Do you want to learn how to use continuous lighting in photography? You’ve arrived at the correct location.
Continuous lights are sometimes disregarded by studio and portrait photographers, despite the fact that they provide several advantages. And with a few easy procedures, you may get spectacular effects (no matter your level of experience).
I describe all you need to know about continuous illumination in the sections below, including:
- What distinguishes continuous lights from strobes and speedlights
- What makes continuous lighting superior (or worse) to alternatives?
- How to use continuous lighting to create stunning portraits, product photographs, and more.
Let’s get started.
What exactly are Continuous Lights?
The term “continuous lights” refers to artificial lighting that illuminates the topic indefinitely. They don’t flash on and off while you snapshots; instead, they stay lit up the entire time.
Technically, we are constantly exposed to continuous illumination. It’s used in our homes, businesses, streetlights, and other places.
However, continuous lights in the studio are specially developed for photography (or video) uses. They may be mounted on a stand, moved around the room, and equipped with modifiers to dilute or focus the light. They’re a tool utilized by some professional photographers, although they face severe competition from two other artificial lighting sources:
Speedlights and strobes for the studio.
What’s the difference between continuous lights, studio strobes, and speedlights?
While continuous lights illuminate the subject continuously, studio strobes and speedlights provide bursts of light only when shot by the camera. When most people hear the term “flash,” they immediately think of them.
Speedlights are now battery-powered, portable lights that attach to most cameras through the hot-shoe adapter. They may also be used off-camera, however, you’ll usually need some kind of wireless trigger setup to get them to fire.
Studio strobes, also known as strobes throughout this article, are larger, more powerful lights that are mounted on light stands and are always operated through a corded or wireless setup. They are significantly less portable than speedlights and far more costly.
Both speedlights and strobes generate a more intense burst of light than continuous lights, thus if you need to overwhelm strong ambient illumination (e.g., glaring noon sunshine), speedlights and strobes are the preferable alternatives.
Speedlights and strobes, on the other hand, are far more difficult to utilize since they only provide a brief burst of light rather than continually lighting the subject. Speedlight photographers, in particular, have a tendency to operate blindly; they set up their speedlights, take a test picture, review the results, then make corrections. Because there is no way to predict how the flash will look until after the photo is taken, getting good images needs a lot of testing.
(Studio strobe photographers have similar issues, but most strobes come with modeling lights that allow you to assess the quality and direction of the lighting before shooting an image.)
Bottom line: If you don’t have much expertise in visualizing lighting effects, or if you simply appreciate the concept of documenting what you see, continuous lights are an excellent investment. However, strobes (and, to a lesser degree, speedlights) are the best choice if you want really intense lighting.
Why should you utilize continuous lighting in your photography?
Continuous lighting has several advantages, so if you’re on the fence about pursuing continuous light photography, I strongly advise you to give it a shot.
For one thing, as previously said, continuous lights allow you to view both the direction and quality of illumination before taking a photograph. That is, you may set up your lighting, examine how it interacts with your subject, make adjustments, observe your subject again, and so on – until you achieve the precise impact you desire. It’s tough to exaggerate how beneficial this is, particularly for novices (but also for more seasoned photographers, too).
When photographing in a location that does not permit flash photography, continuous lights are a useful solution. You should always ask for confirmation, but even if flash photography is prohibited, continuous illumination may be tolerated (thus allowing you to get the shots you envisioned).
Furthermore, continuous illumination is significantly less distracting than flash and strobe photography. If you’re photographing a sensitive occasion, you may put up your continuous lights and leave them on during the session. You’ll capture fantastic shots and won’t have to worry about upsetting your subjects.
5 tips to improve your continuous lighting photography
In this part, I’ll give you a few short ideas to improve your continuous lighting, starting with:
1. Get the strongest lights you can afford
Continuous lights provide lovely lighting, but they aren’t as strong as speedlights and can’t match with studio strobes.
That is, if you want the greatest results, you should get the most powerful lights you can find.
Stronger continuous lights are more expensive, but they are well worth it, especially if you will be filming in settings with a lot of ambient illumination. (When working indoors, strong continuous lighting will also allow you to keep your shutter speed at a suitable setting.)
I’d recommend an LED with at least 1000 lights, and if it proves to be too powerful, you can easily lower it down. It is preferable to have too much than too little!
2. Soften the light as much as you can
In general, continuous illumination looks good. However, if you want exceptional photographs, you must modify the lighting quality, or how harsh or soft the light seems.
When taking conventional portraits or product photographs, you should use soft lighting with restricted shadows and gentle gradations. Soft light is more attractive, and it also helps to avoid ugly hotspots on your subjects.
How do you make a gentle light?
You place a modifier, such as a softbox or an umbrella, over your continuous light. Personally, I prefer softboxes, however, umbrellas are less expensive and easier to use for novices. Either will soften the light, so don’t get too worked up over it; just make sure you’re providing soft light and you’ll be OK.
3. Check the color temperature
While speedlights and strobes have a set color temperature, certain continuous lights allow you to change the color temperature as you work.
While this may be an intriguing technique to generate creative effects, as well as help you match your continuous lights to the ambient light, it’s normally preferable to maintain the color temperature at a relatively natural number.
What would I suggest? A daytime setting (about 5600K) is a good place to start. Of course, you can always alter this, but aiming for the most realistic appearance possible will often yield decent results.
Then, if you decide you prefer a different effect, you may simply change it while editing.
4. Block out all other lightings
This is a big continuous lighting tip that you must remember if you want to take the greatest images.
While it is possible to shoot strobes and speedlights without altering the ambient illumination, this is not the case with continuous lights. Instead, as soon as you turn on those continuous lights, turn off all other lights in the room. You should also use drapes to conceal the windows.
The idea here is to make your continuous lighting the only source of illumination for your camera. Otherwise, ambient illumination may add varying lighting quality and directions to the image, resulting in problematic color temperatures in the mix.
5. Use more than one continuous light
While a single continuous light can produce outstanding results…
…the greatest portrait and product settings frequently necessitate the use of two, three, or more lights.
After all, the more lighting you have, the more precisely you can shape your subject.
I advocate a three-point lighting scheme while photography portraits. Place a light in front of the subject (but out to the side, so it hits the person’s face at a 45-degree angle). This is the primary light.
Then, place a second light, the fill light, on the opposite side of the subject (to fill in the shadows cast by the key light). Make sure the fill light is set at a lower power level than the main light.
Finally, place a light in front of your topic. This may be pointed towards your subject to produce a rim light, or it can be pointed at the background to provide subtle background lighting. Why not try both and discover which one you prefer?
You’re ready to work with continuous lights now that you’ve finished this article.
You understand what they are, why they are effective, and how to adjust and arrange them to get fantastic outcomes.
So get your continuous lights ready. And then start firing!