Exploring Creative Photography: Mixing Strobe & Constant Light

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Mixing two Elinchrom FIVEs, the Nanlite Forza 60B, and a small Softbox, Brandi Nicole explains how she used strobes and constant light to create a striking set-up to bring her vision to life. Discover her experience.

As photographers, our desire for unique and impactful imagery often begins with us moving outside our comfort zones, exploring new techniques, and incorporating personal stories and styles.

Female model with dried flowers in a warm light

Recently, amidst the numerous unhealthy air quality alerts I have received in NYC, I found myself motivated and inspired to create and raise awareness about the severe climate change and air pollution issues plaguing our world. I envisioned a series of photographs set in a flower field, symbolizing clean air and offering respite from our environmental challenges.

However, with the constraints of being in NYC without a flower field, I set out to experiment with bringing this vision to life using a combination of flash and constant lights in my small home studio and used what I had available to me (a bunch of dead, dried flowers; the irony.)

Female model with dried flowers in a warm light

The Purpose Behind the Imagery

Amidst the orange-polluted sunset skies and air quality alerts that have recently dominated much of North America, I intended to create imagery that highlights the significance of clean air and the consequences of its scarcity. I started by conceptualizing a mood board that embodied the struggle to breathe, and I sought to capture the essence of a flower field – where there is hope of clean air.

“I combined flash and constant lights to create a dynamic and eerie hazy-golden sunset”

Crafting the lighting setup

To bring my vision to life, I combined flash and constant lights to create a dynamic and eerie hazy-golden sunset. In my home studio, I positioned two equally spaced Elinchrom FIVE lights at my white ceiling to establish a balanced, subdued base exposure and a neutral canvas for my idea. I also wanted to try something new and attempt a creative challenge for myself, so I combined a constant light and a slower shutter speed.

I brought a Nanlite Forza 60B with a small Softbox and set it up very low to the ground to be my ‘sunset’ light. By carefully diffusing the light using layers of diffusion material and adjusting the color temperature to 3100K, I created a beautiful, warm glow that harmonized with the cooler tones of the flash.

I am sharing here some unedited images to help visualize and demonstrate what my lighting looked like with only the flash firing, an example photo with only the constant lights on, and the results of combining the two types of light:

female model with dried flowers and grey packground
mixing-strobe-and-constant-light
mixing-strobe-and-constant-light

When using this technique, it’s important to set your shutter speed slow enough to capture the ambient light of the constant lights but not so slow that your subject is completely blurry. You should experiment here and adjust the shutter speed up or down depending on the specific lighting conditions.

I opted for a shutter speed of 1/60 second for this shoot and an aperture of f/2.8. This allowed me to capture the ambient light from the constant lights while also creating a shallow depth of field that blurred the foreground and background and helped to make the subject stand out.

One of the challenges of recreating sunset lighting in a studio is getting an even exposure. I found that shooting into a white ceiling with my lights positioned at equal distances from myself and the camera helped to create that even exposure while also reflecting the light from my constant lights back onto my subject. This resulted in a beautiful and balanced image that captured the essence of the warm glow of sunset.

“Combining the sharpness and precision of strobe lighting with the unique qualities of continuous lighting, we can capture stunning images”

The synergy of flash & constant lights

Combining flash and constant lights can be a powerful tool in a photographer’s toolkit. Beyond the ability to experiment and push creative boundaries, this technique provides the best of both worlds. Combining the sharpness and precision of strobe lighting with the unique qualities of continuous lighting, we can capture stunning images with complete control over light intensity, sharpness, color temperature, and shadows.

When you use constant and strobe lights together – you get that much more control in the end results and unlock endless creative possibilities.

From replicating the golden hour’s magical glow to exploring dramatic contrasts and freeze-frame effects, there’s no limit to what you can achieve in camera. By adapting and manipulating light, we can shape the mood and atmosphere of our photographs and create captivating visual narratives.

Behind the scenes, Brandi Nicole's shooting

The art and experience of mixing flash and constant lights provide us with a toolkit for boundless creativity. Through thoughtful experimentation, we can transform ordinary settings into extraordinary images. So get out there and do not be afraid to try something new and brainstorm ways you may be able to use your craft as a medium for personal or even societal change. I can’t wait to see what you create!

Female model standing in between dried flowers, with a red polluted sky