Fluorescent Lighting meets Mirrorless Cameras

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Photographers have used photoflood, tungsten, quartz and all kind of continuous light sources under the general category of “hot lights.” These light sources have several advantages over using electronic flash: They can be inexpensive, produce lighting that’s what you see is what you get’ and let you to use your camera’s in-camera meter to determine exposure

Most digital camera’s White Balance setting include  tungsten light and some will even let you dial in a specific color temperature. Don’t forget the camera’s Auto White Balance (AWB) setting. Many times this will produce spot-on color the first time without any color temperature gymnastics. And if all else fails, you can use the camera’s built-in controls to create a custom white balance.


The only problem with traditional “hot lights” is that they are hot and not all that comfortable to work with for subject and photographer alike. How about fluorescent? I know what you’re thinking, aren’t fluorescent lights those thingies that produce horrible green light? It turns out daylight-balanced fluorescents are the perfect light source for digital photography. Tungsten lights produce 93 percent heat and only seven percent red light. By comparison fluorescent light is cooler and brighter. Fluorescent-based lights for photography are daylight-balanced and their RGB output spikes closely match the receptive RGB spikes of imaging chips.

Westcott’s Two-Light D5 Softbox Kit, for example, uses their D5 fluorescent head. The D5 features five ceramic light sockets, each supporting up to a 50-Watt lamp. The D5 head has five illuminated power switches arranged across it’s back, each controlling a single lamp. The D5 has a built-in tilter bracket for positioning and a heavy-duty 13-foot cord with an in-line power switch that I would have preferred located on the D5’s back.

The above image at left was made with a Panasonic Lumix GH4 and Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 lens. Even with the main light using only three daylight fluorescent bulbs, exposure was 1/80 sec at f/4 and ISO 640.

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To learn more about different lighting options and some of my studio lighting techniques, please pick up a copy of my book, “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as including Amazon.com.