Shooting Boudoir Images using Cold Continuous Light

by | Jan 27, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

One of the problems with traditional, continuous “hot lights” is that they are, well, hot and are not all that comfortable to work under for subject and photographer alike. Looking for something cooler? Welcome to a world of continuous light sources powered by fluorescent bulbs. I know what you’re thinking, don’t fluorescent lights produce horrible green light?

As it turns out daylight-balanced fluorescent lights are the perfect light source for digital photography. By comparison, the tungsten lights used in inexpensive continuous light systems produce 93% heat and 7% mostly red light. Fluorescent light is cooler, brighter, and comes out the winner for color balance.

Fluorescent-based lights used for photography are daylight-balanced and their RGB output closely matches the receptive RGB spikes of a digital camera’s imaging chip. That chip is least sensitive in its blue channel and tungsten light has the least output in the blue and when combined with its infrared (heat) output it can overcome the chip’s spectral response.

Westcott’s Two-Light Daylight D5 Softbox kit includes two D5 light heads, two 24×32-inch Basic softboxes, ten 27 Watt daylight balanced lamps and two 6.5 ft lightstands. The softboxes have a silver reflective lining to maximize output along with heat resistant rods that mount on receptacles on the D5 head. The kit comes in a 10x12x29-inch box that since it has a handle could double as a carrying case, if you don’t have something more suitable and photographically oriented.

How I made this shot: The above image of Pamela Simpson was made in my home studio  using a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with 45mm f/2.8 Leica DG Macro-Elmarit lens with an exposure of 1/30 sec at f/4 and ISO 640, with a minus one and one-third stop exposure compensation to maintain the low key look. Background is a 5×7-ft Savage Black Infinity vinyl background that was hung on my falling apart JTL background stand. The RAW image file was converted to monochrome using Silver Efex Pro.

Be aware: Because fluorescent lamps contain mercury, they are classified as hazardous waste. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that FLD lamps be seperated from general waste for recycling or safe disposal. Home Depot in my area has a recycling area for these kinds of bulbs and I’m sure there are others at similar stores.



My book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is still available and (I think, anyway) is a fun read. There’s even a chapter on infrared photography. It’s available from Amazon for $37.84 but bargain shoppers can pick up used copies starting at $2.07. No Kindle version is available at this time, sorry to say.