Shooting portraits in the studio with continuous lights isn’t as intimidating as you think

Sep 20, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Shooting portraits in the studio with continuous lights isn’t as intimidating as you think

Sep 20, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Light is key to photography. Of that there is no doubt. But typically when we shoot portraits, particularly in the studio, many of us will opt for strobes. They’re tried and tested, they give us plenty of light and you can stick some huge modifiers on them. But it’s absolutely possible to shoot portraits with continuous light, too.

Making the switch from strobes to continuous, can feel a little daunting, though. But in this video, photographer Emily Teague dumps her strobes and switches over to an array of continuous lights to shoot some portraits in her home studio to show that it’s really not all that difficult. After all, light is light.

Whether you shoot strobes or continuous lights, all of the same laws of physics come into play. The inverse square law doesn’t change. Not do the principles of hardness and softness in relation to the size of the light source. And while there are potentially some drawbacks (such as your subject potentially having the light constantly shining in their eyes), it can be a great way to work.

Emily tests out several Nanlite continuous lights in the video, including the Compac 200B light panel, the FS 150 with the Parabolic 90 and to spice things up a bit, a bunch of 4 foot RGBW Pavotubes in an elevator and explains how she’s setting them up to achieve the looks she’s after.

For me, I only really use continuous lights for video. When it comes to stills, I usually still go for strobes. Continuous lights can be great static subjects like products or for close up stuff like macro (if they’re bright enough). But those tubes do look like fun. I might have to add some to the gear collection!

Do you use continuous lights for portraits? Or are you strobes all the way?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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