Cheap, low-wattage studio lighting (part 2)

The florescent bulbs and light kit arrived this week and it was good to see the results of my research. I only found one problem in that the 105W (400W incandescent equivalent) daylight-balanced florescent bulbs were so large the base of the bulb prevented them from fitting into the fixtures.

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I expected they would be bigger than usual, but (in the photos) its amazing how much larger they are than a standard 15W (40W equivalent) florescent bulb. To reiterate, the part you screw into the fixture is a standard (E26) Edison Screw type cap, the same type found on most home incandescent and CFL bulbs.

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I was able to solve the problem for less than $5 at the local big box hardware store with two $2 fixture extenders, and luckily the rod of the reflector umbrellas just barely clear the big bulbs.

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The fixtures are made to carry 250W so it is fine that my bulbs only draw 105W each. The adjustable mount for the lamp fixtures, however, are a little precarious. They are not made to support the weight of these larger bulbs along with the umbrellas so I had to tighten them more than usual. In the future I may find a better solution, but for this project they will do fine.

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Here are some initial tests with the kit and bulbs. These were shot with one light in Camera Raw with a Canon G9, ASA 100, f/3.2 @ 1/13 between 6-10′ from the lights.

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And these at  f/4 @ 1/13 with both lights at around the same distance.

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Cheap, low-wattage studio lighting (part 1)

Update on the photo studio project: I still need a flag and pole (any ideas?) but some advice from a friend and additional research has yielded a great inexpensive lighting option.


The Smith-Victor KT-500U Photoflood Tungsten Light Kit with Umbrellas (B&H # SMKT500 Mfr # 401430) looks like a decent and affordable kit, about 50% of which can be found at any hardware store sans brands. But 250W is a lot of energy to waste on heat, and the Tungsten 3200ºK has a 20 hour life span, which is very short. While the daylight bulb only has a four-hour lifespan!

It has been a while since I researched studio lighting, but with developments in CFLs and LEDs you can now get high lumen, always-on lights, that don’t waste energy and create so much heat that it makes it uncomfortable to work with them.

So instead of the incandescent bulbs, I found these CFLs. They are daylight-balanced (6500ºK), 105W (400W incandescent equivalent), and have a 8000 hour life span, all for less than $30 each. Photo geeks and indoor growers also agree that the spectrum good.

So for less than $200 I’m looking at a decent set of lights that doesn’t require a light meter (I have a grey card) and doesn’t get hot. It’s quite bright, but I can move it back or bounce it off or through the umbrella.