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Photography

Lighting Setup: Hanging Bulbs Portrait

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I’ve been capturing for a very long time now, however there are at all times some lighting setups that I’ve by no means gotten round to capturing. I’m positive all of us have concepts for setups that will languish in an ‘inspiration folder’ someplace on our onerous drive, and this hanging lightbulb shot was actually certainly one of them for me.

There’s nothing too tough about this shot, which is good, but it surely did contain a little bit prep work because it requires just a few distinctive objects that I in the end made myself to get the look I wished. Once more, this wasn’t too tough, and you are able to do it pretty cheaply should you lower the occasional nook like I did.

As at all times, let’s leap into the shot we’re seeking to obtain, after which I’ll go over precisely how I achieved it and share among the issues I encountered so that you gained’t must. I’ll additionally do my greatest to offer different choices for as most of the objects used as I can. I do know we’re on this transition interval the place many people have moved on to LEDs, however an enormous variety of individuals are nonetheless utilizing strobes, and I’ll do my greatest to supply options to people who are.

Hanging bulbs portrait studio sim
Hanging bulbs portrait selection of vintage bulbs
A number of vintage-style bulbs
Hanging bulbs portrait godox spotlight
The Godox Highlight because the hair-light
Hanging bulbs portrait Rotolight AEOS 2 Pro
Rotolight AEOS 2 Professional is my key
Hanging bulbs portrait forest of lightstands
Convey every little thing along with a forest of lightstands!!!!!
  • Droop your lightbulbs across the topic
  • Place key mild simply out of shot in entrance of topic – set to 10,000K
  • Add hair mild on the other aspect behind the topic – set to 2000K
  • Set the digital camera to ~5000K

Key-light – You should use no matter your desire for portrait key-light is right here, however a magnificence dish is right should you’re capturing with strobes, or like me, I merely used the diffusion dome on my Rotolight AEOS 2 Professional mild ($3299) because it offers beautiful gentle mild that’s extraordinarily controllable when introduced in very near the topic like this.

Hair-light – Once more, you’ve got loads of scope to make use of what you’d usually use for a hair-light right here. For those who’re capturing with strobes, then an optical snoot will give numerous high quality management of precisely the place the sunshine will fall. Failing that, a gridded reflector dish and even barn doorways on a reflector dish will work.

Darkish Backdrop – I used a hand-painted backdrop right here, but it surely turned on the market wasn’t sufficient mild in many of the pictures to truly see any texture on it. This was high quality, and I didn’t need it to be distracting anyway. For those who don’t have a hand-painted backdrop, any darkish gray backdrop ($167) will probably be completely high quality right here, however I’d keep away from black.

Assortment of Classic-Stye Bulbs – These are the one considerably distinctive objects on this setup. I did find yourself making the entire hanging bulbs myself, and if I can do it, I guarantee you, you are able to do it, too. I’ll define the DIY technique I used under.

A Lot of Haze – That is considerably non-compulsory, however I actually suggest you attempt to add some ambiance to your shot indirectly. I used a smoke machine (AKA SmokeNINJA), however a traditional smoke machine may also work. Alternatively, if smoke actually isn’t an possibility for you, you’ll be able to select to make use of lens filters to get a really comparable impact, and I’ll talk about these afterward as effectively.

  • Digital camera – Nikon D850
  • Lens – I used numerous lenses on this setup, however I like to recommend an extended lens like an 85mm or 105mm
  • Shutter Pace – 1/fiftieth (I’ll clarify why afterward)
  • Aperture – f2.8
  • ISO – ~50
  • Kelvin – 5000K
  • Focal Size – 50 – 105mm

You must discover that numerous these digital camera settings are far and wide, and that’s merely as a result of how a lot I used to be experimenting with after I was capturing with so many older, vintage-style lenses. That stated, I’ve outlined the beginning settings that I like to recommend you start with.

Hanging bulbs portrait
Hanging bulbs portrait closeup
Hanging bulbs portrait closeup
Hanging bulbs portrait
Hanging bulbs portrait
Hanging bulbs portrait
  • Mannequin: Lucia Kosta
  • Make-up: Tumsilt Make-up
  • Designer: Jolanta Pilinkaite Designs

DIY Hanging Bulbs

I feel it’s protected to say that the hanging bulbs are the star of this explicit present, however most of you gained’t have a bunch of those classic bulbs on strings (I’m resisting the urge to say ‘hanging about’ right here). I used to be the identical, so I checked out learn how to make them myself. Listed below are the steps I went by way of to make mine.

1. What number of do I want? – I truly mocked up this lighting setup utilizing the 3D studio software Set.a.light3D (that produced the 3d render you simply noticed above), and from there, I used to be in a position to work out what number of bulbs I would want to fill the body with a sure about of depth in thoughts. I landed on seven bulbs, however seeing as one was usually hidden behind the mannequin, you may get away with six.

