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Flash V continuous lighting

Sonyjim 5 2 United Kingdom
13 Oct 2012 4:37PM
I am a ceramic artist and need to make good quality images of my work for gallery selection.
I am looking to buy a small studio lighting set to take images of wall panels and a range of dishes and bowls.
So...... Flash head versus continuous lighting? soft boxes versus light tent?
Before I buy I would welcome any feed back

Thank you

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brian1208 Plus
14 11.3k 12 United Kingdom
13 Oct 2012 5:00PM
I've been photographing the work of a professional potter friend of mine Rosemarie James and most if not all of her images on her website are mine.

I was using this kit and it works very well but recently I managed to pick up one of these very cheaply and tried it with her last set of pots and it also worked very well. I found that having the constant light source allowed me to work through a large number of pots very quickly and efficiently with a minimum amount of post processing being needed before saving to disc as .jpgs

If you know are only ever going to shoot your ceramics the continuous lighting system may be a good cheap option for you, otherwise the flash-head kits are more versatile
Sonyjim 5 2 United Kingdom
13 Oct 2012 6:06PM
Thank you Brian,
I will look into this option.
newfocus 11 647 2 United Kingdom
13 Oct 2012 9:04PM
My wife is a lampwork glass artist and photographs her creations using a popup light tent similar to this but I guess you might need a bigger version? Lighting is via one of these which seems to give good accurate colour representation, which is obviously important with this kind of product.

It seems to work really well for her and is nice and quick (all her items are one offs so she's continually adding new products to her website and speed of working through that is important). There are some examples of photos using the above setup here .
brian1208 Plus
14 11.3k 12 United Kingdom
13 Oct 2012 9:59PM
That's great work your Wife does John, its a shame you don't live down this way as her work would fit nicely into the CADArts group of artists and crafters, we've no one doing that style and quality of lampwork
monstersnowman 12 1.7k 1 England
14 Oct 2012 4:41AM
Not being an expert (or anywhere near) in this area, or any other for that matter, I would happily say that for small work like this with a tripod and no moving subjects the output of continuous lighting and the fact that you can actually see and manipulate light in real time it would make continuous lighting a very good and straightforward source. I would, as a novice in flash, be interested to know what advantages flash offers if any in this scenario. Continuous allows you to make slight visual adjustments and assess overall lighting just as you would with natural ambient light but with the advantage of being able to make slight adjustments that you can make accurate judgements of with your own eye.
newfocus 11 647 2 United Kingdom
14 Oct 2012 5:49PM
Thanks Brian - possibly a little bit out of reach but otherwise, yes Smile

Quote:interested to know what advantages flash offers if any in this scenario

Flash is generally brighter for any given size of unit and power consumption and better colour balanced but it feels like these differences are gradually narrowing. In the small product indoors in a light tent scenario I'd personally go for continuous every time and just make sure the light source used gives you a full range of colours. It's not just about colour balance but also making sure there's a full spread of wavelengths in the light. For instance, fluorescents with high 'CRI' have a much better range of wavelengths than traditional cheaper fluorescents, which achieve 'white' by blending just a few different peaks of colour.
Sonyjim 5 2 United Kingdom
14 Oct 2012 7:33PM
Thank you all for your most helpful comments.
Continuous light seems to be the way to go for this project so I will now invest.........
Thanks again
brian1208 Plus
14 11.3k 12 United Kingdom
15 Oct 2012 5:07PM
I've just confrimed my comment above about the limitations of continuous lighting.

I had a paying shoot with two juvenile cats and thought that, to save their eyes from too much flash, I would use my continuous lighting kit.

Big mistake (thank goodness the clients were friends and still are! Smile )

I set them up and checked them out using my normal stuffed toy pair and all looked fine, getting around 1/200th sec with ISO 400. When the little demons arrived they were hyper and I found I was getting around 1/20 sharp and missing much of the best action. I ended up shooting using the FL600R on-board with the continuous light as the background fill.

Proper flash-heads will be used next time - I've learnt me lesson Grin

(mid you, in two hours I got the job done to the clients' satisfaction, printed proofs, selected and printed the final prints, mounted framed, taped and strung and made a few bob into the bargain - so it wasn't all bad)
GlennH 12 1.9k 1 France
16 Oct 2012 7:21AM
You should be wary of being convinced of light quality by a high CRI, as it tells a story of only partial use to photographers. It's measured using eight colour patches, and the measurement is averaged out, so a light source can make a pig's ear of one of the patches and still hit a rating into the high 80s. Anything above 80 is an accurate CRI according to lighting manufacturers, hence you'll often see the rather vague >80 CRI spec. The only way this is useful to photographers is in helping you to avoid the poorest quality household bulbs - it's telling you not to extinguish the fire with a can of petrol.

Disadvantages of tungsten lighting include the physical heat it produces and its inherently warm colour temperature, but still, a tungsten light is akin to the theoretical 'black body radiator' in that it produces a continuous spectrum of light that might be compared to daylight. That makes it easy to correct with filters or in post processing.

From a photographic perspective, CFL and LED lighting are crippled in this respect - they emit a 'discontinuous spectrum' of light that is prone to rendering certain colours poorly, and they'll do that without necessarily taking a big hit in their CRI rating.

So the light forms that have replaced incandescent bulbs aren't quite so fit for purpose when it comes to fooling an imaging sensor. Counteracting this problem is likely to be the difference between cheap LED and fluorescent photo lights and high-end stuff, but amateurs might consider that the problem is already remedied in old-fashioned light forms (incandescent/tungsten = CRI 100).

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