I currently own the following set of halogen work lights: 2x250W work light

This video, Easy DIY Work Light Diffusion, talks about putting a Lee 216 Gel Filter in front of similar lights.

My question is, would there other ways to use these lights effectively for DIY lighting? Any other tips that may be useful?

My tests show that without diffusion (just the lights), I can manage to get a shutter speed above 1/60 without any problems using ISO 800, 42mm, f/5.6 (kit lens).

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ 250W halogens like that nearly burn my skin when I use them for DIY home improvement projects if I get within 12 inches. I would be most concerned with the heat issues as well as laying gels in front of the heat source. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 2:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dpollitt - as long as it is a theater grade gel, it won't have a problem. Par-cans put out close to the same heat, if not more than work lights when up close. You want a little bit of distance, but you don't need that much. Gels are pretty durable. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 3:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AJHenderson - Ok, just don't use the flimsy gels I usually buy then! I was more concerned about the subjects, surroundings, and your own skin than the gels though. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 4:05

1 Answer 1


You can use just about anything that is designed for use with "hot" lights (tungsten), such as heat-resistant umbrellas and heat-resistant ventilated soft boxes, as well as with "cinema" gels. Heat is the main problem with work lights, as well as with more photographically-oriented tungsten lights (blondes, redheads, Omni, Tota, Arri 650 fresnels, and so on). They're pretty good at setting fires at a distance if you're not careful about what they're hitting; things like fabric and paper that don't have a lot of mass compared to their surface area (and are flammable) make especially good kindling and won't give you a lot of warning (charring, smoke) before they go up in flames.

As long as you're careful with them, they'll make good lights. You just don't get all of the DIY goodness that, say, good fluorescents will give you since you lose a lot of things that would have made good diffusers and reflectors because of the heat issue. Distance cures a lot of the problems, but it also loses you a lot of light -- and it requires, well, distance, which is often in short supply in a home-studio environment. Oh, and no matter how careful you're being, always have a fire extinguisher handy (not on the other side of the room); a little bit of unnoticed dust can cause a very big emergency in a very small amount of time, and it's a lot easier to clean up extinguisher residue and maybe sand out and refinish a dime-sized scorch mark than to replace your house or garage.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In order to get a reference point, would the Lee 216 Gel Filter count as "cinema" gels? If not, would it be possible to get an idea of what to look for? Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – TechFanDan
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 1:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TekiusFanatikus - not technically, no -- but the 216 (well, all of the Lee white diffusion filters, really) is designed to be used at a distance from the light rather than right against it. That is, there would normally be more than enough air circulation to keep the heat down, and as a solid polyester it doesn't have "threads" that can individually overheat. So it doesn't have the "high temperature" rating that colour cine filters would have. Rosco's 216 (Tough White Diffusion) is high-temp rated and can be used closer to the light (right against if the light is ventillated, but more $$. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 2:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks for the info! One last thing, how much distance should there be between the Lee filter and the light? An inch? \$\endgroup\$
    – TechFanDan
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 12:48

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