lighting effect using fresnel light photo by Orest Drozda on shutterstock

Beginner’s Guide to Fresnel Light: Types, Benefits, Pros and Cons

February 26, 2023

If you’re a photographer or even love dabbling in photography as a hobby, you know that light is key to getting the perfect shot. And while there are all sorts of light sources, from natural to studio lights, one type often used in photography is the fresnel light. Do you know what a fresnel light is?

Well, in this article, we will discuss in detail all about fresnel lights – what they are, the different types of fresnel lights, why you should use them, and the pros and cons of using fresnel lights.

What Is Fresnel Light?

A fresnel light is a focusable light source commonly used in theater, film and television lighting, which has a knob on the back that you can use to adjust the beam angle from a narrow spotlight to a wide wash of light.

This type of light is referred to as a fresnel light because it uses a fresnel lens to focus the light. The Fresnel lens is a succession of concentric rings that consist of elements of simple lenses that have been properly assembled on a flat surface in a way that the focal length becomes short.

a fresnel light on display

Photo by Rajesh Narayanan on shutterstock

Augustin Fresnel invented this lens. By 1822, he had fully completed the designing of his lens, using panels shaped like a thin bull’s eye, capable of reflecting light in a vertical and horizontal manner, producing strong beams.

What the knob on the back of this light does is that it moves the fresnel lens closer or further away from the light source, which either narrows the beam of light or widens it over a large area.

Type of Fresnel Light

There are many different types of Fresnel lights that you can choose from depending on your needs. The most common type are:

1. Fresnel Flood

area is lighted by fresnel light

Photo by Sigitas Kondratas on shutterstock

This type of light is ideal for providing general lighting in a large area. It produces a wide, even beam of light that can cover a large area.

For this reason, it is often used in outdoor settings such as floodlighting a parking lot, illuminating a building or even at a function or event with many people.

2. Fresnel Ovals

This type of light is similar to floodlights but has an oval shape. Like a fresnel flood, it produces a wide, even light beam. However, because of its shape, it is often used to illuminate specific areas, such as a painting or a sculpture.

3. Fresnel Linear

Fresnel Linear

Photo by Evannovostro on shutterstock

As the name suggests, this type of light produces a long line of evenly distributed light. It is perfect for use in roads, tunnels or any other long, linear area.

4. Fresnel Reflector

Just like your car headlights and flashlights, a fresnel reflector consists of a curved reflector behind the lens, which provides a concentrated beam of light with superior brightness and clarity. In addition, the reflector helps to distribute the light evenly over the surface area.

5. Fresnel Beam

The fresnel beam is commonly used in searchlights, spotlights and headlights. It produces a narrow, intense beam of light that can be directed over long distances. This type of light is perfect for providing illumination in large areas such as a sports stadium or an outdoor event.

6. Fresnel Spotlight

fresnel spotlight

Photo by lapandr on shutterstock

This type of light is often used in stage productions and photography. It produces a concentrated beam of light that can be directed at a specific area. This is perfect for highlighting certain subject features and creating dramatic lighting effects.

Why You Should Use Fresnel Light in Photography?

There are many reasons why you should use Fresnel light in photography. Some of the most important reasons are:

1. They Are Multipurpose

You can use Fresnel lights in various situations, such as when shooting portraits, product photography, or even when shooting videos, to add some extra lighting that makes the footage look more professional.

In theaters, Fresnel lights can be used to wash the stage with light to make the actors and actresses more visible to the audience.

In film productions, you can use them to provide backlighting or side lighting, which is very important in creating certain looks and effects in the movie or scene.

man is setting her fersnel light

Photo by Ritchie Rodas on Unsplash

Moreover, you can use Fresnel lights in television studios to illuminate the set and the subject in a way that is pleasing to the eye and looks great on camera.

2. They Are Affordable

Fresnel lights are less costly to produce when compared to other types of lights used in photography and filmmaking, especially those which use traditional lenses. This is because the Fresnel lens is not as complicated as a traditional lens and can be produced relatively easily.

Additionally, the Fresnel lens is much lighter than a traditional lens. Some companies even produce fresnel lenses made of plastic which are lighter and more affordable as compared to traditional lenses made of glass.

With it being less costly to produce, it means that they are more affordable for photographers and filmmakers to purchase, which is great news.

3. Great Illumination Distance

lighting through the roof gap

Photo by TanitaKo on shutterstock

Fresnel lights can also illuminate a subject from a great distance, which is very useful if you are shooting in a large space with many people; some are far away from the camera.

A good example is when you are shooting a concert or a play. Using a Fresnel light will light up the entire stage and the audience, which would not be possible if you were to use a traditional light. By doing so, you will be able to capture great shots that everyone will be amazed by.

4. Great for Light Manipulation

Fresnel lights are capable of producing different shapes and sizes of light, which is excellent for photographers who want to experiment with different lighting techniques. They have a knob at the back of the light that alters the shape of the light beam by adjusting the fresh lenses’ position.

Doing so can create various lighting effects, such as a spotlight, a floodlight, or a beam of light. This is a very versatile lighting option that can give you a lot of creative control.

5. Are Easy to Carry and Setup

lighting surface of fresnel light

Photo by Korek Production on shutterstock

Fresnel lights are also very easy to carry and set up, which is another great advantage for photographers.

Since they are lightweight and compact, they are very easy to transport from one location to another.

Additionally, they can be easily set up and taken down, which is convenient if you need to change locations quickly or work in a small space.

6. Save on Power

Fresnel lights are also more efficient than other types of lights because they make use of lesser materials. This means they require less power to operate, making them more environmentally friendly.

7. They Help Create a More Professional Look

Fresnel lights can also help you create a more professional look for your photos and videos. This is because they produce a softer and more even light that is very flattering to the subject.

magic light effect by fresnel light

Photo by Orest Drozda on shutterstock

Additionally, they can help you create a more cinematic look for your footage by providing some backlighting or side lighting.

Pros and Cons of Fresnel Light

The use of Fresnel lights in photography has both advantages and disadvantages that you need to be aware of before using them.


  • They are user-friendly hence can be used with minimal instructions and by anyone despite their level of expertise
  • They are quite affordable compared to other types of lights in the market, such as the traditional lights
  • Fresnel lights can produce both a broad and narrow beam of light, giving you more options to work with, and hence you can use them in any photography setting
  • It is easy to switch from one lighting pattern to another with Fresnel lights. For example, from a spot to a flood
  • You can use them both indoors and outdoors. Thanks to its weatherproof feature that enables it to withstand any weather condition.

fresnel spotlight lightingn area in dark room

Photo by lapandr on shutterstock

  • Unlike open-face light, you have more control over the beam produced by Fresnel light. This is due to the presence of barn doors that you can use to shape and manipulate the light.


  • Less bright compared to other types of light, such as open-face bulbs
  • Can be very expensive to maintain due to their delicate nature
  • Some produce a fun noise that can be disruptive, especially when shooting in quiet environments
  • Unlike the older tungsten models, which generated less heat, the new Fresnel lights can be quite hot, making it difficult to work with them for long periods.


Fresnel lights are a good choice for those looking for more affordable lighting. Knowing some of the benefits you will enjoy from using this type of light, it would help if you include it in your projects.

Not only will it save the amount of money you will spend on lighting, but you will also be able to get the best results for the photos and videos you will be taking.

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