Home lighting options

As mentioned on the main Photography at home page, natural lighting will often give you the best results. Yet natural light can be unpredictable and limits when you take pictures, so below is a brief summery of artificial lighting that can be used at home.

Desk lamps: Bulb options

There’s nothing wrong with using a desk lamp, in fact they may be your best option, but the bulb you use in the lamp makes all the difference.

Incandescent £1 – £15

Pros:Cons:
Strong shadowsGet VERY hot
Possible to defuse Possible lens flair
Medium to Strong lightShallow beam
Wide spreadYellow light
Dimmable – lamp dependent

Single filament bulbs will give you nice strong shadows, multi-filament bulbs exits but these will feather the edges of your shadows so I would avoid these. You have many power options, from as low as 20Watts to over 200Watts, this would allow you to keep your ISO nice a low or remove the necessity of using a tripod.

These bulbs tend to be very bright and have a wide spread, yet the beam is shallow with a sharp fall-off. – Reflectors can be used to bounce excess light back into the shot to balance things out.

Using a desk lamp with a hood will help direct your light somewhat, but be wary of light hitting the camera lens, this could make your image look flat and create lens flairs.

Incandescent bulbs have a yellow hue which means they will not mix with the natural blue hue of daylight. Avoid using them in room with lots of natural light for an accurate white balance.

If you want soft lighting you can try bouncing the light off of a reflector or defusing the light with heat resistant material – ONLY use defusing material designed hot lamps, if in doubt, don’t do it!

DANGER: Incandescent bulbs get VERY hot, the higher the Watts, the higher the temperature. Not all lamps are built for very hot bulbs so you MUST check the maximum watts of the lamp you are using, do NOT go above this. Hot bulbs can start fires easily so do not place any flammable materials over the bulbs and give them time to cool down before storing them away.

Tip: To keeps shadows neat, try not to use more than one light directed at your model.

Energy Saving £2 – £10

Pros:Cons:
Soft lightYellow light – mostly
Cool running temperature Soft light only
Wide spreadShallow beam
Dimmable – Bulb/Lamp dependent
Medium to Strong light

Energy saving bulbs tend to give off a soft light that is fairly good for evenly lighting for your model, you should be able to use a number of lights without fear of creating crazy shadows everywhere. If you bounce the light off of a reflector the light will become even softer.

These types of bulbs have become popular in budget portrait lighting kits due to their softness, low running heat and compact size, see below for more information. Like incandescent bulbs the beam wide yet shallow with a sharp fall-off. – Reflectors can be used to bounce excess light back into shot to increase the amount of light on your model.

Energy saving bulbs tend to have a yellow hue which means they will not mix well with the natural blue hue of daylight. Avoid using them in room with lots of natural light for an accurate white balance.

However – Daylight balanced bulbs are available, so for added versatility I would recommend using the daylight balanced variety.

Not every energy saving bulbs can be dimmed even if your lamp is capable, do some research if you require this option.

Determining the brightness of an energy saving bulb can be tricky as they naturally have a low Wattage. As a base rule, multiply the stated wattage 4-5 times for an incandescent equivalent, so a 30Watt energy saving bulb would be the equivalent to a 120W-150W incandescent bulb.

Unfortunately there is no way to get hard shadows with these types on bulbs.

Budget lighting kits

There are many entry level lighting kits available, here’s some details regard two of the cheaper options.

Soft lighting kits £40 – £150

Pros:Cons:
Daylight balanced bulbsSoft light only
Very soft lightShallow beam
Cool running temperatureNot dimmable
Wide Spread
Medium to Strong light

These types are kits can be quite cheap and generally pack down into a handy case when not in use. Due to the very soft light they give off and the fact they do not get very hot, they are primarily used by portrait photographers, yet they also make great lights for model and product shots.

Most kits will come with daylight balanced energy saving bulbs, cheaper kits will generally come with less powerful bulbs and may not be built to handle brighter bulbs. Be sure to check the specs if you plan to upgrade to bright bulbs at a later date.

Having daylight balanced bulbs means you can mix them natural light without worrying about white balance issues.

The kits tend to have ON/OFF lights only. Dimmable options are available but at a higher price point.

Kits with umbrellas give you a few options. Shoot bare bulb, bounce the light from the within the umbrella, shine the light through the umbrella.

Bare bulb will give you the brightest light with some fuzzy shadows. Bounced light will be a bit weaker and give you softer shadows. Shining the light through is the weakest yet softest option giving you hardly any shadows.

Unfortunately there is no way to get hard shadows with these types on bulbs.

LED lights £40 – £80 each

Coming soon

Pros:Cons:
DimmableNot a true hard light
Cool running temperatureVery shallow beam
Battery power optionPossible lens flair
Daylight balancedLow to Medium light
Coloured filters
Soft & Hard light options

Most LED lights run very cool and can even run off of batteries! They are daylight balanced as standard and come with a variety of filters to alter the white balance, and diffusers to make the light softer.

Without diffusion LED light is quite hard, which will produce fairly strong shadows. However, as the lamps are made up many small bulbs, the shadows created have a feathered edge. Not ideal if you are after crisp shadows.

Light from an LED lamps does not travel very far, which means they tend to not be as bright as they seem. A tripod or shooting with a high ISO will likely be required.

Most LED lamps are dimmable giving you more control when using multiple lamps to light a shot, or when mixing the lamps with natural daylight.

Some lamps will come with barn doors allowing you to control the light further

Alternative options

“coming soon”

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