No matter what anyone says continuous lights have no place in a portrait photography lighting set up, and should never be used. Okay, continuous lights are easier to work with as you can set the intensity and direction of the light, see where the shadows fall, identify where the hotspots are and do something about them, and get everything “perfect” before pressing the shutter button but there are many disadvantages in using continuous lights for portrait photography lighting.
First off, continuous lights get hot and they get hot real quick. If you put a model in direct line of continuous lights and they will be feeling the warmth within a few minutes. Leave the lights on and the model is likely to become red faced and sweaty (the extent of which depends on the individual model) which will not make a flattering portrait. If the model is wearing makeup the heat from the lighting will soon make it melt and run which, once again, will not result in flattering portrait shots. Using continuous lights of portrait photography does not leave enough time to pose the model, compose the image and press the shutter button to get flattering portrait shots.
I have heard (and seen) some portrait photographers use fans and air con units to keep the models cool using continuous portrait photography lighting, however this is far from ideal. The air emitted from a fan or air con unit can make clothing flap, make blow hair about (which not only makes it messy but also annoys the models) and can create other problems - such as making certain body parts stick out (on female models) and certain body parts retract (on male models). I can’t deny that using a fan or air con unit won’t help keep the models cool, it’s just that they create more issues you have to deal with – and there is no point in making the shoot harder than it need be is there.
Speed lights and studio strobes are by far the best portrait photography lighting tools, and these are what you need to use if you want to capture the best portraits you can. When you use speed lights and/or studio strobes for portrait photography lighting you won’t get issues with the models becoming red faced because they are too hot (speed lights/studio strobes will not stop models becoming red-faced because they are camera shy though), you won’t get issues with makeup and other cosmetic products the models may be wearing melting, you won’t have to use a fan or air con unit, and you won’t have issues with “sticky out” or “refusing to come out” body parts because you won’t need be using a fan.
The bottom line is if you are serious about portrait photography don’t waste your time (or money) with continuous lighting and use (or invest) in some decent speed lights or studio strobes instead.
A cheap and cheerful portrait photography lighting set up
"The Godox Ving - A cheap and cheerful flash that is powerful, full of features and easy to use"
There is a common misconception that speed lights need to cost a lot of money to be any good, which as I found out (the hard, and not to mention expensive way) is not true.
There was a time when I thought that I needed to spend a lot of money on a top branded speed light (in my case a Canon – as a Canon dslr shooter) to get a speed light that not only had all the features I needed (i.e. ETTL and full manual modes, HSS, a high guide number etc.) but also well-built and sturdy enough to take the amount of punishment I was going to give it. With the thought in my mind I was going to have to spend a lot of money I ended up shelling out for the Canon 600EX from WEX.
Don’t get me wrong, the Canon 600EX is an excellent speed light. It is powerful, it is full of features and it is bullet proof. The only criticism I have about the Canon 600EX, other than the extortionate price tag, is that it’s not user friendly or intuitive – at least I didn’t find it to be. The Canon 600EX served me well, until one fateful day when I ended up breaking it at the most inconvenient time possible. I had a shoot planned and needed the flash and I was totally skint and couldn’t afford to buy a replacement – unless I took out a payday loan (which with the criminal interest rates charged on this type of short term lending was not something I was prepared to do).
In a moment of desperation I went online looking for cheap speed lights that were powerful, had ETTL and full manual modes and also HSS. I didn’t consider the build quality as I intended to replace the flash with another Canon 600EX with my earnings from the shoot. My search led me to the Godox Ving, and whilst I was a bit sceptical (it is a Chinese brand and I had been stung with cheap Chinese produced goods in the past) but I ordered one anyway as I had no choice.
The day I ordered the Godox Ving (see the pros and cons here) was a pivotal day in my flash photography and it totally changed my opinion on speed lights. When I received the Godox Ving I was impressed as soon as I opened the box. The Ving did not feel as weighty as the Canon 600EX and it didn’t feel as robust, but it still felt well-made and strong. Hitting the “on” button the Ving burst in to life and was delivered with about 30% power, so I attached it to the hot shoe of my Canon 6d to try it out and take a few test shots – and this was before I had even looked at the user manual. The first thing I noticed was how user friendly, intuitive and easy to use the Godox Ving was. The Canon 600EX was a bit of a faff, and I had to revert back to the user manual (and even the internet in some instances) but I didn’t need to do this with the Ving. All the buttons and settings are where you’d expect them to be, and operating the Ving (and changing the various settings) logical and very quick to do. I have to say that I was very impressed with the Godox Ving, and it got me thinking whether Godox are making a massive loss on the Ving or whether Canon are making a super profit on the 600EX.
I was so impressed with the Godox Ving I decided not to buy another Canon 600EX. Instead I ordered 3 more Godox Ving speed lights (for aganged 3 speed light setup) and the cost of these was still less than a single Canon 600EX, which is pretty good value in my opinion. I can honestly say that I haven’t a bad thing to say about the Godox Ving speed lights and I highly recommend them. Okay, they are not as “bullet proof” as the Canon 600EX but they are still very well made and plenty tough enough to withstand a lot of abuse.
If you want to buy a portable portrait photography lighting set up that is powerful, full of features, more than capable of dealing anything and everything you throw at it I suggest you take a look at the Godox Ving speed lights. They are seriously good and, even to this day, it amazes me how something so good can cost so little.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.