What lights give good spectra?

Started Jan 13, 2013 | Discussions thread
Duncan C
Veteran MemberPosts: 7,558
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Re: What lights give good spectra?
In reply to Alphoid, Jan 14, 2013

Alphoid wrote:

Right now, my house is lit mostly by CFLs, and some incandescent bulbs. Especially with the CFLs, but also with the incandescent lights, the quality of portraits -- even with a gray card -- is abysmal. I'd like to swap out for something that will give more natural skin colors. I do not have room in my house for dedicated photography lights (e.g. something on a tripod with an umbrella is out).

Things I'd like (by decreasing importance):

  1. Rich spectrum for natural-looking photographs (requirement)
  2. Low power consumption (very strong desire; heat is an issue)
  3. Fits existing lightbulb sockets, as opposed to e.g. an LED strip to mound on my wall (nice-to-have).
  4. Reasonable cost (nice-to-have)

Right now, the room where I most commonly shoot has two CFLs on the ceiling, and a standing/mobile light with 5 CFLs (all at 60-100W equivalent).

Any suggestions on what I should buy to give good (or at least somewhat better) lighting?

(I had posted this in the open forum, but got no responses).

This is a complex subject.

The problem you're having with CFLs is that ordinary CFLs are not full-spectrum. They have spikes a certain wavelengths, and are completely lacking in others.

There is a measure called Color Rendering Index (CRI) that measures how full-spectrum the lights are. A CRI of 100 is a match for sunlight. Hardware store CFLS have a CRI of around 65 or 70 if memory serves. They are woefully lacking in blue and red wavelengths.

If you're going to use CFLs for photography, you want bulbs with a CRI of 90+. That will help a lot.

I've started slowly switching out my incandescent and florescent bulbs for LED bulbs. They cost a bloody fortune, but they are cool and efficient, and look quite natural. I'm not honestly sure how their CRI is. I think they have red, green and blue spikes, and not much between.

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