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Low Cost Professional Lighting Solutions

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Low Cost Professional Lighting Solutions

A Creative COW Lighting Design Feature

Leo Ticheli <>
Leo Ticheli Productions
Birmingham, Alabama / Atlanta, Georgia USA

Article Focus:
In this article, Leo Ticheli looks at some of the lower-cost options for acheiving beautifully lit professional lighting design for your shoots. These solutions aren't the 'G.E. bulb in a cardboard box' solutions that some try to point to around the Net and elsewhere as acceptable low-cost lighting -- but if you are looking for professional lighting done on a budget, then Leo has some great information for you...

Many here at Creative Cow have asked for recommendations regarding professional low-cost lighting design packages, so I’ve put together a few systems for your consideration. Please understand that no single package will do everything unless it arrives in a 40’ trailer -- well, maybe a couple of them.

You can get these packages new for about the figures I’ve suggested, but you might consider used gear. Just make sure that it’s from a reputable seller/reseller. But keep in mind that you will also need some additional grip gear and accessories, so be sure to allow for that in your budgeting. Don’t forget spare lamps, at least one of each size.

Interview with daylight sources in the shot; Kino Flo based. Around $1,800:

Key Light: Kino Flo 4’ x 4 Bank tubed for daylight.
Kick & Background Light: Mole Richardson or equivalent Fresnel.
(You need a couple of these, one 650W and one 300W)

Interview; smaller area with daylight sources in the shot; Kino Flo based. Around $1,150:

Key Light: Kino Flo Diva 200 tubed for daylight.
Of course the Diva 400 is a stop brighter, but it costs a lot more.
Kick & Background Light: Mole Richardson or equivalent Fresnel.
You need a couple of these, one 650W and one 300W.

Interview; small area, open-faced based. Around $1,000:

Key Light: Mole Richardson 2K Mighty Mole or equivalent.
You can bash this through a silk or other diffusion. You’ll need a couple of C-stands to hold the silk; you can make do with just one C-stand with a grip arm for a smaller soft source.
Kick & Background Light: Mole Richardson or equivalent Fresnel.
You need a couple of these, one 650W and one 300W.

Note: If you have daylight windows in the shot, you must put blue gel on your lights, and this really cuts the punch; that’s why you need the 2K. If you don’t have daylight windows in the shot, you can use a smaller Key such as the 1K Mickey Mole and save a few dollars, but it’s not as good a value.

Other stuff you’ll need:

gaffer tape,

The list goes on and on. Chances are you’ll never stop adding to it.

When I’m doing location work, I use the following package:

  • Kino Flo 4’ x 4 bank. My primary Key these days.
  • Kino Flo Diva’s. I’m using these as soft Kicks and Key’s for multiple subject positions or very tight places.
  • 1200W HMI with 4’ x 6’ Chimera. Don’t use this anymore unless I’m lighting a larger area. Great for a lobby shot or one with a lot of subject movement.
  • Mole Richardson 650 Tweenie’s.
  • Mole Richardson 200 Betweenie’s.
  • The Kitchen Sink. Mini Flo’s, a few 200W Fresnel’s, a Mighty Mole, etc.

I sometimes put a bit of half-blue gel on the Fresnel’s, but usually leave them warm because I like to suggest that the kick and background light is coming from warm practicals.

About the Mole Richardson Tungsten Lights; I suggest these because I've found that they hold up under hard use. Perhaps some have had good experiences with other brands; I have not. The Kino Flo's are industry standard for good reason; they are versatile, reliable, and easy to work with. When in doubt, always go with the industry leader, even if it costs a bit more initially.

I hope this is helpful. There are many fixtures that suit various lighting styles, but these packages will allow you to make beautiful pictures. Perhaps other Forum readers can suggest additions and variations.

Good shooting!

Leo Ticheli


You can find Leo as a host in the Cow's Lighting Design forum

©2002 by Leo Ticheli and All rights are reserved.

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