What Is The Best Light Color For Photography

By | 09/01/2023

You take a ton of options for artificial lighting these days, more than than always before. There are the very expensive pro, high finish lights for $1000’south of dollars, all the way down to a $20 softbox kit that’s not worth the cardboard box information technology’south shipped in. Then how do you lot know what to get?

The other confusing thing is that different countries have now outlawed some of our options. They try to do their part with our environs, and companies come up with ways of saving energy, of course this will affect our choices in artificial lite for photography.

This is important: If you are photographing a Production and struggling with getting authentic colour with your artificial lights, you are having a white residue outcome! Most probable y’all are using 1 of the cheaper versions of an LED light that has a low CRI. Please see my section beneath about that.

Delight Annotation: Yous do need to accept an understanding of white balance with artificial lights. Encounter this posts for information on white remainder and color temperature and see this mail near camera white residual settings.


Some of these links are my affiliate links. Should you purchase any of these items, I will make a few pennies at no price to you. Clicking on the images will take you lot to the sales folio for that production. If you notice a product is non available, please leave me a comment to update the mail service. I update this postal service nearly 10 times a twelvemonth, but fifty-fifty and then product availability changes all the fourth dimension.



Several of the lights I am discussing are bulbs that you lot would normally utilise with a softbox, like this to the left, or in a light housing with a reflector. The softbox diffuses the light source – sometimes not plenty, and you demand to diffuse further by adding diffusion gels to information technology, simply you get the thought. This kit comes with i softbox, i stand up and and LED bulb. It’southward a great price around $l – but proceed in listen it’southward a cheap one and so no thought how long this will last.

This seedling included is not a high CRI seedling (run into below what that ways) only you tin easily switch it out for one that is. I talk about ane similar to it in other posts.

This kit uses incandescent calorie-free bulbs – not flashes. The bulbs simply spiral into the light socket and each light has to exist plugged in separately.

I’m going to discuss all the options you lot have for bogus light bulbs, tell y’all my favorites, and some pros and cons of each one. In that location are a ton of options for each kind and so if you do run into other options, feel free to get out a annotate to ask me most it.

Image of 5 different Artificial Lights

We’ll be talking about these lights above. Please note that the 2 lights on the left take the diffusion panel removed from the softbox. You would not employ the softbox in that estate, just wanted to show you the bulbs inside.

1. High Wattage Tungsten Photo Globes

During the days of flick, tungsten bulbs were extremely popular. Though they are still heavily used in the movie industry now, photography in countries exterior the US is moving away from the tungsten photo incandescent low-cal bulbs, because they are an energy waster.

Many countries have banned these tungsten incandescent light bulbs birthday. In the United states of america, the specialty photo globes (pictured here) are nevertheless allowed, and still pop. They are very bright bulbs that are 250 watts, 300 watts, 500 watts, 650 watts, 1000 watts, all the way up to 24,000 watts – no joke. Oh yeah, that bulb, the 24,000 watt bulb, that’s nigh $4000.

I personally however like using my tungsten lights when I can.

They accept a white balance of 3200-3400 Kelvin.

Delight note: I am specifically speaking about photograph globes here fabricated for photography – not the common 60watt household bulb. Photo globes are bigger but the fitting is still the same.

Pros Of Tungsten Incandescent Light Bulbs:

  • The seedling pictured higher up made for however photography – 300 – 500 watts are very inexpensive, $3-$6.
  • Incandescent photo light bulbs have a very clean light, pregnant there is no green tint in the low-cal. I love tungsten low-cal. Information technology’southward a very pretty light.
  • Easy to buy in the US.
  • The photo bulbs are much brighter than the LED’southward (with the aforementioned fitting A19) and CFL’s, and then yous only need 1 bulb in your softbox to get 500 watts compared to 4 or 5 LED’s, or  CFL’due south to get the same brightness. This argument seems to be causing some confusion for some readers then I desire to make sure I’m being articulate here. I am NOT comparing a house hold tungsten bulb that is only 60 watts. I am comparing the bigger photography bulbs pictured to a higher place to LED’s with the same household fitting.
  • Tungsten is a very clean light, rarely volition the Color Rendering Index (see below) be a trouble with your white balance.

