So you insist on using cheap lights do you?

As I have said before, I am a huge fan of saving money where ever and whenever you can…..if it makes sense. Let’s talk about lighting and why doing this on the cheap is so hard. Lightbulbs suck. There, I said it, plain and simple. I have tried probably 20 different lightbulbs this past year, bright white, daylight, you name it, if it claimed to be some form of daylight bulb, I have tried it. The end result of over $100 in light bulb purchases this year? Cheap daylight bulbs all over the house, and the purchase of decent studio lights. Why didn’t these lights work?

Normal light bulbs (incandescent) simply don’t work, they cast a bad orange color that is a pain to remove and doesn’t bring out the detail you want. The only exception is studio bulbs that are over 200w, are extremely sensitive to vibration, run EXTREMELY hot, and require special outlets to keep you safe from melting and fire.

The hot (pun intended) thing in studio lighting these days is fluorescents. Unlike tungsten studio lights, fluorescent lights are not blistering hot and require much less power. Well, if its good enough for the pros, it’s good enough for me right? So off to Home Depot to find some daylight balanced fluorescent lights. A few test shots later and whaaaa….the color SUCKS on these, they are almost as bad as the incandescent bulbs.

This is the point where I got my first Lowel Omni light and my life behind the camera was never the same. The story doesn’t end here though, I needed some extra light one day so I headed over to Home Depot and ran across some new bulbs there that looked promising. These are fluorescent bulbs from n:vision. The moment I turned on the light I knew right away these were different, they were WHITE and bright. A quick custom white balance showed the color was right at 3000k which is pretty darned close to my tungsten light. For a Popular Mechanics even has a great review of these bulbs.

Ok, we have no found a good daylight bulb with great color, what could be better right? Even though they are quite bright, almost too bright to look at directly, they simply don’t have enough output. Keep in mind, my Omni light is 800w and these slick n:vision bulbs blast out about the equivalent of a 60w bulb. A low-end studio light is 300w and 500w-800w are more common while 1000w lights are preferred. No matter what you do, short of building a structure that can handle at least 8 of these bulbs, you simple don’t have enough wattage. Try as you might, you simply will not be satisfied with the results.

For what I have spent on bulbs in one year, I could have bought another Omni light. Ebay is your friend, keep an eye on the auctions, bid up to the most you are comfortable with, and be patient, sooner or later you will catch a break and score some really good lights. Be careful of the so-called studio lights and strobes on Ebay. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t buy it at BandH Photo, then don’t buy it on Ebay.

Spend wisely and you will end up spending less.

KerryG

Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    […] more than a couple of times. Back in early June we got to help out Esquire Photography on the engagement shoot and were thrilled to be able to help shoot their wedding as well. Jen and Kevin are an absolute […]

  1. August 12, 2007

    […] more than a couple of times. Back in early June we got to help out Esquire Photography on the engagement shoot and were thrilled to be able to help shoot their wedding as well. Jen and Kevin are an absolute […]

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