Using Continuous Light in the Studio

“The pictures have a reality for me that the people don’t. It is through the photographs that I know them.” —Richard Avedon

“Light,” as a wise photographer once told me, “is light.” The most important characteristics of any studio lighting system are the quality and the quantity of the output. The kind of hardware you use can have an impact on both aspects and the quality of the light is affected by using light modifiers.

olivia-pinkContinuous lighting is so named because it is “on” continuously, much like 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— shadows and highlights—is falling on your subject and because these kinds of lights can be inexpensive, they makes a good starting point for anyone on a budget. Continuous lighting sources can use quartz or photoflood bulbs that will 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 lights producing what is, in effect, cool “hot lights.”

olivia-bw-newAnother form of continuous lighting is the use of LED’s such as the affordable ($249.95) Rotolight Interview kit that includes two RL48 battery powered (three-AA’s) LED lights along with a Lee Color FX filter kit. The RL48’s range of is approximately 15 feet and after that light begins to fall off, so my shots were typically made of close-up or three-quarter length. When working with the Rotolights the first thing I noticed is that there’s no waiting time for a flash to recycle; I could just keep shooting. I initially found this odd and so did the first model I photographed with the lights but we quickly embraced this new and faster style of working that encourages experimentation.

Because Rotolight’s RL48 LED lights are continuous light sources, you can see exactly what the final results will be and as a bonus your subject’s is more relaxed without flashes going off during a session. Working with the Rotolight Interview Lighting Kit is the most fun I’ve had in the studio in a long time*.

*As I write this my home studio was still being repaired to replace flood damage. See yesterday’s post for details about how that is going.

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To learn more about studio lighting techniques, please pick up a copy of my book, “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as including

Author: Joe Farace

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