Studio lighting is an essential addition to most photographers’ arsenal. It allows us to create natural lighting effects in a variety of situations, and is far more controllable than a flashgun. And, with so many options available nowadays, it doesn’t have to be confined to a studio. There are portable options available too!
But to make sure you buy the right kit for your requirements, you need to know about the different options. In this article, we’ll look at what does what, and where you should invest your money.
Lights can be grouped into two main groups – strobe lighting and continuous lighting. Strobe lighting tends to be the most popular, so let’s look at that first.
This type of lighting is more commonly known as flash lighting, as the light will ‘flash’ each time the camera is fired, and then recycle its power. Within the remit of strobe lighting, there are several variants. The most popular, and budget friendly, are monobloc lights. These run off a power cable so you’ll need electricity! Most manufacturers sell their studio flash heads as part of a kit, which is far more cost effective. I recommend flash lighting for beginners over continuous lighting, as it’s easier to control the colour casts (and I prefer the finished product). Flash head power is measured in joules, and lights with a rating of around 400/500 joules will provide more than enough power to cover most rooms (unless you’re working in a warehouse!). Kits come with stands, reflectors and accessories (more on accessories in a minute).
.Strobe lights are also available in the form of portable kits, or with power packs. Portable kits are usually lightweight heads with a portable battery, which allows them to be used on location. Power packs allow for use of multiple lights, and offer a far higher joules capacity. But these are extremely expensive for those starting out, and are best suited to pros that need a very high amount of power.
Continuous lighting is light that’s on all the time, so it doesn’t flash like strobe lighting. There’s a huge discrepancy pricewise when it comes to different types of continuous lighting. A cheap budget option for those starting out in photography is tungsten lighting, with kits starting from around $200. The downside of tungsten lighting is that you have little control over the power of the lights. In addition, care needs to be taken to ensure that you set your DSLR on an appropriate setting for tungsten light. As a cheap starting point, they’re a great idea, but you’re likely to outgrow them quite quickly.
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