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Thread: Please help and advise on my home made Key Light

  1. #1

    Smile Please help and advise on my home made Key Light

    I am setting up a very basic 3 point lighting set up for my basement no frills super budget studio.

    I thought I would post 3 different threads one for each light so starting with the most important which I understand is to be the key light.

    Now I have been reading a lot on here especially from Rembrandt Rob (great name by the way!) As I am a complete novice and need to learn as much as I can here .

    My basement has no daylight sources so I am not going to use daylight balanced CFL bulbs (Thanks Tim for pointing that out!) plus they are expensive!

    Now Rembrandt Rob mentioned Ianiro DMX ICE units with 3200-kinflo true match tubes .Now I wish I could get those as my soft key but funds are low! Also am I right in thinking that these are great lights for proís who move round their equipment a lot as they are safer in terms of heat output plus they are easier to take down after shoot (not hot) and use less power or are more efficient. So overall fantastic pieces of kit for the pros.

    However they are producing approx 110watt (500 watt) and are using 3200 tungsten balanced kinoflo tubes bought separately .So looking at about £450.And are replicating a tungsten look with less heat and power issues?? Not sure if I am on the right track here?

    The Photoflex Starlight Medium 500-watt tungsten halogen soft box is £239 still pushing it for me. But could just about afford in time if you strongly recommend it over my present key light set up below.

    Now in the past I acquired (10 inch diameter clamp lights with white insides to direct the light .I got 8 new for £60 off ebay originally meant for reptile heat lamps! I got them new so mint condition and all exactly the same on. They can each take 250-watt bulbs screw or bayonet standard bulbs.

    Now at present for my key I have 5 of them all set up approx 45degrees from my face shining down slightly on me (sitting down) they are 5 foot 8 inches away from my face.

    Now another option I think is a standard tungsten halogen work light (cheap enough) will give me 500 watts in a small focused area, which I could diffuse to produce a soft wall of light with a clear/frosted shower curtain hung from ceiling in front of lamp (not to close to melt).

    While on about halogen work lights is that basically what the Photoflex Starlight is except on a nice stand with soft box to direct and diffuse light better??? Are they both producing the same kind of light (i.e.) tungsten 3200k

    Or is there a lot more to it than that?? Is the Photoflex Starlight bulb different and better? Or does the work light halogen bulb not give true 3200k???????

    Unlike a pro who needs a very professional finish and has to be mobile with their kit I am lucky in that once I set up my lights I never need take them down and heat and power are not an issue (i.e.) 3 hours a week shooting max).

    Anyway one bonus I can see of my set up is as because all made up of individual lights with 10 inch diameter white scoops the lights provide a bigger area of directed light than the work light idea. Like a bigger soft box but not diffused light)

    I suppose they are like 5 small white umbrellas with light shining in and reflected out compared to shining through to soften.

    Plus if one breaks my whole set up isnít down just need to replace the faulty light.

    Also bulbs are very accessible and easy to change.

    However I do very much appreciate it is a budget set up and not the best.

    Before I go any further I must point out that my present project has me in face paint (cat makeup) with a mustard yellow/orange face so no natural skin is exposed.

    My understanding from Rembrandt Rob and Tim is that daylight 5500k is not the best for skin tones (ie) too cold/blue? Whereas Tungsten 3200k (halogen?) is great and complements the skin by making it look healthy and warm.

    Now as I am in make up that is yellow/orange tiger/lion look could the tungsten 3200k be too warm??

    How many watts should I try for key light position?

    I was thinking about 400 - 500 watts?
    What should I use to soften the light?
    I could use a shower curtain or buy a second hand white photo umbrella and shine the light through it?
    Or hang tissue paper from ceiling to give Chinese lantern effect??????.

    Now if you guys think my key light idea is o.k and will work what kind of bulbs should I try or choose?

    If I use normal pearl incandescent bulbs they might be too warm of a colour well below 3200k? I suppose the pearl finish will act like a built in softener/diffuser I think???

    Or I could buy halogen GLS bulbs just like incandescent but as halogen am I right in thinking they would burn at same colour as halogen work light (i.e.) tungsten 3200k .

    I have tried normal unbalanced (CFL) bulbs before coming here for advice. Made sure they were all from the same brand so the Colour temp is matched but have no idea what the colour is. They can be noisy though and hum quite loud compared to the silent incandescent and halogen bulbs?

    The heat /power difference is not an issue.

    Was thinking about daylight balanced (CFL) till I learned better from Tim & Rembrandt Rob.

    If you guys think what I am doing is no good and you recommend I sell my clamp lights on ebay and invest in a Photoflex Starlight soft box as my key I will seriously take it on board as a future purchase goal.

    The Ianiro DMX ICE with kinoflo true match 3200 Tungsten tubes will take me some time to save up for!!!!!!! But great future goal.

    Any feedback and help about my homemade key light is massively appreciated and I will post soon my next thread on Fill light.

    Thanks everyone.


