I have been using hardware store LED bulbs for both photography and video in the studio for a while (click here for a DIY three light studio setup) – but every time I pass the lighting aisle in my local big box hardware store I always take a look to see what’s new and improved.
Well on a recent trip to Lowes I found some really cool LED strip lights that work quite well for both photography and video – continue reading for details…
These are 24″ long LED strip lights that are meant for under cabinet residential lighting – but they have a few awesome features that really make them adaptable for photography and video. (Amazon sells them under a different brand)
First of all, they’re rated at 92 CRI (color rendition index).
High CRI LEDs are critical for capturing full color and contrast (for more info read “Cheap LED Lights: What is CRI and Does It Matter?”).
While 92 CRI isn’t as good as the 94+ CRI guaranteed by pro-level LED strip lights like Spekular, it’s still surprisingly good for a hardware store LED.
They’re also small, light, AC powered and linkable – so they would be perfect for building large studio arrays – although, with AC as the only power source, they’re not portable.
Each light is rated at 779 lumens (roughly 9-watts, the equivalent of a 60-watt tungsten bulb) with a color temperature of 3000 kelvins (i.e. somewhere below tungsten).
This is about half as bright as a single pro level strip light and unfortunately, there is no daylight balanced option. However, for work in the studio, as a single light source, they are still bright enough to get good results.
Testing a few different lights, the color balance does shift slightly from light to light, but it’s not horribly bad if you don’t need perfect color consistency.
Another really awesome feature is that each light comes with its own built-in dimmer. This means that you can control the brightness of each individual LED strip light in a multi-light setup.
I’ve really only tried them out at or near full power, so I haven’t had a problem with flicker, but this would be something to test out if you plan on using them dimmed.
Here is the full spec sheet for the Utilitech 24 Inch Plug-In Under Cabinet LED Light Bar from Lowes (same as this one from Amazon):
They’re also available in 18 inch and 12 inch versions.
With a retail price of $75 per 24 inch strip, these are not exactly cheap.
On a lumens to lumens basis they are roughly the same price as a pro level LED lighting system like Spekular, since you would need two Utilitech lights to make up the equivalent amount of light from one Spekular light (Utilitech 8 lights x 779 lumens = 6232 lumens for $75 x 8 = $600 versus Spekular 4 light kit = 6000 lumens for $650), but you would be lacking the hinged conenctors to make various shapes and a light stand mounting)
Of course with pro photography and video lights you’re also getting consistent daylight balanced light, no flicker and mounting options.
However, if you’re just looking for a few LED strip lights for studio work these might be a cost-effective DIY option.
What Hardware Store Lights Do You Use?
Have you found any hardware store lighting that you’ve adapted for photography or video use?
Leave a comment below and let us know what you recommend!
Image credit: Fotolia_157413324 by starush
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