Choosing Your DSLR Lighting Setup

Choosing Your DSLR Lighting Setup

Choosing your DSLR lighting setup is critical whether you are taking stills or shooting video.

As it is oft said, cinematography is the art of painting with light. To help you tackle this most fundamental aspect of the craft, we set out some of the essentials when considering which lighting options are available and which will best fit your needs.

DSLR video work has two basic requirements that are non-existent in still photography. First and most obvious is continuous lighting. Flash guns firing burst lighting can only be used in photography. Second is that the color temperature of your light source has to be stable. If not expect color changes in your video footage. This color change can either be gradual or flickering depending on the lighting setup you’re using. Either way, you’ll have a hard time color balancing the clips in post. You can’t afford to not make the corrections because you’ll end up with a hideous footage in your hands.

If your DSLR lighting setup satisfies these two requirements, then you move closer to creating a decent film. Another important factor is the portability and size of your lighting equipment. One of the perks of using a DSLR camera is its extreme portability versus HD filming cameras. Fortunately there is a raft of portable lighting equipment out there that can work flawlessly for DSLR filming.

Tungsten lighting

One of the most common lighting fixtures you can get your hands on. It’s a continuous lighting source, very cheap, and can produce a good amount of light. The bulbs can get very hot though, and may not provide enough light in some cases. Using tungsten lighting is a step in the right direction, but remember to white balance for neutral results. Lighting gels may help, but you’ll find yourself  needing more lights to get the desired brightness.

Fluorescent lights

Fluorescent lights cast softer quality light, and run a lot cooler than tungsten bulbs. These lights can be controlled by either adding or lessening the number of tubes in use, or using ND gel.  Well-known fluorescent tubes are manufactured by Kinoflo and FloLight.

Hydragyrum Medium-arc Iodile (HMI) lights

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HMI lights provide a higher light output than fluorescent and tungsten lights for the same amount of power draw. When using this type of DSLR lighting, you need to account for the warm up time before the lights settle to the desired colour temperature and brightness, otherwise there will be colour shifts in your images. Unless it’s “hot re-strike capable” it is important to wait until the lights cool down before turning them on again.

Ballasts to control the inherent flicker in HMI make it heavier, one of the few downsides of using this technology. However, HMI light sources are are often used by DSLR filmmakers. The Hedler DX15, with its reduced weight and compact design make it a great choice for lightweight DSLR filming.

LED lights



LED lighting may be something of a late arrival to the party, but has singlehandedly revolutionized the way lighting fixtures are made. It is very lightweight, durable, and doesn’t draw too much power – a perfect, cost-efficient choice for large or small productions alike. The most common LED lights used for DSLR filming are FloLight and LightPanels.

There are powerful LEDs that can mimic the output of HMI and tungsten lights without the high power draw. The LitePanel Sola 6 is case in point, running on just 75 watts of power to produce the quality of light made by a 650-watt tungsten light using Fresnel lens. Moreover, LED lights never heat up and the high-end releases have a feature that allows color temperature adjustment capability without the need for filters.

With all the great features LED lights has to offer, it can cost a bit more than the other traditional lighting systems, but the benefits of using LED lights pretty much outweighs the cost in the long run.

Still need help choosing your DSLR lighting setup? Aimimage would be more than happy to oblige! We offer an extensive array of professional filming equipment, especially DSLR shooting kits, all at reasonable rates.



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