Continuous Lights May Be The Future: Jay P Morgan's Two Light Setup

Continuous lights are making a comeback and many photographers are giving them a second chance. In this lighting tutorial Jay P Morgan breaks down how he uses two continuous lights in his photo shoot. With the old technology of continuous lights most photographers avoided them, due to the heat the lights produced and the uncontrollable power and temperature of light. Now companies offer continuous light where you are able to fine tune the power/temperature of the light. The benefit from using continuous lights is you are able to see exactly where your light falls.
From Jay P Morgan:
In today's TSL lesson we will be shooting a simple 2 light setup using continuous lights. We are pulling still frames from the new Canon 1DC that Lens Pro to Go delivered to us. In this case the motion blur will be fine because our subject is relatively static and we want motion in her scarf. We will use a smoke machine to add depth to the image. Keep those cameras rolling and keep on clickn'.

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18 Comments

Remy Musser's picture

Continuous is about six stops less powerful than a strobe.
So if you're shooting at ISO 100 1/250s F/5.6 with on single flash you will need 64 continuous light units to match this power.
Now imagine shooting a 3 lights setup...
1st you'll cook your model
2nd you might set your studio on fire
3rd you better over charge your client to cover your electric bill

Of course you can always shoot at Iso 800 1/60s F/2,8 and deliver noisy blurred pictures

You should let guys like peter hurley know of this

Remy Musser's picture

Hurley has his models very close to the light source, and his system does work for head-shots.
Peter Hurley said ''I'm on a tripod at 1/60 sec and if you watch the DVD you'll here me say freeze and hold it like a bazillion times. I teach the clients to be very still. It's the only way I'll get a sharp image. If you look on my site at the portfolio called "lil bit of laughter," you'll see the movement from the clients going into convulsions from laughter. I'm at 200 ISO, so Kino's don't put out enough to give me more than that with a Hasselblad H3D22.''

But try shooting lets say a dancer full length keeping the highest quality your camera can deliver...

Geoff Lister's picture

So obviously everyone in the industry is making a huge mistake. And your math is terrible and based on a weird Watts to Watt/seconds conversion that doesn't play out in reality. In the end you simply need a bigger light, not more of them (and never 64 times the power). Have you ever shot with a 5k or 10k? Those things are nuts. Kino's are wicked fun too, and HIDs and LEDs have changed the game in terms of power requirements. Even blasting a few ARRIs around is plenty, depending on your application. The problem? They're expensive, heavy, and/or power hungry. And they can be technically finicky.

Like high-speed cameras, big continuous lights are the new hot thing (pardon the pun) at the top of the industry where everyone can afford huge studios, even bigger lights and silks, and need video and extras. It's a luxury, and it's pretty cool, and it certainly shapes you to develop your look differently and more accurately than strobes, in my limited experience.

ever heard of the Inverse Square Law dude. Your math is terrible, and your logic is worse. Don't give up your day job.

Continuous light still can't stop motion. I love Jay's work, but I won't be using it for anything other than product shots.

...and the reason why we have modeling lamps on strobes is to preview the light pattern before you shoot. No need to get continuous lights for that reason.

I saw Ghionis demo his two 'light saber' LED sticks .. ICE-Lights (at $500 each - OUCH) at WPPI..not impressed...
http://www.theicelight.com/

The icelights are excellent for weddings. They allow to add a hint of directional light when the lighting is to even. (especiialy for the prep photos) BUt they can be used in many different ways. Overpriced? I don't think so...that's a relative matter. It's the only tool of it's kind.

You're in a studio environment, with everything controlled, with posed models, no tricks, no movement, sufficient power etc? Sure, continuous lights might be a solution - I saw a bunch of rather interesting solutions at the Focus on Imaging two weeks ago in the UK. BUT, can you take them outside? No. Can you freeze movement? Quite possibly, at this stage of their evolution, no.
But I think the reason they're making a major comeback is because more and more photographers are flooding the market with no real lighting skills and for those people, continuous lights take out a lot of the planning work needed when visualising and setting up a strobe lighting solution.
Still, I wouldn't mind an icelight for when I'm travelling - it would solve about 70% of my travel portraiture requirements, it's light multi-level power and I can pack it anywhere. But at $500 it's just out of reach for me at the moment... maybe if I come across a good offer...;-)

well put. I personally would never use continuous light, because I can' trust matrix metering. If I shoot "natural light" I spot meter or use a handheld meter to determine my exposure. Unless you need video no reason risk loosing a shot to slow shutter especially shooting with a long lens like a 70-200

Not likely, for too many reasons to list. Each method is a tool for professional applications, and they are both necessary. Seems like a pointless article to me.

Pete B's picture

I rarely use flash, but I am very competent using it and have done for many years. But I nearly always use continuous as i find it much more creative and I never shoot in a studio so the comment regarding sufficient power is simply wrong.

There's still a need to use flash on occasion but given the choice I'd always chose continuous where possible.

Reading some of these comments made me laugh though. All you guys with your calculators out, 64 lights? PMSL

For video yes, for stills? Studio strobes are more efficient...I'll take my Einsteins any day vs. running ISO400-800 and firing up 1K fresnels...

Spencer Selvidge's picture

This is how famous portrait photographer Arnold Newman lit most of his portraits during his hugely historic career, from the 1940's to early this century. It is nice to see it coming back.

Dave Tameling's picture

They're all just tools. One isn't better than the other...just different. Hot lights are great when you're using manual focus and a selective depth of field like Peter Hurley or if you're doing hybrid photo/video as Jay has done here. That said I doubt Joe McNally will be trading in his SB-910s for Arri's and Lowells. And until somebody puts a 1/12,000 shutter into a digital camera, I'll still be using my Einsteins to freeze fast action...and absolutely won't be using my Starlite Tungsten heads the next time I'm trying to shoot a frozen desert or an ice sculpture.

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