Photography Light Bulbs

Photography Light Bulbs

How do you choose photography light bulbs? What light bulbs for photography do you use to make color temperature warmer and colder on your studio images? There are so many photo light bulbs that differ by style, type, color temperature and power. Before buying, I recommend reading the following post to achieve perfect studio lighting.

photography light bulbs

Photography Lighting Basics: Color Temperature

All light bulbs for photography have their own color temperature – their individual color that is among the red to blue color scheme. For example, many common sources of light are “warm.” You can see that candles, sunrises and tungsten bulbs have a color that is similar to red. As for the flashes, they transmit “cold” light, which is similar to blue.

photography lights for beginners color temperature

Kelvin is the usual international way of recording this parameter. Pay your attention to the fact that higher numbers are used to determine “cold” colors. Thus, blue and white will be marked at over 4000K. With “warm” colors, they are about 2000K. The blue color is at the top and has the highest mark. If you are interested in incandescent or halogen lights, they have about 2500K – 3000K. Many photographers use natural light, which corresponds to 4800K. To choose the best light bulbs for indoor photography, you need to know what color temperature works perfectly for your professional goals. Take a look at these interior photos below to see how color temperature change photos.

 

Let’s say you want to take photos with a warm, inviting atmosphere. If you go with a light bulb that has a color temperature of 7000k – you won’t be able to achieve your goal. The photos will look cold. That’s why it’s crucial for photographers to know and use the Kelvin scale. This simple secret gives excellent results and allows you to take high-quality and accurate pictures. So, just save the color temperature scale above and find the variant that is preferable for you.

  • If you accidentally chose a light bulb with the wrong color temperature – don’t get upset! FixThePhoto can easily fix the white balance for you. For $0.20 per photo, you will get professional color correction services.

Types of Studio Lights

If you plan a perfect studio photo shoot and get clear photos, you need to buy the best light bulbs for photography studio. But your choice should be based on the effects that you like and the look of the image that you want to achieve. I propose that you look at the most widespread variants of studio light sources.


1. Incandescent Photography Light Bulbs

incandescent led bulbs for photography View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Affordable
  • Produce a rather clean light
  • Extremely bright
  • Instantly switched on
Cons-
  • Become pretty hot
  • Not long-lasting
  • Ineffective
  • May be easily broken
 

These bright and powerful light bulbs look like those that we typically use at home. But they are stronger to meet our professional photography requirements. Tungsten bulbs area popular type of the studio lighting equipment. Providing a nice orange light, they make lighting seem natural, like the bright daylight on a sunny summer day. You should remember that the bare bulb produces a really harsh light. You can change this by using diffusion material, reflectors and other supplements. 

Tungsten bulbs are hot and you should use them carefully. Be mindful about this while taking pictures of children and pets, as well as photographing different products that can melt. Many users prefer this type of lighting due to the low price. At the same time, it requires more electric power. It is needed to heat up the filament. Also, the lifespan of these bulbs is very short – about 1,000 hours.


2. Fluorescent Photography Light Bulbs

fluorescent led bulbs for photography View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Long-lasting
  • Energy efficient
  • Low annual operating cost
Cons-
  • Consists of unsafe materials
  • Expensive initial cost
  • The majority are not dimmable
  • Requires time if full brightness is needed
 

Although fluorescent sources of light are more effective than tungsten bulbs, they produce only 60-100 watts. This means they consume less power, but the output is significantly less, too. Many professionals use them as photo light bulbs because they are affordable, easy to buy and replace. Unfortunately, most users don’t like them due to flickering and terrible orange-green hue. 

But the new types of these bulbs are produced without such defects. They provide the opportunity to choose between the great variety of color temperatures. What is more, modern fluorescent lights are quite soft and more capable than the common incandescent bulbs. Their output becomes similar to HMI bulbs.

You can find any color temperature that you need, from tungsten up to the ordinary sunlight. These light bulbs for photography are the most compact and have minimal weight. You should surely use fluorescent lights if you need “cold” lighting for your studio photo shoot. Popular photography lighting kits include a very controversial type of bulb. I am talking about the CFL, which stands for compact fluorescent light. This is a comparatively new piece of photo lighting equipment, which was designed to cope with the energy crisis. 

