Hot lights or strobes?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by clay, Oct 9, 2005.

  1. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    I'm thinking about learning the rudiments of artificial lighting this winter. Does anyone actually use hot lights anymore? Or are strobes really the ticket? And if so, who makes the best 2 or 3 light package that won't break the bank? Curious minds..
     
  2. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi clay

    there is a company on ebay called amvona that sells lights + soft boxes & lighting "stuff". i can't really comment on the quality of their goods. comments range from " this stuff is great!" to " should have bought 'xxx brand' this stuff is junk!" , but for cheep continuous light with modifiers they might not be that bad. if i were to do it again, i would buy a bunch of lights from them just to fool around with - again - cheep is the key here :smile:


    continous lighting, it is nice because you can actually see what the lights are doing instead of using modeling lights.


    good luck!

    john
     
  3. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    You can play around with hot lights for an amazingly small amount of money. All you need is some sort of base and a photo flood. Perhaps a couple with some sort of diffuser and a reflector. We have used furnace filters as diffusers and also wood frames with nylon stretched over them. One thing to be careful with is that the bulbs are high wattage. If you do something like use one in a utility light you need to be careful, the heat will get awfully high.

    Strobes have their advantages in that they produce less heat, are very bright, and work with daylight film if you are shooting color. I prefer strobes, but a real strobe setup is a bunch of money. Of course, a "real" hot light set up is as well.
     
  4. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    You don't mention what subject matter you'll be shooting, and whether in color or B&W. For static subjects in B&W, you can learn a lot with a couple of $10 halogen garage lights from your local hardware store.

    For people work, I think you'll find that the output of hot lights is quite low, meaning wide apertures or long-ish exposure times. By the time you get the light level up to reasonable exposure times/apertures, the lights are so bright as to be uncomfortable for the people. For most folks, that happens somewhere between 300 and 500 watts.

    Oh, and remember that there's a reason they are called hot lights. Due care is required to avoid burns or even starting a fire.
     
  5. eric

    eric Member

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    Everything I learned about lighting I learned wtih hotlights. Mostly Mole Richardsons. I worked with a ton of strobes but only with models. Still life, I like hot lights. I worked for a couple of years with a food photographer that used hot lights. I think there was only a handful of people doing that at the time but it was hard. You had to be real fast and have lots of "stand-ins". I had to be fast on the 8x10 Deardorff too.

    I think to play around, use hot lights so you see what is happening. Strobes are good for color balance.

    You using B&W or color?
     
  6. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I spent many years working in commercial product photography studios and, unless I had a specific purpose for using strobes, I would always choose hot lights. Now, when I shoot still lifes, it is nothing but hot lights. Also, hard lights are much more critical but also more controllable than those big self-filling umbrellas or giant idiot boxes that can be moved two feet in any direction without affecting the shot in the slightest.
    If you are looking to gain lighting skills, I'd go with hot lights. You can see your angles and ratios as you work and refine your metering techniques and learn how they record on film, color or B&W.
    If you are specializing in people, strobes are more comfortable for your subject and forgiving of movement but I'd use a small light box so that the light is directional enough to produce the shadows and modeling needed to define shape.
     
  7. eumenius

    eumenius Member

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    I am with Flotsam - I prefer hot lights over stobes due to that excellent ability of continuous light to be controlled :smile: I love to shoot models, for example, in Hollywood style - and it's pretty impossible to do so with a flash, as I can see. Also I prefer tungsten-balanced color film over daylight, using mainly Fuji 64T and NPL160 - the colour these films deliver seems way richer to me, and way way less blue compared to strobe light. The softboxes always irritated me, too - I can't stand square reflections in the eyes, and their overall idiot-proof uncontrollabe light :smile: There are umbrellas and reflectors, why do I need a softbox?

    The strobes are quite expensive, give to you less control and, what's quite important, are too powerful for a small studio. You have to black paint the walls and have your ceilings to be at least 4 meter high to avoid complete filling of shadows with typical studio strobe setup. Of course they help in avoiding blurred pictures, but on my practice I found that the model should be prepared very well to shooting - or your super-contrasty modern lens at f/16 (typical aperture with strobes in small studio) would show way too much :smile:

    Cheers,
    Zhenya
     
  8. Bighead

    Bighead Member

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    Not to hog the thread but to those of you that prefer hotlights, what is a good brand that offers some light controlling accessories??
     
  9. eumenius

    eumenius Member

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    I personally prefer those lights made by IFF, Manfrotto department - they are full metal, with built-in colling fans, and with good set of accessories like reflectors, barn doors, snoots etc. They are made to last, and utilize standart G6.35 halogen capsule lamps. The maximum constant work time indicated with 1250W (!!) lamp is 4 hours!

    Here's the link: http://www2.iff.it/studio/botfot.html

    Refer there to Q system. I can't recommend the whole kits - buying the lamp separately would be more flexible.

    Zhenya

     
  10. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I'm more or less at the same point. I've decided against hot lights.

