Hot and Thrifty
[The crew: Sarah, Ali, Bianca]
That’s how I would describe the lighting setup I used for this shoot…hot and thrifty. The shoot was at Cure Thrift Shop in the East Village of NYC. While the founder probably likes the 1980’s English rock band with almost the same name, the “CURE” that I am talking about has to do with type 1 diabetes. Cure Thrift Shop’s founder was diagnosed with it as a child, and instead of just living with the condition, she made it her mission to help find the cure, using her own money to open up the shop in 2008. All of the proceeds from the store go to the Diabetes Research Institute and are used to support research aimed at finding the cure!
I have never really used hot lights before. I have never even thought of them as a viable lighting source until the day before this shoot, when I went to the store to scope it out and prepare. They said they had some old lights that were donated to the store: minutes later I am opening up a dusty case and inside are three 600-watt Smith Victor tungsten heads that looked like they were from the 1970’s, but were still in great condition! I found out why they are called “hot” lights when I turned one on...wow!
So I brought this big softbox to the shoot, put the one of the heads on a lightstand and pointed it backwards so the light was shining on the silver reflective surface inside the box (above). [Just FYI, I don’t think these softboxes are supposed to be used with hot lights like this...something about spontaneous combustion and all that. I didn’t put down the front diffuser on the softbox so that the head could cool better, and I turned the head off about every 5-10 minutes to let it cool a bit…still, keep a fire extinguisher nearby.]
[Extinguisher? Mallory needed two hydrants, that’s how hot the light was!]
By putting the light inside the softbox like that, it changed from a small source (the front of the bare light was about 4” by 3” or 12 square inches) to a big source (28” square softbox is 784 square inches!) This made really nice soft light since I was using it about 6-8 feet away from the models. But what do you mean “soft” light, the front diffuser wasn’t down?! Well, the softness of a light source really just depends on one thing. Some say the “distance” or the “size” of the light determines its softness, but that’s only partially true. The one thing that really makes a light “soft” or “hard” in quality is the relative size of the light source to the subject. Diffusion materials help to even out hot spots, and give the light its specular character, but don’t really effect softness. So there!
OK, enough about that. Here are some of the pictures we made using only that old thrift store hot light!
[Ali is the store manager. She is also very strong…this frame is way heavy.]
[Bianca is the PR Director for Cure. She is framed by some old glass window panes, reflections and all!]
[Ooo! A dresser!]
[Selective desaturation is apparently a no-no if you want to be a hip photographer nowadays, but I just couldn’t resist!]
Big thanks to the awesome employees and friends of Cure Thrift Shop for putting this together, being the models, and even supplying the lights! Go check out the store, it’s two stories of the coolest stuff around, and all for a great cause! Want more? “Cure: Part 2 and Part 3” to follow, mixing in some strobes and gels with these hot lights!