Hot lights as a portrait set up

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by digiconvert, Jan 30, 2007.

  1. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    I am looking at investing in some good lights for portrait work. I currently use some interfit/photax 3200k lights 'liberated' from a skip and I enjoy using them for still life etc. I use Elinchrom flash or Arri Hotlights at college but still find myself enjoying the hotlights more. I don't know why- maybe it's the effects given by the low DOF or the 'What you see is what you get' feeling of hotlights. However I know how uncomfortable it can be for the model in prolonged shoots (we tend to a lot of modelling for each other)but for a 10 min shoot they seem fine.
    I have been looking at hotlights from Elinchrom and Hedler, they look very adaptable but the price for a kit can be more than a flash/strobe set.

    Any views on this or am I just plain crackers to consider it ? Cheers : Chris
     
  2. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Personally, I would prefer hot models to hot lights.
     
  3. 2Ldude

    2Ldude Member

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    Or, Hot Models/Hot Lights/Heated Divorce
     
  4. Christopher Nisperos

    Christopher Nisperos Member

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    Hi Chris (excuse me for editing your above post).

    No, you're not crackers! (I mean, I don't think so... but, then, we've never met :tongue:) Hot lights have lots of advantages, a few of which you've mentioned. I don't blame you for loving the 'look' you can get. When you light a subject correctly with hot lights, you can almost see the finished image floating before you eyes! I adore that phenomenon.

    To reduce the effect of uncomfortably bright lights upon a live subject, here are a few simple solutions:

    • Ask your subject to close their eyes while you focus and adjust the lights (watch that their head position doesn't change while they dose!)

    • Have an electrician splice a dimmer into the power cords (or if you're competent, do it yourself). This will allow you to position your lights on "low, then, for metering purposes and final adjustments, turn them up to full power

    • If you know the face-type of your subject in advance, perhaps you can position some of the lights before the subject arrives (certainly, this is at least true for the background light, if you use one)

    Lastly, about affordability; hey, there are several threads already archived on this forum on that topic. Suffice it to say that you can even use desk-lamps or clamp-sockets gripped on chair-backs for hotlight photography (I've done it). One constraint: light height. For example, if your desk-lamp stays on a desk and don't you want side-lighting, your subject would have to sit on the floor, perhaps with their back to a wall... (but afterall, that's not such a dumb place to pose someone for holding still during a long shutter speed!)

    Other simple solutions:
    http://www.lowel.com/llight/
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=NavBar&A=search&Q=&ci=7423
    http://www.smithvictor.com/index2.asp
    http://www.testrite.com/visualcatalog/studiolighting.html
    http://www.ianiro.com/photoflood.asp

    ... and, when you can afford it, here's a best-bet: Dedolight. The only company smart enough to design a "zoom lens" into a tiny spotlight. Result?
    Incredible light quality and output:
    http://www.dedolight.com/100series.html


    There... hope you help kick-start your efforts. Have great fun! Please post some results.

    Best,

    Christopher

    Important PS - Using barndoors (and, if possible, flags) in creating portraits make a big difference, especially with hotlights. All of the solutions I suggested above offer barndoors as optional accessories.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2007
  5. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    I use nothing but hotlights for my portraits.
     
  6. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    An easy way to work with hot lights w/o blinding or overheating your model is to make an extension cord witgh a dimmer in it.
    Go toyour local home supply store and buy a grounded male plug, a junction box for 2 receptacles, a dual receptacle, a dimmer meant for wall mountung such as in the dining room and sufficient 14 or 16 gauge wire.

    These are easy to wire, your store should be able to help if yo don't know how. Put the dual receptacle in the box, run the wire out the back and put on the plug.

    I use these often. I pose the model and set my lights with them dimmed so there is just enough light to focus. Then when ready to expose, i turn them up, meter and expose. you can also make a couple of these and use them to adjust the amount of light from each of your lights.

    Hope this helps.
     
