Knitting Photography Updates & New Ideas

Good CFLs

The pdf handout (you did download and read the handout?) suggested a particular 100W daylight (5500K) CFL from Home Depot. Unfortunately, these are being phased out and will probably be gone by the time you read this. Also gone is the great price of $4.97 per pair for that particular 5500K bulb. In its place is a 5000K bulb that you don't want. Home Depot now carries an almost identical CFL, 100W daylight (5500K), but identified as an Ecosmart, with a colored band on the wrapper. It's also marked "true color" and "Simulates Daylight". The stock number on the front is 409-162 and the bar code number on the back is 62148 10517. This is the one you want. At least this week.

We've tested this new CFL and it's very good. As far as the camera is concerned, holding red as a constant, the new bulb has about 2.6% more green and 5.7% more blue. Visually it gives a slightly whiter and colder light, but unless you had them side by side there would be no way to tell the difference. The down side? They now cost about $7.97 each! Not such a bargain.

For that amount of money you could also order the special photographic CFLs from Alzo. As always, shop around. Any 5500K 100W CFL should get the job done, though there will be subtle color differences between them.

Random Ramblings

The philosophy of the handout is to keep things very simple by using bright daylight CFLs so you don't need to readjust your camera to get the correct color, and so the shutter speed is fast enough that you can hand hold it without a tripod. It should be noted that, if you know how to adjust the color balance setting on your camera, you can get good results with other types of bulbs. Not quite as good as with 5500K, but we've done a lot of nice photography with 3400K CFLs. For those, just set the camera to incandescent or do a custom white balance if it has that feature.

Larger subjects will either need more light, or a tripod to hold the camera steady. Sometimes both. You can get higher wattage CFLs from the source in the handout, but be sure they'll fit your reflectors. They tend to have larger bases and might not screw in all the way before they hit. Caveat emptor.

Because it's so easy to break a bulb when using portable lights, and because you really don't want to break a CFL, here's a tip. Use an extension cord to get power to your work table and lights. Tie the extension cord around one leg of the table. Now, please try not to trip over the cords, but if you do, the table leg will take most of the pull, and the lights are less likely to be pulled off the table. One thing you get used to in a studio is being careful not to trip over multiple cords and not to bump tripods and light stands.

Leaving the meeting after the presentation, we noticed something on a table that every photographer should have. Shopping bags. Not just any shopping bags, but those fancy high-end plastic shopping bags made from translucent white plastic. If you ever have to photograph jewelry, watches or coins, put them in the bag and shine your lights through the bag from the outside. Shoot through the opening. Set them on a small piece of grey or colored background inside, fabric or whatever suits your fancy. Perfect smooth "tent" lighting for next to nothing. Tabletopstudio has equipment and good pointers on this technique.

As you go about your business, pay attention to lighting. When watching news or a movie, try to guess what kind of lights were used, big or small, and where they were placed. Look at magazine ads. Especially look at knitting books and anything else where fabric and stitch details are shown. Ask yourself why they did it that way and what you might have done differently.

We'll add more here as new thoughts come to mind.