Brooks Pro Tip: How to Use Continuous Light Sources for Beauty/Glamour Photography

April 4, 2013

When photographing people in the studio, we most often think of using strobes as our main light source. However, there are several continuous lighting systems that can also be used for still photography to create a soft and subtle touch on a face or add a brilliant pop of contrast. Additionally, many continuous light sources create catch lights, which are much different from those created by traditional strobe light modifiers such as umbrellas, beauty dishes, and reflectors.

Largely known for their role in motion pictures, continuous lighting systems are less utilized in the world of still photography, but I find them simply gorgeous and really fun to use in the studio!

In the samples below, I have chosen two continuous light sources that are very different in their quality of light. In the first sample, I am using a 1K-HMI light source with no fill light. (There are several manufacturers of HMI lights; here I am using Mole Richardson.) These lights are daylight balanced and also widely used in motion pictures. They are operated from a ballast and have a lot of power (caution – you must have knowledge of power and wattage before using HMIs).

I love them for still photography because they provide tons of contrast and are very specular. For this reason, they are not a popular choice among beauty photographers. In this sample, you will notice strong shadows and a sparkle in the eye shadow. Be careful using this type of light if your model has poor skin, as HMIs will show every little detail!

Sample 1: HMI 

beauty and glamour photography

In this second example, I am using Kino Flo lights. This is a full-spectrum fluorescent lighting system and also daylight balanced. Here, I am using two diva lights on either side of my model’s face and one 4-foot/4-tube system directly above her. This creates a very soft, even light that is great for creating perfect skin and illuminating the irises of the eyes. There are no shadows, and the entire face is very evenly lit.

Sample 2 – Kino Flo:

beauty and glamour photography
Kelly Kirlin is an adjunct instructor in the Professional Photography program at Brooks Institute. See more of her work at