Home Depot Week: Fluorescent Lights and Accessories

This is another area I will be getting into when I have a little free time. Fluorescent fixtures are so cheap and so bright, you can use them as portrait light sources very easily.

As you can see, there are lots of shapes and sizes. Normal people see kitchen fixtures. I see soft boxes, strip lights and ring lights.

More on the lights and accessories after the jump.

Okay, follow me for a sec. Say you have one dinky little flash. Why not consider two fluorescent strip lights for a high-glam foreground scheme and use the flash for the background light?

Seriously, you could mount them vertically (one per light stand) or horizontally (one over your camera, one under, one stand supports the left side of each fixture, one supports the right.) You'd get some very cool clamshell and/or dual sidelight schemes for under $100.

Better yet, throw up a strip light as a side/rim light on each side and umbrella the front to channel your frugal inner Greenberg. (If you want to make the subject cry, shoot another photog and tell him how little you paid for the lights...)

If you are a more MacGuyver-ish, you should be able to find a circular fixture that will work as a ringlight. You'll likely have to cut a hole in the center of the fixture after having relocated the ballast to somewhere off-board.

And if you do this, please insulate the crap out of it. Be safe.

(Some of those progressive Seattle types are already all over this one. Click on the pic for more info.)

Remember, you'll want to green any flashes you use along with the fluorescents and set you camera to fluorescent white balance. For better color, check which bulbs match your camera's fluorescent white balance before purchasing by shooting the various bulb displays and seeing which looks the whitest.

Moving down the aisle a little, we get to the cool, prismatic diffusers. How does $7 for a 2x4-foot sheet hit you? (Yeah, me, too.)

This is wonderful stuff. It diffuses the light and is designed to be very efficient. It is cheap because it is hardware, not photo gear.

If you have a Dremel tool, this stuff cuts pretty easily. (Ringflash diffuser, anyone?)

You can also use this to make ugly directional sunlight much softer or to diffuse a bare flash. And of course, it works well to front those strip-light fixtures mentioned above.


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