Home Buyer's Guide Continuous Lights 2012
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Continuous Lights For Still & Video

For maximum versatility, continuous lights let you move from still to motion shooting without changing gear

This Article Features Photo Zoom


LEDs are becoming increasingly popular as on-camera video lights. What's really cool about LED lighting is that, on many (but not all) fixtures, the color balance can be tuned in, or gels can be added. Many LED arrays are stackable for broader coverage. The downside is that they're often a hard light. To make them softer, the beam spread may be modified or diffusion can be added, which reduces the light's reach dramatically. And really good LED arrays can be expensive. You should not worry about replacing LEDs. By the time they wear out, it may be time to replace the entire fixture with new technology. However, where components are replaceable, it can be a costly proposition. A few LED fixtures also produce strobe-type lighting, but don't expect light output or results similar to those achieved with electronic flash.

ARRI L-Series LED Fresnels

Calumet CF9020 w/filters

Lowel Blender

Litepanels H2 Hi-Output

Cool Lights CL-LED 1200

Flashpoint VL112

Typical Studio Kit For Hot lights And CFL Fixtures

While a singular on-camera light works well for interviews, at parties or on the run, a home studio requires a more elaborate setup. It doesn't need to be fancy, but it should reflect deliberate choices.

In a home-studio environment, even one light can work wonders when you position it judiciously on a light stand (at an angle relative to the subject, from either side). Add an umbrella or a softbox for a softer, more flattering light, while alleviating that disturbing glare. Position a collapsible reflector on the opposite side for fill if needed to further soften contrast.

If you add a second head, that light could paint the backdrop for better separation from the subject (use a background reflector or barndoors on the head). A third light (with a honeycomb grid or snoot attached) could serve as a hairlight.

The typical kit consists of a fixture and AC cord, reflector, bulb, light stand and umbrella (or softbox) for each light. A carrying case should be included (or buy it separately). You can find simple-to-use starter kits, with guided instruction (in DVD form or online), from various companies for a few hundred dollars.


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