View Full Version : Studio Portrait Lighting Question (1948)

Jim Galli
30-Apr-2013, 08:04
I have a nice modern set of studio strobes but this weekend I was in an old timey basement in Tonopah inhabited by a Studio Photog of 1940 - 1952 or so, and there was one of those giant flourescent lighting multi-bank thingies like shown in Abel's Professional Portrait Lightings of 1948 (same era exactly).

It was 2 banks of 8 24" tubes on wings that could be swung to different angles, on a single sturdy stand.

Should I have bought that? Will it do any magic that modern lights can't do better and easier?

Mark Woods
30-Apr-2013, 08:09
There are modern versions of the light you describe. The strobes are "point" source unless they are bounced or go through diffusion. The large bank of fluorescents gives a light similar to the strobe going through a large diffusion. Two different purpose lights and solutions for a photographers vision.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
30-Apr-2013, 08:21
I like large banks of fluorescent bulbs, they can produce a really nice quality of light similar to large diffusion screens or softboxes. That said, I probably wouldn't bother with one from the 1940s; rewiring it, replacing the ballasts, and the cost of new bulbs just wouldn't be worthwhile. Of course, the stand might be useful...

30-Apr-2013, 09:45
There is a close up portrait of Louis Armstrong done with one of these that was published along with a backed up view of the actual set up in use. The portrait is some of the best lighting I've ever seen. May have been one of Halsman's Life magaine covers, but I'm far from certain on that. Anyway, in the right hands (like any sort of light) it can be quite a masterful tool.

Mark Sawyer
30-Apr-2013, 11:04
I'd say passing was the right thing, unless you were really desperate for lights. They wouldn't be that bright, and a diffusion screen will cut even more. Used without a diffusion screen, the reflections in the eyes will be a bunch of lines, (bleh...) Hot lights give the eyes small pupils and make the sitter squint. Stick with the strobes!

Jim Galli
30-Apr-2013, 11:35
Good insight all! One reason I passed was I didn't need one more giant thing in my space upstairs.

30-Apr-2013, 16:07
Joe Edleman has some videos on flourescent lighting set ups at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtsKPaLMP7o Towards the end of video #2 there's some pretty nice portraits taken with them. Of course color film would need to be filtered.

I put some together for my daughter to use and they work pretty well for headshots to 3/4 length. If you have to move them very far from your subject, intensity falls of fast. I just hung mine on some lightstands with cable ties.

Mark Woods
30-Apr-2013, 16:36
There are frost diffusions that one could placed over the unit with very little light loss. I wouldn't get them unless I had a need for them.

Brian C. Miller
30-Apr-2013, 16:36
Lighting for sitters is always a problem. I have a 60" Photek Softlighter, and while it produces a wonderful even light, sometimes I wonder if people would be more comfortable if I set off flash powder. "Aaaahhh! The flash! The flash!" or "Why do all of your portraits look like that movie room scene in A Clockwork Orange?" (Strapped down, eyelids pried open) Teenagers and two-year-olds. Ech.

Jim, I took a look at the current stuff offered by B&H. There's quite a lot of CFL lighting, including 4-socket adapters. Those are relatively cheap, and making a lightbox for it would be fairly easy. Also, there's some cheap light panels.

1-May-2013, 07:41
I love fluorescent banks and I own a Kinoflo "Wall" (10 x 4ft fluorescent with diffusion and grid) ... it is "dim" compared to "flash" but it works wonderfully well to simulate window light and sky lights. I do use it mostly for portraits ... not that much different than using natural light and this gives you some control. I also use Mole hotlights and fresnels for portraits ... it's all about the lighting look you're after ...