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  1. #1
    rince's Avatar
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    b/w portraits flash vs. continuous lighting

    Hi,

    sorry if this is a stupid question, but is there a difference between a flash or continuous lighting setup for portraits? Or better said is one more suitable than the other for skin tones? Back in my digital days I used an alienbee setup with 400W monolights, which I really liked for the most part, but now after I moved to Germany, I am facing the lighting question again. The difference is that I am shooting 90% with b/w film nowadays. Yes, you can always use filters to maybe correct the color temperature of your lights, but I would prefer a system that already has a good color temperature balance for portraits on b/ww film.

    Thank you for your opinions
    Dennis
    ---
    There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
    ~ Ansel Adams

  2. #2
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    dennis this is not a stupid question, but it canan part the masses. there is a strong following for natural light portrait photographers. i'm arrogant enough to claim .that it does not matter to the one who understands lighting. i prefera studio lightin set up, always start with three-point lighting and modify from thereto get what i want.Click image for larger version. 

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    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

  3. #3
    Mike Wilde's Avatar
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    By continuous I presume you mean tungten artificial light, as opposed to natural sunlight. Both of these sources can vary considerably from what is considered 'standard daylight'.

    Don't fret too much about colour cast when shooting b&w. I do find from past experience that shooting by photo floods of 3400K that they are quite hot, and uncomfortable for the model to sit under and look natural for most modern MF rigs were you want to shoot other than wide open.

    I have had good sucess shooting b&w portraits under bright household tungsten lighting with a yellow green filter.

    If you really want to worry about colour temp of source, look to the cinegel line of filters from Lee or Rosco. They sell to movie industry who are really up on modifying colour temperature of sources for technical and artistic reasons.
    my real name, imagine that.

  4. #4
    jp498's Avatar
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    I haven't done any scientific testing, but I'm not fussy if either is well done. I theorize the intrusiveness or uncomfortableness of the lights will be more affecting than the color temperature for the average subject. Standard flash is pretty close to daylight coming in a window in terms of color temp, so it shouldn't be less desirable for B&W.

    Natural such as from a window is wysiwyg. Of course you will get predictable results from something that intuitive if you know your film's limits.

    Hot lights, if you dim the normal lights are wysiwyg, but their energy can bother the subject sometimes. traditional lights can be hot and messing with them can be a burn or fire hazard. LEDs are great but can be dazzling.

    If you're using an old camera without x-sync, these are your options. And both can do a good job.

    With electronic flash, modeling lights provide some clue as to how things will be lit without blinding or cooking anyone. After using mono-lights with modeling lights, I wouldn't even bother with strobist style use of battery powered flashes.

    My options are more dictated by the lens choice. I'm using lots of LF stuff with barrel lenses, which mandates natural or continuous light. Eventually, I may have a packard shutter modified to do x-sync, but for now, I'm doing it the old fashioned way with those lenses. newer LF stuff and MF I use electronic flash where I can. The power and adjustability if appreciated.

    If you want someone's skin to look different, have a filter or film for it rather than totally change the lighting setup.

  5. #5

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    Continuous lighting is obviously much more easy to set up since you constantly see what you are doing by moving the lights around.
    And I think it is better for the models.
    However flash lighting can achieve higher illuminating power without warming up to freeze action.
    For portraits though I think constant lighting is better.

    As for casts there are dayilight balanced soft boxes nowadays.

  6. #6
    JessicaDittmer's Avatar
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    alien bees are 5600k and daylight balanced for film (per their site info) this is the lighting I use in studio with digital and I'm about to do it with both color and b&w film too. I use cybersync to fire them without cords....I'm now reading about if I can in fact still do that with my "new" to me RZ.
    j e s s i c a | d i t t m e r

  7. #7
    dpurdy's Avatar
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    To me it is just a matter of fstop. With soft boxes and umbrellas and bounce cards you can make a light what you want it, the question is how bright is it. To get your camera stopped down and at a fast enough shutter speed to stop movement you need very bright continuous light. Usually very hot.
    With flash the light can be very comfortable and dim enough for people to relax in and then FLASH for an instant.
    Dennis

  8. #8

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    I am an opportunistic portraitist and usually conform my choice of gear to the other variables in question. Like you, I live in a place with long winters, so an indoor lighting set-up is a must unless I want to confine my portraiture to subjects standing indoors next to windows or outdoors dressed in ski gear.

    Other practical considerations revolve around how much light you need. The advantage to an indoor strobe set-up has always been that standing under 1000W of hot lights is, well, hot. If you are using an LF camera and your widest aperture is f:5.6 or f:8, you are going to need a lot of light and strobes are often the easiest way to get it. This is particularly true once you start to diffuse the light at the source. If you wish away these practical considerations, then there is no difference - photons are photons. But practicality gets most of us in the end.

    I started another thread on APUG about LED lighting, as it seems like that technology might be ready for prime time without the heat caused by incandescent lights. But it doesn't seem like anyone here at APUG is using LEDs yet, and so no useful comments have been offered so far.

    So for now, it is mono-lights and softboxes during the winter.

    In the summer, I have painted two 4x8-foot plywood pieces white and screwed them into the east side of my barn. Makes a nice impromptu portrait studio on summer afternoons. I would rather shoot there than indoors -- it is just more pleasant.

  9. #9
    rince's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone! I am really grateful for all your feedback. You all helped me to make up your mind and I guess I will go with a moonlight setup again. Since I am also shooting LF, the 1000W or more are definitely becoming a factor. Also it seems that my original question can be answered that there is no real different in what the light does to the subject for b/w portraits on film. So I guess I will go out hunting for a nice 3 light setup again. Thank you all!

    Dennis
    ---
    There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
    ~ Ansel Adams

  10. #10
    smieglitz's Avatar
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    I don't think anyone mentioned the new compact fluorescent continuous lights. They are bright without being hot. Many kits come with softboxes and large reflectors. They are priced inexpensively for the most part, especially those from China.

    Probably not good for color but should be great for B&W. A lot of wetplaters are using them now.

    Another option would be high output fluorescent tube fixtures sold by horticultural suppliers for growing, uhh, tomatoes indoors. (Similar tube fixtures marketed for photography are much more expensive.) I just put together a rig that holds 16-54w T5 48" HO fluorescent tubes. (Quantum T5 "Bad Boy.") Filled with 6500K 54w high output lamps at 93.5 lumens/watt, it would kick out over 80,000 lumens and still be cool.

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