Art and artifacts deserve the same professional kind of lighting that photographers utilize. If you wish cool lighting (as opposed to hot tungsten lights) then consider professional fluorescent lighting. Videssence, North Light, Balcar, and (in Europe) Fotoleuchten Grigull) all make lighting for photo studios.

If you are using film, either indoor film or outdoor film, then fluorescent lighting is not an easy solution. "Outdoor" fluorescent lamps are not actually balanced for real sunlight nor for outdoor film. You can use the appropriate Rosco filters but if you are using film, stick with tungsten lighting. If you need portable lighting, then consider Lowel lights. I have carried Lowel lights all around the world for decades. All Lowel lights have survived every travel hazard that airlines, baggage handlers, and novice assistants could arrange.

But if you are using a professional digital camera (such as large format CCD scanning backs from Better Light or PhaseOne), then fluorescent lighting is just fine, indeed has many advantages.

Fluorescent lights are cool because fluorescent lights do not produce heat such as do tungsten lighting. Thus fluorescent lights will not melt your delicate subject (or melt the photographer and assistants). If you use fluorescent lighting then you can touch the fixtures while you work. Every time you need to move and rearrange the angle or height of the lights it is rather painful if the light fixtures are glowing with excessive heat.

Fluorescent lamps (the bulbs) last seemingly forever. Tungsten bulbs burn out (and can occasionally explode, scattering molten glass over you and/or the fragile artifact you may be photographing).

FLAAR initiated testing fluorescent lights with Videssence fixtures. Videssence makes the lighting for most of the TV studios around the world (such as for CNN). These lights worked quite well in terms of light balance.

But the thick glass filter that CCD scanning backs utilize blocks so much of the spectrum that digital photography requires considerable extra lighting, much more than for video or television. This means you need reflectors within the fluorescent unit to concentrate the fluorescent lighting.

Balcar, North Light, and Fotoleuchten Grigull are among the companies which have the best reflectors. At the Photokina trade show in Cologne and Seybold trade show in the USA, the Balcar lights seemed to pack the most power.

Another consideration is how to place the fluorescent fixtures. They are large, usually rectangular, and do not always balance well on a normal light stand. In this respect North Light has the best solution with their special stands. Check them out at www.northlightproducts.com

We will shortly be testing these more powerful fluorescent lights and will report the results here, as well as on www.cameras-scanners-flaar.org and www.digital-photography.org

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