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Photography Question 


member since: 1/27/2006
 

Strobe Vs. Continuous Lighting: The Basics


I am a super-beginner to studio photography. I'm buying some lights but I can't figure out what the difference is between strobe and continuous lighting. Is strobe a flash? I want something that acts just like a light - stays lit. Thanks if you can help me!

1/27/2006 12:23:38 PM

 
Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  I'll try to keep this short and to the point, no technical garbo -
'Strobe' is 'flash.'
'Continuous light' is just what the name implies. It can be household lightbulbs, tungsten lights, fluorescent lights, etc., and as you stated, "...stays lit."
FYI - All modern studio strobes come equipped with a "modeling light." This is a built-in continuous light bulb placed near the actual strobe/flash tube, that shows you exactly what your strobe lighting will look like. Modeling lights allow you to set up your strobes precisely, so that when you fire them, you will get the same lighting as what you see.
I would NOT recommend continuous lighting for most products, and NEVER EVER for people, or other live subjects. Tungsten, household bulbs, etc., are too hot, and will fry your subjects in a hurry. Fluorescent bulbs are cooler, but need tricky color correction, since they are primarily green in color. Continuous light is NOT very powerful, and will need to be used very close to your subjects, or you'll need a large bank of bulbs.
My advice: Look into the gazillion brands of amateur strobe lighting kits available. I don't know of a single studio strobe unit that does not have a modeling light, so just about anything you look at will be OK that respect. A decent 3-strobe kit in the 400 Watt Second range - with stands and umbrellas or softboxes - will get you started.

1/27/2006 4:11:43 PM

 
William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  All Hollywood movies are shot with continuous or "hot" lights so I would say that it's perfectly acceptable to use hot lights for all subjects - it just depends on your style and how you want to work. If you are just starting out you might find hot lights represent a good value.

1/31/2006 5:43:30 AM

 
Linda D. Smith

member since: 5/10/2005
  HI K
I USE CONTINUOUS LIGHT ALL THE TIME AND MY SUBJECTS, FROM GRAPES TO PEOPLE LOOK GREAT NATURAL COLORS AND I HAVE NEVER PUT THEM SO CLOSE THAT MY SUBJECTS ARE TOO HOT OR WILT. ANY WAY, TRY B & H PHOTO THEY HAVE A GREAT STARTER SET CONTINUOUS LIGHTING LESS THEN 300.00 FOR THREE STANDS, 3 ULBS, 3 UTLETS, 2 MBRELLAS THEY ALL COME IN A NICE CARRYING CASE AND ARE VERY PORTABLE. MOST OF MY WORK IS LOCATION AND I CAN CARRY THESE ALONG WITH LITTLE EFFORT, I SUGGEST YOU GET AN ELECTRIC CORD AND A MULTI-OUTLET IN CASE YOU HAVE TO SET UP FAR FROM THE ELECTRIC SOURCE.

ALSO I FEEL IT IS REALY EASY TO CONTROL WHERE YOU WANT YOUR SHADOWS AND HIGHTLIGHTS, WITH OUT EXTRA STEPS.

OH I HAD ONE SUGGESTION FROM AN "EXPERT" (THAT I TRUST) AT MY PHOTO LAB, THAT FOR SOFTER SKIN TONES TRY "BLUE" LIGHTS IF YOU ARE USING FILM. I HAVE USED WHITE AND BLUE, AND HAVE HAD GOOD RESULTS WITH BOTH.

I DO NOT CLAIM TO BE AN EXPERT, BUT THIS HAS WORKED OUT WELL FOR ME. AND MY CUSTOMERS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HAPPY WITH THE RESULTS.

http://www.betterphoto.com?lds

1/31/2006 6:14:03 AM

 
Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  Sorry William,
Your statement is a little hypocritical, misleading, and somewhat inaccurate - Someone just starting out cannot afford the caliber of hot lights that professional Hollywood movies are made with. What represents a "good value" in hot lights would not be nearly powerful enough at ranges over 3-4 feet away, and once you get up to a few hundred watts of hot lights staring at you from a short distance, you, or whatever subject, WILL be fried quickly. Foreheads will sweat, and flowers will wilt.
It is NOT "perfectly acceptable to use hot lights for all subjects."
In today's market there are so many good entry level Strobe units and kits available (MOST with modeling lights, and all reasonably priced), that there is just no real reason to have to resort to continous light in the studio, least of all, from a financial investment.
And K, also remember that with continuous light, be it tungsten or fluorescent, you will have major color corrections to deal with, whether you shoot film or digital. Strobe light is daylight balanced. No problem there.
Michael H. Cothran

1/31/2006 6:26:23 AM

 
Aimee Bickers
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/15/2005
  Michael -- I have to disagree with you. I have cool continuous lights and they are "daylight balanced" and I have no color corrections to make due to them. So that's just wrong.

I use cool continuous lights -- two of them, a main and a fill, for ALL my studio portrait photography. I have a 2400w light that I can TOUCH and a 600w fill that I can touch as well. My kids don't sweat due to them and my families faces and nice and crisp and clear from any hot spots.

