i worked for a lady who had a portrait studio from the early 30s-around the mid 90s. she used hot lights into the 60s until she had trouble finding replacement bulbs and then used photogenics-i don't remember the model, but the switch was close to the floor and looked like a 60's vacuum cleaner ... she had a lot of trouble finding bulbs (long neck) for her solar enlarger too, and in about 1978 called every photo store in a 75mile radius of her studio and bought every bulb she could find.
when i worked for her, the only hot light she had was for focusing ... the other 4-5 lights were strobes ...
When I started my studio in 1976 I bought Photogenic Studio Master lights. They were sort of a mono light with the power pack in a tray on the rolling stand. These were sort of the Rolls Royce of studio portrait lights at the time. Luckily I got mine at cost.
Some people mentioned that they looked like they were designed by a dental equipment company. I had seven of them of different configurations (main, main, "hogtrough" background, hair, spot, umbrella...). They are/were incredible lights and I've never changed any bulbs except a indicator light on the power pack. I still have 3 of them.
I don't know when strobes were first popular in the studio, but by the middle seventies everybody had them. I'd guess the early to middle 60s.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
From what I have been told Dr. Harold Edgerton invented the studio type flash. I have also been told over the years that the Ascor Sunlight strobes were originally designed for use in night time recon missions in WWII. I do not know the validity of that but given the ability of them to generate 96,000 wattseconds I can believe it.
I had a set of Ascors, I had one of the later models and 12 capacitor/condenser boxes for them. I could put out 9600 watts in one pop with them. However 9600 watts of ascor was far higher than 9600 watts of other strobe brands because they used far larger and more efficient flash tubes and far higher amperage. They were extremely dangerous has they had the unfortunate tendancy to arc and given the high voltage and high amperage they could easily kill you. I worked with them VERY carefully. When unplugging heads or condensers you would have to brace yourself against the generator to get enough leverage to pull out the plugs, I never touched it, even when it had been turned off and discharged, without a rubber insulator. I used them as recently as 1999 because they had an extremely fast flash duration and could freeze almost any action while still providing very high power. They were used alot with splashes and pours. Just the thing you want to do with a potentially high amp/high voltage bomb nearby. When you would turn them on the floor would vibrate. When fired they did not "pop", they "BANGED!!!" very loud, very scary if you were not expecting it. They always sounded like an uncontrolled arc.
Many of the old timers still used hot lights for portraits in the 70's. I remember the first day of assisting Arnold Newman I was amazed that he used hotlights for portrait on location.
March 17, 1963 was the day they all switched.
Don't forget that some of them bought into the idea of fluorescent banks in the all B&W era.
By the way, some of those Ascors are still in use and they are extremely dangerous; a number of people have been killed by them.
The very early units were tripped by relay switches which could wander in and out of synch. And the exposure times were 1/50,000 or less. It was a big adventure......
Originally Posted by Kirk Keyes
This invites a a classic school debating society answer: define 'strobe', 'commonly' and 'studio portrait'.
William Henry Fox Talbot took the first photo by electric flash (honestly!) but this was just a very powerful spark.
A strobe, strictly, fires a sequence of flashes and this can be achieved mechanically with a constant light source and a rotating sector shutter.
The date generally given for 'Doc' Edgerton's introduction of modern stroboscopic flash lighting is 1931 but I have not verified this. Electronic flash was reportedly used for aerial reconnaissance before the D-day landings.
The Kodatron studio flash was certainly available in the late 1940s and may have been earlier. They were used in high-end advertising studios and may for all I know have been used for portraiture as well, but compared with the big troughs and focusing spots that were available for 'hot' lights they were incredibly limited. This would have reduced their usefulness for many kinds of portraiture.
The earliest electronic flash I have owned dated from the 50s (early 50s I think) but this was a reportage unit, not studio lighting, and relied on a very high tension battery.
As late as 1970, reasonably powerful studio flash was huge, heavy and expensive: the 5000 W-s Strobe Equipment box we used at Plough Photography in the early 70s was a monster. Each of the five 1000 W-s capacitor boxes was getting on for three feet square and maybe six inches thick.
