CFL studio lighting test

Umbrella reflected main light + overhead softbox fill
Mind the gap curves
raw jpg: 1/80s @ f5.6 
The new Gimp G'MIC plugin: contour
Light modifiers. The main light was governed by a 110cm reflective silver umbrella blackened at the back. The CFLs are huge. As most of their light is emitted from the side, it took a bit of fiddling to get them far enough into the umbrella to prevent light spill whilst at the same time keeping the light soft and directional. Too far in and it's harsh. Too far out and it spills everywhere. Once you have it, mark the point on the rod. It's then easy to put back in the right place. But actually do it. Not like us who thought we'd remember from one shoot to the next. Of course, you never do and spend the next session doing test exposures again. No such problem with the softbox of course where the deep sides of the diffuser take care of it for you. 

Output. The output of the 125 bulb is a dazzling 675W in old money. The softbox had a 55 bulb which weighs in at around 300W. The colour temperature seems spot on at 5500K daylight.  The bulbs run cool. Even the 125 bulb is barely warm to the touch. They are a touch green and not so bright for the first minute or so, so leave them on a bit beforehand.

On camera. @1/80s. An incident close-up skin reading gave us f8 for iso 800, with f5.6 giving us a good compromise for the full length shots without having the hassle of bringing in a second front light. The next task will be to get calibrated properly and mark the light distances on the floor or something. I seem to spend half of my time moving the lights. I suppose that's because I spent the last 1/4 century with variable strobes. I wonder if a dimmer switch is the answer here. The Nikon cloudy colour balance warms up skin tones with the shade setting being almost too exaggerated. It's probably best to leave it on sun and rebalance in Gimp if you feel you need to. We didn't, but had a reasonable tan to work with.

Backdrop system. A brilliant idea. If you've ever struggled with cloth stuck to bits of wood draped over hooks drilled into the wall, you'll wonder how you ever lived without this. The cloths themselves are huge: 3m x 6m. They come folded and you can see the folds. Ironing is not an option for something this big. Our aim is to wet it, crunch it up and then try and find somewhere to let it dry. That way, the randomness of the creases may just make it look as if we intended it that way. Again, we need to do it. Tip: take your bath-mat into the studio. Step on it before you step on set, especially with pale coloured cloth and especially with impatient photographers. A good rule of thumb is that for each time you don't and yet another footprint appears, the offender put €5 in the pot. They who contribute least, win and so get to decide what to do with the takings. Currently, that activity must also involve the loser.

The show so far: Really pleased with the results. No, it's not the same as working with flash but it's certainly not inferior. The enormous advantage of the CFL is that you have exactly the same light falling on your eyes as upon the camera sensor. WYSIWYG. With flash, you don't. The make-up could look fine under tungsten but look hideous with flash. In two weeks, we've only managed two full shoots. This is mainly a result of the photographer not listening to advice. He knew better. Even though he'd never used CFLs before...

Anyway, from now on, it's just gotta get easier. We've made all the mistakes. There can't be any left. Wish us luck.