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Why and how to use continuous lighting for portraits?

Using continuous lighting for portraits brings many benefits. You can immediately see how the shadows fall and what the final image will be in real time. It is also convenient to transition between capturing photos and shooting videos. We will go through three benefits in which continuous lighting performs better than flash and talk about the setup of child and family portraits in this post. Just read on to get more information.

Use COLBOR CL220 continuous lighting for portraits and the final image

Left: Use COLBOR CL220 for portrait photography; Right: Output image

Use continuous light or flash for portraits: 3 aspects that continuous type outperforms

In this part, we'll go over three reasons why continuous studio lighting for portraits is better than strobes. This is not to say that continuous lighting is a better option for portrait photography than strobe lighting. Each method owns its benefits and you can choose the one that suits your needs.

Continuous lighting makes the subject's eyes brighter and more colorful.

It is vital to draw attention to subject’s eyes in portrait photography. This is often achieved by a reflection of lighting in the eyes.

The relationship between the iris and pupil can also help draw attention to the eyes. Generally, the size of a black pupil changed according to the ambient lighting. When the pupil enlarges, the iris constricts, and vice versa. If we want to draw emphasis to the eyes, we should photograph the person when the pupil constricts and the iris enlarges. This is simply achieved by soft and continuous illumination.

Continuous lighting for portraits offers real-time preview.

Shooting portraits with continuous lighting and a mirrorless camera allows you to view the final photos in real time. You can directly see how the highlights and shadows fall on the face. However, flash doesn’t allow you to tell whether the lighting is set up well or not. It is hard to arrange especially when the ambient lighting is hard to deal with.

LED constant light for photography also makes it simple to make lighting adjustments. You can know whether the subject is in the sweet spot and make adjustments accordingly. When the subject looks to be well illuminated, you may shoot with confidence, knowing that the resulting shot will be as lovely as what you see in the scene.

Continuous lighting makes it simple to capture natural moments.

Although it takes several minutes for the subjects to make mental adjustments so as to feel comfortable under continuous lighting at the beginning, they tend to behave more naturally than shooting under flash or strobe. This is because they are not aware when you press the shutter without the predictable interval of flash. In this way, you are able to capture more authentic moments.

Tips to continuous lighting setup for portraits

It is an ideal choice to use continuous light for portrait photography of various types. In this part, we will offer some tips for child and family portraits.

Set up continuous lighting for child portrait with low key lighting

The good thing about this sort of lighting is how simple and quick it is to set up. One light and a dark backdrop, such as black seamless paper or dark gray seamless paper, are all you need. The light should be placed as close to the center as feasible to provide the infant with as much freedom of movement as possible.

A soft box is preferred for this setup since it produces more directed, somewhat 'harder' light than an umbrella. This does not preclude you from using an umbrella. You could, in fact, employ a white, translucent shoot-through umbrella to great effect.

But how to make children stay in the well-illuminated zone and do something interesting as you guide them? This is somehow difficult since they like moving around and doing their own things. To deal with this issue, you are advised to draw a funny mark like a smiley face on the ‘sweet spot’ and tell the child to find it. In this way, you will spare yourself and the child a lot of unneeded stress if you can direct them in a non-combative, non-confrontational manner. It allows you to stay in position to capture child portraits while also giving them some flexibility and distance from you.

Set up continuous lighting for family portraits with one light

Place the light high up and keep it on the axis with your camera. This is the most simple and basic setup which offers effective results.

If you want it to have some direction, shift it to the side somewhat, possibly between 0 and 45 degrees. Greater angling means greater contrast. Flatter lighting arises from less angling. It all comes down to personal choice. Simply make sure your light is pointed down at your subjects.

This setup of continuous lighting for portraits brings the following pros and cons.


  • This setup is simple and quick. It's great for group photographs, class pictures, and last-minute group images.
  • Shadows may be removed by putting the light behind and away from your subjects. In this case, the shadow of the person in the first row will not conceal the face of the person in the second row.


  • This light setup may look bland and monotonous due to the lack of shadows and contrast.

You can also two or more light fixtures to create different illumination. Check the article Studio lighting for family portraits: How to set up and what to use to get more lighting ideas.