Image of a tungsten bulb in a softbox

Cons Of Incandescent Light Bulbs:

  • They are too called Hot Lights, because they are incredibly hot when used due to the high wattage.
  • You must use them in a soft box that can handle these bulbs. Do not utilize them in a bootleg box fabricated out of foam core, and tissue newspaper – it volition catch on burn!
  • You too can’t use theses in the cheap softboxes you see on Amazon that are made for LED lights – they volition also catch on fire.
  • The amount of energy they use VS the corporeality of light they emit is extremely inefficient.
  • They do not last very long at all. In fact, some bulbs say they terminal a total of 50-60 hours – merely that is a agglomeration of malarkey. Information technology’s much less.
  • The college wattage bulbs are very expensive – a 1000w bulb tin can be $30-$50, and barely last 20 hours.
  • Several countries take outlawed these bulbs considering of how inefficient they are, including the specialty photo bulbs.
  • They are very delicate, and the filaments tin get damaged easily in shipping.
  • These lights have a WB from 3000-3400 and then you tin’t mix them with daylight, unless you gel them.
  • You can non touch the high wattage bulbs with blank easily at all because the oil from your hand can actually make some bulbs explode.

2. CFL – Meaty Fluorescent Lights (I hate these)

Image of Westcott CFL BulbCFL’south are adequately new to the scene in our photo earth considering of the ban on incandescent lights several years ago. At that place are all kinds of CFL’s, with all kinds of prices, and I’ve done a lot of research on this. I have several issues with these lights that I will share in the “Cons” section below.

You have to do your research with these lights, and you CANNOT purchase the cheapest ones you find. This low-cal shown to the left is made past Westcott and is 1 of the good ones.

What Is The CRI Rating?

In that location is a very important rating for lighting. It’s chosen CRI – Color Rendering Index. To put information technology just, CRI tells you how clean your calorie-free is. How accurately that lite source is at rendering all the colors. The range goes from 0 – 100. This bulb above has a CRI of 91, which is great for a CFL, but not the best. Practise not use lights with a CRI less than 90.

Hither’s what that all ways. Any light source has 2 dissimilar values to consider, the color temperature, and the tint. These 2 measurements make our white balance. The colour temperature is measured in Kelvin on a scale, and that scale represents the color of light that goes from yellow/orange to blueish. That scale goes from 1000k to x,000k in nigh cameras, just nosotros normally use lights that become from 2700k – 6500k.

The tint however, is a value that goes from magenta to light-green with the color of our light. THIS IS EXTREMELY Of import. Without getting too technical here – the CRI basically tells united states of america how green a light will exist.

The calorie-free all around y’all has many different colors. It takes time to exist able to see these nuances in your images.

Inexpensive CFL AND LED Bulbs Are Green In Colour

And so, the cheap CFL bulbs take a depression CRI, and then low that the manufacturer won’t even tell you what it is. When you read the calorie-free coming from their seedling with a colour meter, and then y’all can see how much light-green the bulb is calculation to the light that it is emitting.

This is obviously a huge problem because a company that is using marketing jargon, calling their bulb a “full spectrum” bulb, would be implying that their bulb renders colors well, but information technology actually has a depression CRI, similar 80 for example, and the low-cal has a huge green tint to it. This light-green tint makes it very difficult to colour correct, and should never be called a “full spectrum”, or “pure white” bulb.

These bulbs come in a variety of color temperature options ranging from 3000K up to 6500K.

Hither is an example of a cheap CFL that is totally bullsh!tting what they say nigh it. Do not buy these inexpensive LimoStudio bulbs. It’s saying it’s a daylight bulb with “Full Spectrum”, then information technology says in the details that information technology is “Daylight Balanced Pure White”. This is Wrong. Totally false advertising.

Yes, it might have a WB of 6500, but with a tint of 29 points green (according to my light color meter). I’m sorry, but that is not “pure white light”. 29 points light-green is a HUGE problem!!! I have two of these, as they came with the cheap crappy softbox I tested.

The unabridged point of using a daylight bulb is that you can mix it with real daylight if y’all need to. If the damn affair is green, approximate what?? You tin can’t mix information technology with daylight considering daylight is clean light and will never be green. It simply pisses me off all this false advertising.

Ok, technically you lot Can mix it with daylight, ONLY if y’all put magenta color correction gels on the light, and in order for you to know how many gels it needs, you demand to have an expensive  colour meter like this.

I continue Amazon and I inquire these import companies what their CRI is on their bulbs, and they NEVER answer my questions because they don’t want anyone to know how bad they are, or they just don’t know. I’ve besides been flat out lied to nigh the CRI, got the lite, tested it and sure enough the CRI was non nigh the promised 95+.

