Any time you consider purchasing new lighting equipment, it’s rather a daunting decision. There are more choices in the lighting world than almost anywhere else in photography. One of the simplest some choices is also one of the most important: should you get a continuous lighting or a strobe?
In this guide, I’ll have a look at the pros and cons of every type of light, break down what you should expect when buying them, plus examine whether continuous or even strobe is a better suit for your photographic niche.
Table of Contents
What are Continuous Lighting?
Continuous lights are any source of light that is constantly illuminating your own scene. These days, that could mean light emitting diodes (LEDs), compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), tungsten, or HMI and plasma lights. For typical lights, however , you’ll probably be considering LED or CFL based sources, as these are the most common continuous lights beneath the $1K mark.
CFL sources can be less expensive than LEDs, but they are falling out of favor designed for high-end photography and videography compared to LEDs. LEDs stay longer, allow variable color temp, and don’t flicker. The price differences between them are reducing, too, so my recommendation is to stick with LEDs if you need a continuous light.
Whether it’s the ever-present ring light, smaller creative RGB sources, or LED light painting tools such as LED wands, there’s a huge array of other sources of constant lighting. For this guide, however , we’ll just be looking at panels and monolight style resources, as they are the closest rivals to flash and strobe light sources.
There are many types of LED lighting available for photography, from omnipresent ring lights to light-painting tools like LED wands. For this guide, however , I’m just going to cover 2 of the closest competitors to strobe light sources: BROUGHT panels and monolight sources.
one LED Panels
LED panels are becoming very common over the last few years. These are basically just strips of DIRECTED lights arranged into a grid. They’re capable of putting out a reasonable amount of light, and they are often capable of running away from either a built-in battery, or perhaps a common format lithium-ion battery (or plugged into a wall outlet).
2 . Monolight-Style LEDs
Next up are monolight design lights. These look a lot more like a traditional studio strobe, but they use LEDs in place of a flash tube. Technically, these types of feature chip-on-board LEDs , and are thus composed of dozens of small LEDs on that chip. But they behave a lot more like a single light source, which means they cast brighter, less diffuse light compared to LED panels.
What are Strobes?
As opposed to continuous lights, strobes (including flashes, speedlights, flashguns, and so forth ) put out a single heartbeat of light, generally prompted by the activation of your camera’s shutter, then go dark until triggered again. Simply by triggering just once instead of continuously illuminating the scene, strobes have a number of pros and cons in comparison to continuous lights.
Before diving into those differences, though, let’s check out some of the common form elements of a strobe. Fair warning – this section is a bit messy thanks to the lack of standardized naming, so just consider these types of general categories.
1 . On-Camera Expensive
The tiniest strobes are typically the ones constructed into your camera. If your camera has a built-in flash, a person already have access to a strobe. Unfortunately, owing to the form element, it’s going to be limited in both terms of creative opportunities and output. This aims where your lens points, and isn’t going to be very powerful.
You can, however , use that flash to trigger off-camera flashes, whether through a pre-installed commander mode on some popup flashes or simply even though an optical trigger. (In other words, your off-camera flash fires when it “sees” another flash going away from. ) This opens up some creative possibilities when combining on and off-camera adobe flash.
second . Speedlight
The first step up beyond pre-installed flash is the speedlight. Simply by separating the flash into an additional unit, you get a lot more control over the direction from the output, more power thanks to the split battery source, and often control over things like the “zoom” from the light or the pattern this puts out.
All the major camera brands produce speedlights that go along with their cameras, but there are also several third party manufacturers, like Godox, who create strobes within a similar formfactor. I’ve really switched to the Godox V1 , and you will be using that for the demos later in this article, but again, they’re all really similar when it comes to capability.
3. Monolights and Strobe Heads
Beyond speedlights, there are also monolights and strobe brain. These are larger, but they may put out significantly more power than the smaller speedlights. Monolights incorporate the flash, power supply, and everything the other bits into one device. Meanwhile, strobe heads are simply the flash, which have to become plugged into a separate power pack. Monolights and strobe minds behave similarly, but they possess a slightly different form.
Compared to more simple speedlights, both of these types of strobes feature either larger electric battery packs or the ability to end up being plugged into wall power. This particular translates into more flash “pops” between battery changes, and frequently more frequent pops without waiting for the capacitors to charge.
While most monolights are bigger (think breadbox sized, compared to the large soft drink can size of speedlights), there are a number of units which are more of a hybrid. Possibly none better demonstrates the hybrid style than the AD200 from Godox . It has both a bare bulb and speedlight-style head, and isn’t a lot bigger than a camera zoom lens.
