Home Lighting: More Details

By Roger (9 Jan 2014)

Happy New Year! We hope this year moves you forward with your photography. We (mostly Mark) have a schedule of topics for the new year, but your questions can supercede that schedule. This week's blog is an example of that. I got a couple of questions asking for futher details about my last blog in which I suggested a quick and, relatively, inexpensive way to light a room in your house for easier snapshots.

As I said last time, I use this method because it provides enough light for me to shoot in any direction, without moving gear and leave my flashes in the camera bag. I use daylight-balanced photo bulbs, so I don't have to fix the balance in software and for a consistent light. You won't get that consistency from three different lamps, containing three bulbs of different strength, from three different manufacturers.

Without any corrections made, you can see the orange color cast from this table lamp.

Without any corrections made, you can see the orange color cast from this table lamp.

Since this was Christmas morning, let me show you the den configuration when the tree is up and surrounded by presents. The overhead fan has three bulbs, giving the room good overall light.

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I replaced the bulbs in the overhead light and table lamp with the photo bulbs. Here is the brand I have from my local camera store. There are many other brands, but make sure you keep your bulbs from the same manufacturer for consistency. I get extra credit for this photo because I, finally, used the light tent I borrowed from Mark six months ago. (Maybe, some day, he'll get the chance to try it out.)

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These provided a good amount of overall brightness in the den. I decided to add some more light from my travel softboxes, placed at the back of the den and out of the way of four little grandkids who were always running around the den at full speed.

Again, there are many options for softboxes, with many different price points. I usually shoot with natural light and flashes, supplemented by the Westcott Ice Light (link), so I chose to buy an inexpensive travel kit, the RPS Studio 7040 (link). When I went to get the link, I noticed their price has gone up, but the total cost for this set up and the other bulbs is still less than $250. When you research studio lights, you will quickly see this is an inexpensive kit. I like that they pack to a small size for travel, and I can have them in action in minutes.

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My softbox kit packed and ready to travel.

My softbox kit packed and ready to travel.

With all the light in the room, I was able to take our snapshots throughout the morning. I could move around the room, hand-holding the camera, at a shutter speed (usually about 1/125, with ISO at 640) that kept my snapshots sharp. You can use this for birthday parties, family gatherings, etc., without the need for distracting flash.

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Notice the table lamp in the background is brighter and color corrected with the photo bulb.  This is the same lamp pictured above.

Notice the table lamp in the background is brighter and color corrected with the photo bulb.  This is the same lamp pictured above.

All four grandkids after some of the debris was cleared away.

All four grandkids after some of the debris was cleared away.

You can do this with any room, but there are always compromises. The best solution for you may be different. This lighting is rather bland, so I wouldn't use it for formal portraits when you want complete control of the light and shadows on your subject. Still, this is a fairly easy way to get your photographs for small events where you just want to capture the family moments. Have some fun with it.

"Bo with a bow."  One of the four dogs who came with the family to visit for Christmas.

"Bo with a bow."  One of the four dogs who came with the family to visit for Christmas.