Why You must Use Continuous Lighting in Your Photography?

Posted by Valentina Vee on

There are a million ways to take a person’s picture.The modern photographer has many choices to make: Which camera? Which lens? What style? What camera settings? What’s in the background? Who is the model? What sort of pose should I ask for?

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One of the most overlooked choices is often “What’s my lighting?” – a question that for many novices always comes up last or sometimes never at all. This is, of course, unfortunate – seeing as lighting is arguably the most important aspect of a photograph.

While many photographer like Strobist and Matt Granger make their art by using speedlites (or even studio strobes), I have found that there are several good reasons why portrait photographers in particular should use continuous lighting for their subjects.

1. You already see what you’re shooting.

It’s easy to take a look at a subject that is already lit and figure out what needs to be changed either settings-wise or lighting-wise to get the desired effect. You do not have to keep shooting “test shots” with your model or stand-in. Instead, just look at the scene with your eyes and determine how to place your lights and your subject.

2. You can burst your shutter.

I never take JUST ONE photo of a subject – I take 12 at a time. This is because certain minute differences in focus, head placement, and shadows (if you are outdoors) can make or break a photo. It also helps the subject loosen up and feel at ease, knowing that they will have plenty of shots to chose from. If you are doing flash photography, you cannot burst for too many shots before your strobe or speedlite needs time to cool off. This is called “recycle time.”

3. You’re not blinding your subject.

Many times, a subject will get tense when they know their shot is coming or when they know that they’ve only got one chance to get a shot right. Another effect of flashing someone in the face with light is that they, for the briefest of seconds, squint their eyes. This is an involuntary response that may sometimes be captured by your camera.

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Oh, you wanted to take a photo? Too bad – you’re going to have to take 20 of these first.

4. You can shoot at open apertures.

If you want a really shallow depth of field, a flash is more likely than not going to wash your subject out. You’d either have to diffuse it greatly or move it farther away from your subject (therefore changing the look of the lighting). You can see this explained in more detail here:

There are a few instances where it’s better to use flashes and strobes. For example: when your subject is moving fast or dancing, it may be advantageous to “freeze” them using a flash instead of raising your shutter speed and losing light.  You can see more about the advantages in this video from Adorama:

So what do I use? Well, first of all – I am both a photographer AND a videographer. Therefore, having many sets of continuous lights is advantageous when I shoot actor auditions, special events, or promotional videos. Whenever I can, I try to use natural lighting, like in this photo below. I think standing your subject in front of a window with indirect sunlight can do a lot for their comfort level and the production of believable colors.

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I also use LEDs like the Aputure Amaran AL-528W and Aputure Amaran AL-528S as well as umbrella lights from Cowboy Studio and various other LEDs and reflectors/diffusers to get the desired effect.

I like having some depth of field between my subject and the background so I can more easily fix the background, if need be.

Keep up with the blog to see more photos of mine and get more advice on lighting and photography!

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