The correct lighting can make or break an image which is why every photographer has a distinct style and lighting technique to make their images stand out. Different photography genres require a range of lighting effects which can be achieved by using either studio flash or continuous lighting depending on your approach to photography. Lighting ultimately depends on the preference of the photographer; however, if you’re a novice or a professional exploring different lighting options, there are a few factors to consider for each option to make the right decision for your chosen photography style.
Strobes or flashes do just as the name suggests, the light appears momentarily and doesn't stay on all the time. When you're using a flash as a light source the duration of the flash will be anywhere from an average of 1/1000 sec to as fast as 1/10,000 seconds or more. Most cameras will synchronize with the flash up to a shutter speed of anywhere between 1/60th to 1/300th of a second and the cameras that support high-speed sync will go even higher. The main difference between flash duration and sync speed is the flash duration is the amount of time the flash is outputting light while the sync speed is the fastest shutter speed your camera can work with flash to take the shot.
Why use studio flash?
The brightness of the flash units combined with their extremely fast speed makes flash a great solution for situations where you need to be able to stop fast actions like mid-air shots. Flash is good for photography where you want to overpower ambient light and make your subject appear brighter than their natural setting. Flash is also ideal for situations where you need or want to use artificial light, but you can't place it close to your subject, for example, while photographing football players on a field but the higher-powered flash units will be able to reach and lighter subjects more effectively.
Studio flash lighting Options
Speedlights and studio strobes are commonly used flashes in photography. Speedlights are versatile, portable, and more affordable compared to strobes which come with higher power output, recycle time, and modifier adaptability with a higher price tag. Speedlights strobes work on batteries, external battery packs and in some cases, ac power studio strobes on the other hand are primarily designed to work on ac power but newer models come with external battery packs or replaceable lithium-ion batteries. Here are some of our top picks for studio flash if you’re looking for options.
Pack and Head system: The CITI1200PRO is a powerful battery-powered flash lighting system that provides flash durations of 1/200s to 1/10860s and recycling times between 0.01 – 2.0 seconds making it a fast unit. The flash also provides incremental lighting control along with superior colour consistency providing allowing you to experiment with different temperatures and accuracy. It also comes with an AC adapter so you don’t have to worry about the battery running out.
Battery monoblock: The PIXAPRO CITI 600 Battery Powered Flash (Godox Wistro AD600BM) features a high-speed and powerful strobe flash with built-in technology enabling shorter flash durations between 1/220 second to 1/10,000 second for sharper images. The recycling time between 0.01 and 2.5 seconds also provides optimum flash control depending on what you’re shooting. PRO version is available, CITI400PRO and CITI600PRO which provide better colour accuracy with fast flash duration and recycling time This option can be used with AC adapters which means they can be powered by the lithium-ion battery as well as a power outlet.
Pocket flash: There are options available for pocket flashes including the CITI100PRO, PIKA200PRO, and CITI300PRO. A pocket flash is similar in size to a Speedlite but it comes with higher power output. These strobe flashes are portable and come with high-speed sync (HSS) and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides full-powered flashes with minimal recycle time.
Speedlite: The PIXAPRO GIO1 TTL Compatible Speedlite (Godox's V1) comes with a round head that produces a powerful beam of light that can take 480 full-powered shots per charge because of the high capacity lithium-ion battery. The exceptional flash duration of up to 1/20000 second makes the light ideal for moving subjects and a recycle time of less than 1.5 seconds ensures you can capture your shot and be done with your shoot in no time.
Main AC Options
2. STORM is designed for specific usage such as action capture, stroboscopic mode, HSS, colour stable mode, etc. They have an ultra-short flash duration and super-fast recycling time
Continuous light such as LEDs don't flash as they are on all the time so what you see is what you get. This can be a great asset for beginners to lighting or even advanced professionals who are working with very intricate lighting setups. While the bigger studio strobes do come with constant modelling lights, they can only approximate what will happen when the flash fires they don't give you a truly accurate picture of the lighting as the continuous lighting does. Another advantage of continuous lighting, you can use it for both photos and videos. They are also not limited to DSLR cameras but also smartphone photography.
Why Use Continuous Lighting?
LED lights are much lighter than studio strobes and even sometimes speedlights and generate very little heat if any while making no noise since they don't require fans in general. However, the COB LED general comes with a silent fan which should not pick up by any microphone if the light is placed about half a meter away. This is only applicable to VIDEO recording.
LEDs are generally ac powered but many have the ability to run on readily available batteries. Because of the continuous light, you can use your camera's light meter to set exposure, and you will not need a trigger to use the lights remotely. LED lights also frequently have the built-in ability to modify the colour temperature from tungsten today light balance which is a useful feature for setting the tone of your photograph. However, it does come at the cost of reduced brightness as some of the LEDs are dedicated to tungsten white balance and some are dedicated to daylight.
Continuous Lighting Options
There are three primary types of continuous lighting bulbs: fluorescent, tungsten and LED. while fluorescent and tungsten are standard options, recent technological developments have made LED the go-to option for continuous lighting at photoshoots. Here are some continuous lighting options you might consider for illuminating your set.
- The DAYLiTE4 MKIII Single Head Unit is an economical solution for continuous lighting as it can accommodate up to four fluorescent lamp bulbs while being energy efficient and lasting 10,000 hours. this light can be used for shooting portraits, still life, products, and even interviews.
- On-camera LED308 comes with 308 LED bulbs and it can be easily mounted directly on the camera for powerful continuous lighting for your shoot. The rechargeable lights can also be remotely controlled allowing you to adjust brightness and colour temperature to achieve the desired effect for different photoshoots including weddings, night portraits, movie making, interview lighting to name a few.
- Glowpad series. This is a slim-profile LED panel, which produces a broad diffused light source without the need for a softbox. The benefit of this is that it comes with built-in diffusion, make the light much softer, helping to de-stress the subject. There are great for small product photography, baby photography, vlogging, etc.
- LED PANEL. Apart from CRI and TLCI. Different LED panel has different beam angle and serve for a different purpose. Lights with a narrower beam angle (such as 45°) are great for times where your need to light your subjects from a greater distance. Since the beam is more focused, it maintains its intensity over greater distances, allowing the light to travel further. In other words, they will be less spread of light. The VNIX series has a beam angle of 45 degrees. Lights with a wider beam angle aren’t as good at throwing light over a greater distance, as the light spreads out more quickly, which caused it to drop in intensity faster than a light with a narrower beam angle. This type of panel is great when you are looking for evenly distributed light, for example, green screen, TV studio, etc They will usually work with COB (also known as a single light source such as fresnel, COB, or spotlight), to create different lighting effect with your subject. LECO1000B and LECO1500B have beam angles of 120 degrees.
- COB LED light is getting more and more popular for its power, quality of light, and ability to shape the light with different light modifiers, and they are generally more powerful than LED panels. COB LED technology is a direct chip on the board, COB has improved light efficiency, improved glare effect of LED lights, and reduced light loss. These lights come with different power output levels including 100W, 200W, 300W, and 500W.
The simple reality is that you will not find one light that is best suited for every situation that you will encounter as a photographer as we have discussed the merits of both lighting systems. If you're new lighting and plan to shoot people or products, we'd recommend you start with LED lights as the constant light sources will allow you to see what you're doing and will definitely help you develop your lighting skills.
Flash offers more power and depth of field and is generally preferred by professional photography. Continuous can serve for both video and photo but they are generally less powerful but they give you more options when used with smartphones.