Tungstene better than flash for still life ?

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I hesitate between Tungstene light or flash to take picture of still life in colour. I've no problem with heat. Tungstene is interesting because less expensive and for the "what you see what you get" effect. I heard that it is not so easy to use filter with daylight films but I didn' understand why very well. Tungstene films seems to be the best choice but I don't know these films. What are their qualities and limitations, especially on the plan of colour restitution ? What is the necessary power for pictures in a ratio between 1:1 and 1:10 ?

-- Gauthier d'Ydewalle (interactiveconcept@skynet.be), October 28, 2001


This is a very good option, especially for WYSIWYG lighting as you say and for making light measurements easier. Fujichrome 64T has excellent colors. I have a set of flashes and I often use the pilot lights only and with that film. But I need avoid any natural light on the scene otherwise strange colors will occur.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), October 28, 2001.

Indeed the Tungsten films --Fujichrome 64TII,Ektachrome 64T for transparencies, Kodak Portra 100T for color negatives -- are better with 3200K lighting. Most household bulbs are not 3200K, they are about 2700K so you will still need some LB color balancing filtration. Quartz Halogen bulbs are 3200K. If you use dimmers or either, the color temperature will drop dramatically as you dim the lights.

If you are using daylight balanced films, color correction to a 3200K light source is easy, you just need an 80A filter on your camera which decreases the light level coming through your lens by two stops.

The tungsten films tend to be able to record a longer contrast range than daylight balance films. Colors can be be very rich without over saturation, and also very clean. Most professional architectural photographers tend to use tungsten balanced films for interior photography unless a lot of daylight is coming into the room. tungsten balanced filmsalso tend to have better color &reciprocity failure characteristicsthan daylight films because they are designed for the probability of long exposures.

There can be no definitive answer for your last question because so much more will depend on what you are photographing, your methods of working, the tools you are working with, the mood you are trying to excite in the viewer, etc.

Having said all ofthe above, I work with professional electronicflash equipment as much as possible when doing still life work. I do this for the following reasons: Color temperature does not shift appreciably if I lower the power levels, especially if I am only adjusting the power on one light source, i do not have to deal with reciprocity issues from varying long exposure times, my exposure times are nowhere near as long, which is very important if I am having to work at f/22 , f/32 or even smaller stops, My lights are equipped with 150 or 250 watt quartz halogen modeling lights (one head even has two 250 watt modeling lamps) so I can use these flash heads or monolights as "hot lights" if necessary, and their is the sheer efficiency of electronic flash over hot lights. Good, professional grade lighting equipment, Balcar, Bowens, Broncolor, Dyna-lite, Elinchrom, Hensel, Norman, Profoto, Speedotron, White Lightming, etc. has good WYSIWYG characteristics for 99% of the lighting you will probably do. The major exception I've found is when you are spot lighting glass or other refractive subjects, and in that case you are dealing with how well designed the flash head is, especially in terms of where the modeling light is placed in relation to the flash tube

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), October 28, 2001.

There are a number of reasons that I would choose strobes over lights but the single biggest reason is how little power there is with tungsten lights. Those brilliant tungsten lights are surprisingly dim when you measure their output. And a lot of other problems flow from that.

You are going to need very long exposure times, just to begin with. Then you are going to add colour correction filters, reciprocity departure correction times and bellows extension factors.

Then in spite of what you said about not minding the heat, you ARE going to mind the heat for your two hour exposures! And forget about taking pictures of people or objects that could burst into flame! Seriously, with these kinds of lights you are risking a fire. I don't care how careful you are you will find something else to do during these types of exposures.

We had these kinds of lights while I was at university and we used them mostly for keeping Pizza hot, for which they were excellent. For just about everything else I'd choose strobes.

-- David Grandy (dgrandy@accesscable.net), October 28, 2001.

The risk of fire is of course an argument. But I found several tungstene lamp with an automatic fan (Hedler, Photoflex, etc.). Sellers say they are much less warm. Some are possible to use with dedicated softbox. Do you think that the risk lower in such case ? I often take picture of document, books and papers. And what do you mean exactly by a "long exposure time" ?

-- Gauthier d'Ydewalle (interactiveconcept@skynet.be), October 28, 2001.

I\ve used both extensively and I can say without any doubt (in my mind....) that strobes are much superior to halogen or tungsten, not only WYS (for all intends and purposes) IWYG but the large variety of accessories and brands will fit any need, lamp sets like Hedler aren't cheap and working at close range with this isn't pleasant on a Summer, lazy sunday afternoon! To top everything the accessories usable on a hedler kit are by far inferior to any decent strobes. If you want to know how much power you need you should also say how many light points you intend to use and the format you are talking about and the type of photography you will perform with it (4"x5" isn't the same as 8"x10" you know....), however, 3 x 800W should fit most 4"x5" users needs, for instance, you'll need a softbox or two a snoot or a fresnelspot(attachement?) , umbrellas are cheap and very easy to use. Color temperature could be read with a Minolta colour meter (can rent every now and again to check....) and filters can be used on the strobes or the camera. Anyway a lot comes down to a metter of taste! Good luck.

-- Andrea Milano (milandro@wanadoo.nl), October 28, 2001.

When people say a lighting unit is less warm, they mean the unit itself is not as hot, it doesn't mean the light or the fixture produces any less heat, it just that the unit is not as hot to the touch.In all instances at least 90% of the electricity consumed by the lighting fixture is turned directly into heat, not light.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), October 28, 2001.

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