Studio and Flash Lighting - Introduction
Photography under artificial light
Type of Lighting
The first decision is the type of lighting to use. The choices include:-
Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Available light, using whatever is in place, can lack lighting power, and can give a variety of colour casts or variations from different lights, often with patches of light, rather than an even lighting, but it can provide character, mood, etc. and as its there it may be the obvious answer if you can work successfully with it.
Tungsten photofloods or spotlights, have the advantage of providing a lot of light cheaply, but gives you a lot of heat, often making working difficult and presenting a fire risk.
Mains flash has historically been the main lighting source in studios, and is an economic and reliable way to build setups that give you a lot of light for a brief flash, without a lot of heat. The advantages are in cost, low heat and being able to be put together economically. The disadvantages are the limitations in use and space a lot of these items take up.
Intelligent battery systems are only available for some camera makes and the Nikon Creative lighting system at the moment is the unique and by far the most powerful. They have the advantage of speed of deployments, can be used anywhere as you don't need mains and can be mixed with just about any other lighting except mains flash. The disadvantages are in seeing what you are taking before it's taken, although it does have a sort of strobe preview, and it is expensive.
All the artificial lighting systems can be used with reflectors, diffusers and other attachments, that allow you to control and modify the light. All can also be built into large systems with many lights or kept simple.
Currently I have all of these systems but most photographers will choose one or two. As I teach photographers its useful to have a sizable collection of all of them, although in practice other than for teaching I usually will use either the cool-lite system or the Nikon Creative Lighting system.
I tend not to use available light, as there is often not enough and I get too many different colour casts. Tungsten floods get over the amount of light, but colour variations still occur and there is a lot of heat to cope with. I rarely use mains flash as there is less control and it takes a lot longer to set it up. The mains flash is also largely a duplication of what I can achieve with the Nikon Creative Lighting system. However don't discount it as it costs a fraction of the price to build a mains based flash system to the Nikon system.
Modifying the Light
The Lighting Equipment and Its Use
We look at the items used in studio and flash lighting in:-
But also check the topic index and Lighting and Reflectors section, as more articles may have been added since this article was written or last updated.