Buyer's Guide 2007: Lighting For Digital Photography And Video
Improve the quality of your still and moving images with auxiliary light sources
Continuous Light Sources
Continuous light sources have always been used for recording to video, but they've become an increasing presence in the world of digital still photography as well. The immediate feedback of the camera's LCD combined with the comparative low cost of such lights (as compared to traditional strobes) has made these lights attractive to many photographers.
Though they don't provide the power output of strobes, continuous lights allow you to analyze a lighting setup before you shoot. The ability to position and reposition lights is attractive to photographers learning the fundamentals of lighting or who are working with difficult subjects, such as jewelry with its highly reflective characteristics.
Tungsten-based systems output a lot of light, but also produce a lot of heat, which can quickly become uncomfortable in a confined space. They operate at a color temperature range between 3,000 and 3,500 Kelvin, producing a warm light that can be accurately reproduced by setting the camera's white balance for tungsten, ensuring neutral tones and colors.
Daylight-balanced fluorescents produce much less heat and deliver a cooler color temperature of between 5,000 and 5,500 Kelvin. They're increasingly favored by digital photographers because they aren't as hot as tungsten and deliver a quality of light and color that works favorably within the dynamic range of most digital camera sensors.
Lighting for Video
Though video cameras are marketed for their ability to work under very low light, in order to obtain best-quality video footage, you need good lighting. Whether you're shooting a family documentary or a short presentation for work, a quality lighting kit is indispensable for optimum results.
Lighting kits from companies like Photoflex, Adorama, JTL and Britek provide the bright illumination needed to properly illuminate a subject or a room. Diffusers and other light modifiers allow you creative control over the direction of the light, as opposed to just filling the room with light.
While multiple lighting setups provide greater flexibility, you can often begin with a single light source, complementing it with one or several reflectors to produce fill-light and to control the direction of light as well.
Whether you're shooting still or video, you'll find that discovering the potential for creative lighting will improve the look of your images and may inspire you to be creative with the way you use light to reveal and present your subject.