Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ambient Light Part 1

Flash is not the only man made light source that makes for great portraits. Over the next few days we'll talk about using florescent, tungsten and then mixing in the flash. Lots more about white balance, filters and color temperature. Let's start with florescent. I got these from my studio (they came with the space and I quickly took them down when I moved in). I hate them as over head lighting and love them when they are straight on. Here I used 2 sets of lights, one on either side the camera. Here's a photo of the set up.

Even with 2 lights I could only get 2.5. Some of that has to do with the empty garage I used as a background though. Adding a reflective white background and my exposure increases a half stop. I chose to keep the same aperture and increase the shutter speed instead.

Look at the reflection in her eyes, cool yes? This is my favorite part. Here are a few different versions since Audrey is so cute. Play around with this, put the lights in all sorts of positions and shapes and see what kind of reflections you can come up with.

If you're looking produce more photos with a commercial edge this is a very inexpensive way to start. Any local hardware store will have both the bulbs and light housings. A set of four lights will cost you $40.00 at Home Depot.

Tomorrow, lighting the world 40 watts at a time.


  1. These are so cute Audrey is such a doll! For some reason I thought it wasn't a good thing to have different reflections in the eyes! Glad to know that's a good thing! You are a wealth of knowledge thanks for sharing! Heather

  2. Hi Irene,
    I love your blog! I found you on Strobist...I'm trying to figure out the whole lighting thing and I must say your tutorials are wonderful! question would be since there are several kinds of florecent lights available which would you recommend? Full spectrum?

  3. @ Pattie, you're right about there being a lot of different florescent lights. All of them put off different colors of light so it's important to know what you have. No matter what you choose though (I have grow lights that give off a green/blue and they work fine also) it's important to get the best white balance out of them. Using a digital calibration target is a good way to get the color right no matter the light source.