Continuous Lights Q&A
Flash or continuous? It’s a fair question. Flash has the ability to create a large amount of light from a small, battery operated unit. The downside is that you can’t see the flash until after you make the shot. Continuous light solves this problem because what-you-see-is-what-you-get. The downside to continuous is that you must have a power supply.
Hot Lights are incandescent bulbs and one misplaced finger will prove the suitability of the name. Fluorescent is my recommendation as the lights run cooler and consume less power. However, the bulbs cost more.
The simplest way to get started with continuous light is to use a silver reflector and a single bulb. The Impact 12″ floodlight reflector kit is a big step up from those clamp-on lights that you find at the hardware store (which are fine if your budget is really thin). The 12″ reflector will create a broad field of light. You’ll need to add a stand and a bulb or buy one of the kits listed below.
Impact One-Light Fluorescent Kit
This value-priced kit includes the Impact 12″ reflector, an 8′ air-cushioned light stand, and an EiKO 30w fluorescent bulb. Great for basic portraits and still lifes.
Impact Two-Floodlight Fluorescent Kit
This value-priced kit includes two 12″ reflectors, two 8′ air-cushioned light stands, and a pair of EiKO 30w fluorescent bulbs. Great for basic portraits and still lifes.
Impact Three-Floodlight Fluorescent Mini-Boom Kit with Light Tent
Here’s a value-priced kit that will get you started with continuous lighting. It features three 12″ reflectors, three 8′ stands, a mini-boom, three EiKO 30W fluorescent bulbs, and a translucent light tent. So, you’ll be able to light headshots for Facebook and auction items for eBay.
EiKO 30W / CRI 93 / 5500K Spiral Fluorescent Lamp
This is not your ordinary household CFL bulb. Nope. It has a color rendering index of 93—which means that it creates a full-spectrum of light. It also has a color temperature of 5500K—which balances perfectly with daylight. In terms of brightness, it puts out the equivalent of a 150-watt tungsten bulb.
Westcott Home Studio Lighting Kit
If your number one desire is to light portraits of your kids, family, and friends, then the Westcott Home Studio Lighitng Kit is a great way to learn. The kit contains an educational DVD featuring Erin Manning, two uLite softboxes, two 85w daylight-balanced fluorescent bulbs, and two light stands. If you want to get into continuous lighting in smaller steps or expand your kit later, you can buy the uLite fixture+softbox, bulb, and stand separately.
A round or octagonal softbox has the advantage of reaching around your subject’s face (which softens shadows) without wasting a lot of light in the corners. The Impact Octacool combines a 29.5″ softbox with a 6- or 9-light fixture. As an added bonus a set of daylight-balanced fluorescent bulbs are included.
The one advantage that tungsten light has over fluorescent light is that the bulbs produce a lot more light (which is the reason the bulbs get so dang hot!). If you shoot video and stills, then take a look at the Lowel-Pro Lights. They are compact fixtures that travel well, produce a lot of light, and can be switched between zoom and flood. If you already have stands and shoot-through umbrellas, then buy just the lights. If you’re starting out, then look at the complete kits.
Westcott TD Softboxes
If you’ve ever been to a photo expo were Westcott had a display, then you’re familiar with the brilliant light that their TD fixtures produce. These multi-socket fixtures are built for professonal use. While they can be used with tungsten bulbs, I prefer to use them with Westcott’s big 85w fluorescent bulbs. When paired with one of Westcott’s softboxes, they make a powerful, yet easy-to-use system.
Westcott TD6 7′ Parabolic Umbrella
Here’s an easy way to create a huge field of soft light. Westcott combines their TD6 fixture, six 85w daylight fluorescent bulbs, ther 7′ parabolic umbrella, and a diffuser to create an incredible light source. If you already have a TD6 and a Westcott 7′ Parbolic umbrella, then you only need the Westcott Diffuser to complete the kit.
Westcott Ice Light
And now for something completely different…the Westcott Ice Light is a innovative new take on portable LED lighting. The battery, control unit, LEDs, and diffuser are all contained in a 20.5″ housing that’s worthy of any Jedi photographer. This battery-operated unit runs at full power for up to 60 minutes and longer when the Ice Light is dimmed.
I’m not a frequent user of hot lights. But I really like Lowel’s straight-forward approach to tungsten halogen fixtures. For instance, their Rifa-Lite is designed to throw light sideways rather than forward so it fills up the softbox very efficiently. The whole system assembles and disassembles quickly. So, if you need a light that is bright, continuous, and soft then look no further than the Lowel-Rifa light. Included in the versatile Lowel DV Creator kits belows.
Lowel DV Creator Kits
These are my favorite hot lights for video work. They produce a ton of light with minimal hassle. They also travel well for location shoots. There is a wide range of kits with a variety of Lowel’s great halogen fixtures. Very worthy of your consideration.
There’s no doubt that the future of continuous lighting will be built upon LED technology as its output to pwer-consumed ratio is very good. LitePanels produces small units that can be mounted on top of HDSLRs and video cameras. They also make a wide range of larger panels that can be used individually or assembled together into larger systems.
KinoFlo pioneered the use of fluorescent fixtures for the movie industry by creating flicker-free panels that could also be dimmed. Today, Kinos are a favorite of many portrait and still life shooters because they create large fields of soft light. Color-balanced tubes are available for either tungsten or daylight shooting. Available for rent worldwide in any well-stocked rental house.
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