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Lighten Up! How Light Affects Photograph Quality

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Updated on Sep 07, 2012

Grade Level: Middle-High School; Type: Physical Science

Students will investigate which type of light bulbs are the best at producing flattering photographs in both flash and non-flash conditions.

Research Questions:

  • What are Incandescent, Halogen, and Fluorescent light bulbs made of? How do they work?
  • What kind of colors do Incandescent, Halogen, and Fluorescent lights generally give off?

One of the factors that photographers rely on for a flattering photograph is lighting conditions. Bad lighting leads to a bad photograph. Incandescent (Tungsten), Halogen, and Fluorescent lights are composed of different materials and they emit different light effects. In this experiment, we'll test how these different lights affect picture quality.

  • Incandescent Light Bulb (control the experiment by using the same wattage for all bulbs)
  • One Fluorescent Light Bulb
  • One Halogen Light Bulb
  • Light sockets and tubes
  • A Digital Camera or Instant Camera (a decent one will do)
  • A friend willing to help or a well-defined object
  • Pen/paper

  1. Choose a set location as the control. It is preferred to be a blank wall or a photographers' backdrop. At this time, set up the lights. Twist the incandescent light bulb into its socket andturn on.
  2. Your camera needs to be in the same setting for all three photos. In other words, the only thing thatis changing are the light bulb types.
  3. Have a friend stand in front of the wall or place your chosen object there. However, the anglemust be the same in all three photos. This also goes for positioning and pose.
  4. Take the photograph with and without flash for comparison.
  5. Repeat the light bulb set-up and take photos (flash and no flash) for the remaining two light bulbs.
  6. Evaluate the results. Which one looks the best? The worst?
Terms and Concepts: Incandescent (Tungsten), Halogen, Fluorescent, photography, camera


Sofia PC is currently a college student with a deep interest in science who is aspiring to become a writer. She writes about all sorts of things across all subjects including, but not limited to; science, crafts, and fashion. She hopes to become a good writer so she can share her thoughts and experiences with the world and future generations.