Hanging bulbs portrait bulbs

2. What ought to the bulbs appear like? – This would appear apparent, however belief me, there are such a lot of choices while you search ‘classic type bulbs. I acquired mine from eBay as they have been the most affordable place I discovered with cheap transport occasions, however there have been a few elements I wished to think about when truly deciding.

Firstly, ‘price’: I used to be shopping for seven of them, so I wished to be wise with the person value.

Secondly, the scale of them. I knew these bulbs have been going to be ‘in-shot,’ so I didn’t need them to be tiny little fairly-light wanting issues. Alternatively, I knew they couldn’t be too large as I wished the mannequin amongst them.

In the end, I landed on the outdated ‘T10 E27 40W RC’. An actual basic bulb, to make sure, and though I don’t want to clarify why that is such a fan favourite to your refined selves, I’ll simply briefly go over the aforementioned Enigma code for the uncultured few nonetheless at the hours of darkness.

Hanging bulbs portrait T10 E27 40W RC

The T10 was excellent as a result of it was lengthy sufficient to make an influence within the shot however not so huge that it might give the mannequin third-degree burns each time she breathed out and in.

The opposite core cause was it’s a excellent worth at £1.45 (or about $1.8) per bulb from China, and so long as you’re ready to attend a little bit bit for it to reach, you gained’t discover a higher deal than that.

The E27 merely refers to it being screw match, and that is vital to recollect when buying your holders.

40W refers to the truth that it’s 40 watts. This isn’t too vital, apart from that you just’ll must keep in mind that truth if certainly one of these bulbs unintentionally and instantly breaks as quickly as you take away it from the packet and must urgently purchase one other bulb from a better vendor that additionally sells 60w variations.

Professional Tip: Purchase greater than seven bulbs in your preliminary buy!!!!

Hanging bulbs portrait bulb housing

3. Bulb Housing – Once more, this feels prefer it’ll be apparent, however as soon as once more, there are 1,000,000 and one choices. I went for …. anticipate it… the most affordable one I might discover.

Once more, we’re shopping for seven of them, so I wished to maintain it cost-effective whereas nonetheless wanting considerably cool. And by cool I imply it didn’t look vibrant white and plastic…. I acquired midway there. Sadly, the sexy-looking steel ones have been significantly dearer, so I made a decision to go away it and simply go for the clean-looking black plastic design. Seven of those price about £20 (or $25)

Hanging bulbs portrait cables

4. Cables – I’m positive you’ve labored out a operating theme in my selections right here, however sure, as soon as once more, I attempted to do that as cheaply as potential, so low cost the truth is that I truly made my life significantly tougher within the course of. Let me clarify. I knew the cables can be hanging within the shot, so I didn’t need some soiled outdated white plastic cable dangling there, so as an alternative, I went for that cool-looking braided vintage-style cable. Unsparingly that is dearer than your common fridges extension twine, so I made a decision to purchase sufficient ‘fancy’ cable to hold in-shot after which splice it into a less expensive crappy cable for the sections that have been out of shot.

I bought 10m of the vintage-style cable for £21 ($26) and 10m of the flat black flex for ~£7 ($9). Like I stated that low cost cable actually was quite a bit cheaper.

Hanging bulbs portrait cable joiner

5. Cable Joiner – One further expense in splicing the cables like this was a cable connector. I’d must splice the 2 cables on all seven strings, and to try this, I wanted a cable connector/joiner. Fortunately, these are very low cost.

I acquired mine for ~£3 ($4).

Hanging bulbs portrait plugs

6. Plugs – Lastly, I, in fact, wanted plugs to truly plug all of those hanging bulbs into the wall. I’m positive there’s a much better answer than the one which I had. Particularly, I simply bought seven plugs for all seven of my hanging bulbs, however I’m positive the extra electrically minded amongst you’ll know of some solution to connect all these stings to fewer plugs.

The one main profit of creating all of them individually like this, although, is that you’ve got the flexibility to separate every of the cables up and run them precisely the place you need them. As you’ll be able to see from the BTS above, there was numerous messy cabling concerned to string every little thing above the mannequin after which again all the way down to the ground after which to the ability. So, with that stated, I nonetheless suppose I choose having separate plugs to offer me that flexibility when arranging the bulbs, despite the fact that there are in the end numerous plugs to take care of.