The first monobloc heads of which I am aware were from Bowens, the 100, 200 and 400 but these were famously 'BoJoules' not true Watt-second outputs. I believe these appeared in the 60s. The old blue Courtenay dates from the same era.
The real weasel word is 'common', which we might take to mean 'used to take more than half of studio portraits', and that's going to be pure guesswork. My reasonably informed guess is that it was in the late 60s or early 70s, though as I say, there was no reason why some portraitists shouldn't have started in the 40s or earlier.
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Thanks for all the thoughts, peoples. That was interesting.
And Roger - I'm still working my way through your Hollywood lighting book - I really like it.
PS - commonly, yes, I would say about 1/2 of the population in the study would be the useful definition for that term.
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks
Ye gods, yes I remember those things. He also produced a smaller "portable" 1000j unit (ie only likely to induce a single hernia). We had one of his "swimming pools" which was something like 6'x4' of opal prespex attached to a huge counterbalaced stand and built like a tank – he called it a SAE stand which I gather stood for String And Elastic: he clearly had a sense of humour, which is just as well since his gear was almost as lethal as the Anscos seem to have been. Mind you I remember using Balcars on a few jobs and they were none-too-safe either!
To get back on topic, I would guess that in London at least, the big guys were using flash in the late '50s (George Nicholls certainly was) but that general usage out in the sticks might have had to wait for the cheaper Bowens/Courtenay units in the later '60s and '70s. In my days as a pro photographer (1972-1986) I never used anything but flash – and I was no pioneer.
If you used the SWP, no doubt you also recall the FF and SFF (Fish Fryer and Super Fish Fryer) -- though this is the first time I heard of the origin of SAE.
Originally Posted by Richard Kelham
I was in the pub next door once ("Surely not!" I hear you cry) when an assistant came in and said he had 'dropped' the SWP. Not an easy trick, you might think -- but what he had done was jammed it under the roof of the cove and just kept pulling until the entire unit -- SWP and SAE -- had toppled...
Then there was Jan Podsiadly ('Po-chudwy' for those unfamiliar with Polish) who casually pushed a loose 1000 tube in with his thumb. He was also known as Johhny Stud in the band 'Rocky Sharp and the Replays' (his girlfriend was Helen Highwater) and his brothel creepers saved his life. Last time I saw him, a quarter of a century later, he still had the scar, a circular burn the size of a sixpenny piece (US dime) on his thumb...
As well as flash, we used triple-phase power for hot lights, especially for car photography. I remember at least 14 KW on one car shoot; I think we could handle 30 KW.
Happy days. Mind you, the fact that we were all pissed as rats the whole time kept us happy...
There's an article on the Kodatron Speedlamp in the Sept 1940 issue of Photo Technique. It mentions the standard 'readily portable and convenient' unit packing 24 Ws, but the article was about tests up to 400 Ws. The exposure information for Kodachrome Type B, with a colour balancing filter was: lamp 2 metres from the subject, 256 Ws, f/4.5. In the same issue there is an example of a nudie shot taken to advertise scales (weighing machines) that was shot with 5 kW of hot lights. 8x10 Tri-X, 1/5 at f/16.
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks
Speedotrons were available for $175, and the Lee Strobo-Speed Lamp was available in kit form. For comparison, an Argus A3 was $16.50, a used Leica III-A with Summar was $135 and a 5x7 Devin color camera was $300 without a lens.
Up until this summer, the Garrett Wade catalog was shot with Ascor strobes. The power supply went on the fritz, and Dick Frank now uses Speedotrons for it (and an 8x10 Deardorff).
Dick Frank is still shooting?!! Wow, he's been around a long time. I used to have the name of the one remaining guy who repaired Ascors. No one else would touch them, not even Flash Clinic. Also disposal of Ascor condensors could be a problem. They either used PCBs or Castor oil in them. The castor oil ones were ok to toss, but the PCB ones required EPA toxic waste disposal.