Red-Head lightning for portrait photography

Started Apr 12, 2013 | Discussions
ALEXR86
New MemberPosts: 3
Like?
Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
Apr 12, 2013

Hi everyone.I would like to arrange a small amateur-level studio.What do you think about RedHead lamps?I would like to buy two 800w lamps with barn doors and gel-diffusers.Can I use them combined with a flash fot portrait photography? thanks!

Alex - www.alexrobciuc.wix.com/photo

PenguinPhotoCo
Veteran MemberPosts: 6,048Gear list
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to ALEXR86, Apr 12, 2013

got a link or something? Never heard of them

-- hide signature --

Vision without execution is hallucination. T. Edison.
My opinions are my own and not those of DPR or its administration. They carry no 'special' value

 PenguinPhotoCo's gear list:PenguinPhotoCo's gear list
Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM +9 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
leecamera
Regular MemberPosts: 491
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to PenguinPhotoCo, Apr 12, 2013

Red Heads, to those who've not heard of them, are open-face tungsten lamps that have been around for some 30-40 years.  They earned their name because the originals were red.

To be honest they're a very raw light source (although Arri make better versions in a tasteful blue) and they're not bad for lighting objects or filling generic areas - I wouldn't make them 1st choice for faces.

They use a long and delicate bulb which can pop quite easily - hence most people using the all important safety grid in front.  Red Heads come with a useful set of barndoors to control the light.

Although more efficient than an equivalent Fresnel light, for an open face design I've not found them to be as efficient as some other designs.  Because of this you're getting quite a bit of heat from them.

Red Heads are focus-able but because they're open face they have a sweet spot and less sweet spots to the light pattern.  Either way they need a quality softbox (I'd not risk anything less than a Chimera because of the heat) or full diffusion to blend the light into a better quality light source.

These can be quite cheap but they're not the greatest choice of lamps.  I have a couple for my video kit, but of the 16 video lights I carry as standard with my broadcast kit - these are possibly the least used.

It depends what you need them for exactly but it may be worth looking at other options.

Take care though if looking at LED options as the cheaper ones have a distinct green spike in the spectrum that won't mix well with other lights.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Sailor Blue
Senior MemberPosts: 6,493Gear list
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to ALEXR86, Apr 13, 2013

I don't recommend using continuous lighting for portraiture, especially if you want to mix it with studio strobes or hot-shoe flash.  The white balance of the lights is different and the intensity of continuous lights is much weaker than the flash of light from strobes or hot-shoe flash units.  If you are shooing with continuous lights you need long shutter speeds, which means you will have a big problem with camera shake and subject movement.  Strobes are simply the best way to go for portraiture.

Portraiture depends on you being able to light the face so that the highlights and shadows will give the flat image of the face a 3D appearance and to sculpt the face.  Being able to see the lighting is essential, especially for a beginner.  For this reason you want studio strobes with modeling lights so you can see the lighting and get it correct before you push the shutter button.  Hot-shoe flash lack modeling lights so they are not a good choice for a beginner doing portraiture,  Even professionals with many years of experience almost always choose studio strobes.

Before buying any studio equipment please read my article on equipment for a small home studio.  I made the mistake of buying poor quality studio strobes the first time, and they quickly wound up in the trash - a complete waste of my money.  I wrote the article to help others avoid my costly mistake.

Sailorblue - Digital Photography Review - Equipment Guide for Setting up a Small Home Portrait/Glamor Studio

-- hide signature --

Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.

 Sailor Blue's gear list:Sailor Blue's gear list
Canon EOS 7D +10 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Barrie Davis
Forum ProPosts: 21,460
Like?
Redheads not suitable.
In reply to ALEXR86, Apr 13, 2013

ALEXR86 wrote:

Hi everyone.I would like to arrange a small amateur-level studio.What do you think about RedHead lamps?

I think Redheads would be a very bad idea for portraiture.

Redheads are just a whole bundle of problems you don't need.