  7. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

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    Sanders,
    What kind of hot light set up did you use with your 5x7 shooting?

    Thanks,

    Alan.
     
  8. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    This Fall, I took a course with a very experienced portrait photographer who used a 1000 watt hot main light, a fairly small surface light box. Since the students, including my ugly self, often had to double as sitters for the demonstrations, I can say from experience that hot lights, properly used, can be used completely without discomfort or squinting from the subject with the great 'What you see is what you get' benefit.
    Personally, I have a Lowell Softlight for a main and a couple of Totalites and some Smith Victors, but I shoot mostly still life.
     
  9. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Alan, I use a big homemade softbox. I bought the biggest plastic underbed bin (for storing sweaters and blankets) I could find; lined it with aluminum foil; put 12 screw-in light sockets inside; filled them with 26w compact fluorescent bulbs from the hardware store; and covered with white cloth. It puts out very little heat, yet throws enough light to let me expose TX400 at EI 200, at 1/30th second at f/8 -- I think it is the incandescent equivalent of maybe 1200-1500 watts.

    I bounce fill with a big sheet of white foam core. I blow out the background with a couple of Lowel Tota Lights. They do get hot, but not unmanageably so.

    That's my recipe for all my portraits, MF and LF.

    Sanders.
     
  10. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    If one always uses an even number of equal wattage hot lights, a switch box can be built to switch pairs of lights from a series circuit configuration for composing and focusing to a parallel configuration for shooting. This also greatly extends the life of Photoflood lamps.
     
  11. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

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    I like your style Sanders.
     
  12. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    ...and this is easier than finding a dimmer with enough power-handling capacity to dim 1000+W of hot light, though to be fair, finding the right switch for series-parallel isn't always easy.

    I'd suggest 'thousand hour' bulbs instead of Photofloods (i.e. more overrun than domestic bulbs, but not overrun as much as Photofloods) but otherwise I'm right with you on this one.

    Cheers,

    R
     
  13. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    Arnold Newman used hotlights. As an example of how he'd work, he photographed David Rockefeller in his Chase Bank office. (quite an office, more like an extension of MOMA!) This was no simple matter as the building electricians had to first tie in heavy electrical extensions directly into the main power to supply the hotlights. He shot color and the lights had blue color correction filters over them and additional color correction was used over the lens. This required the subject to hold still for about a 1/2 to 1/8th second exposure. It was a slower way to work and required the subject to be still but it was also a very precise way to work. He also used hot lights for his studio work as well eventhough he owned studio strobes. In the time I worked for him I never saw him use strobes. He also had the habit of using his assistants as flags, that is he'd make you hold your hand out to block the light hitting a stack of papers, or whatever was getting too much light. Convenient for him but not fun for the assistant.

    I assume that the vast majority of his early and well known works were all shot with hotlights. Also all of the fabulous portraits of the 20's, 30's, and 40's by other photographers were lit with hotlights. Look at the lighting in a Horst or in those Hollywood movie star photos of that period, all hotlights. If you are more comfortable using hotlights and can deal with their disadvantages then you should feel free to cook away.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2007
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  15. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Brian's post reminds me that I neglected to point out the biggest failing of my homemade fluorescent hotlight softbox: The color of the light is wildly inappropriate for color work. The light has a greenish cast, which will wreak havoc with color film. For B+W portraiture, however, it is fine. Sanders
     
  16. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jim Jones
    If one always uses an even number of equal wattage hot lights, a switch box can be built to switch pairs of lights from a series circuit configuration for composing and focusing to a parallel configuration for shooting. This also greatly extends the life of Photoflood lamps.


    ...and this is easier than finding a dimmer with enough power-handling capacity to dim 1000+W of hot light, though to be fair, finding the right switch for series-parallel isn't always easy.

    I'd suggest 'thousand hour' bulbs instead of Photofloods (i.e. more overrun than domestic bulbs, but not overrun as much as Photofloods) but otherwise I'm right with you on this one.