    Last edited by slimbob; 01-22-2012 at 06:32 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by slimbob View Post

    Was thinking about daylight balanced (CFL) till I learned better from Tim & Rembrandt Rob.
    I can take no credit, Rob is the one with the knowledge - I just regurgitated what I understood from his comments.
    Rob doesn't appear to be posting at the moment (he's occasionally out of the country). I appreciate you're keen to get going but if there's any way you can wait until he's back on the forum, I strongly advise you to do so. I've found him very patient and helpful to those who are prepared to try to understand.

  3. #3


    Bob I think it would be a good idea for you to chill with cold beer or a nice glass of wine. You seem to have reached a critical stage of head being full of information but not enough practical experience to balance this out. You seem to have read all the right things and understood the basic ideas. BUT just take a look at the sample video you posted, apart from the background being to bright you are lit quite well. So how did you light that video. Add a bit of back light to that and I'd say your good to go for now.

    You are right in that you don't have to worry about skin tone because of the cat make-up so that makes life easier. When you have tungsten lights you can over come the yellow colour temp by doing a white balance on the camera. At the stage you are at, keeping your budget low is a very sensible thing to do. When you are ready you can then improve your "studio lighting".

    You have obviously studied up on basic 3 point lighting which is fine for stationary people like interviews but as you said you move around during you performance a classic 3 point lighting set up may not be totally right for you. If I was you, I'd get some 250 watt bulbs from B&Q and put them in your clamp lights for now. I don't see why using a couple for a basic key light and a couple for the fill and a couple for the back light won't be fine for your needs just now to get you started. If you find that your movement means you move into shadow then you've got some spare lights to fill the gap. If you find this totally doesn't work then you've only wasted a tenner but I'm sure the bulbs will always come in handy for the rest of the house. DON'T GET LOW ENERGY BULBS they are tottally sh*t and bad for the environment.

    I don't like giving long drawn out answers so I'll leave it there for now.
    Last edited by Midnight Blue; 01-22-2012 at 09:16 PM.

  4. #4

    Smile Yes I will get going !!!!

    Thanks for commenting on my thread Tim yes Rembrandt Rob like so many other people on this forum is a wealth of knowledge and this is great for someone like me! I will do what you advise and get going with what I have without spending any more and it will be very interesting to see RBís comments in the future when he returns.

    I would have bought my £200 Smick daylight bulb set if it wasnít for your advice Tim so cheers for that!!

    I will have my new backgrounds very soon and will make sure to post with new before and after footage with new lighting too so you can see!

    Hey Midnight I think I do need to cool a bit and admit I am getting a bit carried away as per normal! I find it all so interesting but like you said I will start experimenting with what I have and play around with 3 point lighting!

    I might buy a second hand white umbrella under £10 just to start experimenting with to soften the light and a cheap Chinese lantern to shine my fill light through so not going mad on the £ front!

    Midnight you mentioned 250 watt bubs from B&Q are you talking about normal halogen light bulbs or incandescent? I can get either Edison or bayonet fitting for my clamp lights but not 2-pin halogen type?

    I have heard of Photoflood 250 w bulbs mentioned on here before by Rembrandt Rob and can get these from Jessops for £5 what are they? (i.e.) halogen /incandescent????.
    Is that what you mean?

    Though I better check before I put my order in?

    Like I said to Tim I will make sure to post my new improved footage a.s.a.p so you can see how I am getting on.

    Yes my first lighting wasnít too bad so at least I am on the right track!

    One last thing Midnight how do you recommend I dispose of my CFL low energy bulbs properly???

    Cheers Guys.

  5. #5


    I was just thinking about going into B&Q and just see what you can get that will fit your clamp lights and was cheep. I don't know the prices, so just go for the cheapest. Remember, at this stage of the game we are working on a budget solution so until Rob comes along and gives us his expert advice. If you wanted to push the boat out and get the photo-flood bulbs from Jessops then go for it, after all it's your money and only you know what you can afford. On health and safety ground I'd go for incandescent bulbs as most people wouldn't use halogen lights without a glass front in case of it blowing (all over you or your talent). When I first started out I used hotter than the sun work lights and used baking parchment as a diffuser. I still do use them sometimes. BUT beware of setting fire the the pegs if you clip it to the front of the lamps.I don't know the best way to dispose of CFL low energy bulbs properly. I do know they contain mercury so that makes them very toxic if broken. Ask your local recycling centre about this. It's great that you have a lot of enthusiasm for your project and I find that refreshing. That's why I offered the budget advice rather than the best advice that Rob could give you on the different makes of lights etc.

  6. #6

    Default Halogen blowing!!!!


    I didn't think of that Midnight!!!

    O.k I will stick with incandescent for now and try shining through an umbrella to see how it works? Plus I have incandescent 100w pearl bulbs already in so I can start playing around.

    The halogen work lights can be picked up quite cheap for future use and at least they have glass in front for protection like you said and I could try experimenting shining through a white umbrella (not too close though)

    I donít want to set myself on fire or cover myself in broken glass!! Even for this project!!!

    Yes I will make sure to dispose of my CFL bulbs properly Midnight!

    Thanks very much for replying to my thread!

    Getting new backgrounds tomorrow!!!

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