Good photography is often about good lighting and in all the noise about studio flash and advanced lighting the old favourite, tungsten, often gets forgotten.
With all the hype about studio flash and the built-in flash
capabilities of modern digital cameras there is little attention paid
to an old yet faithful technology, tungsten. Yet tungsten has much to
offer. It’s cheap, continuous and very flexible, plus you see exactly
what you get. With the rise of these other forms of lighting the number
of manuafcturers of decent tungsten lighting equipment has dropped. In
this article we will look at a couple of manufacturers, PhotoFlex and
Lowel. In addition to those discussed below there are also a vast
number of simple tungsten lighting reflectors and stands available at a
very cheap price. A couple of these will do great service and cost
little. In fact you can even do amazingly well with a couple of those
portable outdoor halogen lamps they sell at hardware stores.
Tungsten lighting was always a hastle with film because it is so much
redder in colour than daylight. Thus you needed to use filters, either
on the camera lens or over the light, to make the light bluer. Since
digital cameras can readily accomodate a wide range of lighting all the
restrictions are off. You no longer need filters. On some cameras the
auto whte balance will get it right. On others set the white balance
manually to tungsten or by pointing the camera at a pure shite card
illuminated by the lights. In other cases just do this. Setup a shot
under the lighting and place a Kodak Gray Scale available from most
good camera stores in the shot. In Photoshop, Photo-Paint or other
software use this shot to set the white, black and mid gray points to
generate a correction. Save this correction and just apply it to all
the other shots made under this lighting setup.
The PhotoFlex Digital Lighting Kit
Aimed at professionals and advanced amateurs using digital cameras,
PhotoFlex’s Digital Lighting Kit includes a medium sized SilverDome nxt
softbox, a Starlight 3200 tungsten light and a four-section lightstand.
Designed to provide soft even lighting ideal for product and portrait
photography, it remains very portable and readily folded up when not in
use. It works beautifully. This is a seriously nice bit of kit, as all
PhotoFlex products are. Take down and put up time is short. A number of
accessories can be used, including a grid. I found the medium-sized
softbox an ideal size for many purposes, being a good combination of
broad and diffuse with compact and easily handled.
Note that PhotoFlex also make a huge range of other lighting accessories. All are very well made and worth a look.
PhotoFlex’s Digital Lighting Kit offers a useful, compact and portable (when collapsed) diffuse light source.
Right – This shot was taken using simply the PhotoFlex Digital Lighting Kit almost overhead and a curved piece of mat board.
Lowel make a very large range of tungsten, halogen and flourescent
light fixtures and accessories. What stands out with Lowel is their
small yet rugged styling that makes them ideal for location work.
Lowel’s models of interest here include the Pro-light, which is a tiny
4.3″ x 5″ x 6.7″ focusable over a 5:1 range. It can take a range of
globes, both mains and low voltage, up to 250W. The V-light is another
tiny flood light that takes a 500W halogen tube. Both of these lights
must be used with transformers as they are 110V units. The following
ones are all stock items and work off of our 240V mains. The Tota-light
is quite compact and takes up to a 800W tube. The Tota/Omni light
offers a 6:1 focusing range, from a 12 degree spot to a 53 degree flood
and 500W globes. The DP Light goes up to 1000W and focuses over an 8:1
range. The Fren-L 650 System provides a Fresnel lens, focusing over an
8:1 range and taking up to a 650W globe. The Rifa-lite is a soft light
system in three sizes up to 1000W and 32″ x 32″ front size. Lastly the
softlight 2 system takes two 800W tubes in a 28″ x 24″ x 7″ unit that
offers a puchy yet soft light.
RIFAS – The Lowel RIFA provides a good diffuse light source in three different sizes at a great price.
DP on stand – The DP light offers a good strong tungsten light that can work with a range of accessories.
TOTA – The Tota light is a good flexible unit.
OMNI – The Omni is a very compact yet flexible light source with a range of accessories to modify the light.
Kodak Gray Scale – The Kodak Gray Scale is an essential tool for all
photographers. They come in several sizes and is an essential purchase.