    Cheers,

    R

    A heavy duty double pole double throw switch will do. If you can't find one that will carry the current, almost any switch can control a double pole double throw relay or two single pole double throw relays. A single pole single throw relay will work in place of one of the DPDT relays in the last example.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2007
  17. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I suspect you'd be better off using a dimmer with photofloods if you can find a suitably rated dimmer (most locally seem to be 300W only). Theory suggests that by using the dimmer to switch them on/off you avoid the sudden surge as they are switched on which is the most common failure mode for incandescent lamps.

    There are fluorescent lamps that claim 5000k temperature light but I've no idea how "real" they are... Halogen heads with built-in cooling and dimmer look interesting, if a little expensive: http://www.speedgraphic.co.uk/prod.asp?i=11216&1=Interfit+Stellar+Halogen+1000w+Head
    (main continuous lighting page: http://www.speedgraphic.co.uk/cat.asp?c=93&1=Continuous+Lighting)

    Bear in mind that you should not take more than 3kW from a UK power socket (6kW maximum from the entire circuit).

    Good luck, Bob.
     
  18. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    I’ll start with a daft question: what does ‘hotlight’ mean? I’m not being snide, I’m puzzled.

    I’m fortunate enough to have a good collection of continuous lights as well as flash, so I’ll offer some vague musings on some of the differences – or maybe it is a paean to the fresnel light. Ignoring HMIs and Mini-Flos, most of my continuous lights are Arri Juniors between 150 W and 2 kW, which I regard as the industry standard small focussing fresnel lights. Along with those I have small 100/150 W dedos and the larger 650 W dedos, a 650 W ellipsoidal spot and a few open face lights – variable beam spread blondes (2 kw) and redheads (600 to 1000 W), and fixed beam spread broads (750 to 1000 W) including a few Tota-lights. As an aside, there are people who would prefer us to use the terms yellows and reds because they find offence in calling them blondes and redheads (I guess that it is discrimination against brunettes), but they seem happy with ‘broads’. Pause for a moment to imagine what else broads might be called, and a scene in which they are called that.

    Therein lies one of the main differences between continuous lights and flash to my mind – the type of instrument. My choice is based very much on the type of instrument I would prefer to use. The fresnel types, especially their close relatives the dedos, are so versatile and controllable. Even used directly, they act as a nice even round source. (With continuous lights not only can you see what you are getting, you can also stand at the subject’s location and look at the shape and varying intensity of the source - with your sunglasses on if necessary) You can create soft light of the exact quality you want by varying the size and location of the reflected or diffused spot, and by selecting the reflective or diffusive material. You have great versatility in the placement of lights and reflectors in a tight location – a soft source can be as thin as a piece of foamcore and the light itself can be over the other side of the room out of the way, or even outside the room. Reflectors used in that manner are another way round the heat problem. Softboxes and fluorescent light banks are like one-note instruments in comparison, though it may be a very pleasing note.

    Fresnel lights lose light into their case, especially when spotted. They aren’t so bad in that respect at full flood, when they approach the efficiency of the brutish open-face instrument. Dedos don’t lose as much light as standard fresnels, thanks to the extra lens. Neither dedos nor standard fresnels are great for evenly illuminating a softbox – they are good at doing it unevenly though, which is often preferable for portraiture. Open face lights do the evenly-lit softbox thing better. Totas are great for that.

