes and black foam core to control the pattern and spread of light. Grids as well. That said, starting out with umbrellas or parabolics seems to be a sensible choice to me. They are the least expensive, and even as you expand your lighting arsenal, there will always be a good use for those. They are great for location and wedding photography, as they setup easy, and travel / store easily, taking up minimal room. They are designed to provide even consistent lighting. The only drawback is they are not as geared for controlling light and shadow unless you play around with angles of the strobes and close them some, or use foam core to narrow the path of light. But I think the better photographer is the resourceful photographer, who knows how to do a lot with less, until able to afford more. The whole idea is to play with key lights and fill lights, rim lighting, etc. with what you have before expanding. Although umbrellas and parabolics may not be perfect for everything, they are the most affordable, and you can always use them. The smart way to save money is to buy something that will remain useful.