Differences Between Strobes and Continuous Lights
Strobes come in a wide range of form factors, but they’re all united by temporary nature of the lighting. In this section, we’ll take a look at what that significant difference from continuous lights means for such things as power per dollar, heat output, and most importantly, creative options.
1 . Output
You can get both strobes and continuous lights that have a high output, but in possibly case, cost is going to become a major factor. A strobe will almost always be able to deliver more light, even comparing a relatively basic strobe against a high-end continuous light.
However , do not think that you have to go strobe to get high output. Higher power LED sources may deliver enough light to produce many styles of photography viable with continuous lighting, but they will cost more. Additionally , they are going to never be as effective at freezing action when compared to the very short duration of a flash.
The quickest packs, like the Profoto Pro-11 , may have a flash duration as brief as 1/17, 500 of the second. This enables dramatic photos of splashing water, traveling powder, and other effects, where even fast motion can be frozen in time.
Continuous lights, while capable of putting out a lot of gentle, won’t match strobes for output, nor can they stop motion to the same degree as strobes. We’ll take a look at some more situations where this comes into play later.
2 . Heat
With modern resources like LEDs, heat output from continuous lights can be far less of an issue. Older tungsten sources were nearly as good at being area heaters as they were from being lights, but modern LEDs aren’t going to cozy the room to the same degree. They do still put out some heat, however , and have to dissipate it.
Some designs can dissipate this heat passively, without using a fan. Others, particularly as their output goes up, want some degree of active air conditioning. This means a heatsink along with a whirring fan. This generally isn’t an issue for digital photography, compared to videography, but might still get on your spirit.
Flashes aren’t immune to heat problems either. Fire the expensive too often, at too high of the power, and you may run into the thermal shutdown. To protect the system, the strobe will slow you down and give itself time to cool off. This can be annoying if it happens at a crucial moment.
Regardless of light solution, heat is a lot less of a , the burkha than it used to be, thanks generally to increased efficiency from the conversion of power to light source. If you are looking at old nonstop lights, or even older strobe systems, be aware of the potential for warm issues. But in general, would not let it dissuade you from considering continuous lights.
Very small frequent lights are only capable of lighting effects the closest scenes. Imagine selfie vlogs, small facility setups, and other nearby topics. Furthermore, they won’t have the ability to overpower ambient light, basically add some fill.
By comparison, very small strobes can certainly still put out enough light to light up an entire scene. They can be bounced, diffused, or easily disguised when placed off-camera in order to accent particular subjects. So , if you need a small form factor – whether for portability or some kind of other reason – a small strobe is the way to go.
With bigger appliance, though, this advantage evolves into less important. For example , a great monolight can throw loads of continuous light on a marketplace, to the point that it’s over bright enough for a lot of matters. Similarly, a moderately sort of LED panel can give off soft light on its own by no means require big softboxes or maybe other lighting modifiers.
five. Modifier Availability
Most lights may be made to work with most réformers. For strobes, a Bowens style S-mount is a common style of bracket, like this Godox S2 speedlight segment . It’s basically an engagement ring that goes around your strobe and then attaches to your lgt stand. You can attach lighting modifiers directly to the picture, or slide them in to the bracket’s holder for umbrella-style rods. Whatever method your personal modifier uses to connect, there is probably an adapter on the market.
Meanwhile, most continuous lights will assist some style of mounting process. Monolight-style LEDs may have something such as the S-mount bracket, while LED panels tend to have proprietary lighting modifiers specific on the light in question (like rolling doors or small softboxes that attach to the end). These modifiers are usually a whole lot more limited, although photographers who crave diffuse light may not prefer them anyway, since LIGHT EMITTING DIODE panels are generally pretty smooth.
If you need to go compact, you can also make use of small , dedicated modifiers regarding speedlights. At the simplest degree, these are tiny accessories love the Magmod system that are smaller than the flash itself (though usually limited substantially inside their capabilities).
Sole last consideration for speedlights is that their smaller measurement can lead to harsher light no matter if using a modifier. This is because the light bounces around less within the modifier compared to the large led tv vs lcd tv of a monolight. Although you can always diffuse the flash increasingly more, keep in mind that your light levels decreases each time.
As you move up via those models, however , you will get a lot more features. For strobes, you’ll get more power, rechargeable lithium ion battery support, quickly recycle times, and more. Constant lights will gain energy and color accuracy, battery-life, and support for application or remote control.