I bought 10x 13 amp plugs for ~£10 ($12)

  • Classic Model Bulbs x7 = £10.75 ($13)
  • Classic Model Bulbs (spares) x2 = £3.33 ($4)
  • Classic-Model Material Cable 10m = £21.34 ($26)
  • Common Black Electrical Wire 10m = £6.97 ($9)
  • Retro Bulb Holders x7 = £19.98 ($25)
  • Cable Connector Block = £2.85 ($3)
  • Electrical Tape = £1.95 ($2.5)

TOTAL = £67.17 ($85)

*Pricing as of 2023

These steps aren’t very tough, however they’re pretty time-consuming when it’s important to do every little thing seven occasions. You don’t want any particular instruments both, and a screwdriver will cowl it. That stated, I did find yourself shopping for a wire stripper after the primary couple of strings, as that made stripping the scores of wires far sooner.

Connecting the wires

As I’m a cheapskate and determined to purchase good wire for less than half the setup, I needed to splice a budget stuff onto the good stuff. To do that, merely use your wire connector and fix the vintage-style cable on one aspect and the common flex on the opposite aspect. Simply remember to match the coloured wires on each side. I then suggest wrapping the whole block in black electrical tape so it doesn’t appear like a very deadly fireplace hazard to the mannequin and staff when on set!

Hanging bulbs portrait connecting the wires
Hanging bulbs portrait tighten

Wiring up the Bulb Holder

Once more, that is pretty simple, and also you simply must strip the plastic sleeve off of the cable and fix it to the corresponding screw after which tighten every little thing again up. Many of those bulb holders will even have a tightening screw on the tip the place the cable enters. As soon as every little thing is in place, remember to tighten up that screw, as it should take the load of the bulb and never your connecting wires inside.

Attaching the Plug

Lastly, we simply want to connect the plug. Once more, nothing tough right here. It’s simply time-consuming. Simply be sure you’re attaching the best colours to the best pins.

Hanging bulbs portrait attach

Disclaimer: Simply in case it wasn’t abundantly clear, I’m not an electrician, and I don’t declare to have the ability to advise you on any of this. You wire all of this collectively at your individual danger.

Suspending the Bulbs

The setup itself is fairly simple. In any case, I’m positive most of you’ve got shot a portrait with a key and hair mild earlier than. The trickiest half for me was getting the bulbs to look good within the framing. I had seven bulbs to consider, and I wished to showcase depth within the shot, that means I wished to have some bulbs near the digital camera and a few additional away. Once more, in precept, that is simple, however I additionally logistically actually solely had two crossbars to droop them from, so the depth was managed through two bars crossing one another above the mannequin and inserting the bulbs alongside the size of them in a random solution to make it look visually pleasing.

Hanging bulbs portrait suspend

Within the pictures above, you’ll be able to see that I clamped all seven lights to solely two crossbars. I’d then place them in place and modify the peak of the bulbs to offer them a extra random look. This course of will probably be simpler in case you have a number of further crossbars or booms to connect the bulbs to. Regardless, I like to recommend getting this as near in place earlier than the expertise truly stands there, as this may take some forwards and backwards.

One different side that’s painfully apparent from the photographs above is how quick the cables ended up being, and you’ll see extension leads hanging from the stands because of this. This miscalculation occurred as a result of me planning on having this rig nearer to the bottom. Because it turned out, the mannequin was taller and wore heels, and I wished the choice to shoot wider if want be. I didn’t wish to see the crossbars above if I did. For those who can, perhaps take into account getting extra of a budget flex cable and making all your strings longer to offer your self extra choices.

Selecting the White Stability

The white stability alternative on this shot is essential to the ultimate picture, and for my part, failing to fastidiously take into account what the entire lights and digital camera are set to will end in a really completely different picture.

Hanging bulbs portrait choosing white balance

If we shortly recap the white stability settings we had:

  • Digital camera: 5000K
  • Key-Mild: 10,000K
  • Hair-Mild: 2000K
  • Bulbs: 2000K

With the digital camera set to ~5000K, it makes the important thing mild on the mannequin seem blue as a result of it being set to 10,000K. That’s properly contrasted by all the opposite Kelvin colours within the picture because the hair mild is about to 2000K together with the hanging bulbs, that are naturally 2000K.

It appears difficult, however keep in mind, everytime you’re following any of my lighting setups, I’m by no means fascinated about what’s correct, I’m solely fascinated about what seems to be good. Right here, not one of the lights are set to the ‘correct’ white stability of the digital camera, and due to this fact, the entire lighting on this shot is both cool or heat in relation to the digital camera.

Including Environment

I don’t recall taking any pictures the place there wasn’t smoke within the room, so I can’t present you what it might appear like with out it, however I do suppose including some type of smoke or haze to this setup makes an enormous distinction.

