As more and more professionals are finding themselves under pressure to produce work in both still and motion formats, so the requirement for gear that can perform equally well across the board is rising. We’ve long had cameras that have a hybrid capacity, being able to deliver high quality stills as well as 4K footage, and many photographers have been able to work with stills lenses to produce excellent results.
So that leaves lighting and, in recent years, what’s on offer in this department has been improving in leaps and bounds. Where once the primary continuous lighting source would be tungsten, with all its attendant issues of pumping out unwanted heat and being unwieldy and somewhat prone to breaking in transit, now we’ve got the likes of fluorescent and, in particular, LED lighting.
ABOVE AND TOP RIGHT: Wes Kroninger works with Rotolight Anova 2 heads to produce beauty stills and films.
Early LED lights suffered from a lack of power, reliability issues that could see individual LEDs burn out and a high price tag, but as technology has advanced, so what’s on offer has become far more usable. And the advantages a good LED system can offer are impressive: light weight, heat-free operation, low power drain so that battery operation is completely feasible and the ability to switch from daylight balanced to tungsten at the flick of a switch, with no need for filters.
It’s only relatively recently that the latest generation of LED lights can genuinely be said
to be offering something that can meet the needs of those on both sides of the photography/ filmmaking fence, but we’ve reached that point now and increasingly this is the route that professionals are taking. Not only does it save on the expense of having to have a complete lighting system for both sides of the business, but it means less gear to store and take on a job and, crucially, no need to take down a lighting job and then relight from scratch if moving between stills and motion. And, since the same lighting is being used, the look and colour will be identical, which is an added bonus.
ONE SET OF KIT
Steve Sharp is typical of the modern creative, who started off as a photographer and then had to learn fresh skills. Like so many of those whose career was based around stills, Steve first started to look at what motion had to offer after acquiring a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and now his clients expect those they hire to be able to deliver in both disciplines.
“The mix of stills and motion I take on goes in waves,” he says, “but at the moment I would say that it’s about 80%/ 20% in favour of stills. Most of my assignments are for design agencies who are acting for clients and so I never quite know what’s coming through the door. It’s important that I can tackle anything that I’m given.
“For me the recent advances in lighting have made my life so much easier. I’ve always worked with Elinchrom gear, but the big changeover for me came with the introduction of the ELB 1200s, which combined a powerful flash head with a bright and dimmable daylight LED modelling lamp. The Flash Centre had a deal on that allowed me to trade in my Ranger RX heads to get a discount and so I switched over and I’ve never looked back.
“Obviously these are modelling lights and so they’re not going to offer the kind of output you might get from a conventional 1K light or anything, but I like shooting motion with my lens wide open in any case to get a narrow depth-of-field aesthetic, and they are perfectly powerful enough to allow me to work in this way, especially given the high ISO capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark IV I’m currently using.”
Rotolight has come up with some of the most innovative solutions for those required to work across still and motion disciplines, and one of those benefitting from the company’s forward thinking is US-based beauty photographer/filmmaker Wes Kroninger. Until about a year ago Wes faced the perennial issue of having to either create two sets, one lit for stills and the other for motion, or to have to break one down and then put the other up in order to cover both disciplines. Now working with Rotolight’s Anova 2, however, he’s given himself the opportunity to get everything he needs on the lighting front from the same kit.
I’ll generally use four of these lights on the subject and a further one to pick out the background,” he says, “although I might need to add a few extra lights into the mix if I’m working full length. But to be able to shoot stills and then to simply switch over and shoot video on the same set with the same lights is amazing and it’s really helped me.
“I also love working with the continuous light because I truly do get exactly what I see through the viewfinder, but if I want to work with strobe then I’ll use the continuous as a modelling light and will dial down its intensity to around 50%, otherwise it’s so strong that the model will be liable to blink.”
Wes is also impressed with the light weight and versatility of the Anova, and because the styling is so flat and thin he can stack four of them in a single Peli case to take on location. He can also light from overhead even in a studio with a low ceiling, since the unit takes up so little room.
Ben Marlow from Kissing Gate Films describes himself as “a filmmaker who does a bit of photography”, but like so many others these days he’s called on by clients to work across both disciplines. “I started out as a photographer,” he says, “but then filmmaking took over. Just lately however photography has crept back in and I’ve catered for that by acquiring a Sony A7R III that has the potential to deliver great results in either genre.”
The lights chosen by Ben are the Litepanels Astra 1×1 Soft Bi-Color, which mimics the smooth effect of a softbox, and the Litepanels Gemini 2×1 Bi-Color, which combines daylight, tungsten and red-greenblue LEDS to allow virtually any colour to be created. “They are extremely versatile,” he says, “and I can battery power them as well so they can go virtually anywhere.”
Another to discover the impressive attributes of the new generation of RGB lights is Ian Murray, who is working with the NanGuang Pavolite 2 tube to create a variety of coloured backdrops for his models. “I set up a grey background as opposed to a white,” he says, “because this has the ability to soak up colour and it’s less bright than a white background would be. I’ll then often use a NanGuang V29 Ring Light on the model, and the combination of the two types works together really well
ABOVE AND ABOVE LEFT: DOP/photographer Ian Murray uses KinoFlo and Dedolight DLEDs across the board.
“The great thing about LED lighting and the Sony A7R Mark II is that once you’re happy with how everything looks by eye you can adjust your exposure triangle to align to ensure you get exactly the shot you’re after.”
DOP/photographer Ian Murray points out that photographers often have a different approach to filmmakers in terms of the way they work, and he questions to need to shoot at smaller apertures, such as f/8 and f/11. “I ask people why they do that and they say it’s the way they’ve always worked,” he says. “But as a cinematographer I never go over f/2.8 and if the light is at a lower level I’ll go to f/1.4 if I can. Most lenses don’t perform at their best at f/8 in any case and I prefer the look that shooting wider gives me. The fact is that many people are set on a particular way of working and don’t question it.”
Ian’s point is that times have moved on, and those photographers that can adjust to working wider open with their lenses will find that continuous lighting is plenty powerful enough for their requirements. Starting out with KinoFlo fluorescent tubes, more recently he’s moved across to using the company’s LED Freestyle products.
“These are great to work with,” he says, “whether I’m shooting stills or
motion. One of the things I really appreciate is the ability to break it down and to remove the LED panel from the fixture, which cuts the weight in half and creates a smaller form factor for better rigging flexibility. You can even take the ballast off if you need to.” Ian is also a huge fan of the Dedolight DLED Lightstream series which, although small, packs a huge punch and utilises parallel beam adaptors. As continuous lighting in all its many forms becomes more affordable and capable of greater outputs so its attractions will continue to grow, and for the increasing number of hybrid operators out there it’s the perfect all-round solution.
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