Photography tip of the day: Don’t get burned!

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I’m sure that many photographers and lighting specialists have at one time or another gotten burned! It’s an epic perk of the job—especially when working with hot lights on set. Here are just a few ideas to help stay safely focused on the prize… (The end of the day, when you can finally sit down and relax)

When setting up the studio, most portable lights will have a cap on them, so be sure to turn off the power switch before you plug it in. If you rent lights, they should have been checked prior to pickup, but you never know if someone has left a Speed light, monoblock or other type of light, turned on (it happens).  For an explanation of the different types of lights, please refer to the for further details.

Sometimes it is smart to leave the caps on the lights while moving them around. This helps to protect the bulbs in case of accidental trip, but it poses a fire hazard if the light is on underneath it. Once the light is actually in place and sand bagged, remove the cap (at this point I prefer to actually plug the light in, but everyone has their own methods.) Once the light has been plugged in, it is now okay to turn the fixture on. If you’ve had a long night out prior and you work in reverse (I’ve seen it happen) you may smell plastic burning after a while— immediately turn all power off and unplug the fixture. DO NOT go straight for the cap! Put gloves on (Not plastic or rubber gloves, but more of the garden variety, or a workman’s glove). Every good tech should have them on hand at all times. I will at a future date post a list of items needed for your tool belt, stay tuned.  Now remove the cap, there will be a mess and it will be much easier to scrape off once it has cooled down. If the cap is allowed to cool down on a matt finished bulb it might fuse to it so you want to get it while still warm!

Okay, so that is an embarrassing moment no doubt, but everyone else is now getting a chuckle at your expense and this makes you the life of the party. You can calmly tell them that last night you were doing flamethrowers at the bar and have not yet left there. Don’t let it happen again!  Most of us flawed humans get a second chance to not be so forgetful.

The next scenario happens even more often—especially after a long day of work and the studio rental time is running out! If modeling lights are on all day, those buggers are going to be very hot and will take some time to cool down. So, the first thing to do is to shut all power down. Discharge the lights and then disconnect the cables. If you do not discharge certain older strobes you could be in for a really big surprise when you unplug them… DON’T BE THIS GIRL!

It’s good to get yourself into a routine. Always discharge every light and you won’t run into this problem. Just pop the strobe from its test button before actually removing the cables. Now let the lights completely cool down.

You could focus on cleaning up props and backdrops or other things like flags and reflectors. If you touch the strobe, or knock it, you could kill the filament in the modeling light, so stay away from them for probably a good ten to fifteen minutes. If you put the travel cap on to early it can melt and if you touch a bulb while removing the Umbrellas you could end up burning your hand. Just, don’t be that guy!

Once everything else is cleaned up, cap it, bag it and sweep the joint! And, make sure that all goodies are accounted for!

Digital Soup

Digital Soup

Brian Morris is a professional photographer with a passion for helping create great imagery. When he’s not shooting, Brian loves being on set with other photographers helping them achieve their vision. Brian Morris Photography

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