Flash tubes have come far since they were invented in the 1930s, now lasting for a considerable length of time due to the introduction of electronic flash. However, there are a number of ways you can further prolong the life of your flash tubes and get the most out of them before having to replace them.
Don't let gels touch them
As tempting as it may be to get your gels right up close to the flash tube for that deep saturated colour in your images, it can be very dangerous to use your gels in such close proximity.
Another particularly dangerous occurrence is wrapping gel sheets directly around the flash tube. At best, this could melt the gel sheet and damage the flash tube, causing you to replace both your gel and your tube.
At worst, your gels could catch fire. Gels are not fire-proof, and at sustained high temperatures can cause a lot of damage if heated high enough.
Keep gels at a reasonable distance from the flash tube, and attach to the softbox or use appropriate barndoor or gel attachments.
Don't touch them with your bare hands!
This is for two reasons:
1. Especially right after use, flash tubes can get extremely hot. You could end up burning yourself attempting to remove a flash tube so soon after it was last triggered.
2. When touching the glass with your bare hands, oils from your skin can be transferred onto the surface. Think of mirrors or windows for example, and how smudged they can get just from being touched. These oils, like all oils, transfer heat very efficiently, and therefore will cause hotspots on the glass, heating up specific areas when the flash is used to a higher temperature.
This can potentially reduce the lifespan of the tube and cause cracking.
Instead, you can use some clean cloth, or latex/anti-static/insulated gloves.
Flash Tubes should also generally be stored somewhere safe away from the flash when not in use, and should be kept securely out of the flash when travelling to avoid the tube getting knocked and smashed when in transit.
Safe Shoot Practices
These tips are commonplace when it comes to photography, but are all too often ignored.
When using a lighting set up on light stands, always make sure your light stand is weighted properly and that you are considering weather conditions. The last thing you want is your setup toppling over onto your model, or hitting the ground and smashing your flash tube or otherwise damaging your equipment.
- Using sandbags or any other appropriate weights to properly counterbalance the weight from lights and modifiers on a specific side of the stand. Watch Rick Bradbury's video on C-Stand Safety Tips for advice on this.
- Getting an assistant or second shooter to hold the light stand in windy weather can help avoid your modifiers acting like sails.
- Avoid overweighting your light stands- Check the maximum weight limit of your light stand to avoid overloading it with heavy equipment that could cause the stand to become unstable or fail.
Take care when replacing tubes
Flash tubes should always be handled with care- they are glass, after all! This is especially the case when replacing them.
Flashes should be turned off (and mains unplugged) before removing the old tube. Replaceable flash tubes often have a very simple plug design to them allowing for an easy switch, but care should be taken to not force the prongs in if you feel resistance, or putting too much pressure on the glass. Be firm but gentle, and make sure to use some clean cloth or heat-resistant fabric gloves to change the bulb over too!
See the below diagram for the PiXAPRO LUMI MKII/Godox Gemini MKII flash tube:
Already damaged your flash tubes?
Don't worry, it happens.
If you purchased your flash or tubes from us, damage will not be covered by our warranty, as warranty will only cover manufacturer faults. If you believe yours is defective or faulty, however, flash tubes are covered for up to 6 months from purchase, so please check our warranty page and contact our team if your purchase is covered.
Or, if you simply need a replacement, find our spares range for PiXAPRO and Godox flashes right here: https://www.essentialphoto.co.uk/collections/bulbs-tubes