The Rotolight NEO

In my last video-log from the studio I was demonstrating how I did a ‘Photo-Noir’ selfie with one light and a reflector, and someone later asked why I’d referred to it as an ‘experiment’ when its a well known studio technique! 

Photo made with a Rotolight and a silver reflector

Well, what was experimental about it was that I was using a single rotolight, instead of a flash.  So, what’s a rotolight, and what makes it different from a standard studio flash?

Rotolight LED Continuous Light Source

The Rotolight is a continuous source of light, using an array of LED cells.  This one is the Rotolight NEO, one of the older models, but there’s been an upgrade since and the NEO2 is now available.  It’s great for studio work, but because it’s so portable, it can go on location, and it’s good for video too.  You can even get a hot-shoe attachment to place it on the camera.  And of course, because it’s constant light, you can meter the light as you do outdoors, using manual, AP or SP!  (The NEO2 offers flash as well as continuous)

On the reverse of the light, you can see that there are two control knobs on the rear.  Oone controls the quantity of light, so you can make it brighter, or dimmer.  The quantity of light, its brightness, is measured in Lumens. 

The interesting control is the second knob which controls the light temperature. NOW THIS IS WHAT MAKES THIS LIGHT SUCH A USEFUL TOOL.  

The rear of the Rotolight unit, showing a colour temperature of 5600 degrees Kelvin, similar to studio flash.

Light ranges in temperature, from the very warm light of, say a candle, – an almost yellow kind of light, which makes the surrounding space feel cosy and warm, or a tungsten bulb, – right up o the very cool light of a bright sunny day at noon.  The temperature of light is measured in Degrees Kelvin.  The higher the Degrees Kelvin, the whiter (cooler) the colour temperature.

Studio flash is measured at 5500K – and the rotolight can be set to that temperature, to make it compliment the lights in the studio – or, if you are using it as a single light source, or using more than one of them, you can set it to its lowest temperature, to produce a candlelit effect, or at 3300 for the warm effect of an old tungsten bulb.

Another useful tool is on your digital camera itself, – the white balance control.  Most people will want to leave this on automatic, – and that’s fine for most situations – but if you want to more accurately control the colour reproduction of your output, you can set the colour balance in the camera to the same temperature as the ambient light, so in the studio, set the colour balance to flash, or to 5500K.  Only just remember that if you take the camera into a different light, you’ll need to reset it, or your images will look very strange indeed!  (Unless that’s what you want of course, and that really would be experimental!).   



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