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Thread: Continuous light or flash?

  1. #1

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    Continuous light or flash?

    Hi All,

    Is there a general preference to use flash or continuous lighting for portraits?
    I have read that there are now low temp cont. lighting available.

    Is it personal preference or there a technical difference that will influence when you would use one versus the other?

    Thanks,

    Erik

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    I for one, far prefer studio strobes to continuous lights.

    Even cool lights need a bright light to get a decent shutter speed and f/stop. Lights that bright can be annoying to the subject and tend to constrict the eye pupils.

    Studio strobes with modeling lights have the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) capability of continuous lights and you don't have to worry about shutter speed. The speed of the flash will stop any subject movement.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 15th January 2012 at 01:58 PM.

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Flash - hands down.

    I typically shoot in the studio at F11 @ 1/125th @ ISO 100 - which corresponds to the light coming from a diffused flourescent light when the camera is pointing right at it; this would be mercilesssly bright if a model were lit to the same degree. So for continuous lights I'd either have to lower the shutterspeed (risk motion blur) - open the aperture (risk DoF issues) - or increase the ISO (risk dynamic range issues). None of those appeal.

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Thanks Richard and Collin,

    Am I correct to assume then that continuous lighting is more for the amateur who is starting their adventure with light?
    Once comfortable, they would move on to more expensive equipment?

    Erik

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by cichlid View Post
    Thanks Richard and Collin,

    Am I correct to assume then that continuous lighting is more for the amateur who is starting their adventure with light?
    Once comfortable, they would move on to more expensive equipment?

    Erik
    Nope, not at all. Continuous lighting is fine for inanimate subjects that don't move. A amateur is placing himself or herself at a disadvantage trying to use this type of lighting for portraits...

    The studio strobe doesn't need to be expensive. Adorama disstributes some very reasonably priced studio strobes under the Flashpoint label. http://www.adorama.com/SearchSite/De...oint+monolight

    You can even start with one light and perhaps add a reflector. That way you could learn the properties of that light before adding one or two more. http://www.prophotolife.com/video-ep...ust-one-light/

    IMO, it is essential for a beginner to use a studio type strobe because you can see what the light is doing before you shoot. Using a converted hotshoe flash is shooting blind. That is O.K. for a more experienced photographer but, is not a great way to learn lighting.

    There are also usually some decent values in used studio strobes if you know what you are looking for. The Alien Bees and White Lightning labels from Paul C. Buff are always a good choice and are frequently found on eBay.

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Even cool lights need a bright light to get a decent shutter speed and f/stop. Lights that bright can be annoying to the subject and tend to constrict the eye pupils.
    Not to mention the temperature. a 1KW halogen spot in a range of about 3mtrs is enough to melt plastics in less than a minute. Don't want to know what it will do to a model. A 1KW flash on the other hand is over before you are aware of it.
    Last edited by Hero; 16th January 2012 at 07:15 PM.

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by cichlid View Post
    Is there a general preference to use flash or continuous lighting for portraits? I have read that there are now low temp cont. lighting available. Is it personal preference or there a technical difference that will influence when you would use one versus the other?
    The OP does not mention "studio" only "Portraiture".

    It is sort of implied that the OP might be mainly thinking about indoor Portraiture – and then perhaps implied that the OP could be meaning Studio Cnditions (dark – no ambient exposure).

    But: Flash, rather than Contiuous Lighting, allows a much easier balancing of the Ambient and Flash - both for outdoor Portraiture and also for location Portraiture indoors, in shooting scenarios where the Ambient light will be part of the exposure.

    WW

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Using continuous lighting outdoors requires a very long extension cord

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    I knew I joined this forum for a reason.

    Thanks so much for your input. I will now need to further research the types of strobe lights. Here I thought strobes and flash were the same thing (besides the power output of course).

    Richard, you made mentioned of the ability to do "modeling flash" to see where shadows will fall. I keep imaging repetitive flashes. How can you determine where the shadows will fall with repeating flashes?

    As you can tell, I'm not that familiar with supplemental lighting just yet.

    Erik

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Using continuous lighting outdoors requires a very long extension cord
    Or 3 of these

    Continuous light or flash?

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Using continuous lighting outdoors requires a very long extension cord
    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Or 3 of these


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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    They're great during power cuts - I join 2 of them up and power the house (pretty much) normally (sans oven).

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    I'm with flash by preference for the reasons so adequately mentioned above. I've tried continuous but the lack of power limits too much, plus it can be uncomfortable for the model to have such bright lights shining ALL the time. Mind you do get good eyes as the pupil is so small.

    Flash can be either studio or location, get a generator or battery pack.
    Don't forget you can also use off camera flash rather than the large studio units. Power is a bit of an issue, but unless you are trying to overpower the sun, one decent flash may be enough, and you can always use multiple off-camera flash units (costly but effective).

    With studio flash (plugged into the mains) recycle time is rapid and you have the modelling bulb (different to the flash bulb) which shows where the shadows will lie.
    Main issue with many studio flashes (and it's a minor one) for the stuff I would like to do, is the flash duration. Off camera flash can be much faster (although I am sure some studio flash units will also have that capability, I use Bowens, which doesn't).