1) They are blindingly bright, and VERY HOT running... therefore, not in the least bit comfortable to sit under. (Flash is also blindingly bright, but is all over in 1/1000th of a second, so is no trouble to anybody.)

2) The light is harsh and unflattering, and needs skillful modification if used for photographing people. Because of the heat, all modifiers have to be fire proof, of course.

2) The halogen lamps are fragile, and need mesh screens in front in case they explode. If a lamp fails in use, there is a long delay while the unit (including screen, barndoors etc.)  is allowed to cool down sufficiently to get the lamp out and replace it.

I would like to buy two 800w lamps with barn doors and gel-diffusers.Can I use them combined with a flash fot portrait photography? thanks!

Mixing Redheads and flash would add even more inconvenience, necessitating corrective filtration with coloured gels.

Why mess about? If you are choosing equipment, choose the RIGHT equipment.

Redheads had their uses for TV and video, before cameras were as sensitive as they are now. Fluorescent sources, or even LEDs, are what is used in those fields now.

Studio Flash with modelling lights is the appropriate lighting for portraiture. Redheads come from an era that is past, and was primarily motion picture based, anyway.

-- hide signature --

Regards,
Baz
:
"Ahh... But the thing is, these guys were no ORDINARY time travellers!"

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
ALEXR86
New MemberPosts: 3
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to Sailor Blue, Apr 13, 2013

thanks for your advice...Then red-heads are out of my head. I found some low budget kit : 2 studio strobes (120w, guide number 38,  5500 ˚ K, 75w halogen modeling) with tripods and a softbox and an umbrella for around 200$.what do you think? I asume i need a wireless or a cable trigger for thouse strobes.Will it work with my Nikon d90 equipped with an external flash?

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
KCook
Veteran MemberPosts: 4,531Gear list
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to leecamera, Apr 13, 2013

leecamera wrote:

Red Heads are focus-able but because they're open face they have a sweet spot and less sweet spots to the light pattern.  Either way they need a quality softbox (I'd not risk anything less than a Chimera because of the heat) or full diffusion to blend the light into a better quality light source.

These can be quite cheap but they're not the greatest choice of lamps.

I do have a few strobes, but still find continuous lights nice for still life studies.  I don't do portraits.  Even cheaper than Red Heads are CFLs.  But I find light spill with my studio CFLs with umbrellas to be epic.  So the Red Heads do tempt me for better control.  My CFLs are 45W each (claimed 225W eqv), how does the output of a cheap Red Head compare to a 1 or 2 bulb CFL?

Thanks,
Kelly Cook

 KCook's gear list:KCook's gear list
Canon EOS 50D Olympus PEN E-PL2
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Barrie Davis
Forum ProPosts: 21,460
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to ALEXR86, Apr 14, 2013

ALEXR86 wrote:

thanks for your advice...Then red-heads are out of my head.

OK.

I found some low budget kit : 2 studio strobes (120w, guide number 38,  5500 ˚ K, 75w halogen modeling) with tripods and a softbox and an umbrella for around 200$.what do you think?

Very cheap, and a bit weak in output. Also, the modelling lights are not really strong enough. You need 200 watts for the modelling lights and 300watt/seconds for the flash power.

I asume i need a wireless or a cable trigger for thouse strobes.Will it work with my Nikon d90 equipped with an external flash?

The flash should come with a synchronising lead to plug into your camera's 3mm co-ax socket, and that will do for starters..

-- hide signature --

Regards,
Baz
:
"Ahh... But the thing is, these guys were no ORDINARY time travellers!"

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Sailor Blue
Senior MemberPosts: 6,493Gear list
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to ALEXR86, Apr 14, 2013

ALEXR86 wrote:

thanks for your advice...Then red-heads are out of my head. I found some low budget kit : 2 studio strobes (120w, guide number 38,  5500 ˚ K, 75w halogen modeling) with tripods and a softbox and an umbrella for around 200$.what do you think? I asume i need a wireless or a cable trigger for thouse strobes.Will it work with my Nikon d90 equipped with an external flash?

