HMI Lights : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm now at the lighting stage, having gotten (thanks to everyone's input) a Sinar P2, 180mm Rodenstock macro lens, Reflex viewer, Linhof (mother-of-all)tripod. I'm thinking of hot lights, since WYSIWYG as opposed to experimenting with flash.

What advice can you give me for this project?

Are HMI cinema studio lights OK in the 1000-1200 W range?

Am I better off using daylight film, e.g. Velvia or Astia, with Tungsten lighting plus gel, or sticking with HMI lights and no gel?

Is there a kit of about 3 lights that is useful?

-- Neil Carey (, November 25, 2001


Dear Neil

I a certain you will get even more opinions on studio lighting than you will on almost any other subject. Obviously, there is no one right answer and much depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Another point is how subject specific you want to be-sometimes the setup for one type of photography will not translate to other subject matters. Most every strobe has 'modeling' lights to give you knowledge of what the end result will look like. I happen to use Balcar Minibloc strobes and one of their Prisma light boxes when I shoot people. I have also been thinking aobut power pack based lighting. Maybe that brand is not suitable for your uses. Other brands to investigate might be Broncolor and Speedotron among others. Recently, I have been investigating a light table. Also, you might want to look into using light panels to adjust, modify and reflect your light onto subjects. Others might recommend tungsten lights which have their proponents.

If you have a large professional camera store nearby, you might want to invest some time in seeing what they are selling and recommending. My Calumet store in Chicago has a studio where they can give demos so a buyer will see the differences and similarities between brands and types of lighting.

Good luck! There is no wrong decision, but try to keep in mind how you want to grow and expand your lighting system. You don't want to start down one road and find you are replicating purchases if your system does not expand as you grow in your photography.



-- John Bailey (, November 25, 2001.

If you can afford HMI's, get them and use daylight film for your work. They are very nice to work with and can be used in outdoor lighting situations as you fill or mix & match your light on location.

-- Dan Smith (, November 25, 2001.


You mention Macro- lens and this leads me to think you are shooting with considerable bellows extension. If oyu choose the flash path you require a lot of extra power to allow for bellows factor or blacking-out the studio and multi-popping the flash. With constant lights youu just leave the shutter open longer.

HMI or Tungsten? If you can afford HMI it is certainly an appealing approach - remaining mindful that there are stabilised HMI's from Broncolor that give consistent illumination for digital capture backs.

My personal preference is a kit of Lowel-Lights. They are relatively inexpensive, light weight and portable, and require only a cable, globe and wall outlet to operate. They make a spot-light called a Fren-L (650W) which affords great control of brightness, spread and contrast. and, of course, they have a vast range of broader light sources.

For very small subjects, don't disregard focussing 'theatre' type spotlights for being able to finely cut precise shafts of light.

Another great light for working in close quarters is the Dido Light (spelling) which is a 12 volt system. The heads themselves are only the size of a can of drink and are very easy to manage in tight situations. Heat is less of an issue.

For a good introduction to lighting I highly recommend Ross Lowel's "Matters Of Light And Depth", available from Lowel Light suppliers.

Happy shadow-making ... WG

-- Walter Glover (, November 25, 2001.

There are many 1K to 2K HMI options. Arri, Lowel, Profoto, and I think elinchrom are just some ofthe brands that come to mind as well as the big cinema lights. HMI is expensive to run, way more efficient than halogen (which in turn is way more efficient than tungsten) but nowhere near as efficient at turning electricity into light as electronic flash.

For what a 3 light 1200 watt per lamp HMI set up will run you, you can buy a very powerful elctronic flash system that will have excellent WYSIWYG modeling light characteristics. Check out Balcar, Profoto, Broncolor or Elinchrom

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, November 25, 2001.

Are modeling lights (on a Strobe) only used for composition and flash placement, to view the relative shadows, or do they get bright enough to somehow mimic the flash? I.e., from a practical point of view, what is involved in setting up flash units (using modeling lights) versus using constant light?

-- Neil Carey (, November 25, 2001.

Modeling lights should be bright enough and accurately placed to mimic the flashtube pattern. un fortunately many flash makers are not good about modeling light placement. Broncolor, Balcar, profoto, elinchrom and some Speedotron Black Line heads fit this description. You should look for heads that have a 150 watt to 250 watt modeling lights. In addition the heads should be fan cooled If you are looking to use softboxes, Plume ltd. ( makes a speedring that has two additional sockets for adding an additional 500 watts of modeling light power. Fortuanately their softboxes are also built to withstand the extra heat. If you go with Chimera softboxes and use this option (or if you use any type of hot light --tungsten, Quartz Halogen or HMI, you'll need to get the much more expensive Chimera boxes designed for cinematography. Forget about hotlights if you are using the vastly inferior Photoflex softboxes -- the materials are simply not up to it.

Someone mentioned Dedo Lights. these are very small but high quality (low wattage) focusing HMI spot lights.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, November 25, 2001.

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