FOR ANYONE PHOTOGRAPHING FABRICS, GARMENTS, SOFT GOODS, CERAMICS, ARTWORK WITH Paint, PIGMENT OR DYES: The CRI will be your most of import specification with whatever low-cal you are using. You will Not be able to get accurate colors on your fabrics if you lot are using  a cheap CFL or a inexpensive LED that has low CRI’southward.

To get further technical nigh this – for accurate production photography you lot want a low-cal that has a practiced CRI R9 (red color). Click hither to read more about this.

CFL Lights Are Toxic

Large CFL light bulb on fabric with hand grabbing itAt that place’south another huge issue I have with these lights. All CFL’s contain mercury – yep mercury! You know, that extremely toxic heavy metal that can do all sorts of damage to your trunk. If you break a CFL bulb, you just ingested some airborne mercury powder. Oh they tell yous that information technology’due south no large deal because it’s a small-scale corporeality.

That’s fine if you have never come across mercury in your unabridged life, e’er. Just I’m sorry, that’s just not the instance. We have mercury in our water, the air (if you’re in a big metropolis), in our tuna fish, the list goes on. So this adds up over time. I know this because I had mercury poisoning a few years agone. It’s not a good fourth dimension. Plenty said.

Pros Of CFL Bulbs (Not Much)

  • They concluding a long time – seriously, I was told past Westcott (you lot tin can call them and ask any questions btw) that their CFL bulbs final 8,000 hours. So y’all could, in theory leave the light on all year long, every day.
  • They do non get hot. You’ve got plenty of other options though that besides don’t get hot.

Cons Of CFL Bulbs

  • They incorporate mercury, and breaking them is a major hazmat clean up situation.
  • Some countries have outlawed putting CFL bulbs in the trash. Yous accept to dispose of information technology as if it is hazardous waste – because information technology actually is.
  • The bulbs that have a high CRI are very expensive – $40 to $50 each.
  • They practise not emit a lot of light at all. You lot need several CFL’south to equal ane incandescent photo low-cal bulb of 500 watts.
  • They are huge, so not all softboxes are appropriate for those bulbs. If you lot are not using a heavy duty light stand, your softbox can hands tip over if you are using four bulbs in ane head.
  • The cheap CFL’due south accept a major greenish tint to them, which really makes them useless.
  • Information technology seems the college the wattage (brighter), the lower the CRI.

#3A LED Bulbs – A Neat Selection When Starting Out

We have several types of LED bulbs that I will talk virtually. This is only a few of the ones that work well for photography.

I’ve been testing some LED lights with the normal household fitting, too known as A19’s. I have to update this post all the time because these bulbs with the higher CRI quickly become unavailable.

As of this update, these bulbs to the left are available on Amazon for about $30 for the prepare and are fabricated by Torchstar.

For my European union friends, I found this for you – the make is Light-green And Co. They have an LED with a CRI of 90+. They don’t have a high wattage so you will have to get iv of them to put in each softbox.

LED’southward as well do not become very hot when they are on, and then that’s great. However, it is very hard finding higher wattage LED’southward with a loftier CRI.

LED’due south likewise come in a wide variety of color temperature options from nearly 3000 – 6500K.

And then what I propose to practise is instead of using the CFL’s, get four of these LED bulbs with this iv socket adapter (or equivalent), for your softbox. They can also exist chosen a bulb splitter.

At that place are many brands that make these, so don’t become the cheapest i and endeavour to find i that is UL listed, or approved in the US, or the equivalent in your land.

This i is made by the LimoStudio Korean import visitor that I am not a fan of, nonetheless this one product IS UL approved – or then they say. I’ve been using them, and they seem to be fine. Just know, I never get out lights plugged in when I’one thousand not in the room, just for safety.

Now there are a few LED loftier CRI lights that are like a flood light, meaning they are very directional so I do not recommend those for the softboxes every bit they would require a ton of diffusion cloth then I’m not mentioning those here.

The LED beneath is the Smith-Victor 45 watt Loftier CRI bulb for photography. This tin can exist a great option. It has higher wattage and has a higher CRI. It is however $40. Westcott and Savage are as well brands that make bulbs just like these. The bulbs are much brighter than the traditional household LED bulbs in a higher place, hence the price increment.