My advice would be not to buy this set.  You didn't post a link so I can't really know what the lights are but at that price there is about a 99.9% chance that they are junk.  I know from bitter and expensive experience that buying them would be a bad idea.  Buying quality will cost you a bit more but the money won't be wasted like it would with a cheap low quality set.

I repeat, read my article before you invest in any studio equipment.  I wrote it to help people like you avoid my expensive mistake.

Sailorblue - Digital Photography Review - Equipment Guide for Setting up a Small Home Portrait/Glamor Studio

-- hide signature --

Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.

 Sailor Blue's gear list:Sailor Blue's gear list
Canon EOS 7D +10 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
leecamera
Regular MemberPosts: 491
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to KCook, Apr 14, 2013

CFLs are dependent on the quality of the florescent.  Most have an awkward green spike in the spectrum and are not best suited to image making.  I don't know how good or bad you tubes are.

I use a KinoFlo Diva 400 florescent for my food photography as a constant light source - but with genuine Kino tubes.  This gives a smooth spectrum.

Red Heads are inefficient (for their 800W power) in flood but more efficient in spot.

They are going to be very bright unless you dim them (so changing the colour) or have them far off (making them very hard).

Alas there's no real good & cheap light source.  (apart from the sun...)

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Barrie Davis
Forum ProPosts: 21,460
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to leecamera, Apr 14, 2013

leecamera wrote:

CFLs are dependent on the quality of the florescent.  Most have an awkward green spike in the spectrum and are not best suited to image making.  I don't know how good or bad you tubes are.

I use a KinoFlo Diva 400 florescent for my food photography as a constant light source - but with genuine Kino tubes.  This gives a smooth spectrum.

Red Heads are inefficient (for their 800W power) in flood but more efficient in spot.

Hmm... I find that an intriguing comment.

Why do you think the efficiency changes between spot and flood? It is all the same amount of light for the same amount of electricity. In "flood" the light is spread over a larger area and is consequently less intense at any one point, that's all.

They are going to be very bright unless you dim them (so changing the colour) or have them far off (making them very hard).

Alas there's no real good & cheap light source.  (apart from the sun...)

Even the sun's rays get spread thinner sometimes, like at higher latitudes.

-- hide signature --

Regards,
Baz
:
"Ahh... But the thing is, these guys were no ORDINARY time travellers!"

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
ryan2007
Veteran MemberPosts: 8,863Gear list
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to ALEXR86, Apr 14, 2013

ALEXR86 wrote:

Hi everyone.I would like to arrange a small amateur-level studio.What do you think about RedHead lamps?I would like to buy two 800w lamps with barn doors and gel-diffusers.Can I use them combined with a flash fot portrait photography? thanks!

Alex - www.alexrobciuc.wix.com/photo

Any hot light or constant light source is Only for video needs.  Strobes are for everything else.  You can not just use any gels with hot lights, they will melt or cause a fire!

You will be better served saving and budgeting $800 to get a good kit.  I recommend Elinchrome, you can buy kits that come with stands, soft-boxes etc. for reference check B&H photo.

i do both people and product photography and strobes are the only way to go and it's worth saving or using B&H bill me later, they have options.  Just can't stress enough to not use hot lights for people.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
KCook
Veteran MemberPosts: 4,531Gear list
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to leecamera, Apr 14, 2013

Thank you very much for all the info leecamera.  My CFLs claim a CRI of 90, I don't see a green spike, but even after K adjustment in post the colors are kind of muddy.  I wish I did have a Kino Flo budget.

It is the spot capability of the Red Heads that tempts me.  I can get a little better concentration of light for a CFL with a deep reflector, but then the size of the reflector puts a big "hole" in the light reflected by the umbrella.  And brighter would be nice.  I didn't realize just how low the output of a 45W CFL is until I tried mixing CFL with my strobes (which are economy strobes).

Heh!  The sun is in abundance here in Arizona!

