Continuous LEDs vs strobes: which is the best solution for studio photography?

Sep 19, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Continuous LEDs vs strobes: which is the best solution for studio photography?

Sep 19, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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If you’re new to studio portraits, there’s just so much to learn about the light. Also, you have a choice between strobes/speedlights and continuous LED lights. If you can’t decide where to start, the latest video from Joe Edelman could be helpful and get you on the right track.

In this video, Joe breaks down the differences between these two types of lighting. You’ll learn their main uses, and also why it’s good to use one or the other in different situations.

YouTube video

Speedlights and strobes

There are certainly some obvious and less obvious differences between LED panels and strobes. But why would you use one instead of the other? And if you’re a new photographer, which one should you start with?

With strobes or flashes, the light flashes in duration between 1/1,000 sec and 1/10,000 sec. Most cameras will synchronize with a flash with the shutter speed between 1/60 sec and 1/320 sec. With high-speed sync, the shutter speed can go higher. If you’re new to high-speed sync, you can learn more about it here and here.

Flash is great for situations where you want to freeze fast actions. It’s also useful when you want to overpower ambient light. You can also use flash when you need artificial lighting, but you can’t place it close to your subject.

As for the power, speedlights work with batteries, external battery packs or, in some cases, AC power. As for the studio strobes, they work mainly with AC power, but there are also models that use external battery packs or replaceable Li-Ion batteries.

Speedlights are generally silent, except for the short pop when they flash. The strobes have fans, so they emit some noise.

Lastly, when it comes to modifiers, for now, there is a broader choice for the strobes and speedlights. But it seems that LEDs are catching up, according to Joe.

Continuous LED lights

Continuous LED lights are on all the time, which means that what you see is what you get. Because of this, they can be great for beginner photographers. While studio strobes have the constant modeling light, it’s not a faithful representation of what the light will look like when the flash fires.

Some LED lights have the option of adjusting the color temperature from tungsten to daylight. However, this usually means lower brightness, as one part of the lights on a panel is set to tungsten, and the other to daylight temperature.

LED panels are lightweight, they generate very little heat and they don’t make noise. They’re generally run on AC power, but some of them can work with batteries, too. Because the lighting is constant, you can use a light meter to set the exposure.

Output comparison

In the video, Joe compares the output of LEDs, strobes and speedlights. You can see it in the video, but here are a couple of screenshots to get the idea:

Edge Lit Pro LED Light
LumoPro LP180R speedlight
Paul C Buff DigiBee DB800

So, what should you buy?

Well, to disappoint you right away, there will not be a single light which is ideal for every single situation you’ll encounter as a photographer. But, if you’re new to portrait photography, constant LED lights could be the way to go. There are pros and cons to them, but they will teach you how to see and modify the light. They will help you learn the principles of lighting much faster.

For portrait photographers, there’s a bonus. With constant LED lighting, the model’s pupils will contract, so you’ll have more of the iris and the eye color will be more prominent.

Finally, there are LED/flash combos, if you’re really indecisive. But Joe points out they’re still too expensive and not worth your hard-earned money. It’s better to invest in separate pieces of lighting gear.

[LED Continuous Lights vs Strobes for Photography – which is the best studio lighting solution? | Joe Edelman]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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One response to “Continuous LEDs vs strobes: which is the best solution for studio photography?”

  1. PJMM Avatar
    PJMM

    I completely agree with this article and it almost mirrors my experience. The constant lights are a fantastic learning tool and can produce some superb images. However I had to use a mix of flash and fixed recently due to an accident with one of the LEDs and I found the mix, but in particular the power of my speedlight, made a huge difference. I think in the long run strobes and or speedlights are the way to go. Excellent article