Lighting the studio

The lighting in the entire firehouse was in serious need of an upgrade when we took over. The former owner clearly had a penchant for awful, makes-me-want-to-scratch-my-eyes-out fluorescent. That kind of nauseating, non-directional light just wasn’t going to fly in our dream studio.

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I mean, seriously?

www.hawesphotography.com

We knew we wanted suspended white track lighting:

  • Suspended so it didn’t interfere with any of the other systems hanging out on the ceiling and so we could reach it with a ladder
  • Track with adjustable heads so we can control the light and spotlight our art
  • White because duh (do you not know us yet?) and so the lighting would blend into the ceiling

We purchased the system from TotalTrackLighting.com, partially because of the company’s great customer service. Aaron submitted our room layout, and the company created a design and a shopping cart filled with everything we needed. Aaron made a few modifications due to our unique architectural elements. For instance, we couldn’t use their square layout suggestion because we need space for the garage door to open in front. Instead he opted for three parallel tracks, mimicking the layout of the current fixtures. It also meant that each line of track would be on it’s own switch.

A few weeks later we had our 200+ piece order of “white” components. Sadly, their white is closer to our beige and all the track and heads had to be painted. Spray paint, you are our best friend. Here’s everything looking much more REAL white.

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Each track has 2 wire hangers. Aaron drilled an anchor for each into the ceiling and ran power lines from the boxes powering the ugly fluorescent fixtures. Then he connected the track and leveled each. Then it’s as easy as adding track heads and bulbs.

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Once everything was up, the room didn’t feel as ‘white’ thanks to the incandescent bulbs, which produce rather warm light. Fluorescent were (obviously) out so we looked into LED bulbs, which offer a color temperature that’s closer to daylight. When we popped in an LED bulb the difference was pretty clear.

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So we liked the color, but we still needed to rationalize the sticker shock of $35 per bulb (at Home Depot). Thanks to the interwebs we found Cree LED bulbs through LightKiwi for just $20 each. Considering we needed 50 bulbs that still racked up to a hefty $1,000… just for LIGHT BULBS. So we (Aaron) turned to math and found that the energy savings from the LEDs would nearly cover the cost of the bulbs in just one year. Ready for math (don’t be scared, Aaron did it for you):

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The numbers get even crazier when you look at the lifespan of the bulbs:

  • LEDs ~30,000 hours (about 12 years)
  • Incandescent 2,600 hours (less than a year)

Assuming the LED bulbs last the full 12 years and we have to replace the incandescent bulbs every year, here’s the breakdown:

energyforlife

So we’ll save more than $8,000 over the lifespan of the LED bulbs and we get the color temperature we want? Clearly a no brainer, right? LEDs win.

Enough math, let’s look at more pretty pictures.

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Has anyone else done the math and opted for LED bulbs? Does anyone else hate fluorescent light as much as we do?

15 thoughts on “Lighting the studio

  1. Fun fact – IKEA has LED lights for SUPER cheap. we did the same warmth tests as you on others we had purchased at Home Depot and they were identical at half the price (and I think the bulbs look better).

    • Thanks for the tip. Now if we could only convince Ikea to open a store within the St Louis metro. We toyed around with driving up to Ikea in Bollingbrook this past weekend. Next time we do, we’ll add LED bulbs to our list.

        • Oh really? We’ve only been to one (Bolingbrook) once. What makes the Schaumburg one better? I’m really curious.
          Thanks for the tip!

  2. It looks so, so, so awesome in there. I can’t wait to see it all decked out with your art and furniture!

    It really is amazing how much impact lighting has on the aesthetics of a space, though I suppose you and Aaron already know all about that, being photographers and all. 😉

    • Same here! We’re inching closer 🙂 There’s a huge project going on right now that I had to crop out of some of the images 😉

  3. I’ve been looking at LEDs ever since I moved to St. Louis and have, you know, more than one light in any given room like we had in our tiny NYC apartment. What I’d love is for you to document exactly when the first LED malfunctions or burns out. I will happily shell out the extra cash for them if they actually last …

    Also, can’t wait to see the finished product. I’ve got a for reals case of jealousy for your studio space.

  4. Just found your blog through Yellow Brick Home and I love it! This post really speaks to me as I’m also a photographer and am constantly struggling with the ugly and all-too-prevalent flourescents in our world. And CFLs–gag me! The color is terrible and they hurt my eyes. Thank you for doing all that math about LEDs. Financially they’re clearly worth it. You’ve shown that they are whiter than incandescents, but do they feel natural? Does it FEEL more like daylight when you’re in the space?

    • Welcome! Oh man. Awful light is the worst 🙁
      Yes! We really think the light is much more true. Aaron describes it as “evening or shade light” and “much happier” We can’t say enough good things about LEDs.

  5. Pingback: LED lighting – One year later |

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