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.
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.
Originally Posted by Nick Zentena
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.
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.
a really great book regarding artificial lighting ross lowell's matter of light & depth
he is the guy that started lowel light. his book isn't the bible, but it is pretty helpful.
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?
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Clay an HMI is a voltage contolled daylight color temperature continuous light. They are very bright,do not flicker and allow the use of unfiltered, or minimally filtered color film. Due to their voltage control their color does not shift with changes in supplied current. They are popular with film crews and for photographers using scan backs. They are also very expensive.
A softbox, also referred to as a bank light, got it's name because it softens and evens out the light. The original idea was to make a light source similar to north light.
I have extensive lighting gear, multiple strobe systems, multiple continuous light systems. I own Dedolights and find them great for use with their focusing spotlights. They are pricey and are not great to use for lighting larger areas. You may want to look into lights made by Arriflex, their 600 or 2000 watt fresnels and their softlights.
You dont need softboxes to get a softbox effect, one of the nicest light sources, especially for reflective objects is to hang a diffuser, like a roll of Tough Lux, from a boom arm and shoot your light through it. This enables you to have a light source as wide as the roll, 48 or 60" and to gradate the light on the diffuser which will then give you a soft reflection on the subject. This is harder to do though if you wish to light your subject from directly over head, and that is where a softbox is more easily set up.
Diffusers and reflectors are key lighting tools, do not neglect to have them available. A great way to light a large area is to bounce your lights off a large white surface. I used to light room sized sets by bouncing lights off a folding and portable wall made of 5 4x8' white foamcores (make sure they're really white if you plan to shoot color). This gave me the effect of having an 8' tall by 20' wide light source, it made for even light and soft directional shadows. I could control the amount of shadow fill by the use of another wall of 4x8' foamcores on the other side of the set. It was a really easy way to work and provided a natural light.
Just to add a little to Early Riser's excellent description, 'HMI' is an Osram trademark for a discharge lamp, not an incandescent. It is a mercury medium-length AC arc in iodine, which legend has it explains the name: 'H' for mercury being via Hg, from hydrargyrum (sp?). They achieve the usual 4x or so better light output per watt of electricity as incandescents, so a 125 W HMI is roughly equivalent to a 500 W tungsten.
Being a discharge lamp. an HMI requires a ballast (and some do flicker). There are two main types of ballast 'flicker-free' electronic; and magnetic. The magnetic ones are the cheapest and are fine for most still (film) photography. They produce flicker at the same frequency as the mains supply, so can cause problems with motion picture cameras. They are virtually silent. Electronic ballasts either work at a much higher frequency or produce a square-wave output, hence the 'flicker free' name, but they tend to hum a little.
HMIs do not have quite as pure a spectrum as incandescents, though their CRI (colour rendering index) is plenty high enough for most photographic purposes.
The dedo HMI heads are great. I love them. The k5600 ones are also superb, my favourite among those being the BlackJack 400, which is interchangeable with a tungsten-lamped head.
One more advantage to hot lights,
I'm out shooting in my garage studio on a nasty, wet, windy day. A couple of thousand watts of hot lights feels real nice.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
what was that "big" light Hurrell (sp?) used?
If it has not been mentioned, I would look at Tota or Lowel Lights. They are high powered, have barndoor and various other attachments, and they are CHEAP.