Unfortunately, the invention has more drawbacks than real benefits. Giving off dirty electricity, these fluorescent lights are dangerous for the environment. The thing is that they are produced with mercury, so require special efforts to dispose of and can’t be recycled. CFL bulbs are positioned as a perfect choice for camera lighting equipment, but I don’t recommend them. You should avoid such lighting if you don’t want to have trouble like mixed white balance in your shots.


3. LED Photography Light Bulbs

led bulbs for photography View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Reliable
  • Energy-efficient
  • Environmentally friendly (unsafe materials are absent)
  • Don’t become hot when used
  • Compact
  • Warm-up swiftly
  • Long-lasting
  • Compatibility with all types of devices
Cons-
  • Cheaper lights may start flickering
  • Not each one produces even light
  • Several ones are not dimmable
  • Expensive
 

LED bulbs for photography are really popular for several important reasons. Firstly, this is a low-priced and convenient type of equipment. LED bulbs barely heat up and they are more environmentally friendly. Second, they require less power and can even be battery operated. Just find the standard AA batteries, which are the most common.

This universal type of light source is very effective. In fact, it requires 90 percent less electric power than incandescent bulbs. At the same time, the brightness isn’t worse. You may say that these bulbs cost more, but you can use them much longer. LED bulbs don’t need to be replaced for about 10 years. 

Being very capable, these lights are also safe and comfortable to work with. You can use them at home or the office as a modern replacement to the traditional lighting. Of course, it’s a good idea to install them in your studio for professional shooting or video recording. Many professionals highly recommend LED photo bulbs, but they also have some disadvantages. Choosing the cheapest LED bulbs, you should keep in mind that they can start to flicker. Moreover, some variants can’t provide 100 percent even lighting that is needed for flawless shots.

Three Point Photography Lighting Setup

Maybe, you already know some photography lighting basics. Then, you have probably heard about the famous three-point lighting trick. For those of you who haven’t, it is a technique commonly used for portrait photography. If you want to try it, make the light come from three different directions.

three point photography lighting setup
  • If you are going to take portrait photos in a studio for the first time, I recommend you read these basic portrait photography tips that can help you avoid many shooting mistakes and fails.

The same technique can be used for filming. You can change the size, distance, brightness and other parameters of the light source in order to correct the result. These changes influence the shadows. The method helps change the lighting layer by layer, which is very convenient. It’s not obligatory to use exactly three sources of light. You can remove or add something. It’s normal to experiment to get the desired effect. For example, many shadows create a dramatic mood, while the lack of them looks more peaceful.


1. Key Light

key camera light scheme

key camera light example

 

Any photography lighting tutorial mentions the Key Light. This term means the primary light on the subject. Drawing a line between the view of the photographer and the subject, we will see the key light at a 45-degree angle to the camera. This type of light is placed above the level of the model’s eyes. For portrait photography, it is located on one of the model’s sides. As a result, one side is well illuminated and another one has a slight shadow. In most cases, it’s the strongest light in a three-point scheme.


2. Fill Light

fill camera light scheme

fill camera light example

 

The second type of camera light is the Fill Light. It mirrors the position of the primary one and is opposite to the photographer. Its function is to remove the unwanted shadows. You should use the fill light that is only slightly less intense than the main source of light. The difference between them is known as the “lighting ratio.” For example, if this parameter is 1:1, the brightness of these two sources of light is equal. 

When dealing with portrait pictures, I recommend choosing a 2:1 or 4:1 ratio. If your purpose is to get smoother images, you should use the lower ratio. Those who prefer textured, edgy pictures should use the higher one. It’s important to use this second light source to fill-in shadows under the model’s eyes, nose, and chin. You can also use any type of a reflector or a white card instead of a real bulb. In this case, you will receive softer results.


3. Back Light

back camera back Light scheme

back camera light example

 

The last element of one of the most popular studio lighting techniques is called the “Backlight.” Some photographers also call it the rim, hair or shoulder light. Being placed on the opposite of the main light, it has a special purpose. Unlike the previous two lights, the backlight doesn’t deliver direct lighting. It is used to highlight the subject’s outlines. So, the backlight separates the background and adds depth to the composition. 

