Photo lighting

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Three Basic Lighting Choices

There are 3 basic choices: flash, hotlights and cool lights.

  • Hotlights (also known as tungsten lights) are called hotlights because they really are hot. They’re just ordinary quartz halogen lights, often around 500-800 watts and they can be used for video (which of course needs a continuous light) and for photographing small products. They don’t really have enough power for photographing people because, although they seem to be much brighter than they really are and you’ll need a very high ISO setting on your camera, and a very slow shutter speed. They are also extremely hot, they can easily cause a fire and are uncomfortably bright when they’re shining in someone’s eyes. They are also very “warm” (orange) in color and although the color balance can be adjusted, the color simply won’t mix with daylight or flash.
  • Cool Lights are a much better bet because they’re fluorescent and don’t run hot. Therefore, they don’t create such a tangible fire risk and they are more comfortable for everyone involved. They are also more or less the same color as daylight, so can be used if there is daylight in the room, and can be used in conjunction with flash. But, like hotlights, they have very little power compared to flash and so they cause the same problems with high ISO and slow shutter speeds. Some fluorescent lights can be adjusted by switching off one or more of the bulbs, unlike hotlights, but the range of adjustment is pretty limited.
  • Flash is the favorite tool for studio photographers because it’s far easier to use, has far more power and doesn’t have any of the limitations of either hotlights or fluorescent lights.