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Better photography I: better lights!

Better photography I: better lights! published on 1 Comment on Better photography I: better lights!

Since the days are growing shorter up here in the North Pole Boston metro area, I cannot depend on natural sunlight to illuminate my photostories, especially if I want to take pictures after work. Therefore, I need artificial lights.

I was thinking of getting halogens, but Andrea reminded me why I’ve always been suspicious of them. They may ignite my apartment.

Thus, I will stick with fluorescent lights, correcting for white balance either with my camera’s white balance feature [assuming I ever find it] or with Photoshop in post-production. Andrea says that putting the light balance on "tungsten" balances out the bilious, jaundiced look from fluorescents, and Andrea is a god who can do no wrong, so I will take Her advice.

I finally put together many bits of knowledge about lighting that I have gleaned over the years, and now I have a possible lighting scheme:

1. There will be 2 side lights and 1 top light. The side lights stand on the left, the right or the front, depending on what the shot requires. The top light, as its name suggests, provides overhead light.

2. There will be filters to soften the light. I am not sure what to make these out of, but I am sure that I can improvise something from the scads of cardboard and white tissue paper that I have. [Of course, the paper products will not touch the lights, which will be off if there is any significant time between shots.]

3. I will find my white balance on my camera and use it.

4. I will locate my tripod in case I need to use it, but I really don’t like it that much.

5. I will rearrange my desk so that I can take pictures on it.

To actually use this lighting scheme, I need to do some things:

1. Buy an overhead light. It should be a desk light with a base [no clips] that will allow the overhead light to float appropriately high over the desk.

2. Get another desk light with a base [no clips].

3. Buy lots of extra light bulbs and store them in a convenient location, like in my desk.

EDIT: I just got another desk light with a base. It’s a full-spectrum light with a special bulb that should last approximately an eon, so I didn’t get replacements. I also figured that I can use the articulated arm of my floor lamp to be the overhead light. Now I need to shove things around on my desk for some experimental pictures and find the light balance on my camera.

1 Comment

(I think I hurt myself with the snerk I produced upon reading your introductory paragraphs.)

I haven’t yet experimented with photography under a full spectrum bulb, a lamp bearing which I recently acquired.

Fluorescent lights shouldn’t get hot enough to ignite anything, I believe. I know they don’t get hot enough to melt doll hair fiber (I’ve been known to rub doll hair against a fluorescent coil to try to tame wayward fibers).

I hope you can find the white balance! I much prefer having the camera correct than having to mess with colors in a photo editor, where I can never seem to get the balance right. (“Yay! The highlights aren’t yellow anymore…but…the shadows are all now a deep blue…”)

I currently have two clip-on reading lamps, each with 26W fluorescent coils (supposedly 100W incandescent equivalents), and they combine to produce enough light that a tripod is unnecessary. Tripods seem so limiting when trying to get expressive photos of action figures.

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