Kelly

 KCook's gear list:KCook's gear list
Canon EOS 50D Olympus PEN E-PL2
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Duncan C
Veteran MemberPosts: 7,564
Like?
Re: Red-Head lightning for portrait photography
In reply to ryan2007, Apr 16, 2013

ryan2007 wrote:

ALEXR86 wrote:

Hi everyone.I would like to arrange a small amateur-level studio.What do you think about RedHead lamps?I would like to buy two 800w lamps with barn doors and gel-diffusers.Can I use them combined with a flash fot portrait photography? thanks!

Alex - www.alexrobciuc.wix.com/photo

Any hot light or constant light source is Only for video needs.  Strobes are for everything else.  You can not just use any gels with hot lights, they will melt or cause a fire!

You will be better served saving and budgeting $800 to get a good kit.  I recommend Elinchrome, you can buy kits that come with stands, soft-boxes etc. for reference check B&H photo.

i do both people and product photography and strobes are the only way to go and it's worth saving or using B&H bill me later, they have options.  Just can't stress enough to not use hot lights for people.

I tend to agree with you about strobes vs hot lights, but for still life/product shots some photographers swear by hot lights. They are very WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) so setup is easy. Studio lights have modeling lights, but they are generally not very bright compared to your strobes, and it can be hard to see the effects of your modeling lights if the ambient light is bright.

I could see the advantages of hot lights for subjects like jewelry, where carefully controlled highlights are really important. with hot/continuous lights, you can see the lighting through the viewfinder, adjust, check again, and shoot when you get a setup you're happy with.

Baz (Barrie Davis), a retired pro who frequents these forums, swears by continuous fresnel spots for some applications. He loves the ability to adjust the beam. He says that fresnel flashes don't cut it because the modeling light is in a slightly different position than the flash tube, and it's enough to make the modeling light beam a different size and shape than the flash beam. I haven't used fresnel spots for photography myself, but he makes a convincing argument.

In short, my preferences, like yours, tend towards flashes over continuous lights, but there are arguments for both types of lighting. I don't agree with your absolute "Any hot light or constant light source is Only for video needs" statement.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Barrie Davis
Forum ProPosts: 21,460
Like?
Redheads have their uses
In reply to Duncan C, Apr 16, 2013

Duncan C wrote:

Baz (Barrie Davis), a retired pro who frequents these forums, swears by continuous fresnel spots for some applications. He loves the ability to adjust the beam. He says that fresnel flashes don't cut it because the modelling light is in a slightly different position than the flash tube, and it's enough to make the modelling light beam a different size and shape than the flash beam. I haven't used fresnel spots for photography myself, but he makes a convincing argument.

Hello Duncan... I'm "frequenting" again!

Redheads have their uses....

It happens I have a set of 3 redheads that I keep for location interiors, where their high power in a compact space is very helpful. I use them to compliment my set of three Fresnel spots, to which you refered...

.... together they make a flexible 3200K tungsten kit, that blends well with domestic lighting.

Redheads are powerful enough to act as excellent bounce sources, for softness, or when used with a (heatproof) shoot-through umbrella... I also have one heatproof softbox, and a couple of large stand-up diffuser screens...(6x4'), all of which are used with Redheads.

Also, because of their ability to focus down a good deal, and the barndoors attachment that lives on them, Redheads make a pretty good stand-in for a genuine Fresne spotl, when the need arises.

But it is sheer GRUNT in a small space that makes them good location lights.

However, as already made clear, I do not use them for people shots... their concentrated brightness and heat is too uncomfortable to ask people to endure. Even if I was unkind enough to subject subjects to the torture of illumination by Redhead (!)...

... the squints and the sweats don't look great in pictures!

Here is shot done with the Redhead/Fresnel kit. As you point out, being able to preview the set-up with 100% accurate "pre-modelling" of the lighting is crucial to getting this kind of thing right.

This picture used a combination of Redheads, Fresnel spots, and ambient light.

-- hide signature --

Regards,
Baz
:
"Ahh... But the thing is, these guys were no ORDINARY time travellers!"

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads