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How Continuous Lighting Can Help Your Photography

The Back Story (How I got a new client because of studio lighting):

Recently I had a client contact me to do a newborn baby shoot at her home. She asked if I had my own lighting, which I confirmed I did. She told me about how her last photographer only used natural light, towards the end of the shoot they were running out of light and had to end the session early. Given that we live in the cloudy city of Seattle we can’t always rely on the beautiful, predictable, sunshine that some of you experience. That day I gained a client because of my knowledge of artificial light.

I LOVE natural light, however, as a professional photographer there are going to be instances where natural light is not going to be sufficient. In these situations it is important to at least have a back-up option and know how to use it.

Why you might want studio lighting:

Here’s an example of how studio lighting makes certain photography possible.  When I showed up at this home birth in the middle of the night the tub had been set up in the foyer where light was minimal. So, I needed to use my flash to add more light so that I may capture images during the movement that happens right around time of the birth.


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How to Decide Which Type of Studio Lighting to Use:

Assuming you do not already use artificial lighting, make it your goal this year to take that step towards learning how to use one type of studio light. In this article I am going to discuss the different types of lighting and then go on to explain how to use artificial light with examples.

What type of light will you prefer?

  1. Continuous light (also known as constant output lighting)
  2. Flash (strobes or speedlights)

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Continuous lighting

In today’s post we will discuss the pros and cons of using continuous lighting.  We will cover flash in a future article.

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  • These are great if you shoot primarily children and babies.
  • They don’t ‘pop’ like strobe lights and hence babies and children are more comfortable with these.
  • They can be relatively inexpensive, and therefore a great option to start and learn lighting with.
  • You can always see the light and its output, making it easier to learn how to modify and tweak it.
  • You can use your in-camera meter to get correct exposures.


  • Tungsten lights tend to heat up quickly, putting off heat too. Babies love this, families don’t.  It could pose a safety issue if small children are moving around.
  • Tungsten/fluorescent light also tends to have a color cast that you will have to account for by changing your white balance in camera. Correct white balance may get tricky when using continuous light with ambient daylight.
  • Because of the high heat from tungsten lights there are not as many accessories to modify the light, making it harder to shape and control the light.
  • Continuous lights are not as powerful as flash.
  • Reducing/increasing the light intensity is also not easy and therefore makes this type of lighting not as versatile.

Cold continuous lighting is gaining popularity and we are seeing more modifiers and accessories released. It is a great option if flash photography is not your thing, or if you have a predictable studio environment using the same aperture and subject type. These tend to get more expensive, but if you love the idea of continuous lighting then this is the way to go.

Flash or strobes let out large bursts of light that provide a high level of illumination. They are more compact and portable. If you shoot in different kinds of environments then continuous lights are not going to be versatile enough to take on location with you and you need to move on to flash. That is why most professional photographers prefer working with flash lighting.

Tushna Lehman is an acclaimed designer who has gone back to her first love, photography. Her studio, T-elle Photography has evolved into a successful lifestyle and portrait photography studio serving the greater Seattle area. She also offers boudoir photography to her clients.





No Comments

  1. Oriana on July 5, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Thank you for this post, I enjoyed it!

  2. Daine on October 24, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I own studio lighting, but I’ve NEVER gotten comfortable with it. I’ll plan a photo shoot around it and then panic and go with the old stand-by….natural light. 🙂 I have spent time trying to find the right positioning and set-up, but I can’t (and I majored in photography in college!)keep the deep shadows at bay.

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