June 9, 2011

continuous studio lighting – Westcott Spiderlite TD5

When I undertook to do the recent webinars for the Clickin Moms forums, I knew I had to pull a couple of things together to make the webinar presentation as slick as possible. So there were a number of hardware logistics I had to take care of before-hand. The one thing that I knew I would need, was continuous light on me during the webinar. I couldn’t rely on the existing light in whichever studio I was going to broadcast from.

I have previously owned a Westcott Spiderlite kit; one with with three lights. However, when I found it under-powered when using the daylight fluorescent tubes, I sold it again shortly after. Nothing beats the amount of light that a flash unit puts out. But, I needed continuous light now. Looking at my options, I checked out the latest Westcott Spiderlite kits again. They now sport larger and brighter daylight-balanced fluorescent bulbs. The Westcott Spiderlite TD5 (vendor), that I settled on this time, puts out a total of 220W.  Or as it is now described, 220 Total Fluorecent Watts. Quite bright!  This has been updated with the Westcott Spiderlite TD6 (vendor) since.

 

After the we had wound down broadcasting the latest webinar, we still had use of the studio … and my favorite model, Anelisa, agreed to linger a while so that I can play with the Spiderlite and see what we can come up with.

Of course, the beauty of continuous lighting is that you can see exactly what you are getting, and how the light falls on your subject. It is much easier now to verbally nudge your subject in how they should move or position.

The downside of these lights, are that they aren’t very powerful. Unless you are working with a tripod, you’ll have to rely on higher ISO settings and wide apertures.

The photo above was shot at 1/125 @ f4 @ 800 ISO.
While the WB was on my camera was set to Daylight, I ended up using a White Balance setting of 4600K in processing the RAW file.

Here is the pull-back shot to show how the light was positioned in relation to Anelisa.

Showing more of the studio interior:

We were deep enough into the studio, away from the window light, that the daylight didn’t have much of an effect. What you see in the final image, was entirely just the Westcott Spiderlite.

For one of the sequences, we played around with the idea of having Anelisa gently swirl her hair so that it would blur. The appearance is then as if her hair was wind-blown. Flash would’ve frozen this movement, but with the continuous light, it appears as this blur. Hopefully slightly enigmatic.

Camera settings: 1/100 @ f4.5 @ 800 ISO

More about the Spiderlite TD5 Light Kit – this is the single light set. There are 5 bulbs which are switched on or off, via the switches on the back. This way you can enable any any number number of lights, from one to five of them. There is no rotary dial or something similar to dim the lights. You have to mechanically switch them on and off in combination. With multiple setups, you might end up setting one of the lights to be dimmer than the others. But in using just the one light, you pretty much just switch it on to full power and then position it.

Even though I bought this set with the specific purpose in mind to act as my lighting when recording video segments or presenting webinars, it was fun to play around a while with a continuous light source much larger and powerful than the video lights that I normally use on location.

 

Westcott Spiderlite kits

 

{ 16 comments. } Add a Comment

1 SEAN SHIMMEL June 9, 2011 at 6:40 am

Sometimes the Spider lights are just… magical.

Like the equally good differences between:

Microphones and acoustic tiles
Electrical and classical guitars
Microsoft Word and Moleskine with a pen
Laptop and an Ipad2

Sean

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2 Bill June 9, 2011 at 8:29 am

Why not just use a traditional hot light like a 750w lowell with a cc gel?

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3 Neil vN June 9, 2011 at 8:40 am

Bill, I specifically wanted to buy a continuous light that didn’t run hot.

Neil vN

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4 Katarina Souto Mera June 9, 2011 at 8:58 am

Wow, great pic of Anelisa in B&W! love the light, love the movement in the hair! well done, Niel! K

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5 Jerry June 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm

You had such a giant bank of window light flooding your room. I wonder how that affected the perceived output of the Spider, as opposed to have a regular room without all that light. I guess either way it is a wysiwyg, but you probably wouldn’t have had the Spider source so far from your subject for soft light, right? I would definitely love the wysiwyg aspect, like your terrific work with the small led’s.
Great stuff! Thanks for my daily feeding.

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6 Neil vN June 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

A test shot there without the Spiderlite switched on, was completely under-exposed.

Neil vN

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7 David June 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Neil,

That last black & white of Anelisa is stunning! Complements to you & Anelisa for producing such a captivating capture.

Out of interest, since the window (and light) were to Anelisa’s left (our right), where was the fill light coming from, or did you increase the fill light setting in Bridge while developing the RAW file?

Wish I could visit USA and attend one of your workshops, haven’t been to America.

Thank you,

David

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8 Neil vN June 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm

David … not really. The Fill slider is actually lower down for the B&W image (as the RAW edit), than the default with the color settings. But I did pull up the exposure considerably to compensate and also to bring up the exposure then. I ended up with +0.85 on the Exposure slider. I also bumped the Contrast considerably.

Neil vN

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9 Matt June 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

Neil, I noticed the hair effect right away, and liked it. Do you think the same “windblown” appearance could be achieved in the studio with a low-speed oscilating fan? Just catch the hair movement at the right moment as the fan swings past? Since you’re not using a flash, you could even shoot a burst to choose the image where the hair was just right.

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10 Tam Vu June 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm

It’s time to dust off my TD5s and play around with them. Thanks Neil.

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11 Amanda June 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Hey Neil!

I only use the TD5 for my newborn photography, as flash (they say) is not good for newborns plus can be distracting. I use the 54×72 shallow box and too find the power just isnt enough. I’m always around 640iso, 1/80 and 4.5… I wish I could be at a lower iso, for my taste in sharpness. Plus, the design needs to be reworked because disassembling the softbox from the TD5 is always very difficult bc of the tension. Do u find that or is it just with the large box? I actually need a nonslip piece and my husband’s elbow grease to pull the ribs from the light fixture!

Amanda

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12 Neil vN June 12, 2011 at 8:47 am

Amanda .. I would agree. This softbox does need some muscle to get it assembled. It is sturdy though. But not fast to set up. (That’s why I went to the Lastolite softboxes for speedlights for when I use flash.)

Neil vN

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13 Marcel June 13, 2011 at 8:43 am

Hi Neil,

as those fluorescent lamps don’t have a continuous spectrum of light like incandescent bulb (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp#Spectrum_of_light) – did you ever notice problems with the colours in your photos?

Marcel

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14 Neil vN June 14, 2011 at 8:49 am

Marcel .. these fluorescent lights are a far cry from the green-hued industrial tubes that you might be thinking of. The light really is quite neutral.

In fact, I’ve replaced the ceiling-mounted incandescent lights in my office with these. Much easier on the eye than the yellow tungsten lighting.

Neil vN

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15 Amber McCoy @ Westcott June 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Great posts!! Glad to hear you you fell in love with the Spiderlites all over again!

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16 Publius June 16, 2011 at 3:37 am

I’ve been using 85w CFL (300w eq) with the four-in-one socket in multiple softboxes. I’m amazed at how low the light meter is on these shots. High ISO is something I avoid. I’d rather be on a tripod and try to get the model to hold a pose.

Spiderlites you do have to watch the wattage you try to use. Easy to blow the fuse if you try to push about the rated limits.

One neat use is low ambient lighting with electronic strobes. Quick auto focus without being the main light source. It does mean setting up two sets of lights.

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