They produce a GREAT amount of light and are relatively inexpensive. I work with children and strobes were not for me. I also was worried about the heat of the traditional continuous.

Therefore, I paid the money and went with cool and they are PERFECT! :)

1/31/2006 6:54:05 AM

 
William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  So tell me what's hypocritical, misleading and inaccurate about my statement, or are you just flameing me? I use hot lights because I also shoot video and nothing wilts or gets fried - that's misleading and inaccurate and kind of silly. If you are going to be in the business you may as well learn the business and figure how to balance different kinds of lights and how to control the lighting on a set.

The full answer is that for still photography I use either, depending on what I'm doing and how I want the finished photograph to look. For someone starting out there are good inexpensive tungsten light sets that will help a person learn about light.
The advantaage is cost, you will learn about different kinds of light, and it won't all look the same.
Just for my information, what subjects are not perfectly acceptable to photograph with hot lights?

1/31/2006 6:56:00 AM

 
Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Gee, this is quite a discussion. I use hot lights only for Hollywood Portraiture; I like tradition and I find it easier to see the effects better. Mine are not that hot; I use a longer exposure to compensate. And I do this with black & white film, filtered either with an 81A, a #11, or a cyan-colored filter, depending on what era I am portraying.

1/31/2006 8:54:25 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  K,
PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ASKING THIS QUESTION ON THE "STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY " THREAD.
MICHEAL GAVE YOU SOME REAL GOOD INFO.
YOU MAY WANT TO LOOK AT THE OTHER THREAD TO SEE MORE AND MORE INFO ON SOME OF THE DIFFERENT TYPES(BRANDS)
I RECOMMEND THE PHOTOGENIC MAX III
LIGHT KIT AT THIS TIME-PHOTOGENIC IS A WONDEFUL BRAND OF LIGHTS THAT HAS BEEN AROUND THE US SINCE 1903.
THEY ARE THIER OWN WORST ENEMY THOUGH-BECAUSE THEY BUILD TO LAST.
YOU CAN ALSO LOOK IN MY GALLERY AND SEE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF LIGHTS USED- I HAVE WORKED WITH PHOTOGENIC, CALUMET /BOWENS, JTL,BRITCK AND REALLY ALL CAN BE VERY GOOD.
*PHOTOGENIC ALLOWS THE SAME ASSORIES TO BE USD FROM THE STUDIO MAXIII - UP TO THE PRO LEVEL LIGHTS- WHAT DOES THIS MEAN: WELL WHILE YOU ARE STARTING OUT ,YOU MAY CHOOSE A MORE AFFORDABLE KIT. SUCH AS THE STUDIO MAXIII.
AS YOU GROW AND YOUR NEEDS GROW, YOU CAN USE THE SAME SPEED RINGS AND REFLECTORS ETC. ON YOUR NEXT GENERATION OF LIGHTS.
I USE THE PL 2500DR'S AND THE SAME ASSORIES FIT THOSE AS THE STUDIO MAXIII'S THIS MAKES IT EASY TO INTERCHANGE ANYTHING I WOULD LIKE.

* ANOTHER THING TO MAKE SURE YOU ASK ABOUT BEFORE YOUR PURCHASE IS " CAN I CHANGE MY OWN BULBS AND DO I NEED SPECIAL TOOLS?"
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: SO MANY COMPANY'S ARE MAKING DISPOSABLE HEADS -WHEN THE BULB BRAKES, YOUR DONE!!
PROBLEM BEING SO MANY THINGS CAN CAUSE A BLUB TO BRAKE-YOU SHOULD NOT WANT OR NEED TO REPLACE YOUR LIGHT HEAD BECAUSE OF THIS.
* PHOTOGENIC: PLUG AND PLAY:PUSH THE BULB IN AND GET TO WORK.
* CALUMET / BOWENS: YOU NEED A TOOL.
* BRITECK: (WATCH THE KITS, MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER) SOME ARE PLUG AN DPLAY SOME ARE NOW DISPOSIBLE.
SAME WITH : JTL.

I DO HAVE A STUDIO WISH LIST , THAT WAS MADE UP TO HELP THOSE LOOKING TO MAKE THINGS EASIER IN THIER STUDIOS AN DONE LIST IS ON JUST LIGHTS.
EMAIL ME IF YOU THINK THIS WILL HELP,
I DO HOPE THIS HELPS,
DEBBY TABB

1/31/2006 1:40:12 PM

 
Norbert Maile

member since: 7/28/2004
  My 2 cents worth. I like "hot lights" ! They are easy to get the right lighting with because, what you see is what you get. They are cheap to by for a first set, and you can get daylight bulbs requiring no filters. Your subject will get hot no matter what your lighting so get a fan! It will only be a problem if you let it.

1/31/2006 9:32:58 PM

 
Bryan J. Sorenson

member since: 1/4/2006
  Aimee,

Where do you get cool lights. I went to your gallery and really like the way they look. I currently use a 4 strobe setup. Even with all the regular lights in my garage/studio on peoples pupils are dialated quite large. This doen't let you see much of thier iris coloration. I really like the way the eyes show up in your photos. Thanks for any info.