Image of Westcott High Wattage High CRI Bulb

Pros of LED Bulbs

  • Very affordable compared to high CRI CFL’south – 6 LED’s are under $50 – Four CFL’s with high CRI commencement at $160.
  • They last an extremely long time.
  • They do not go hot when used.
  • Very small, compact, and lightweight.
  • The skillful brands practice not contain mercury or lead.
  • Very efficient, and use very little free energy.
  • Y’all tin get different white balance bulbs for your needs.
  • Y’all tin get LED’s with a CRI as high equally 95 for very clean light.

Cons of LED Bulbs

  • Finding the high wattage bulbs with high CRI can be a challenge. At the time of this update, they are just starting to make some. 17 LED watts is equivalent to a tungsten 100w bulb. So you have to utilise at to the lowest degree four bulbs in your softbox to get near the output of i high wattage tungsten photo world.

#3B LED Panel Lights – Bi-Color

It is shocking how many different panel lights y’all tin find now. At that place are panel lights for $20 and panel lights for $thou’s of dollars. These LED lights accept the same concerns as the bulbs listed above with CRI – Colour Rendering Index.

If y’all are scanning this postal service, please look at lite #two above, and see my description of CRI. The cheap lights will exist very green, and tin can’t be mixed with other lights. The lights with a college CRI, are a lot more expensive.

Pictured to a higher place are the lights that I use for video. They are made past Dracast and have a CRI of 95 with only ii points greenish, according to my colour meter.

What I love about this light is that information technology is Bi-Color. This ways it has a punch on the back that will let you change your color temperature from a warmer 2700k, upwardly to daylight 6000k, and annihilation in between.

Close up image of LED light panel

Close up of a bi-colour LED panel light. Yous can run into alternating rows of 3200K bulbs with 5500K bulbs

There are less expensive options that merely have i color temperature and that can be anywhere from 3200K to 6500K.

When I am mixing this light with daylight or tungsten lite, I use my color meter to measure the ambient light, and then I punch that into the Dracast light to match. This low-cal also has a dimmer punch for controlling brightness.

This calorie-free source is a pretty harsh light source, if y’all don’t lengthened the crap out of information technology. Even if you use the sparse improvidence filter that comes with it, and if yous want to use these for food photography, you lot’ll need to use several diffusion gels on this lite to soften information technology, which is what I do.

Too, exist warned of the cheaper Asian lights claiming they have a high CRI – they are completely lying about information technology. They know that most people buying these are not validating their color temperature, and CRI claims with a color meter, like I am. So if the thing is $20, it’s a light-green light.

#3C Next Generation High CRI LED Light, The COB LED.

I have this light. It’southward a battery operated high output Make clean  led lite. This light is also bi-color and then I tin punch in what ever white balance I demand AND information technology has a CRI of 97.

This is the Genaray PortaBright Bi-Color Battery Powered LED Monolight. Monolights mean they are self contained for power. With this low-cal you as well have the choice to plug it in if needed.

This is a slap-up option and in the photograph world, this is considered an inexpensive light. For those of you used to paying $xx for a lite, will find this much more than expensive Because it’southward just a ameliorate light.

Image Close Up of the Genaray LED light

This is the close up of the Genaray LED calorie-free that I have. Information technology’s completely different technology than your traditional “bulb”.

In the image in a higher place of the LED closeup y’all tin see the blank LED fleck mounted on the front. COB stands for Fleck On Board.

Hither is another COB LED light that is less expensive, it’s non as bright as the Genaray and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as the light in a higher place. I am not familiar with this light but it looks like the reviews are skillful for it. For a niggling over $100, this is a neat price.

Information technology besides claims that information technology has a hight CRI. I have not tested this i.

You will need to heavily diffuse these lights. These two lights have what’south chosen a Bowens Mountain and so any accessories that you purchase for it will need that kind of mount to attached to information technology.

Image of a reflector with a Bowens mount

Pictured here you tin can run across a reflector that has a Bowens mount on information technology. There are iii notches that simply prune into the light heads.

Here is a softbox that come with a Bowens mount speed ring and so you can adhere this to the low-cal. This is made by a knock off brand called Neewer. I’ve had proficient luck and bad luck buying from this brand, just a heads up in that location.

With the heavier LED lights mentioned above, you must use a heavy duty light stand up to go on the lights stable.

#4 Strobe Lights / Speedlites / Speedlights

Strobe lights are in a category all their own. I have to include them though, as they are artificial lights. They are always daylight balanced. For some reason, many bloggers are not calling these bogus lights. Any light that is not the sun, is artificial.

Also, to analyze. Canon calls their strobe lights, “speedlites”. Nikon calls their version “speedlights”. Let’s just confuse everyone, shall nosotros? I grew up using Canon, so I always called them Speedlites.

