jpeg of Lowell lightWhich economical lights to purchase to improve your photography?

Lowel lights are eminently portable, hold up to travel, and even survive being handled by untrained student assistants. Lowel-light Manufacturing Co. offers its well known Lowel Totalights, Lowel DP, Lowel Omni, Lowel Rifa and other kinds of tungsten lighting.

Almost all good camera stores sell Lowel lights:

Lowel fluorescent tungsten lighting
Lowel Tota-lights for digital photography studio lighting

My first Lowel lights several decades ago were the Tota-lights because they fold up to a small shape. In their folded form they are totally protected and travel well (all over the world, have never lost a Lowel Tota-light in over twenty-five years). I have used Lowel Tota-lights outside in the tropical jungles of Belize, Central America. At the remotest Maya ruins in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, Lowel Tota-lights have aided in recording, and hence rescuing, information about ancient cultures.

Lowel lights are used world wide.When I was photographing in Australia, I saw Lowel lights in the leading museum of that far-away continent. When I was visiting in Denmark, the PhaseOne studio included Lowel lights.

When I went to San Francisco to pick up the Better Light Dicomed digital panorama rollout camera system I did not have any Lowels with me, since they were momentarily all on location in various foreign countries. Michael Collette said I could borrow his lights. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had Lowel lights! His were the DP series, several levels of sophistication above the entry-level Tota-lights (but also correspondingly larger). These Lowel DP lights were used during the historical first rollouts of Maya vases ever done with digital format.

Thus I was very pleased that Mr Marvin Seligman, president of Lowel-light Manufacturing Company, sent a nice selection of all his top-of-the-line lights and tripods to our institute. Archaeologists cannot use the larger kind of studio lighting both because our field camps have no space and because overhead lights have the habit of falling on fragile artifacts. Lowel lights are ideal because they are small, and can be used safely alongside the artifacts.

Mr Seligman included two DP series, two Omni-lights, and one nice Lowel Rifa-light, a soft box arrangement, and a set of stands, all neatly packaged in a single suitcase. If I had such great equipment as a student my earlier pre-professional photography would have been better.

Lowel lights (especially the Tota-series) are ideal for student budgets as well, but even when I was flush with funding from publishers eager for top quality photographs, I still turned to Lowel lights for my outfit because everything had to be portable, and had to survive the rigors of real-life traveling photography.

My next move (I was still a student) was to get a Smith Victor set of tungsten lights. They were good, but their size makes them more suitable for a studio than constant world travel. Within a few years I tried a Lowel Tota-light. I have been using Lowel Tota-lights for over two decades since then.

Do tungsten lights work with high-end digital cameras? One major camera manufacturer says NO, but we used Lowel DP and Lowel Tota lights for the last six years and they worked just fine.

You do need to be careful not to overheat your CCD and be especially careful to isolate your electrical lines from spikes from motors elsewhere in your building. To do this you need to obtain power line conditioners from Sola/Hevy-Duty.

We are now setting up a model photo studio in Guatemala so students will have access to good equipment. We thank Mr Seligman for providing this model studio with a complete set of Lowel lighting.

Lowel fluorescent studio lighting
Lowel DP studio lighting

Where to find the tungsten photo lamps you need?

The best place to buy lamps (bulbs) is from Bulbman because they have all the lamps that photographers need.

What to avoid?

Most archaeologists (and many young photographers) start out with the cheap aluminum reflectors, using the blue photo bulbs. The fixtures cost about $3.99, so the price is certainly tempting.

Using hemispherical aluminum reflectors is the best way to do the worst photography imagineable. There is a nice publication on archaeology of Belize that pictures photos of an ancient Maya stelae shot in this manner. Out of courtesy to the poor archaeologist I will not cite it by name. All of my own 1970's field photography used the $3.99 class of lighting. The results are worth precisely $3.99.

Avoid aluminum reflectors.

There are many kinds of Lowel Lighting in addition to that we are able to picture here. To get additional information, telephone, toll free 1 800 334-3426; for questions on equipment, e-mail; for general questions, email FLAAR had experienced Lowel Lighting for over 34 years and those fixtures are still working just fine. That's why we recommend this brand. They are nicely designed and hold up well.

If you need a reliable source for professional camera and studio equipment, especially professional digital cameras, Calumet Photographic/Calumet Digital Solutions has good digital camera equipment.


Most recently updated May 21, 2008.
Previously updated March 14, 1999; links added July 10, 1999 and Jan 23, 2000; updated Aug. 5, 2001.