Tag Archives: studio

What are Continuous Lights

In an earlier post on Beyond Here, we discussed How to Build a Home Photography Studio. In that post, I provided a brief overview of the requirements for space, backdrops, and lights. Once you have decided to set up a home photography studio, the decision on lighting is the most complicated and expensive decision. Your choice is between strobes and continuous lighting. Many photographers are familiar with the concept of strobe lighting – they work like large flash units, emitting a short burst of bright light. In this post we look at the question, what are continuous lights?

Very simply, continuous lights are always on. Rather than emitting a short burst of bright light, they emit a continuous stream of light.


Continuous lights

An example of continuous lights in a home photography studio

So why use continuous lights? Continuous lights have several advantages over strobe lights.

  • What you see if what you get. With continuous lighting the effect on your subject can be seen before the shot is taken. If you want to alter the way the light appears, you can adjust your lights or subject and see the impact before taking the shot.
  • They are easy to use. If you are new to studio lighting, strobes can be daunting to learn to use. With continuous lights you literally turn them on and then position the lights and subject to achieve the desired look. They are very straightforward to use.
  • Continuous lights can be used for video. It is increasingly common to shoot video with a digital SLR camera. Continuous lights can be used to shoot video – meaning you can shoot both still images and video in your studio using one set of lights.
  • They are fairly affordable. The exact price of continuous lights will depend on your location, the number of lights ¬†you want, and the power of those lights. It is worth checking with your local photography store or online shops.

To assess whether continuous lights are the right choice for you, it is worth knowing that they have some disadvantages in comparison to strobe lighting too.

  • Continuous lights are not as bright as strobes. If you want to ‘freeze motion’ in the studio you will be more effective in using the short, bright burst of light from strobe lighting.
  • Continuous lights need a steady power source. If you are planning to leave your lights in your studio, then continuous lights work very well. But if you want your lights to be portable, strobes will be a better choice.
  • Strobe lights give you a lot more options in terms of power. With strobe lights you have greater control of the power output from each light, giving many more lighting options in your studio.

I hope this post has been useful in understanding what are continuous lights.

How to Build a Home Photography Studio

In this post we cover how to build a home photography studio, based on my experience building one 18 months ago.

Step 1 – Space

How much space will you need? Most standard size backgrounds are 3m wide, so ideally you want a room that is wider than this. You will see in the photo, my room is about 3.2m wide at the ceiling and slightly wider at the floor (due to the odd shaped ceiling). How long the room is, is less critical. Any space more than 4m long will be plenty for most studio shots.

Step 2 – Backdrops

Your key decision with backgrounds is whether you want to use paper rolls which will need to be replaced over time, or an alternative. Paper rolls work really well where you do full length model images and have a hard floor.

My room is carpeted and I do very few full length shots. I chose to use muslin backdrops. These are readily available from studio photography stores or online.

Home photography studio

Home photography studio

Step 3 – Hanging the Backdrops

While you consider which type of backdrops to use, you also need to consider how you will hang them. A common choice is to buy a portable stand which they hang from. I didn’t go down this path as you need enough room to fit the legs of the stand in your room. That would have been wider than my room is.

I chose to put mounts in the ceiling and hang the backdrops on standard size curtain rods. The rods are 3.1m and the backdrops are 3m wide. The curtain rods are very affordable – A$9 each from my local hardware store.

The downside of this system is that the backdrops are not portable. (I have a separate “pop-up” backdrop which I use when I need a portable backdrop. I will save that for another post.)

The upside is that the mounts in the ceiling are very secure, and although you can’t see it clearly in the picture, it means I can hang 5 backdrops at once (one in front of the other).

Step 4 – Lighting

Step 4 is straightforward but potentially the biggest decision from a cost point of view. As you can see, I decided to get three lights, soft boxes, and stands. This gives me a variety of options for lighting a fairly small space. These are relatively inexpensive and low power. I was able to do this due to the small space, and to keep costs down.

I also use speed-lites with shoot through umbrellas when I need more lighting options.

Step 5 – Get to Work

It really is that simple to get started. Now that you know how to build a home photography studio, its time to get to work!

Do you already have a home photography studio? What were the key lessons from building it? If you haven’t built a home studio yet, do you have questions I can help with?