At around $250, you can aquire a very efficient speedlight or even continuous monolight . I also really like your Godox AD200 series of table lamps at this price point, as mentioned much earlier. While slightly bigger than the particular speedlight formfactor, they offer with regards to twice the power, and can even regulator between a bare light and speedlight style head for use with different modifiers. RED panels at this price point can be bigger and, crucially, happier than their cheaper counterparts.
If you’re contemplating strobes, don’t forget the cost of getting some flash trigger. Godox’s X System has been a solid musician in my experience, although you can also spend more on the Pocketwizard system to get greater range. A cheaper selection may be just using an optical trigger (plus the appropriate optical receiver if your flash doesn’t have one built in). This technique does offer less control plus reliability than a radio selection.
Continuous light bulbs, on the other hand, have no need for a trigger. The closest to a similar element is that some continuous lighting fixtures support a form of remote control, for you to adjust them from a distance sometimes with a physical remote as well as an app. In my experience, this is often nice when adjusting several lights in the field.
Which is Best for The Photography?
Trying to answer which light-weight one should get is like answering “what camera should I get? ” – it’s a question several answers. Ultimately, it comes up to your budget, desired capabilities, and intended use. Some comprehensive answers to this question will be possible, however. I’ve narrowed down a few characteristics to consider which will help narrow down your options.
1 . Motion
If you’re pride and sexual something that moves, a sign will freeze that action, for better or even more serious. While this can help get crisper results, it prevents advertising motion through blur (assuming you’re not dragging the exact shutter). Continuous lights, conversely, will make it easier to transport motion, but also make it difficult to freeze action. Many photographers use a combination of both for exactly this reason (to use a longer exposure within continuous light, then at some point your subject with a magnificent at the end).
2 . Multiple Wedding photographers
Should you be working with other photographers, endless lights are easier than syncing up strobes and a wireless triggers. The same goes for firing photos around videographers. Nonstop lights will look good for you both, while strobes can be bothersome.
five. Creative Versus Easy
While Travelling to not saying continuous illumination is always easy, it is a great deal easier to visualize compared to sensations. With continuous lighting, completely illuminated how the light falls about them, dynamically adjust modifiers, and make adjustments easily by arriving or down the power, as an alternative to having to guess or inmiscuirse flash values. Even though larger strobes have modeling lights, these are rarely while powerful as dedicated regular lights.
Strobes can open up more innovative possibilities, however. With the substantial power output and shorter duration, it’s easier to overpower ambient lighting. This gives a person full control over the light, possibly outdoors during the daytime. Another possibility is more possibility for altering light from a flash than just a continuous light, thanks to just how bright it is. For example , you can bounce even the most basic splash off a wall or even ceiling to get diffuse mild, while continuous lights usually are too dim to make that work.
If you’re working with people, the choice of light can have an interesting effect. Continuing lighting is always shining in it, and at high outputs, can bring about squinting and awkward words.
Strobes, that happen to be dark when not firing, will not cause any of these problems. They will, however , allow your subject’s learners to dilate. This can search unusual in extreme instances (dark studio, bright strobe look and wide eyes), but it’s definitely an niche concern. Just incorporating a modeling light is normally enough to knock low this effect.
5. Video Take advantage of
If you do a lot of video work or shoot both photos and videos, constant lighting is the better expense. Continuous lights can be used on both photo and online video, so you’ll get a much more bang for your buck.
A powerful emerging category of hybrid mild, if you are shooting photo not to mention video, is the StellaPro Reflex LED/Flash Mind . This particular light works as both a continuous video lighting with a 92 CRI ( color rendering crawl ), as well as a strobe at up to 10 fps. Its definitely an expensive, more industry option, but it’s an unique concept. I’m looking forward to looking how this category of equipment and lighting develops in the future and if there is going to be any high-quality, more cost-effective hybrid options on the market some day.
Flash versus continuous lighting effects is a story of tradeoffs, particularly when you dig into your products available. There are a number of great options in both categories, and am make use of both in my camera.
Strobes will be indispensable when shooting a wedding, lighting dark interiors to real estate photography, or utilizing a compact kit. Meanwhile, I have personally really enjoyed integrating steady lights into my unit photography in the studio, when the ease of use alone.
Whichever option you choose to begin with, adding artificial light for the repertoire can advance your own personal photography to the next level, as well as offering up an exciting learning opportunity. Tell me below if you have any opinions or questions about these numerous lighting options in taking pictures!