Sunday, May 6, 2012

DYI lights and impact on light.

If you have been photographing for a while you would have found yourself wandering towards DYI kits for various photographic equipment. This is especially true for light modifiers. One of the first things any good photographer would tell you do is to take the light off the camera. (Though if you go through the history books the light came on the camera later and initially all lighting was off camera lighting only. Now back to the post...) The reason is simple that's how our eyes see the world. If you go out, you usually don't carry a light source on top of your head... well maybe in a mine, but, for the most part the light is coming from some direction, maybe a window or the sun on the horizon on the side or right on top of you at high noon.

Now if you decide to put the light off the camera the first thing you are likely to do is to look for a window which gives you directional light. The trouble with this is, though its cheap there is not much control of this form of light and so now you need to spend money. The moment you start to look at off camera lighting the first thing you will notice is the cost, when you and more than one well... you get the picture. So now comes the solution DYI lighting. (In fact the photo you see below was created using DYI lighting a flash light.)

One thing you could do as part of DYI lighting, is to get a 500 watt or a 1000 watt bulb and that should give you directional light. Use the light and voilà!!! On a budget you created dramatic lighting. Then you immediately think, why does photographic lighting equipment and modifier cost so much. Here are the reasons first - Heat . These get really hot. You can get third degree burns if you touch the glass when these lights are on. Second is the Energy draw. Last but defiantly not the least is the White-balance.

Now I am not suggesting that DYI lighting is good or bad. The point I am trying to make here is the type of light you are dealing with. If you understand the light you will be better able to use DYI light or for that matter a flash or a strobe or even a reflector. 

The first two can be solved if you buy cold lights like fluorescent lamp or CFL's Or LED but the third problem is common to all these light. The consistency of light or white-balance. The trouble with these lights is they do not burn at the consistent colour temperature throughout their life. So if you are not white-balancing the light you will get a different colour cast every time, even if you shoot the same thing with the same set-up. Our eyes don't see the change in colour temperature because the brain is so awesome but the camera does record these subtle changes and when you put the images side by side you will notice them. The solution is another cheap piece of equipment a grey card. This is one of the biggest difference between a not so good photographer and a really awesome one. Their understanding of light, its impact on colour shape and form.

Now if you do buy gear and notice that the cost of lights goes up especially for some brands. Well the reason for the most part is the same. Ease of use of these lights, controllability of these lights and the quality of light (white-balance) Though some brands do charge a premium on their products but mainly its the quality of these products. So now if you do decide to buy lights get good lights because you get what you pay for. Lights have a habit of lasting really long, its mostly a one time purchase and if you make a mistake its going to sit there look at you for a long time.

Which ever path you take and what ever lighting you pick-up most importantly understand the light its strenght and weakness. In the meanwhiel you can checkout the following site for a lot of cool DYI set-ups