Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Strobes vs. Hot Lights

Regularly, on the photo forums, people ask about the relative advantages and disadvantages of using strobes vs. hot lights for glamour photography.

I'll give it to you in a nutshell: Use strobes and forget about hot lights.

Yeah, I know, hot lights are cheaper than strobes. Well, au contraire, mon frer! Home Depot shoplights might be cheaper than strobes but modern, state-of-the-art, continuous lighting instruments, principally designed for use in filmmaking and videography, are not.

But, for most hobbyists, those aren't the hot lights you're talking about. You're talking about inexpensive shoplights. I might have written about this before so, if I did, bear with me... I think this bears writing about again.

Here's some of the big reasons shoplights aren't particularly effective as lighting instruments for model photography. And yeah, I know, some of you guys have worked hard at getting some pretty good results with shoplights. I'm proud of you. But far and away, shoplights are not prefered lighting sources for obtaining high-end results. Maybe there's a few of you out there who think that pros choose to use strobes because A) pros are elitists and/or B) pros can afford all those high-priced monolights and such? Shooterz, please! That ain't why pros choose, almost without exception, to use strobes.

As for me, the only time I might consider using shoplights--except, perhaps, if no other lighting sources were available--would be to use them as practical props.

Here's a short list of why shop/hot lights aren't your best choice for people photography:

1. They're hot. I mean really hot! And potentially dangerous, as in fire hazard dangerous.

2. They're difficult to modify and/or control.

3. They don't put out much light. Leastwise, not in terms of the kind of power you need.

4. They aren't designed to hold color temperature.

I don't think I need to go beyond those four reasons. They should be enough. They should be more than enough.

If you can't afford a set of strobes, buy one strobe and learn how to effectively use that. There are some fairly inexpensive monolights available and one of those cheap Hong Kong specials will outshine your shoplights. (Pun intended.) If you don't want to spend the money on monolights, get yourself some on-camera type strobes. You can easily find used strobes of this type at really cheap prices. You don't think you can get incredible results with on-camera type strobes? Start reading the articles on the Strobist and then come back and tell me on-camera strobes are ineffective for people photography.

Okay, I'm off my rant-box. The beautiful babe I posted along with this update--and she's such a total babe--is Lorena. I shot her last week. Not only is Lorena gorgeous and sexy... she's, uhhh... really gorgeous and sexy!


Brian said...

Preach, brother! Preach!

Shop lights are a joke, photographically speaking. I just came across the Strobist site recently...very cool. Makes me want to go buy a Pocket Wizard instead of my cheap $20 wireless that I use on my studio lights. But I digress. Buy one Alien Bee and you'll forget those shop lights ever existed!

Anonymous said...

This photo is one of the best images of the female form I've seen in a long time. Was this your standard light setup. Just fantastic photo. The fist photo.

Anonymous said...

Thought I would jump in here about the lights. I too, have tried the "shoplights". Well, they are OK for B&W work (I publish a swinger's mag) but they really suck for anything else. I am on a tight budget, just really learning lighting, etc. I found a really neat set of lights for $350 at Adorama. includes 3 strobes, stands, umbrellas, cases, snout, barndoors, etc. not the best, and they recycle SLOW, but they work! Same light as the SV 110, for about a third the price! I will upgrade to Alien Bees or something in the future, but for now, these are a GREAT learning tool! It was Studio Kit #4, btw.