    1) They really are hot.

    2) It takes a lot of watts to put out much light. The 1250 watt lights mentioned are more then 10 amps for those of us in North America. Yikes. Two of them would trip most breakers I bet.

    I've got a set of 1000watt work lights plus a couple of 250 watt work lights. They're great for lighting a room when I paint it. Or for heating the house but when I took the light meter to them the 1000watt set produced F/2.5 at 1/60th. 100ISO. Less then 10 feet from the light. Straight on. No bounce. Nothing between the light and the meter. Even using 400 speed film that's not much light. Big problem is that at that level it's too bright to look at. Maybe real photographic lights are more efficent?

    I've considered the kits sold by SP-Systems. But people here who have seen them mention they tend to fall apart. So no good.

    Right now I'm leaning towards the new Sunpak strobes. The problem is they're new enough nobody has seen one. I've tried getting some added info from ToCad [the US importer] but like usual they are taking thier time answering.

    If I was in the US I might just get the Alien lights. More money then the Sunpaks but at least various people have used them.
     
  11. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    The people who make light control accessories, like Chimera and Lighttools, make them for most hot lights. Companies like dedolight and Lowel offer a wide range of lights and accessories, both of which I use and recommend - dedo especially. Dedo lights are truly great, but beware that their accessories are often re-badged equipment at twice the price of the original manufacturer's equivalent. Dedos probably have a place in still photography simply because there is nothing else quite like them, whether continuous or flash/strobe. Lowel offer many versatile little gizmos.

    A lot of the light control equipment that is used with continuous lights is not specific to one brand or another - stands, scrims, gels, flags and reflectors that work with any light. Matthews make sturdy stuff at a sturdy price. My all-time favourite stand, which I can find a use for on almost every set, is their 'Magic Stand with Runway Base'. Manfrotto and Lowel equipment isn't as heavily built, but it is still plenty robust enough for most people.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  12. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Again, "for what it's is worth" Strobe lighting can be just as fine and delicate as the persons who is using it's skill will allow. The exact same lighting can be achieved accomplished with either one, hot or cold if the user knows what he/she is doing. It is absolute hogwash that one is better than the other. It is a personal psychological thing in your head. Hot light will not do one thing better or more efficiently than a skilled strobe person can do with knowledge of what each lamp head will do or not do. Spot effects are the most difficult to recreate, but can be done with with creative placement of each light perhaps using a light modifying device, like a snoot, gobo, flag or what ever. The exact same devices are absolutely necessary for either type of light to totally be controlled.


    The whole thing boils down to what each individual likes, dislikes, owns, wants to spend, or has heard from a friend or from a list like this one that leads him/her to believe Mazda, (Which I learned with) which is today called hot light is superior in quality to strobe lighting. My reply/comment here is simply bull--it since my experience and others experiences over the past fifty five years has already proven repeatably otherwise. Still life images can easily be made effectively with either, hot or strobe, it all depends on your choice, skill and opinion which you chose.

    You cannot tell the difference from two finished prints one made from each type of light if the camera/lighting technician did his job and is worth his salt!

    My opinion based on "having been there and done that"

    Charlie
     
  13. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    Hi Nick, this is not entirely accurate. People tend to mistakenly refer to all continuous lighting as "hot lights" even though that is not always the case. If you are talking about incandecent or HMI lights then yes, they tend to be "hot" and expensive to run. However those are not your only two options.

    These days I do almost all of my artificial lighting with daylight-balanced flourecents that give off a huge amount of light, very little heat, and use little juice. My work is almost all macro and I get the lights within a couple inches of the subjects. I tried this once (and only once) with incandecent lights, it didn't work so well. Flashes were too difficult to adjust, align and measure.

    Don't completely write off "hot" lights unless you've already got your mind made up. Take a look at lighting designed for cinematography, not still photography. The options are as endless as your imagination.
     
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  15. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    How well do they work with colour film? I remember somebody mentioned using flourscents to make a softbox. Still would seem to take a lot of tubes to put out much light. I know they are much more efficient then other bulbs and they can be had in some pretty large sizes. They make compact 100Watt floursent bulbs. Four of those would be like a 2000watt fixture I bet.
     
  16. haris

    haris Guest

    Clay, tommorow I will make photographs using not even real photography hot lights, but lights made for construction works. Price: 25 euro/USD for one housing on stand included 500W halogen lamp. One note: amount of light from that ordinary halogen is less than real photographic 500w halogen lamp, but if you want to go cheap, then...

    CAUTION 1: Be carefull not to injure yourself or potential model(s), or burn something as temperature of those lights is high.

    CAUTION 2: You MUST use protection glass or wire net in front of halogen bulb as those bulbs can explode and make injuries.
     
  17. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    They're daylight balanced so they look like any other light source. Very soft light, of course.