There are several dissimilar kinds of strobes, and this will be its ain blog mail service later on, but for at present, here they are.

Speedlites, strobes, monolights, are always daylight balanced just tin vary from 5000k to 6500K.

1. Speedlites, like the one in a higher place, are the smallest strobes. They accept batteries, or can exist plugged into a separate bombardment pack. They tin can be used off camera, and with devices chosen slaves to make them talk to other speedlites, and talk to the camera.

Equally you can see by how small the speedlite is, it’s express in how much calorie-free it tin can put out when you get-go putting it into softboxes, and other light modifiers.

They typically take nearly xl to 80 watts of power each. The actually cheap ones only have well-nigh 35 watts of power. If you need to take pictures with a high f-stop like f16 in society to get everything in focus, these lights will be a trouble for you.

Image close up of a strobe bulb

This is a typical strobe bulb with a coiled drinking glass tube and a glass outer shell.

2. Monolights

Monolights are as well self contained (light and power is inside ane head unit), and usually accept to be plugged into the wall for ability but there are quite a few now that take batteries.

In that location’s all kinds of actress accessories for these lights, like big bombardment packs, so you can have them anywhere. You lot need to apply light modifiers for these as well, every bit the bare head strobe has very harsh, directly light.

These lights are great for smaller shots and are dainty for doing restaurant shoots. Many new photographers like to beginning with these smaller lights to learn strobes, then move upwards to the bigger lights. More wattage = more cashola.

This is Adorama’due south version of the Godox Xplor 600watt HHS. I have this light and really like information technology. I use it for all my editorial jobs now when nosotros don’t have good natural light available, or when I’m shooting a portrait.


Image of a studio strobe head plugged into a strobe pack3. Strobe heads with strobe packs
. For my commercial advertisement piece of work, I mostly use big strobes. I use strobes to emulate daylight, and that’s the trick. It’s something I specialize in.

The image to the left (or to a higher place on mobile) is showing a Speedotron strobe pack that has 1200 watt-seconds of power. This is considered pocket-size in the earth of pro studio strobes.

The packs have a capacitor inside them that holds the charge. When turned on, the packs will power up, hold the charge, then dump the charge through the strobe head when you take the picture show.

There are many packs that have extremely high wattage. I use 4800ws packs all the time. If not used properly, the can exist very dangerous.

Strobes are actually an explosion of light. We phone call it a pop when information technology flashes. You will hear a popping sound when information technology fires.

That explosion of light is a very harsh light and so that will commonly need to be diffused when shooting nutrient.

In the image beneath you can see 2 large strobe heads, and they are plugged into those big black boxes. Those black boxes are the power packs. Each of those packs is rated at 4800 watts. I bounciness light all the time off my studio walls, and y’all demand a massive corporeality of power to do that, AND to accept enough light to shoot an image at F/16, or 22, which is what most of the ad work requires, everything in focus.

I will also utilize strobe heads within softboxes, and other modifiers.

My set up in the studio showing several strobe lights in a live set up

So, you can see how the fiddling monolights simply don’t have enough ability for what is needed when shooting images where everything needs to exist in focus, in the kind of set up I am using above. All that for a little burrito!

With using professional person studio strobes, you have hundreds of accessory options for strobe head attachments, lite modifiers, all kinds of fun stuff to choose from. However, they all come up with a steep price. The more than power you need, the more than money yous have to spend to get that.

Using strobe lights is very different from whatsoever light source because you are working in stops of light. You lot measure the light coming out of the head in F-stops, then it’s confusing for folks when they are first learning this. And you have to sync your photographic camera’due south shutter speed to the strobes. Y’all must besides use a calorie-free meter (pictured left), to measure the calorie-free coming out of the strobe heads.

I will get more into the details of how to use strobes in another mail service.

And so, there you accept it, all our bogus lights that we have to choose from for photography.


Would you like a free guide with more details about artificial lighting? Click the image below:

For more data nearly food photography, please encounter my other Nutrient Photography Ebooks.

Want more info almost artificial lighting? Bank check out these posts?

Bogus Lighting For Food Photos Behind The Scenes

Like shooting fish in a barrel Artificial Backlighting For Your Food Photos

Easy Artificial Side Lighting

Source: https://foodphotographyblog.com/four-types-artificial-light-photography/

Posted by: Fusiontr.com

Originally posted 2022-02-13 03:13:21.