I am to do some photos of artistic desk lamps and other lights soon and am after some advice. I anticipate it being hard as the light will be coming from the subject itself. Possibly needing to take two images. One with the light off and lit with other lighting, and one with the bulb on within the lamp. Then combine?

And other advice would be great.

  • Can you provide examples of what you've tried, or problems you're having? – scottbb May 9 '18 at 22:02

One trick is to use a much lower wattage bulb than normal. It shows up in the image looking more like what we expect. If there are other elements in the shot, such as the interior of a room, those elements would need to be lit by external (off camera) light source(s) to make it look like the light source in the frame is lighting.

For a more detailed look at this, please see: How do I capture artificial light sources better?

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  • Thank you, yes a lot was covered in that other post. I had done a lot of searching before but obviously didn’t hit any of the key words to find that one. Thank you for both. I shall do some experiments before the actual shoot and see what I come up with – Ben Bierton May 10 '18 at 7:50
  • @BenBierton I've gotten to where I don't use the built-in search engine here very much any more. Entering the same terms in google with "stack exchange" at the end of the string finds results here much easier. – Michael C May 10 '18 at 14:27
  • In situations where I've photographed a visible bulb, I've found it helpful to get an especially low wattage by using an A15 (known as appliance bulb) rather than the standard househould A19 bulb. The A15's come in wattages down to 10, which is hard to find in an A19 size. Both A19 and A15 are available in medium base. In situations where the bulb is not visible, I've substituted a medium to candelabra (E-26 to E-12) base adapter and the used C-9 bulbs. These can go down to 3.5 watts. – PhotoScientist May 10 '18 at 17:24
  • @PhotoScientist Isn't that what the first sentence of the answer says? – Michael C May 11 '18 at 6:23
  • @MichaelClark Yes you said to use a lower wattage but I thought it might be helpful to point out how to fit the fixture with a very low wattage. I wasn't sure most folks were aware that you can put an A15 bulb into a normal lamp. Same for an E26-E12 Adapter. I'd have put all of that in my own answer but ya'll had already closed the question by the time I go here. – PhotoScientist May 11 '18 at 13:10

I anticipate it being hard as the light will be coming from the subject itself.

Read up on balancing ambient light with flash. The light coming from the lamp might not be quite what you think of when you think of ambient light, but it's the same idea.

Briefly, the idea is that flash is very bright, but has duration measured in milliseconds -- much shorter than a typical exposure. Continuous light sources like the lamp in your photo are much less bright, but are available for the entire exposure duration. So set up some flashes to light the scene, including the lamp, and control the flash exposure with a combination of flash power and aperture. Use the exposure time (i.e. shutter speed) to manage the exposure from the light bulb in the lamp. If needed, you can also use a less powerful bulb than usual, as Michael suggested, or you can use a cord with a dimmer switch to reduce the brightness.

Once you're able to control exposure from the flash and from the lamp independently, it's just a matter of deciding how you want to balance them.

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