    I wouldn't use regular household flourecent lights, that's an inefficient way to do it, although I have in fact lit scenes with them. The comparison is like apples to oranges, both are fruit, but completely different. You would want flouros that are meant for photographic lighting.

    They've all got lumens ratings so you can do comparisons between them and hot lights.
     
  18. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    The big problem with shop lights is that they are not color balanced. It may not make any difference for what you want to use them for, which is pretty much relegating to blasting light all over the place, but if you are doing color work you'll have a tough time matching anything. I used them for a few shoots early on and decided it was worth the money to invest in something that had more control both in terms of the temperature and light fall.
     
  19. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Daylight lamps are available without the photographic label on them. I guess we all know what happens to prices once you stick "photographic" on anything. 5500K I think. Might be 5100K. Is that all that's need? Or is it more complicated?


    The compacts I was talking about aren't home lamps. They're intend to replace big industrial lamps. The sort of lights that go high up in a warehouse or other high ceiling locations. 300 or 500 watt old style lamps.
     
  20. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    But of course. At the same time some people need the added reliability and dependability of dedicated equipment and don't mind paying for it. Me, I make my own unless it's cheaper to buy it.

    It really depends on what you need. You tell us! You're looking for lumens, the more the better. Compare against a value you know will work for you.

    Those sound like they would certainly do the trick. If the price is right then try a few and let us know what you think. The ones I have now are cheap (in every sense of the word). They work well for macro and for reasonably tight portraiture, but they fall off fast and aren't designed to be moved about much. I used a bunch on location for a movie once and at the end of the night we had gone through quite a few bulbs. But it looked real good!
     
  21. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Some times it seems they just put a sticker saying "Photo grade" on things and hike the prices. :rolleyes:

    What I want/need is enough light to do small portraits [1 or 2 people sort of thing] Standing. MF so F/8 to F/11 with film speeds of say 64 to 125. I'd like the same setup to handle LF. Say F/22 with film speed of 320. Both c-41 and B&W for MF. B&W for LF.

    How I get the light is an issue I'm flexible with.

    Right now I can't find the really big lamps. The 68watt one is rated at 4200 intial lumens.
     
  22. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    I was fortunate to have taken a lighting seminar offered by the late Michael Collins. He was a pioneering photographer, a stand-up comedian and had an instinctual understanding of light in the 4-dimensional world of photography (the ability to exploit time being the 4th dimension.) He talked about the European training he had in which one assignment was to illustrate hard and soft lighting with nothing more than a single florescent bulb. With this, if you want hard light, turn it nearly end-on with non-reflective (black walls) you have a small light source and hard lighting. Want a large light source - turn the bulb sideways to the subject and rotate it like a propeller during the exposure.

    I was sure that he would, during the course of the seminar, answer the hot-light vs strobe question. His answer - it depends. If you want to use long exposures to manipulate your exposure, forget strobes. If you want to freeze motion in a deep set (deep depth of field) - strobe are the natural choice.

    I have worked with both and even though I now shoot only for my own pleasure, I held on to an inexpensive four-head Novatron 1600ws strobe set. It is among the most affordable of the strobe offerings and is a wonderful tool to have available.

    I have found that the "inexpensive" hot-light systems are no bargain. The light stands are bordering on "dangerous" quality, the brackets and barn-doors are cheesy - they are a long way from "pro quality." They produce light and allow you to direct it where you want it to go but you will be upgrading at some point in the future.

    My preference is strobe - but, in the next breath, I wish I had a pro-level set of hot lights on the shelf as well.
     
  23. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    I don't do people portraiture much, so I can't really answer you directly. I'd say give it a shot but don't invest too much unless you can get your money back if it doesn't work.

    The great thing about non-pro equipment is that it's cheaper and you often get unexpected results. The great thing about pro equipment is that you know what to expect and almost never get unexpected results.
     
  24. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    If you're just learning about lighting I suggest you use hotlights, B&W film and static subject matter. I also suggest you get a variety of diffusers and reflector cards. Once you have learned the basics of lighting you can move into using strobe. However many people do choose to use hotlights for still life. Strobes are a far better choice if you intend on photographing people although in my assisting days I worked for a reknowned portrait photographer who used hotlights with people.

    As for softboxes being "idiot lights" it's true that it makes it easy to produce an acceptably lit image, however in the hands of a skilled photographer softboxes can do so much more.
     
  25. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    clay -

    a really great book regarding artificial lighting ross lowell's matter of light & depth

    http://www.lowel.com/book.html

    he is the guy that started lowel light. his book isn't the bible, but it is pretty helpful.

    good luck!
     
  26. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    Well, I think hot lights may be more my ticket. More 'artiste' and less Olan Mills.

    Okay, so I've done some research. It appears you can spend anywhere from $100 to $7000 dollars for a 3 head hot light set up. So what is an HMI light? Is it a daylight balance halogen lamp? I noticed that the Dedolight company, among others, offers that as an option that costs a few more $$$. Any thoughts there? And how come everyone offers a soft box, but no one offers a hard box?