Everything you ever needed to know about lights in under 30 minutes

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Choosing continuous lights has become such a struggle for new filmmakers and photographers. Not too many years ago, your options were simple. Either you get some great big super hot tungstens, or you use that big ball of fire in the sky. Easy. These days, there are so many more options. We’ve still got those old tungstens, but we’ve also got fluorescents and leds.

And all this new tech comes with confusing terminology. Lux vs Lumens. CRI vs TLCI, and it all feels a bit like TMI. Information overload. So, here’s a video from Kevin, The Basic Filmmaker to simplify things, with a look at the state of lighting today. He covers all the different types of lights, the terminology used, what’s actually important to know, and what’s not worth wasting your time with.

It is a long video, but it’s well worth watching the whole way through. I noticed it last night. It had been uploaded about 10 minutes before I went to bed, so I put it on the iPad and sat through the whole thing. It certainly raised a few points I hadn’t considered before and is packed full of great info. Here’s a quick breakdown of what happens when in the video.

• 0:38 – Light, the colour of light and white balance
• 5:50 – Lighting – What the terminology all means
• 12:22 – Lighting gear – The pros & cons of different types of lighting tech
• 13:12 – LED Lighting gear – Why it used to suck and why some of it doesn’t now
• 16:00 – Powering your lights in the studio and on location
• 18:24 – Beam angle, what it is and why it’s important to know
• 19:39 – Bi-colour LEDs and gels for white balance
• 22:42 – Cables and more about power
• 23:48 – Barn doors – nothing to do with cowboys
• 24:49 – Diffusion and softboxes
• 26:12 – Lighting accessories
• 27:44 – Warranty – Don’t buy cheap gear
• 28:34 – Conclusions

There’s a huge amount of information in the video, and you’ll probably want to watch over it a couple of times to make sure you pick everything up. There is one slight mistake, where CRI is referred to as “Colour Temperature Index”. It’s actually Colour Rendering Index, but he does correct himself, so I think we can let that one slide.


One thing you’ll notice throughout the video is that Kevin never really talks about the artistic and creative lighting choices. It’s quite a technical video, designed to help you understand what you should choose to spend your money on. And, to be clear, he’s not telling you what to spend your money on. He’s giving you the information to figure that out based on your own needs.

Kevin’s mentions in the video that he’s been switching all of his lights over to newer LED tech. Specifically, various lights from Aputure’s range. I’ve also been jumping on the LED bandwagon lately, too. The technology has come on so far since I last considered switching over to LED. My main continuous lights now are Spekular, although I do have a couple of Aputure panels, too.

If you’re new to continuous lights and you’re in the market, then hopefully this gives you some indication as to what will best suit your needs.

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