Studio equipment. Types of light sources

Photography has advanced quite considerably over the last decade with the rise of digital technology and whilst it has made our lives easier, it has also had the reverse effect and made our lives more complex.

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This article will shed light on the different type of light sources and studio equipment.

Studio equipment generally falls into one of two categories: strobe and continuous lighting.

Those light sources are used in both studio and outdoor photography. Also, sometimes photographers use a combined setup when strobe and continuous light complement each other.

Strobe and continious light

Additionally setting source of continuous light (pilot light) on a strobe device. Pilot lamp is used to illuminate the subject, improve focusing, pre-assessment of light casting and shadows.

One of the biggest advantages of a pilot light is you have constant visual representation of the picture before you even touched a shutter button. Strobe light is beneficial because they have very bright high energy beam and aren’t hungry on electric power.

1. Lighting equipment.

There are two kinds of stroboscopic lamps:


Monolights — strobe lights in which the flash and all the controls are consolidated inside one device. They are extremely easy to carry around, relatively compact and powered by AC or internal battery.


Generators — consist of two components: a generator (control unit) and a lamp block. The generator can be set on the floor and mounted on a tripod. The advantages of generators pair with compromises in compactness and lightness.

2. Characteristics of the strobe lights. Camera setup based on the characteristics of the lighting devices.

Lighting devices have a number of characteristics that should be taken into account when organizing the shooting process. I’ll outline some of them:

- Color temperature (measured in degrees by Kelvin system), typically ranges from 5500–5600 ? K. Color temperature is directly connected to a term White Balance (WB). You should choose one of the modes for white balance setting up your camera.

  • flash
  • using white sheet
  • daylight
  • 5600 ? K

You should take into account that lighting scene with both powerful continuous and strobe light can result in some weird color overlapping due to the difference in temperatures. Pilot light has 3200 ? K temperature and strobe — 5600 ? K. That’s why some of the devices turn off pilot light when flash fires.

White balance

- Strobe energy

Usually measured in Joules (J). In small photo studios it is usually varies between 100 and 1000 Joules. You can find out the exact number checking marking of the device. For example, Hensel Expert D 1000 has strobe energy of 1000 Joules.

- The presence/absence of continuous light (pilot) from 60 to 1000W depending on the power of the lighting unit.

- Flash duration. You should be able to find that parameter in the technical characteristics of the flash. Typically, the flash duration is around 1/800 of a second. To “freeze” an objects usually use the strobe with a flash duration of 1/2500 and less. The higher the energy of the light, the longer should be the flash duration.

- Cooldown time. Take it into account when shooting dynamic scenes.

- Bayonet. This is a place to attach mounting accessories. There are standardized bayonets (Bowens, Hensel etc.). You should choose lighting modifiers according to the bayonet of your lighting equipment.

3. Mounting accessories for lighting devices

A wide variety of additional lighting modifiers extends the creative horizons of using continuous and strobe light. Depending on the type of the accessory you can get a soft light, really hard one, diffused, directional etc. The right set of lighting accessories will help you achieve the result you’re looking for.

Here’s the list of the most commonly used mounting accessories that allow to get diffused and directional soft lighting:

Softbox — the most widespread lighting modifiers of square and rectangular forms. Basically, it’s a frame made of tubes covered with a special material. The front of a softbox is covered with the cloth that diffuses the light to make it soft. The inner surface of the softbox is reflective. Commonly, the inner surface is coated with metallized silvering material or a white cloth, while the outer part is usually black.


Oktobox — circular octagonal modifier. Very similar to a softbox. Produces diffused soft light. It is often used by fashion photographers for its uniform illumination across the entire scene and very slight shadows.


Stripbox — soft directed source of light. Resembles design of a softbox, but with more stretched proportions (30–40 cm wide). It is commonly used for the production of full body portraits.


Umbrellas — accessories used for soft light distribution. Very slight shadows. Umbrellas come in two types: the reflected umbrella and the optical white shoot-through umbrella. Shoot-through umbrellas have small reflectivity due to the semi-transparency of the fabric and are used to reduce the intensiveness of a strobe light creating nice fill light. Reflected umbrellas have dense surface that is highly reflective. They are the most easy-to-use type of a lighting modifier. Probably, the only demerit is inability to create an intense focused beam of light.


Also, there are light accessories with hard light beam of directed and scattered character. Their main advantage is that they may be used either solely or in combination with other modifiers (with umbrellas, filters, etc.). Those kinds of accessories produce hard direct light.

“Beauty Dish”. Due to its design resulting light is both focused and soft. This is one of the most popular accessories during fashion style shootings.

Beauty Dish

Background reflectors. Have special design that puts diffused light on the background and eliminates any unwanted light from leaking to a camera’s lens.

Background reflectors

Snoot. It is a tunnel for the light to go through that restricts it in all directions except for the exact direction the strobe is pointed. Snoots are used to embrace the details of the subject or background. Snoots are sometimes used together with honeycombs which produces almost parallel beams of light.


Barndoors. This modifier is used to adjust the light beam and consist of 4 moving leaves (two larger and widening on the outside, two smaller and getting narrower towards the outside). Barndoors are used for backlighting control and in background lighting setups.


Additional items and accessories:

Color filters

It’s simple. They change the color of the light beam. Unlike lens filters that change the look of the entire scene, color filters mounted on individual light sources allow to control scene more accurately.

Color filters

Triggering devices

They allow to trigger flash when camera shoots. There are several types of triggers: radio and infrared, sync cords. When you are shooting in a studio and you don’t have any triggering device, you can sync with an external flash (turn on “M” mode on it).

Triggering devices

Radio triggers are the most convenient to operate and, therefore, the most popular. They use radio waves to transfer controlling signal.

Infrared triggers carry out synchronization using infrared channel which results in a very low effective range.

Sync cords handle synchronization using a cable. The problem is that not many cameras have an appropriate port to plug it in.

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