Continuous v strobe lighting for product photos

Bestscientific

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Hi all
I am new to the forums but hope to be of help in future wherever I can.

I need some help with lighting. I have been charged with producing some product photos of the things we sell for the small business I work for. I have had some success using a lighting tent for the smaller products so that’s all good.
However I need to do some of larger items which don’t fit into the tent. Mainly microscopes (we sell optical equipment for science) I have a nice background stand and white paper background so that’s all good. However I need some lights to illuminate the products. I have a room set aside so the gear wont really need to be portable either.

Can anyone give me some advice about whether it’s better to have continuous light soft boxes or to set up a strobe / flash system? I am pretty confident I could set up a simple light rig using continuous but don’t want to miss something with regards to strobe lights. I need to buy some equipment and have seen two things on amazon and ebay below which appeal. However I am not sure which technique is best therefore don’t know what gear to get.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/540w-Studio...&keywords=studio+flash+kit#productDescription
3 x950w Continuous Lighting Kit Studio Photography Light + softbox + light stand | eBay

I would really appreciate any input as I am getting a bit bogged down with the details and I want to crack on.
Many thanks :D
James
 

Gavjenks

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Neither is terribly "better" in terms of image quality.

Continuous is usually a little cheaper for small and low quality setups that you are only intending to use basically once or a few times. Which sounds like it might fit your description. I'm talking stuff like work lamps behind a couple layers of sheets hung from the ceiling type of thing.

Strobes are more expensive, but if you plan on setting up and taking down more than a couple times, the professional convenience and snap together components and everything make the cost very rapidly worthwhile in that regard, AND they have much better controls of exact output levels and triggering methods, and they use less power (so as you start to light larger and larger things, they start being cheaper even just per lumen anyway, in addition to the ease of use).

If your largest item is a microscope, and you don't expect needing photographic lighting much in the future at all, then I think it's sort of a toss up. If your items are much larger than that, or more complicated to light, or if you're doing this regularly, or anything else more hardcore than a makeshift one or two-time deal, get strobes.
 
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Bestscientific

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thanks for the info Gavjenks
you are sort of right but i might be doing this a bit more regularly in the future. I am kinda falling into it as a potential sideline to the main work we do here.
My current project is to overhaul our website and would like the images of our products to be really good without the need for to much editing afterward as this can be very time consuming.

I have also read info about a combination of the two techniques. some kits come with both soft light boxes for use on the strobe lights. Is it also right in saying that most strobes nowadays come with a modeling light.
the kit I have seen and have linked on my first post from Amazon has three lights. I would assume that a set up for me would be to have two of the lights in the soft boxes (45 degrees to the subject) in the modeling mode as continuous lights then have the other light as a flash light which would be triggered by my camera. do you think that would work well.

thanks for your advice.
 

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Modeling lights are usually switch-equipped, so they can be turned on, and off. Most have some type of "tracking", which makes the modeling lights full brightness when the flash power is set to FULL, and dimmest when flash power is set to LOW, and of course, tracks reasonably well between the extremes, to give a more or less what you see is what you get gauge of brightness between identical light units that are set to differing power levels.

There are PLENTY of low-cost entry-level monolights these days. Since you are in the UK, I would look for something that uses the closest thing to a standard fitting, Bowens or Elinchrom brand fit reflectors and accessories. Bowens and Elinchrom reflectors and accessories are VERY readily found on e-Bay USA, e-Bay India, basically ANY -Bay with an e in front of it.
 

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If you elect to get strobes, the modeling light is switched off momentarily as the flash is fired.

You might consider just getting lights similar to the room lights to avoid the hassle of turning off the room lights when you are ready to take a picture. Don't mix types and colors of light. So for instance; if your room has fluorescent lighting, you could use CF for the product lighting and compensate for only one color of light.

If you go with strobes, just dial down the exposure so the room lights don't have an effect on the photograph. The strobes will provide plenty of light and will over-power any ambient light.
 
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Bestscientific

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so if i have this right ...

you can use strobe as a continuous light with a soft box (if model has that selection mode) ?
or
the modeling lights which switch off momentarily when you fire the flash - and the lighting you get will be the same as whats shown by the modeling light ?
or
a mixture of the two if you have a couple of the lights - so continuous with flash ?

if that's the case then it seams as though the strobes are a bit more multi purpose - would everyone agree with that ?

I am not to worried about the room lights designer as they can be switched off - i also happen to have some LED bulbs that would probably be about the same K factor of the lights that i buy so i could swap them out to match. but not totally needed i know.

thanks again all for you help i would welcome any further thoughts
 

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1. no
2. yes
3. don't
4. probably
5. Careful!
6. you're welcome

Oh, darn! I was trying to answer using only one-word answers.

1. A strobe is not a continuous.
2. I think most do, but make sure before you purchase.
3. Don't mix light types and colors.
4. I've read many posts on here written by professional photographers who recommend studio strobes.
5. LED lighting introduces yet another type and color of light. Don't do that.
6. Ask more questions.
 

Gavjenks

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so if i have this right ...

you can use strobe as a continuous light with a soft box (if model has that selection mode) ?
or
the modeling lights which switch off momentarily when you fire the flash - and the lighting you get will be the same as whats shown by the modeling light ?
or
a mixture of the two if you have a couple of the lights - so continuous with flash ?

if that's the case then it seams as though the strobes are a bit more multi purpose - would everyone agree with that ?

I am not to worried about the room lights designer as they can be switched off - i also happen to have some LED bulbs that would probably be about the same K factor of the lights that i buy so i could swap them out to match. but not totally needed i know.

thanks again all for you help i would welcome any further thoughts

Well yes you could use a modeling light on a strobe unit as a continuous light if you really wanted to (by simply not hooking up the strobe to your camera), but no their intended purpose is to give you a preview only. And there isn't really much advantage or any great reason not to use the flash as the lighting if you already have a strobe set up. It is not exactly the same strength as the modeling light by any means. The modeling light is much weaker than the flash will be. However, the RATIOs of different modeling lights should be the same as the corresponding flashes, and also the modeling light gives you a preview of where the shadows will fall and how soft the shadows are, etc.

You probably should not use flash with continuous, as they are likely to be different colors.

If you have a flash, you don't usually even need to turn off the room lights. It helps with accuracy of the modeling preview, but the flash power can be so great and so instant that you can get almost pure flash lighting with no influence of room lights easily with a studio strobe, even if they are on.
 

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I've found continuous is much easier to use with product photography than flash/strobe.
 

Helen B

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I prefer continuous light for product photography (that's the majority of my paid work these days), as long as I don't need a short exposure; need to use large format film (shooting typically at f/32 or f/45, ISO 100 or 160) or have to balance the output from, say, a lantern or flashlight (UK torch) with the overall light. I use four household incandescent lamps inside the softbox that also contains the strobe heads and then use bounce cards, scrims and flags to modify the light from the single large source.

The other people in the studio seem to like working with continuous light as well. I know other product photographers who use both continuous and strobe.
 
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Bestscientific

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thanks all for your input
i am leaning towards a continuous lighting rig as i am still learning and on a budget this seams like a technique with a shorter learning curve than strobe light ?
i think it might be a bit more forgiving being that i could see in-front of me what the shot will look like and not have to actually take pictures to see.
I am assuming that using the soft light boxes are the way forward here to give a diffused soft light right - can this soft light also be achieved with umbrellas ?
Is there any particular type of bulbs that would be advantageous to have ? I am looking at some fluorescent bulbs that are 5500K rated - as i would like a nice white light.
 

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