    Graham

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    They're great during power cuts . . .
    Ditto.
    Power outages are becoming more prevalent in lots of areas, not just those affected by Natural Elements.
    The need for a general (broard) self sufficient household "Back Up" plan is a reality, IMO.

    WW

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by cichlid View Post
    Richard, you made mentioned of the ability to do "modeling flash" to see where shadows will fall. I keep imaging repetitive flashes. How can you determine where the shadows will fall with repeating flashes?

    As you can tell, I'm not that familiar with supplemental lighting just yet.

    Erik

    Basically the terms strobes and flash can be used interchangeably. Studio strobes can be called studio flashes or can also be called monolights when the power supply in incorporated into the unit and each unit is plugged into an individual power outlet or they are called power pack units when there is a central power pack to produce power for the various flash heads which need to be connected to the power pack by cords.

    Studio strobes have modeling lights incorporated which is a continuous light source - sometimes incandescent and other times halogen. The modeling light is used only for viewing what the flash will look like and is shut off automatically when the flash fires. It is usually not too bright or too hot as to annoy your subjects with its heat or light. Acuually though, the modeling lights are bright enough that I don't need any other light in the studio with which to work.

    Hotshoe strobes (Canon calls them Speedlites) are originally designed to be fired from the hotshoe of a camera but, can be fired off camera and triggered in several different ways. They do not have modeling lights but can be fired in a stroboscopic mode to give you an idea of what the flash will look like. The problem is that you cannot stroboscopically for any length of time without heating up and possibly burning out the unit. It has been said, although I have not read any first person tales, that the repeating flash can possibly bring on seizures in persons who have a seizure disorder.

    The one great advantage to hotshoe flashes is that they are quite small and lightweight and they are self contained. You don't need a/c power to run them. They are good for location work when you cannot carry a large amount of gear or when you absolutely have no power available.

    The lack of a modeling light is not as crucial when shooting outdoors because the modeling light is often mot powerful enough to overpower the daylight and show you what the flash will look like.

    There is another possible advantage to using hotshoe flashes. Many of them will allow you to use TTL or ETTL exposure control. However, I virtually always use my strobes (of whatever type) in manual mode for portrait work.

    A flash meter is a handy gaget when working with manual flash but, it is not critical. I am so used to my studio strobes that I can pretty well judge the exposure by the level of the modeling light. The modeling light will also show you the lighting ratio.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 17th January 2012 at 11:56 PM.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    The one great advantage to hotshoe flashes is . . . [and lists some more advantages]
    . . . another advantage of some Hot-Shoe Flash units (mainly for outdoors portraiture) is HSS (High Speed Sync) - the ability of the Flash Unit to allow shutter speeds faster than the max Flash Sync, of the camera.

    ***

    Apropos differences - it is prudent to note that some Studio Flash Units will require a SLOWER maximum shutter speed as the maximum flash sync speed.

    For example, I shoot my Elinchrom Units at about 1/125s when using DLSRs which have a Max Flash Sync of 1/200s~1/250s.

    WW

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    Ditto.
    Power outages are becoming more prevalent in lots of areas, not just those affected by Natural Elements.
    The need for a general (broard) self sufficient household "Back Up" plan is a reality, IMO.

    WW
    Dunno about you Bill, but I find I just can't over the shear "smugness" of having the houselights on - tv running - PC running - microwave running ...

    ... while the rest of the street is pitch black!

    In all seriousness, I have a couple at work, and one at home (and can move one or more between locations as needed). All got a good workout just before Christmas when a switch failed and took out all power to our biggest customer for a day - we managed to get all servers running - the multi-function copier - PABX - and 13 PCs off a total of 4 generators that ran all day (with capacity for more). I think it got a few people thinking.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Dunno about you Bill . . . etc
    I have one only - the baby brother (10i).
    Honda had a deal going a while ago with a cash back I think it was about AUS$1200.
    It is quite light weight and reasonably quiet and 1000w is fine for my needs

    I use it on location: but yes - the power outages - at home and also once at the office and the estimated fix time was more than four hours . . . it is worth while firing it up to run essential gear.
    Cooking is OK, I have gas - but in summer it is important to keep those NZ whites crisp and cold and the girls don't like missing the evening TV and their internet chat.

    WW

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    They're great during power cuts -.
    You guys have power cuts in your part of the world?
    Well I might be sounding stupid again, but I got a reason for saying this. I once talked about a UPS with a friend I made online, from US and she had no idea what a UPS was.. When I told her that they are user when there is a power cut she didn't know about it either.

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    Re: Continuous light or flash?

    Well, yes, here as well we can get power cuts. Mostly they occur after storms, heavy snowfall and such: a lot of the power lines are strung on poles, so quite fragile. What we (at least where I live) don't see all that often is power cuts due to production centers going down, construction workers cutting a line or mechanical failures. That means that power cuts are much rarer in the cities than in the countryside, but every year there are several thousands of households in France that spend a night, a day or several days w/o electricity. That's one of the reasons they try and get as many as possible of the lines underground now.

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