Today, I am going to tell you about how pulsed and constant light differ and perfect lighting schemes for beginners in studio photography. A photographer who has never shot in a studio is faced with a massive amount of information and challenges: attachments, filters, the proper interaction with space, model and light, camera settings, and light source.
I continue to make life easier for novice photographers during studio shooting and explain in simple terms how pulsed and constant light differ and in which case each of them can be useful. So stay tuned and subscribe OrigaZoom for new posts and updates.
What is Pulsed Light?
Pulsed light is a light that gives off a short, bright flash. For this, a synchronizer is needed that tells the lighting device when to work. The synchronizer reads information from the camera when you press the shutter button and instantly transmits it to light sources to give an impulse.
The studios give out a synchronizer when your shooting time begins, so it is unnecessary to buy it additionally for studio shooting.
Features of Pulse Light
- As a rule, the power is higher than that of a constant;
- More contrast images;
- Freezes the movement, so the probability of getting a blurry frame is very small;
- You don’t see the result, so trial shots are needed to get everything right. This problem is solved by a pilot light built into the source – a constant light that gives an idea of how chiaroscuro will fall. But note that not all flashlights have this feature. In addition, the pilot light can be pretty weak, being lost against the background of other light sources. But, if you shoot in the dark, it is necessary – otherwise, the camera will not focus on the object.
- A sharp picture, regardless of the luminosity of the lenses and the class of the camera;
- If you are thinking about buying a light for yourself, pulsed is cheaper and more powerful than constant. For example, a studio lighting kit that includes several sources can range from $120 to $850. The higher the price, the higher the power. The light comes immediately with racks and nozzles – umbrellas or softboxes. For a home mini-studio, it remains to buy only backgrounds. For example, a white fabric background with a stand and a black one. Both backgrounds can be colored in any color using color filters;
- A short flash blinds the model for a moment and does not shine in the eyes all the time;
- Other light sources, as a rule, do not interrupt the pulse power.
Pulsed light is more common than constant light. When renting a hall, some photo studios provide pulsed light for free and constant light for an additional fee. So be sure to check if this studio has a permanent light and, if so, how much it costs to rent.
What is A Constant Light?
Constant light (sometimes called movie light) is light that does not change. It does not require synchronizers. It can be provided not only by professional equipment but also by any lamps, lights, signs in the studio. If you illuminate the model’s face with a mobile phone, this is also a constant light. As a rule, in photo studios, the power of such light is less than that of pulsed light.
Features of Constant Light
The constant light pattern is immediately visible. It is good for a beginner who can correct the result of the final picture before pressing the shutter button. Please note – any additional light source can spoil or change the look of the picture. You need to control everything that happens in the studio carefully. Here are the main features of constant light:
- Higher probability of blur and defocus;
- You need a faster aperture technique than when shooting with pulsed light;
- Allows you to shoot high-quality, atmospheric backings simultaneously;
- Suitable for video shooting;
- You can use any shutter speed;
- If you shoot with a hard light aimed at the face from the front, it can strongly blind the model;
- You need to shoot at high ISO values, control aperture, and shutter speed to avoid blurry images.
Universal Lighting Scheme for The Beginner
1. Low Key Photography
Low key is a dark photo with high contrast and spotlights. Pictures taken this way are deep, dark, and dramatic.
For low key photography you will need:
- Black background;
- One light source on the side;
- A model standing at a sufficient distance from the background so that the light does not reach it.
Experiment with different positions of light and its power. Be prepared that you may not get the perfect picture the first time you press the button on your camera.
2. High Key Photography
High key is unnaturally bright lighting, light shadows, and, as a result, soft, reduced contrast. Suitable for shooting children, and delicate portraits.
For high key photography you will need:
- White background;
- Four light sources. Because of this, it is problematic to simulate such an effect at home, and it is easier to rent a studio;
- A model standing at a sufficient distance from the background so that the shadow of a person does not fall on the background.
For a high key, the background will have to be highlighted. Moreover, the power of these sources should be higher than those directed at the model. It is necessary for a perfectly white background without shadows and creating an overexposed image.
3. Classic Portrait with Rembrandt Light
The peculiarity of Rembrandt light in chiaroscuro, which is obtained on a person. Its primary marker is the less illuminated half of the face with a barely distinguishable light spot in the form of a triangle in the area under the eye, as well as high contrast.
For a classic portrait with Rembrandt light you will need:
- A light source with a reflector to make the light hard;
- A reflector placed at a 45-degree angle to the flash to slightly illuminate half of the face that will be in shadow;
- A model standing at a sufficient distance from the background to make it moderately dark.
4. Esquire Style Photography
The peculiarity of the portraits made for this magazine is in hard light, a spot of light at the level of the head of the model in the background, vignette along the edges, and cold toning.
For esquire style photography you will need:
- White or gray backgrounds;
- A beauty dish or a small softbox so that the shadows are hard enough;
- A light source with a tube attachment, which will create a spot of light behind a person;
- Model at a distance of 2-3 meters from the background.
What is the best light to use for photography?
If we talk about the result, the use of pulsed or constant light does not differ much from each other. The light and shadow pattern the hardness or softness of the light determine the nozzles, power, location, and distance between the source and the model.
When choosing between types of light, the most important thing is which one you and the model are more comfortable working with. But there are nuances.
- Pulsed light is traditionally used for business, beauty, or fashion shoots.
- If you need to freeze motion – shooting restless children, dancers in motion – use momentum.
- Constant light opens up space for bold creative experiments. For example, if you want to try abstract surreal scenes, defocus and blur are unnecessary.
- If you plan to shoot video simultaneously, use constant light since the recording will flicker with a pulse.
- There are models with eyes that are sensitive to bright flashes. In such people, whites may turn red, and they begin to cry and blink rapidly. In this case, try switching to constant light.
- If you need a finer adjustment of power, for example, to give a subtle accent, the constant light will allow you to fine-tune yourself.