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Photography on the Inexpensive

Photography is an expensive obsession. There are many means to keep some of that expense down, yet once one gets into the depths of exploring the whole process of 'drawing with light' the additional items needed to move along ... add up.

Lighting is one of those; whether using electronic flash (strobes) or continuous light of some sort, stands, fixtures, modifiers and bulbs add up. Consider: a 500 watt photo-flood regardless of manufacturer comes with an average lifespan of four hours. Properly lighting something requires a minimum of two and possibly four or more of these bulbs going at the same time. Other alternatives include CFL for cold fluorescent light, and with the advent of fluorescent light bulbs which screw into standard light sockets it is a good alternative. All electric lighting comes with different 'colour temperatures'; the standard light colour temperature is defined by noon-time sunlight.

Incandescent tends to be called 'hot' both because those bulbs put out a lot of heat (I've been able to warm Studio 318 during North Central Florida cold winters using one space heater and three lights) and their
colour temperature is warm/hot, toward the yellow end of the spectrum. Fluorescent tends more to the green and you've seen that in any friends snapshots at parties where the flash didn't go off. This is less an issue when working to monochrome B&W, more an issue working to colour. Digital helps with this in being able to either set the 'white balance' in the camera for different types of light, or to adjust in post-production work.

Then there are light 'modifiers': reflectors, diffusers, barn doors, snoots, soft lights, honeycombs, and more. Look at the prices for these some time at a photography store. B&H www.bhphotovideo.com in New York is a good example, as is FreeStyle Photographic Supplies www.freestylephoto.biz/index.php in Los Angeles. I've done business with both over time. They aren't the only places out there, do a search on 'photography lighting' and you'll find a lot more available. Also, need to put those lights someplace, and mounting systems whether floor stand or wall/ceiling mount ...

And we aren't even talking about backdrops yet.

What I'm using in Studio 318 qualifies mostly as store-bought so far. I've used those halogen work lights on stands (each one of these is a 500 watt bulb, so quite a bit of light output even if the stand is ugly). I own two low-end 'entry' level lights on aluminum stands for incandescent work, and a couple of 'clamp lights' which are those work-lights using a spring-clamp to mount them onto any handy edge, say a deck railing or a ceiling joist. Recently I purchased three fluorescent screw-in bulbs rated at 35 watts, putting out an equivalent of 500 watts from an incandescent. Haven't used those yet, because when I tried screwing them into my existing lights, well they fit but don't screw down tight enough to make contact. No juice, no light.

So I'm contemplating how to go about getting them into service as they are supposed to last significantly longer than four hours (see above). Making something comes to mind, and I've enough experience to cobble something together. Still it seems a good idea to do some research, which led to discovering The Do It Yourself Photography Net, www.diyphotography.net and that link opens in a new window/tab. This place is a really fun location for anyone wanting to explore expanding their skills and the equipment needed to do so without necessarily taking out a third mortgage.

It isn't only lighting systems discussed there, either. There are a lot of interesting things, some which I may choose not to try. One of the articles, for example, comes from (or is about) a radio-control model aircraft enthusiast who, also being a photographer, mounted a camera on a radio-controlled helicopter for aerial photography.

There is, in short, a bit of interesting reading there for anyone, and particularly for serious photographers. And now, back to perusing last weekend's photos.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 23rd, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
Always! Working in Studio is fairly recent for me, most of my time before the past few years used pretty much entirely 'natural' light. Or lack thereof. The learning curve is entertaining.
May. 23rd, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
I am really feeling you on this topic right now! I wanted to get Pocket Wizards to get my flash off-camera and learned that those damn things cost $170 a piece and you need TWO. Buh.
May. 23rd, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
As with most everything, depends on what you want to do, and are willing to do. One of the things I like (and recommend) about working with 'constant' lighting (as opposed to strobes) is that you see the effects; you see the shadows as you manipulate the light. Gaining this insight helps, then, with strobes that do not possess modelling lights. You'll already possess a pretty good idea where the shadows (and hence the shaping of the subject) will fall.

And 'constant' light can be done quite inexpensively. Those clamp lights will run you around $20 +/- at a hardware outlet of any type. Even a 100 watt bulb provides enough light to photograph something small, as the light will be much closer to the subject than say a person. The 'entry level' lights on stands I mentioned didn't cost much more than that apiece (IIRC around $35), and came from one of my local camera stores.
May. 24th, 2010 03:37 am (UTC)
I did get one of those halogen lights, but when I used it it was so yellow it was like a Mapplethorpe. IfyaknowwhatImean. But now I know a lot more about white balance, so I might be able to do something about that.
(Deleted comment)
May. 24th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
A time to every purpose...

I am chuckling as well, because I'm planning a project where I'll be using my strobes. *G* Mostly because I think I can pull the effect off easier with the strobes than with constant light (heat factor, gels).
(Deleted comment)
May. 24th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
LOL. Not when shooting nudes, in winter, even here in North Central Baja Jorja.

Now, during the summer, yes. Then they make more heat than desired.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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