Tutorial: When to Use Constant Lighting vs. Flash

Knowing when to shoot with constant light vs. flash is one of the most important lessons to learn if you’re keen on doing studio photography

When you’re shooting in a studio, you’re typically also working with different lighting equipment which is often either constant light or flash. The key to making great shots in the studio is knowing when it’s best to use one over the other. Learn how the pros do it in an in-depth lesson from Adorama TV‘s On Set with Daniel Norton.

The video tutorial is pretty long, so we’ve picked out the key elements for your notes.

According to Daniel, constant light is best for:

  1. Shooting videos
  2. Beginners who are just getting started with learning lighting techniques. The learning curves are less steep and you can get started with shooting faster. You won’t need to fumble around with a handheld light meter and can instead just use your camera’s meter.
  1. Base light

Daniel likes using the Fresnel light, the classic Hollywood portrait lighting, as a constant light, as it allows the light to be more evenly distributed.

When choosing a constant light, Daniel says to keep in mind that you may not get accurate colors with daylight-balanced lighting because most of those are of a discontinuous spectrum and thus, are missing colors. Unlike when you use tungsten lights, you can just simply set your camera to a tungsten white balance mode and you’ll be fine. Getting accurate colors is especially crucial when you’re shooting for projects like fashion catalogs, where you need to get the exact same color of the clothing in your photos.

Meanwhile, there are things that make flash the best choice. One of these is freezing subjects in motion, which can come pretty handy if you’re doing something like a dynamic fashion editorial where the subject is doing some quick poses or plenty of movements.

The best flash you can work with, according to Daniel, is a radio-controlled flash. This allows you to move the flash around and place it wherever it needs to be — just like a constant light.

Even better, you can actually mix the two lights with accessories like color gels, soft boxes and even colored LED lights to create interesting results.

Don’t forget to check out Adorama TV’s channel and On Set with Daniel Norton for more photography tips and tricks.