Good lighting is the foundation for a strong photograph. Whether shooting a landscape, model, or object, if the lighting is poor, the whole image will be ruined.
But unless you have a continual stream of natural light, in certain conditions it’s going to be pretty much impossible to achieve a desired balance of brightness without the help of artificial lighting.
This is where the strobe light comes in – and we’re not on about that multi-colored lighting you get in nightclubs, we’re on about strobe lighting that’s intended for photographers.
Strobe lights produce very intense flashes of light using an electric discharge in gas. This gives them the impression of “freezing” objects. For example, you may have seen strobe lighting used for special effects on TV or in live performances.
Strobe lights are perfect for adjusting the lighting in your studio and offer a host of benefits. They’re easy to set up and can be adjusted to specific flash durations to work efficiently between shots.
It’s especially good for photographers working with models, as with a strobe light you can capture a range of expressions and poses in a short amount of time, without having to reset the flash.
When shopping for a strobe light online it can be difficult to know what to look for, especially when you can’t test the lighting before purchasing. That’s where we’re hoping to help out.
We’ve put together a list of the best strobe lights on the market, and have considered characteristics such as flash duration and color temperature, brightness and power, and of course – cost and quality.
We’ve also answered some of the most frequently asked questions on the web, including the difference between a strobe light and a speed light, and the best lighting for studio photography.
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Flash duration is the duration between the flashes of light, and if you’re going to be photographing a fast-moving object or person, it’s advisable to use a strobe light with a fast flash duration with a t0.5 value of 1/2,000th second or higher.
Slower flash durations will do no good when you have a dynamic or quick-moving subject to capture.
This is also important to consider. The best strobe lights for photography usually have a color temperature between 4800k and 5200k.
This is less of a concern when shooting on modern DSLRs though, as many of these cameras adjust to the color temperature automatically.
The cost of a strobe light largely depends on how large your budget is. That said, an increasingly competitive online market does mean that there is something out there for everyone, and even cheaper models can be just as beneficial as more expensive versions.
However, it’s also worth thinking about the efficiency of the strobe light. There’s no point in buying a cheap light if it costs a bomb to run. Likewise, if it isn’t powerful enough or doesn’t have a fast enough flash duration for your needs, it’ll be a waste of money.
You can expect to spend $100-$200 – and upwards of this for something more sophisticated – on a decent strobe light, but the amount this will enhance your work will hopefully pay off in the long run.
Strobe lights can have a power intensity of anywhere between 100 to 1,000 watts. The intensity of your strobe lighting needs to reflect the size of the studio you work in.
For example, if you have a large studio, you’ll need a light with high intensity so that you can still work with smaller lens apertures and achieve the depth of field.
Some strobes also have the ability to adjust their power intensity to capture close-ups. If you have a studio that’s on the smaller side, then the intensity of the lighting isn’t too much of an issue, as you’ll have a smaller space to light up.
Strobe lights come in different varieties and source their light in different ways. For example, LED lights, halogen and xenon are all common light sources for strobe lighting.
If you need to transport your light to various locations it’s best to look for something portable and powered by battery – particularly if you’re planning on using it outside.
Benefits of strobe lighting
There are many benefits of strobe lighting and it can be used in a variety of photography scenarios. These benefits include:
- Intense source of light: Strobe lighting is powerful and can travel far if it’s a high intensity, which allows the light source to be placed a distance away from the subject. The guide numbers found on most strobe lights allow the photographer to alter the intensity of the lighting or even change its output to create a softer effect – however, this won’t alter the power of the light.
- They can be used outside as well as inside: Strobe lighting isn’t just for studio work. You can use them outside to achieve a dramatic effect, as the artificial flash strobes will overpower the natural light of the sun. This will make the sky appear darker and forbidding.
- Quick recycle times: Studio strobe lighting generally recycles very quickly, meaning the flash recharges at a fast pace to take multiple shots, meaning you can ensure you capture every movement or change in expression. This is particularly ideal when shooting with models.
They’re great for modeling: As mentioned above – strobes are perfect for capturing models, as most strobes will feature a modeling light which is a constant light that gives the photographer a preview of how the flashlight will appear without needing to take a test shot.
This improves efficiency while shooting and saves both you and the model valuable time. It also allows you to have better control over your shooting because you can quickly determine how your image will look before you click the shutter.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a Speedlight and a strobe?
Speedlights and strobe lights are pretty similar, as they both produce short bursts of light.
However, speedlights are slightly different in that they are usually battery-powered and therefore have a lower power output, longer recycle time, and less accurate color temperature readings.
The good thing about speed lights are that they’re usually portable due to their power source, and this makes them good for remote work or for working outside rather than in a studio. They’re also generally more affordable.
Which is better: continuous lighting or a strobe light?
Strobe lighting is generally more beneficial because it’s more practical.
While continuous lighting allows you to see what you are getting before you click the shutter, it also burns through a lot more energy and can be hot and uncomfortable for a model to stand in front of.
Because of this, strobe lights are usually preferred by many photographers.
What is the best lighting for studio photography?
Strobe lighting is great for studio photography as when working indoors you rely more on artificial lighting than natural light. A strobe light allows you to take multiple photographs of a subject over a short period, meaning you can capture a range of expressions and movements.
For modeling and studio photography this is preferable as shots will generally look more natural and it provides the photographer with a wider choice of pose and expression.
Strobe lights can also be used with a softbox, which diffuses the light, and translucent umbrellas, which bounce shadows and provide low-contrast lighting for the ultimate portrait shot.
Last Updated on 2020-10-10 //Source: Affiliate Affiliates