Bryan

2/1/2006 8:19:20 PM

 
Aimee Bickers
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/15/2005
  Hi Bryan! I got mine at two different places...

http://www.akcesmedia.com/
and
http://www.skaeser.com/

Hope that helps!

2/2/2006 6:05:29 AM

 
Kristine Slipson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/27/2006
  Personally, I like using strobes with modeling lights built into them. They have a low heat, medium bright bulb thats always on that sits next to the strobe unit. When combined with an umbrella, it appears to be a hot light, but without the reason why it got that name- hot. Its also not too bright to look into. When you release the shutter, a much brighter burst of light comes from the strobe unit. But thats just me and what I am used to working with.

2/2/2006 4:45:35 PM

 
Kyle Whitaker

member since: 2/26/2008
  Here's the deal...william was at little off and michael started a good argument. This seems to be a forum for beginners but I feel its always good to get the right info even if you don't fully understand it all just yet. So I'll add some of the technical "garbo" that's really not that complex and, in fact, necessary in making a good decision and not wasting time/money.

Strobes = Flashes. Hot lights = continuous lights. However not all continuous lights are "Hot lights". As for the arguement about hot lights and film...well yes all hollywood movies and film/video do use continuous lighting but they use HMI's that can put out a couple of hundred to several thousand watts (@5600˚k daylight) without generating nearly the amount of heat of a typical 1k watt fresnel which might compare in heat and light intensity to roughly 5 200 watt home depot work lights or 20 (60watt) household lamps.

Now for a beginner who wants to learn...If the camera you shoot with has a hot shoe mount you should start with an on camera flash and learn with that first. Get yourself a light meter that will take ambient and flash readings and learn to use it. Once you have a grasp of those tools you can step up to 1, 2, or preferably 3 MONOLIGHTS which are 120v(AC) strobes that have at least a 60watt modeling light which is like a built-in household lamp (180w total using 3 light setup). Compare three of those to what you would get with a starter hot light kit approx. 1200watts from three lights. They would create the heat of about 12 household lamps and rather weak luminance, for photographic purposes, and inaccurate color temp. This doesn't particularly matter as much with moving images in film and video very basically because you don't scrutinize every frame.

Another plus of the monolight is the modeling light which will will give you some idea of what the strobe is going to look like. Variations of these lights can use battery power(DC) but those are more expensive. Oh and you're gonna want user replaceable parts and a guide number of at least 100'.
Basically, you want to use strobes for photography unless you have a crazy budget to get HMI's or Fresnels plus enough studio space that you won't deep fry your subject.
Just remember your light meter and you should be ok!

Peace,

Nova
The 25yr old phenom!

2/26/2008 6:18:44 PM

 
Keith Levkoff

member since: 8/13/2008
  OK, I'm a relatively new photographer, with most of that being outdoor - and using natural light - and occasional flash macro stuff. Also (I'll admit it) pictures of pets - mine and other people's. I do. however, have a serious electronic techie background.

Now, obviously, walking in the woods, or climbing up a mountain, only a moderate flash or a very small hot light (for macro stuff) is going to be anywhere near portable. There are other situations where a strobe just isn't going to be acceptable - they annoy the heck out of animals, even in a studio, and some people don't especially like them either. Ditto for incandescent hot lights.

Incandescents also use a lot of power. Those 5 kW of hot halogen lights in that studio use about 45 AMPS at 100V - odds are you're NOT going to have that at a client's HOUSE if you're shooting on-site. And you aren't going to run THOSE babies on batteries. (When that TV station uses them, they have a generator TRUCK parked out front.)

For macro stuff, we now have the neat option of LED light panels. They don't use much power, don't get too hot, don't weigh much, and seem ideal for small work. (I'm guessing that bugs wouldn't mind them as much as a strobe either.) There are expensive commercial ones, or you could build your own - or there are cheap commercial ones. I haven't used any of the panels, but LEDS in general have built in lenses, and built in "color control" - and some of them are very odd colors - which may include a lot of UV. They also have a tendency to be inconsistent in color - so a panel might put out a white overall light, but with little blue spots corresponding to where the individual LEDs are focussed, or simply a hot-and-cold grid because the individual LEDS may not blend together well. Definitely an exciting technology though. If you build a panel I would be very careful about selecting LEDs first.

There are also now a lot of color-balanced fluorescent lamps available. They don't use much juice and run pretty cool. Pro ones are going to be color corrected - hopefully, but hardware store ones are not - and they vary a lot. Some are better than others and you could build a board with a bunch of sockets pretty cheap, then try different ones for different effects (or mix them). (Check the CRI number - which is the rating of how close the bulb is to "ideal" - if they mention it - 90+ is good. You will also want high-CRI bulbs in your home and studio lamps if you want to be able to see what your proofs REALLY look like after you print them.)

8/13/2008 8:23:31 PM

 

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