Studio lights are used by photographers to provide strong and natural light, with a minimum of shadows. These lights are fairly large and come with their own stands -- they don't sit on the top of a DSLR camera like a flashgun!
The primary advantage of studio lights is that they are far more powerful than a flashgun, and they don't cast harsh shadows over subjects, as speedlights tend to do. You can buy a huge range of accessories to fit on them, and their versatility is almost endless.
There are two main types of studio lights: Continuous and strobe.
Continuous lights do exactly what's printed on the tin -- the lighting is continuous and, once you switch it on, it's on! There are a few different types:
- Photofloods: Tungsten bulbs
- Quartz halogen: Quartz bulbs filled with halogen gas
- Fluorescent: Banks of fluorescent strip lights with a whiter light than regular fluorescent
- LED: Banks of light emitting diodes, including HMI types (used mainly in films)
Tungsten lighting has the advantage of being remarkably cheap, especially compared to fluorescent and LED lighting, which can be some of the most expensive on the market. However, tungsten and quartz halogen are very inefficient, and such lights become very hot and uncomfortable to work under. Halogen bulbs can also explode, so be careful when using them!
Continuous lights work well with slow shutter speeds, and they often are used in product photography. The major advantage of continuous light is that it allows you to see any shadows before you shoot a photograph.
Strobe lighting produces a flash of light (as you'd have with a flashgun, but on a much more powerful level) to help illuminate and freeze subjects.
At some older studios, you might even see original strobe lighting, consisting of strips of lights behind a large panel, which connect to almost human-sized power packs. (The power packs have a tendency to blow up, hence their almost "dodo-like" status!)
Modern lights sit on a stand with an attached reflector or other similar accessory. They have a flash tube inside and a modeling light, which allows photographers a preview of the lighting setup. (The flash tube is very delicate, and it should never be touched by hand.)
There are two main types:
- Monobloc: Flash tube, reflector, and modeling lights all are housed in the light itself, which can make monobloc lights rather heavy. But they are good sturdy lights for indoor use.
- Power Pack Units: These lights are much lighter as they come with an external battery pack to plug them into. However, they are pretty pricey in comparison to monoblocs.
Strobe lights are a very intense sort of light, making them ideal for moving subjects or small children. Strobe lighting is far more energy efficient than continuous lighting. However, even the most basic strobe kit is far more expensive than continuous lighting.
As you become more serious about your photography, having a dedicated studio available is a great option. And there's nothing like the results you'll receive with high-quality studio lighting. Using the tips listed here, hopefully you can find the type of studio lighting that will meet your needs at the best possible price!