    While talking about open face lights that use lamps with high temperature envelopes, and especially Totas, I really want to emphasise how important it is to use them with a guard or safety glass, even though you lose light through the guard, and it restricts the maximum wattage (eg 750 W for a guarded Tota vs 1000 W for an unguarded one. A 750 W guarded Tota puts out about half the light of a 1000 W unguarded one). It is very rare for a quarz halogen lamp to explode, but when they do the consequences can be awful. You have only to see it happen once for it to be impressed on you forever. Hot shards of glass come flying out, setting fire to things they pass through and embedding themselves into anything soft, putting little burn marks everywhere. Very dramatic, very dangerous. Totas are especially vulnerable because of the ease with which they can get fingerprints on the lamp envelope – the grease blackens, and the blackened area causes a hot spot with consequent stress from the differential expansion, then bang. It’s a worthwhile demo. Also be aware of the permissible orientations of the lamp and instrument because that affects the temperature distribution and cooling.

    None of the above means that you can’t achieve the same lighting effect with flash as with continuous light – there’s always a way, and it’s just a personal preference. The only thing I can think of that really distinguishes the two types of lighting is movement and sharpness. You can’t get motion blur with flash (unless you use it with continuous light) and you can’t usually freeze motion with continuous light in the same way that you can with flash. For me. the main attraction of continuous light is the thousand things you can do easily with a Junior, and the million things you can do more easily with a dedo.

    Bob, 6 kW on one circuit? I hope that you realise how fortunate you are. When I came to the USA I learned very quickly that you can’t hang as many kW off a 110 V spur as you can off the 240 V rings that are common in the UK. (“What do you mean - I can’t plug a little 2 kW Junior in?”)

    As for fan cooled units, if there’s a possibility of them being used for film or video with location sound, forget them.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  19. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    In decades of using quartz lights, I've never had one explode but I have always handled them with great care not to touch the bulbs with my bare fingers.
    Totalights come with those snap-in metal protective screens which give bit of welcome diffusion to the quartz tubes even if they do cut some brightness as Helen mentioned.
    By far, my favorite light is the Lowell folding softlight. Some diffusion material clipped to the barn doors makes a big, bright softbox when needed and it is extremely portable.
     
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    It seems to me that if one had a chance to apprentice to Helen:

    1) it would be incredibly demanding; and
    2) it would be the photographic opportunity of a lifetime.

    At 50+, I expect its a bit too late.:wink:

    Thanks for your contribution to this thread Helen.

    Matt
     
  21. Christopher Nisperos

    Christopher Nisperos Member

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    Continuous light sources. Tungsten, halogen .. any sources other than strobe.

    Um.... second thoughts are creeping in. I don't remember whether flourescent and HMI are qualified as "hot lights" too. Anybody wanna throw two cents in (Roger?) ?

    Best,

    Christopher
     
  22. Richard Kelham

    Richard Kelham Member

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    Surely fluorescents and HMI should be called 'cold' lights? The use of the word 'hot' for all non-strobe lighting seems a bit lazy: why not 'Tungsten' or 'incandescent'? OK the words are longer, take more effort to type....

    Banks of fluorescent tubes make excellent soft lights if shooting B&W – as ably demonstrated by Sanders (I thought they were flash) McNew – without risking fried models. Actually, as Sanders' models are generally devoid of clothing a hotter light source might be welcome? :smile:


    Richard
     
  23. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Depends on the season. :smile:

    Seriously, it was the heat issue that drove me to make a compact-fluorescent softbox. I don't like flash. I needed so many halogen watts to generate enough light to get the pictures right, that the the lights were insufferable in the summer. Necessity, mother of invention, and all that.

    Sanders
     
  24. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Definition of "hot lights".

    When you burn your hand on them every time you adjust them.

    They're "hot lights."

    When you can fry an egg on them.

    They're "hot lights".

    When you need to swear every time you adjust them.

    They're "hot lights".

    Anyone who doesn't know what a "hot light" is, obviously has never used them.


    Hope this helps,

    Michael
     
  25. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Matt's comments leave me a bit lost for words. I sure hope that I'm not too demanding to work with.

    It isn't a term I hear much, but I also thought that 'hot light' referred to a light that got hot. I guess that it's just a vague term, to be interpreted in the context of its use.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  26. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    Is it just me or do others out there find Helen's technical talk strangely arousing? :smile: