Going for some continuos lights

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by alexacatalin, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. Hi!
    I would like to make a small studio at home and buy some continuous lights. I'll use them to photograph children, so I really like to try with some soft natural light and not the normal flashes.
    I would like to invest something like 5-600 dollars. Can somebody with more experience give me some tips about what I can buy?
  2. Continuous, or hot lights, aren't necessarily soft or natural. They're bulbs, just like strobes (flashes) are, and depending on the type of bulb, that will affect the color and quality of the light.
    A couple of things to note--they're called hot lights for a reason. They're hot, and not only can the heat make your subjects very uncomfortable, but if you're working with children, you need to be especially careful that they don't get their hands near them or knock one over and potentially get burned. Also, children rarely hold still, so being able to freeze motion with flash will make your job a lot easier.
    You won't have the kind of light control with hot lights that you will with strobes either, since the output can't be controlled. I would suggest instead looking at starting with one or two Alien Bees and some softboxes or umbrellas. If you start with one light, a modifier, and a reflector, you can build your kit as your budget allows, and also get used to using studio lighting without getting overwhelmed.
  3. Softness of light comes from the size and closeness of the source, not from how the light is produced. In fact the hardest light you can get is also the most natural - clear open sunlight. So if you want soft light you're going to have to buy some softboxes, umbrellas, diffusers or large reflectors, and it doesn't matter whether you use continuous or flash light as your source. If you use the same modifier the end result will look the same.
    I'd recommend you look at umbrella-type softboxes. These have internal silvering and a black outer covering, while the "mouth" of the umbrella has a white diffuser cover. The light emitted is very soft and similar in character to a strutted softbox, but the umbrella boxes are much easier and quicker to erect and knock down. An Octabox will give a similar light with a more complete catchlight for portraits, but at a far higher initial cost and usually with far more fiddling about to erect. Ordinary white shoot-through or reflector brolly's are OK and cheap to buy, but they're less efficient and scatter a lot of light about the room, making it difficult to control the depth of shadows and background lighting.
    One consideration when deciding between continuous or flash, is that kids don't keep still and that you've a better chance of a sharp image using flash than with continuous lighting.
    Edit: I obviously posted almost at the same time as Devon and I see I've more-or-less repeated a lot of what was in the previous post.
  4. First off, continuous lights aren't natural or soft, they can be very harsh, sometimes very HOT, and dangerous around little people.
    Devon beat me to it.
    So here is a question,
    What camera do you have? That can make a huge difference in what type of lighting you can use.
  5. Thanks for your replies.
    I'll probably use a Canon 7d, I have some prime lenses as well (50 1.4, 24 1.4).
  6. Catalin:
    Also, check the other thread for additional pros and cons of continuous lights:
    The Spiderlites actually look pretty cool--I'm getting one myself. I've looked at a number of CFL softboxes at my local dealer, and the quality of light is very soft. While output is low compared with strobes, there's zero recycle time, so you can fire off frames at max FPS--kinda fun!
  7. Thanks, Ralph. There are for sure some great advantages. I don't like the idea of flash, that much. My eyes don't love it. I would rather shoot with a high iso, which doesn't bother me at all.
    I must dig some more about the heating issue. I sure wouldn't like to make my small models sweat. I might need to invest a little bit more.
  8. You're welcome, Catalin! You're awake (it's very late here in L.A.)! Fluorescent CFLs give off little heat. LEDs, even less. I believe the others were referencing tungsten lights, which do run very hot. Tungsten lights are more often used in TV and film production, although both fluorescent and LEDs are coming into greater use there as well.
  9. I'm in Berlin, Germany so ... I just had a very late breakfast. :) It's 1:30 PM.
    Thanks for your reply and ... have a good night. Let me know if you can recommend me some lights. I'll dig the b&h now.
  10. Ha! I guessed you were somewhere in Europe. The Westcott Spiderlite looks like one of the best products in its class. It's a little pricey once you add the bulbs, plus you also need to buy a softbox for it (at least you don't have to spring for a speedring--it's already built-in). But it's a very cool product. A similar-output tool from KinoFlo or LitePanel would be two to three times the price. I'm buying one, if not two of these for night-exterior, location shooting, and I'll be powering them with Vagabond Mini Lithium inverter/batteries from Paul C. Buff (a U.S.-based lighting manufacturer).
  11. Great tips. Now I know what I must buy. Thanks!
  12. One caveat . . . children move a lot. Shutter speeds need to be at 1/500th or better for the feistier ones. CFL output is far lower compared with strobes. You may need to shoot near wide-open at moderately high ISOs, and/or have your source extremely close to your subjects, perhaps no more than 1.5m away. I can't say for sure without having the light and performing some tests myself. Maybe you could demo a similar product at a nearby photo dealer before you decide. Many dealers carry CFL "starter kits" which tend to be woefully under-lamped. The Westcott is lamped with five 85W CFLs, which is quite a bit more than a 50W starter kit's light.
  13. Some candies might help. :)
  14. Candy is always good!
  15. One more thing. I don't know if the 85W CFLs actually fit the Westcott TD5 (the sockets are fairly close together)--contact Westcott to confirm.
  16. The harshness of different light types was mentioned ... any light can be equally harsh or strong. But. The reason continous lights are often harsher is because hot lights don't always work well with softboxes; either it's a possible fire hazard, or the bulb could get too hot in there and blow. LEDs and other cool lights also have issues with diffusion materials, as the light output is often too low for multiple layers of diffusion like a softbox, or a hooded umbrella.
    Since you're comfortable with higher ISOs (and by 'higher I mean 400-800 - I wouldn't go past that), I would probably recommend low-power strobes. At 400 ISO and f/5.6 or so you really shouldn't need a lot of power for a good exposure, and keeping the modelling lamp on full power will help both you and your subjects stay adjusted when the lights pop.
    Promaster is coming out with some new video/still lights that might be helpful. I'm sure they're knockoffs of someone else's product, but I don't know whom. Basically they're relatively low-powered strobes (something like 160 w/s) with a '700 watt incandescent equivalent' bulb. I assume it's not a hot lamp, since it's intended to be mounted on a stand or on-camera.
    If you're at 400 ISO, I would imagine that either the continous or strobe options would be sufficient for most applications.
  17. Thanks, Zack.
    I know there are some issues with the continuous light, but my eyes can't stand the flashes and I might also shoot with film, so for me continuous light is a must.
    I'm still digging the whole problems, I really appreciate your reply.
    Indeed, iso it really no problem. As long as I have my result, I can shoot with 1250 or even 1600. My lenses are prime, so 1.4 or 2.0 is another big help.
    I found today this kit: http://www.kaiser-fototechnik.de/en/news/produkte/1_1_studiolight.asp
    What do you think?
  18. Catalin, those lights you linked to are incandescent, not fluorescent, therefore they are going to get HOT in operation. They use 1000W lamps, which produce lots of heat and can be dangerous if they come in contact with flammable material.
  19. That would be pretty bad. Thanks!
    I guess I'll have to stick to products like this:
  20. Hi Catalin,
    I have been a lighting tech for film and tv for 20 years and have had an opportunity to work with just about every light you can imagine. It is relatively easy to use "hot" lights and diffuse them and control them. They can be great for photography because you can really see what you are getting. Having said that I don't use them anymore for still photos because I find the Nikon Creative Lighting System gives me more control and flexibility than my Rifas or fresnels.
    For color temp you just throw on a gel if you are in a 3200 environment. Daylight? No problem there. One off camera speed light can give you a tremendous amount of creative control.
    As much as I like 18k HMI's and 5k's with chimeras on them to light sets for 90210 or Apocolypto, when I am lighting friends and flowers a speed light is my best friend.
  21. Playing with my KinoFlo, 2-foot, 2-bank, keyed from the left, with a Foamcore fill on the right, I just shot this quick test:
    Nikon D3s; AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G; ISO: 500; f/2.2 @ 1/250th.
    While I'm shooting at a relatively high ISO to compensate for the KinoFlo's relatively low output (plus, using a modest shutter speed and generous f/stop), not having to wait for recycle times can be a great advantage with certain subjects:
    1. Zero-recycle time permits continuous, high-speed shooting at maximum FPS.
    2. No sync cords, optical, or RF triggers required.
    3. Allows you to shoot at higher-than x-sync shutter speeds with no HSS/FP-associated loss (providing you have enough output).

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