It looks really good when the model has black hair and stands near a dark wall. So, you should know when her hair ends and the background begins. It’s normal if the backlight does not fall on the front camera side of a subject. Watch this video to learn other photography light setups you can use for creative portrait photos in studio.

Light Bulbs Photography Lighting Tips

If you want to succeed in light bulb photography, you should follow several simple pieces of advice. Just read them attentively and carefully and use in your everyday studio shooting.

1. Check the CRI When Buying Light Bulbs

light bulbs photography lighting tips

While looking for the top lighting photo bulb, pay attention to CRI. This index shows whether the lamp works qualitatively. So, you can see how accurately it renders the colors of objects in the photo studio. The simple scale includes marks from 1 to 100. It’s easy to understand that the lower number means poorer quality of illumination. Comparing different photography lighting kits for beginners or professionals, look at this characteristic. It can help you make the right choice that won’t disappoint you. 

Unfortunately, many companies miss this characteristic in the description of their products. But if you are attentive, you can find it in an imperceptible place on the box. From my point of view, if CRI isn’t mentioned, you can guess its level. In fact, manufacturers like Philips, GE and CREE offer bulbs with CRI around 80. Not so famous companies that are at a lower price range usually have lights of 70 CRI or less.

2. Adjusting White Balance

light bulbs photography lighting tips

One of the most important photography lighting tips is to remember the white balance. If you forget about this basic thing, you will receive unpleasant colors. In such a case, the picture doesn’t look realistic, professional or appealing. To avoid this problem, you should always pay close attention to the white balance. It allows for taking professionally exposed pictures that catch the eye with nice, rich colors. Even the best on camera LED light doesn’t work without appropriate adjustment of this simple feature.

If some of your works have an orange or yellow cast, you should check the color temperature of your light sources. This effect usually occurs due to a great difference between them. The thing is that the camera is able to catch the difference, even if you don’t see anything strange. The human eye gets used to various temperatures and perceives them as a somewhat white color. Many devices include the auto adjustment of the white balance. But from the technical point of view, it’s better to do this manually in accordance with the chosen type of lighting.

Recommended book:

Portraits Lighting the Shot

Read more about all the secrets of beautiful portrait lighting in the studios and outdoors. You will know everything about how to set and adjust camera settings to light up and take perfect photos without blurriness and overexposure.

It’s the best way to avoid the necessity of constantly changing settings for various lighting situations. Many professionals use it to change the white balance of the RAW pictures during image post-processing. The white balance is included as a separate parameter, which may be removed.

FREE Photo Editing Tools

To correct white balance or make deep color correction quickly, you need to download professionally designed free Lightroom presets or Photoshop actions and do it in several clicks.

1. FREE Lightroom Preset "Apricot"


Adobe Lightroom Preset "Apricot" will make your lifestyle portraits light and airy by adding a delicate tint. Highly recommended for outdoor portraits to make colors fresh and clear. You can achieve professional results with this free bright and airy Lightroom preset, which is the perfect choice for creating incredible photos.

2. FREE Vintage Lightroom Preset "Street"


Vintage styled photos always bring out tender feelings and fond memories, which is exactly what we need for portrait photography. Free Vintage LR Preset "Street" will put 40 years on a photo, which will give it an extraordinary effect, making it brighter and slightly faded. Best of all, this free preset is suitable for sunny photos of children on the beach. People usually have enough of the regular colored photos and vintage style may be of special interest to them.

3. FREE Lightroom Preset "Old Film"


Adobe Lightroom Preset “Old Film” is a type of black and white preset often used for different styles of photography, lifestyle images included. One thing worth mentioning is that this preset doesn’t suit every lifestyle photo. You’d better select particular photos to make them look older while maintaining clarity and brightness.

4. FREE Lightroom Preset Warm "Pastel"


If you want to make your studio pictures more vivid and clear, as well as edit the body silhouettes, then Adobe Lightroom Preset Warm "Pastel" is perfect for you. It can also be used to soften the color palette of a photo, add slight warmth and reduce the overall contrast. This free preset was designed to change your photo completely and give it an unrecognizable professional look.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more