“Light,” as a wise photographer once told me, “is light.”
The most important characteristics that any studio lighting system can have are its output’s quality and quantity. The kind of hardware you use will have an impact on both aspects but the quality of the light can further be affected by using light modifiers, such as umbrellas and softboxes. Studio lighting equipment can be divided into two basic categories: Continuous or Electronic Flash—and that includes speedlights.
Continuous lighting is always “on,” much like turning on a light bulb or the sun for that matter, enabling you to use your in-camera light meter to measure the light falling on your subject. Continuous lighting equipment lets you see how the light falls on your subject and because some of this kind of gear gear can be inexpensive—even using LED light bulbs—it makes a good starting point for anyone on a budget.
Continuous lighting sources sometimes use quartz or photoflood bulbs that can be hot, even dangerously so, leading to the use of the term “hot lights” to describe them. An increasing number of continuous lighting tools are being made with fluorescent and LED producing cool “hot lights.”
Electronic flash is more familiar because almost every camera has one built-in. Because the light from electronic flash is almost instantaneous you can’t directly see the effect of the light on your subject, which is why most studio lights have a “modeling” light to show an approximation of what the lighting will look on the final image.
This photograph was made using two Bowens 400Rx monolights and an Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark I Micro Four-thirds camera with an Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens at 24mm. Exposure was 1/125 sec at f/9 and ISO 200. Image was converted to monochrome (with light copper toning) using Silver Efex Pro.
If you’re interested in shooting portraits, please pick up a copy of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as Amazon.com, where your purchase helps this blog.