Is continuous lighting the new flash?
More and more people are now moving from studio flash to continuous lighting. They often tell me that it seems much easier than flash, although using flash is in fact a very easily learned skill.
Just a few years ago, that option really wasn’t there, because the continuous lights that we used to have, known in the USA at “hot lights”, were very aptly named. They were incredibly hot! Professionals and movie makers mostly used halogen lights, they were efficient but uncomfortably hot for everyone in the room.
And amateurs usually used the much cheaper Photoflood lamps, which were basically just over-run light bulbs. They were just as hot but they usually only lasted a couple of hours or so, and sometimes they went bang, showering everyone with broken glass…
These lights looked very bright, but they weren’t really bright enough, and photographers struggled to get enough light on their subjects. The fact that most people shot on film with an ISO rating of just 100 made this problem serious.
So, with these problems it isn’t surprising that as studio flash became cheaper and cheaper, nearly everyone turned to flash. But then things started to change. For most people, digital cameras took over from film, and after a few years digital cameras became better and better at higher ISO settings, and every time we double the ISO, we effectively double the power of the lighting used – power has stopped being a big problem. In fact, on my own DSLR cameras I’m happy to shoot at 800 ISO because I know that the image quality is superb, even in a 45″ x 30″ print.
And, as well as the improvements to digital cameras, a new breed of continuous lighting was born – fluorescent lights. The early ones were terrible, and many still are, but fluorescent
photo and video lighting came of age when we introduced our QuadLite continous lights, with twice the power at half the price of other makes, and with a good quality softbox included in the price of just £124.99. Pure white light, plenty of power, power adjustment and a good size softbox thrown in – now we’re talking!
But the QuadLite still has the old problem of non-changeable accessories. Yes, the softbox can be removed if required and any one of a number of different types of umbrella can be fitted, but because of the physical size of the 4 bulbs, it’s impossible to use other types of light modifiers with it.
What was needed was a light that was cool running, that produced pure white light, that has adjustable power, was very easy to use, tough enough for even the heaviest professional use and, most importantly, that could be used with all the light shaping tools used by the very best videographers and still photographers. It needed to have a brand new technology, because the existing technologies simply can’t tick all of those boxes.
So say Hi to our latest continuous light, the LED1000. As the name suggests, it uses LED technology to power it, and the massive advantage of LED is its small size, in fact the whole light is no bigger than a conventional flash head. Because of this, the full range of light shapers can be fitted to the S-fit lighting head, and this opens up enormous creative possibilities – even tools such as beauty dishes and spotlights work perfectly, and because it is so cool running, even tools that can be difficult to use with flash, for example honeycombs and snoots, work perfectly with it. It’s so versatile that it can be used either on its own, as the only light source, or it can be combined with daylight or with hotshoe flashguns or mains powered flash guns.
We tested it out when we were doing the fashion-style shots for the new Lencarta catalogue, so I’ll shut up now and let the images speak for themselves.
As you can see, the LED1000 can create exactly the same shadows as professional studio flash – and of course it’s the ability to create the right shadows in the right places that separates experts from the rest in the studio
Here’s another example, a shot that’s pretty typical of fashion or cosmetics photography
Of course, it’s even easier to produce family portrait shots etc, you just need to use large softboxes instead of beauty dishes and honeycombs, to produce a flatter, more flattering light.
It’s really all down to the small size of the LED lighting array, which allows us to fit literally any of the many different light shapers that are available in the Lencarta/Bowens accessory fitting.