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Strobes vs. Continuous Light: Which is Right for You? - Video

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Today we are going to compare strobes and continuous lights to review the pros, and cons and which one may be right for your photography. 

I’ve been shooting strobes for decades but for the longest time, I never even considered continuous lights until the last couple of years. Today’s continuous LED light sources have a lot higher output, cooler lights, more affordability, and tons of modifier options. 

Strobes also referred to as flash, fire with a single pulse of light. This flash of light is short but powerful. Strobes can be speedlights, monolights, or something called ‘pack and head systems’. 

Continuous lights, also called constant lights, stay on continuously just like the name suggests. For many photographers new to artificial lighting this is a huge benefit because what you see is what you get. With mirrorless cameras and electronic viewfinders, you can see in the back of your camera how your camera settings change the exposure and look of the image. 

Strobes: PRO 

One of the biggest benefits of strobes is that you get a lot of output for a relatively affordable price. For example, when you shoot a group of people you may need to shoot at F11 or even F16. Strobes give you enough output to do so. If you are shooting in a very bright studio with lots of windows, strobes have enough output to allow you to overpower this window light so it doesn’t affect your exposure. Both of these things would be much harder to achieve with continuous lights. 

Strobes fire for only a fraction of a second, often 1/1000 second or even faster depending on the light. This makes it perfect for freezing motion. Moving hair, a jumping subject, or a dancer will all be able to be frozen in place and sharp. Furthermore, you don’t need to worry about camera shake or motion blur unless you have too much ambient light. 

This one is kind of a benefit of strobes; there are many different kinds. Beauty dishes, softboxes, umbrellas, etc. I must note that in the past continuous lights had fewer modifiers because they were more like ‘movie lights’ and the fact that they got so hot made it hard to attach modifiers. Now with cool LEDs, there are far more modifiers available. So, strobes have more but now continuous lights are catching up and most have Bowen’s mounts making it easy to mix and match.  

Strobes: CONS

One of the biggest downsides of strobes as a content creator is that they cannot be used to light video. Many of my recent commercial shoots and beauty campaigns have required that I shoot stills and motion at the same time or with the same type of light. If video is an important part of what you do or you’d like to venture into video, strobes won’t be a good fit. 

If you are new to shooting with strobes, exposure is confusing. Your shutter speed doesn’t affect the strobe exposure if you are under your sync speed and you can’t see the exposure preview in the back of your camera. If you do need some help with this, watch this video to learn more about strobe exposure:   

 • Your Camera Setti...  

Lack of video capabilities and learning exposure are the two major downsides, but there are a couple of other considerations. For example, you’ll need to buy triggers to fire the strobes. Also, sometimes in low light situations, it is hard to turn the lights down dim enough to balance with really low environmental light. 

Continuous: PRO

Certain continuous LEDs allow you to change the color temperature. This is referred to as Bi-Color. You can adjust from tungsten to daylight and everything in between. This is great to allow you to balance with other light sources or the color of ambient light in the room. Now, some continuous lights allow you to dial in the exact hue and saturation of the light. No need for gels, plus you can get them precise.


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