Hanging bulbs portrait Smoke Ninja
I used the hand-held SmokeNINJA so as to add the haze and ambiance to those pictures

I used a SmokeNINJA so as to add the smoke right here, because it’s a super-quick handheld smoke machine. Including some type of ambiance helps to offer these bulbs in a shot that beautiful heat glow, plus it helps to power separation between the topic and background, too. And by background, I imply the bulbs additional away in comparison with the nearer ones, in addition to the precise background. The haze forces us to understand an additional layer of depth when the bulbs additional away seem barely much less distinctly than those nearer to us. This all helps add depth to the shot


Lens Filters

With every little thing lastly in place, we are able to now afford to get a little bit artistic with how we seize the photographs. One in every of my favourite methods to try this is with lens filters. There’s a lot to select from, however listed below are some pictures the place I used to be enjoying with a few of my favourite filters.

Hanging bulbs portrait Prism FX Dream Filter
Filter Used: Prism FX Dream Filter

This is among the extra delicate filters, but it surely’s very efficient when you’ve got lights both in-shot like I’ve right here or, on the very least, lighting coming again into the lens. For those who look carefully, you’ll be able to see a particular glow across the bulbs, which is a lovely impact, albeit easy.

Hanging bulbs portrait Prism FX Dream Filter
Filter Used: Prism FX Flare FX Filter

This Flare FX filter produces a really dominating impact, and it’s onerous to overlook. That stated, as soon as once more, this filter solely works when there are factors of sunshine in-shot. With out them, you’ll be able to barely inform it does something in any respect. This impact is meant to duplicate the basic anamorphic flares we see in motion pictures. It’s very distinctive, but it surely needs to be used sparingly.

Hanging bulbs portrait Prism FX Chromatic Flare FX Filter
Filter Used: Prism FX Chromatic Flare FX Filter

Lastly, I attempted a far hotter model of the anamorphic flares from above, and as you’ll be able to see, it produces an analogous impact, simply in reddish hues as an alternative of the colder blues. As soon as once more, this solely works when there are lights seen in-shot.

Creative Lenses

As a studio shooter myself, there are restricted seen results when utilizing classic lenses in my work. Most elderly and even fashionable artwork lenses show their distinctive traits and qualities on the edges of their body, and for probably the most half, the middle of the body is left pretty untouched by their distinctive seems to be. That is nice should you shoot numerous work outdoor with tons of knowledge on the fringe of the body, however within the studio, numerous that look may be misplaced solely when there’s nothing however a impartial background on the edges.

With a setup like this hanging bulbs one, nonetheless, there’s way more happening on the edges of the body, and that ends in way more of the person lens properties shining by way of. Check out among the ones that I performed with under.

Hanging bulbs portrait  Petzval 58mm f/1.9
Click on to enlarge – Lens Used: Petzval 58mm f/1.9

It’s powerful to consider a extra distinctive lens look than the Petzval, as that extremely swirly bokeh is famous at this level. This lens will not be simple to make use of, although, and never solely is it guide focus, however a guide focus that’s adjusted through a type of rack & pinion! On high of that, the aperture is adjusted by dropping in steel discs with holes in them through a slot on the highest of the lens. Person-friendly, it actually isn’t, however its distinctive look actually makes up for it.


Hanging bulbs portrait Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6
Lens Used: Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6
Hanging bulbs portrait Nikon DC 105mm f/2
Lens Used Nikon DC 105mm f/2

One other ‘artwork lens’ I attempted was the Lensbaby Velvet 56 ($449). This can be a way more fashionable lens, and though the impact is much less distinctive, a novel look continues to be very a lot there. For those who’re unsure what you’re searching for, then I’ve included a extra conventional picture subsequent to it for comparability. The important thing areas you wish to be taking a look at are how the lens renders edge element and the way it renders factors of sunshine. You must see that the Velvet creates these distinctive halos with its bokeh, and naturally, all of the highlights have a really beneficiant glow to them in comparison with the cleaner Nikon lens shot subsequent to it.

As I discussed at the beginning, this isn’t a very tough setup to get proper; it simply takes a little bit extra preparation than regular. The one actual stumbling block I see many having with this one is the Kelvin shifts and the way you could be inclined to go after ‘correct’ shade. I guarantee you this isn’t the most effective strategy with this setup, and with that in thoughts, simply be sure you’ve chosen the guide white stability over auto white stability in your digital camera.

With this barely extra artistic strategy to the ultimate picture, I’d additionally urge you so as to add different parts to the shot, too. For instance, don’t be afraid so as to add smoke, lens filters, and even artwork lenses to the ultimate look, and do your greatest to try to get most of this in-camera over attempting so as to add these results afterward within the submit. I guarantee you, it’ll look much better getting it proper in-camera first.

Lastly, now that you just’ve made your hanging vintage-style bulbs, I’d urge you to check out different bulbs rather than the classic filament ones. How about coloured bulbs, perhaps much more abstract-looking bulbs? Give it a strive, and let me know the way you get on.



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