Playing With Hot Lights. Next Year's Hip Trend.

Love flashes.  They're really cool.  But the hot light for me right now is the hot light.  I love to shoot portraits.  That's what I do.  But I hate being dependent on flash for my lighting.  You don't really see what you get when you are looking through the camera and you have to wait around for the damn things to recycle. Then there is the whole depth of field thing you have to deal with.  Always looks good when you look through lens.  And who ever uses that "depth of field" button?  The heck with all that.  I've started shooting my portraits with several tungsten halogen lights and I'm really happy.  For a number of reasons.

1.  In a studio or other controlled environment I see exactly what I get.  Really.

2.  With a D700 I can shoot at 800 ISO and get exposures like 1/400th at f4.  That means I can shoot at 8 frames a second if I want to/ need to. Wow.  8 frames a second for as many shots as I want without ever worrying about recycle time.

3.  With a 1,000 watt light shining though one layer of scrim material you have all the light your camera ever wanted for lightning fast focus.  On the money focus with no hesitation.

4.  Imagine being able to shift shutter speeds until you find just the aperture you always dreamed of for your shoot.  With perfect focus every time.

5.  Keep your pizza next to the 1K and it will stay warm.  

So, I'm doing the season brochure for my favorite theater (Zachary Scott Theater) and we're doing portraits of actors.  Here's the lighting set up:

One Profoto ProTungsten fixture with a 1,000 watt FEL lamp.  (The discontinued Profoto tungsten light takes all the regular modifiers and is fan cooled.)  One Magnum reflector set to full flood.  All this is aimed through a six foot by six foot white two stop silk.  The silk is set about three feet from the actor.  Yummy directional softlight.  Add a little bit of fill from a Chimera 4x4 foot reflector panel and you've got the main light locked.

The gray canvas background is thirty feet back from the subject and is lit by a Desisti 300 watt spotlight with the barndoors clamped down a bit.  That's the whole ball of wax.  One person set up in 30 minutes or less.

Radical thought:  I used my D700 in the high quality Jpeg setting because I was so certain that what I saw on the meter, in the finder and on the screen was just right.  I preset the color balance at 3150K and looking on my calibrated monitor back at the studio I was right on the money.  Why jpeg?  Because the new Nikon bodies automatically fine tune every lens you put on the front, eliminating CA, vignetting and sharpness issues.  With the new color settings everything is just about perfect right out of camera.  Why correct raw files if you've already landed not only in the ballpark but right across the plate?

I shot fifteen hundred files tonight and we've got more to shoot tomorrow.  I threw away five that didn't work out.  I'll let the client make the more subtle edits....

If you haven't shot portraits with a set of tungsten lights you are certainly missing out on a cheap thrill.  I'm not sure I ever want to go back to strobe.  You might not either.

Marketing note:  If everyone else is chasing the same look doesn't it make sense to find your own niche?

To sleep.  Perchance to dream.  Of tungsten lights.....


Anonymous said...

It does indeed make sense Kirk. I wish I had a studio like yours though! To be honest I have only shot in RAW format once. People keep raving about it but I don't want to spend time and money on the software, the monitor, the PC and the editing of pictures when my Nikon body does a better job already. I all we want is raw, then why spend all that money on a fancy body?

I know I'll catch flak from RAW lovers for saying this but really, I much prefer shooting in jpeg. There, I really needed to get that of my chest. And one more thing while I'm confessing, I do prefer hot lights, and I want lots and lots of megapixels. I'm no bokeh freak but with a f1.4 lens most of your household lights are somewhat "hot". Just fix the white balance (use a cheapo light meter to check the correct balance) on your camera and shoot away. With a fast lens and a high ISO your cheapest hot lights are just $10 and an IKEA away!

Poagao said...

I know there's probably something wrong with me, but I can't get excited about lighting a scene for photography. For film, yes, but for photography it feels strange to me. I really enjoying coming across good lighting, though.

Mark R Coons - Music Man5 Photos said...

Thanks Kirk for the push! I have some hot lights gathering dust in a storage space and I had been thinking about getting them out for a group portrait I have to shoot in a couple of months. But maybe I'll get them out now and start experimenting. Thanks!

Brian Smokler said...

I hear you Kirk.

I've been wanting to mess with the new color temperature balanced fluorescent lamps that are starting to proliferate. I shoot video so hot lights are my standard kit. But boy do they get hot. With the fancy CF lamps you get most the light with a fraction of the heat (and power needs), no melting makeup, and really long lamp life. Sounds like a hit to me.

Henrique Pereira said...

Kirk, I love when you provoke us to get out of the box! That is why your blog has became the tank where I come fishing for new ideas, fellings and reflections on pro photography. From Leica Cameras to new lighting set ups, I am learning from you to love whatever gear gets the job done.

Mario said...

Great post, thanks. Beat that strobe fanboys!