Sooner or later, your photography is going to involve lights. Whether you are talking about speedlights, strobes, or even generic work lights, all of these can be used with varying degrees of control and accuracy. The problem that comes into play when dealing with multiple styles of lights is that of white balance. Your speedlights will have a different setting for white balance than strobes, incandescent, and halogens. Then there’s the compact fluorescent bulbs. These are the trickiest ones to wrangle in because they can really vary a lot, even within the same vendor. This is why I always buy CFL bulbs in sets. It was never more evident to me than recently when I was using the remnants of a bunch of sets in our upstairs vanity:
This is why it’s always better to light scenes with identical sources. This means using all strobes, or all speedlights – or even all halogens. Likewise, if you use a series of CFL bulbs to light anything – there’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure you use lights from the same set, because if you don’t, the above can happen, and that can make controlling white balance nearly impossible. Here’s another example – take a look at the shot below, shot with one of those LED lights and a cheap workshop light from Home Depot. Nothing inherently wrong with either as a light source, but look at the different colors of light from these.
So, the word of warning today is to shoot with similar light sources. And even when shooting with similar light sources, to make sure you keep things as consistent as possible. Because once you introduce variation in light sources, there will inevitably be variances in the color of light. And variation in light sources just makes a good white balance more difficult to obtain in post production.
If using typical CFL light bulbs, there are ways to do this. Look for lights called “daylight balanced” bulbs. These are manufactured to certain specifications that allows for the most uniformity. Even here though, there can be variance from one batch to another, which is why it’s always a good idea to buy your CFL’s in sets. They are a tad more expensive, but not grossly so (although you can get some that are custom made for photography purposes like the ones here). Here’s a great CFL from Amazon that you could buy in sets for only a third of the Tabletop Studio lights:
Just another tip to consider when setting up your shoot space. For me, I tend to stick to speedlights and strobes with photography, but I can see where using work lights and other options may be something worth considering for others. What about you though? What do you use to light your working space? Are you like me and use just speedlights and strobes, or do you opt for other lighting choices? Sound off in the comments and share your own post production tips for accurate white balancing.