Bulb or lighting equal to sunlight?


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Mar 26, 2013
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Bentleyville, PA
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I am looking for lighting that is as close to natural sunlight as possible. What I am photographing are a collection of "Burst" Gibson / Les Paul guitars. I bought 2 soft boxes & lightstands with 6500K florescent bulbs and they just aren't cutting it. These guitars when photographed at the right angle with sunlight have almost a "holographic flame" that shows up that you don't see indoors unless window sunlight hits them. Taking the photos outside on a deck with various backgrounds was the plan but we've had almost relentless rain/cloudy days here in southwest PA. I'm looking into "grow" bulbs & I'm not concerned about ultraviolet rays or anything like that, I'm just looking for bright lights as close to natural sun as I can get. Any ideas? Thanks
The sun is a "point" light source when its light shines through clear skies....

When the light of the sun is diffused by clouds, it becomes a large and diffused source of light.

At normal indoor distances, softboxes are "diffused", and soft-light sources.

The issue is similar with reflective fishing lure tapes; photographed under softbox illumination, the soft, multi-direcvtional and "scrambled light" emanating from a softbox does not show the amazing reflective, nearly holographic (for lack of a better English word...) nature of such prism tapes.

I suspect that in order to get the effect you seek, you might need what would be called more of a "point" light source, meaning eliminate the softboxes, and use light that is more directional, from something more like a parabolic reflector. You need light that has the rays of light coming in at a defined "direction" to them, so that they can be angled "in" at an angle where their reflection out is able to be seen with the type of effect you want.

It's not the ultraviolet spectrum you need, I would estimate, but more of a fundamental physics issue; the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection, in both billiards, and lighting...the issue is that diffused light sources have no one,single fundamental "angle of incidence", but more a massive amount of scrambled, soft, diffused light that comes in from a zillion different angles. The sun on a clear day is a point source light.

You might try aiming a nice spot of light right at the surface; unless you're experienced with studio lighting, this process can seem exasperating. An assistant can help move the light while you look through a camera LOCKED DOWN at one,specific location. If you work alone, set up the light and move the camera around and look thru it till you see something that works.
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Wow Derrel! That's a lot to chew on. Thank you so much for the detailed response.
I don't understand lighting near enough apparently!
The main reason for using the soft boxes was because the guitars are very reflective and it's hard to keep "hot spots" of reflection off the curvy body front.
I will try this and see if I can get the results without the glare.
Do you have any spot type lights to recommend?
Thanks again
Lowel's Omni Light comes to mind. I used them years ago in a commercial photo course I took. For hot lights, they were pretty good. There are probably some other continuous lights available today that cost less from big vendors, like Adorama. The Omni lights have accessories which help control the light, and this light has a focusing beam. It is not "cheap", but is made to last for years. Not sure how much you wanna spend.

It's possible that you could get a simple Smith-Victor brand 500 Watt photoflood setup for less money. Not sure how well that would work though; I never shot photofloods, but started off with studio strobes back in the 1980's, so my hot light experience is pretty limited. I am suggesting continuous or "hot lights" just because the light you SEE if the light you GET...
I'm going to look your recommendations up! Thank you again Derrel for taking the time. I might even try a couple different of these type lights. Hopefully one will nail it.
Like you suggest, I think it will have to be somewhat portable so it can be moved around easily by hand to hit that sweet spot!

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