LED Continuous Lights vs Strobes for Photography – which is the best studio lighting solution?

LED Continuous Lights vs Strobes for Photography – which is the best studio lighting solution?

LED this, LED that, hybrid lighting, cri,
constant vs strobe….. are you getting a headache from all these headlines and videos
and kickstarter campaigns about these revolutionary new lighting gadgets? Is it causing you stress because you are going
to have to spend a ton of money to keep up your status as GEARtographer? Relax… first let’s break this down and
look at the practical differences between continuous LED lighting and strobes. Then over the next few videos I am going to
put some of these new LED lights to the test and show you how I would use them so that
hopefully – you can make better decisions before you run out and spend your hard earned
dollars. Stay tuned. Hey gang! My name is Joe Edelman and my mission is to
help photographers like YOU to develop a solid understanding of the HOWS & WHYS behind great
photography so that you can achieve your goals as a photographer. LED Lighting for photography has come a very
long way in the last few years and all indications are that LED’s will be the future of photographic
and video lighting – and thats a good thing – I promise. The real questions right now are do you really
understand the differences between continuous lighting and strobes or speedlights? Why would you use one instead of the other? If you are a new photographer which type of
lighting should you start with? Strobes or flashes do just that – they flash. The light doesn’t stay on all the time. When you are using a flash as your light source
the duration of that flash will be anywhere from an average of 1/1000 of a second to as
fast as 1/10,000 second or more and most cameras will synchronize with the flash up to a shutter
speed of anywhere from 1/60th to 1/300th of a second and cameras that support high speed
sync will of course go even higher. Just in case you are just starting out and
don’t quite understand the difference between flash duration and sync speed. The simple explanation is this. Flash duration is the amount of time the flash
is outputting light. Always very fast. As I mentioned generally between 1/1000th
of a second to 1/10,000th of a second or even faster The sync speed is the fastest shutter speed
that will allow your cameras shutter to open and the flash to fully illuminate your scene
before the shutter begins to close. 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 action like this shot of my model and me in mid-air. Flash is also great for situations where you
want to overpower ambient light – like the sun and have your subject appear brighter
than the natural setting. Flash is also ideal for situations where you
need or want to use articifial lighting but you can’t place it close to your subject. The higher powered flash units will be able
to reach and light your subject more efficiently like you see in this basketball arena that
I lit with four high powered studio strobes. Speedlight strobes work on batteries, external
battery packs and in some cases AC power. Studio strobes generally are designed to work
on AC power, but many new brands will work on external battery packs or even replaceable
lithium-ion batteries. Speedlights are generally silent except for
the pop when they flash. Studio strobes usually have fans so they do
add a noise factor to your shoot. You can also find more modifiers for strobes
at this point, but I have no doubt that will LED’s will catchup as the technology takes
hold. You also will need a trigger to fire your
strobes remotely and a flash meter is the best way to set exposure. Constant LED lights – don’t flash. 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 modeling lights – the modeling lights only approximate what will happen when the
flash fires – they don’t give you a truly accurate representation of the lighting. LED lights frequently have the built in ability
to modify the color temperature from tungsten to daylight balance. While this is a very useful feature – it does
come at the cost of reduced brightness. Because some of the led’s are dedicated
to tungsten white balance and some are dedicated to daylight. LED lights are generally much lighter than
studio strobes and even some speedlights. They generate very little heat if any and
they make no noise since they don’t require fans. LED’s are generally AC powered but many have
the ability to run off on readily available Sony or Canon 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. So I mentioned before that strobes tend to
be more powerful. Here is a Savage Universal Edge Lit Pro LED
light – this is one of the lights that I will be talking about in an upcoming video. I have this set 5 feet from my lovely mannequin
Lola. The Edge Lit Pro is set at full power and
I am shooting with a Nikon D810, the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 lens at f/4 with a shutter speed
of 1/4th of a second and an ISO of 64. Here is Lola with a LumoPro LP180R speedlight
set at the same 5 foot distance at full power and my settings are f/8 with a shutter speed
of 1/250th of a second and an ISO of 64. Here is the same set-up with a Paul C Buff
DigiBee DB800 studio flash still at 5 feet. This is a 320watt second flash also at full
power and my settings are f/20 with a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second and an ISO of
64. Now if you think that this proved the LED
light is a bad idea – definitely not – in fact – just the opposite. If I move this Edge Lit panel to 3 feet from
my subject I have a light source that is broader then my speedlite or studio strobe and I can
shoot at an aperture of f/4 at 1/60th of a second and an ISO of 320. Now I could go on for another 20 minutes splitting
hairs on the technical details – but you know that’s not my thing. I will leave that to the techtographers. Let’s jump to the part where we talk about
what does it make the most sense for you to buy. The simple reality is that you will not find
one light that is best suited for every situation you will encounter as a photographer. As I have shown you – there are pros and cons
to both lighting systems. I actually consider myself lucky that I learned
portrait lighting with those cheap silver reflectors and 150 watt bulbs mounted on top
of light stands. It made it easier to learn how to see light
– because the light was alway on. And it forced me to learn how to really see
and manipulate light because the light quality from those cheap silver reflectors is horrible. If you are new to lighting and plan to shoot
people like I do or even products, I would whole heartedly encourage you to start with
LED lights. The constant light sources will allow you
to really see what you are doing and will definitely help you develop your lighting
skills much faster. And for you portrait photographers – here
is a huge bonus that you get with constant LED’s… studio photographers have a bad
habit of working in slightly darker studios so that they can see the effects of their
modeling lights. The problem with that is that the modeling
lights really aren’t very bright so your subjects pupils expand to gather more light. The result is that you see less of the iris
and less color in the eye. Using LED lights for your portrait lighting
will generally cause the pupils to contract which allows you to see more of the iris and
more color. Some of you are going to ask about the new
LED flash combos and if they are worth the money. In my opinion – at the time of this video
– they are gimmicks and definitely not worth your hard earned money. If you are a geartographer and the GAS is
killing you – go for it – they’re interesting, but for practical purposes, they are too small
and way too expensive. You can actually save yourself money by owning
separate flash and LED systems compared to purchasing the few combination lights that
are currently hitting the market. Please remember the newest gear and the most
expensive gear don’t make you photography better. Only you can do that. Purchase your gear based on your real needs. Next up in the LED lighting series I am going
to take a look at a cool new modular LED system called Spekular. Until then, I hope you found this useful. Please hit that thumbs up and subscribe so
that you don’t miss any videos and until next time go pick up that camera and shoot
something because your BEST shot – it’s your NEXT shot, so keep learning, keep thinking,
keep shooting. Adios!

100 thoughts on “LED Continuous Lights vs Strobes for Photography – which is the best studio lighting solution?

  1. Excellent vid brother! Rule one: Gear doesn't make a better shot. We say that here in Florida too! It's like the pirate code of photography. lol I've been doing this for 9 years now and still evolving with lighting techniques. Both photography and cinematography. You can never master lighting (or sound)… you can just get really good at it. 😉 Thanks for the knowledge my friend. See you on the next TogChat.

  2. You have the best mindset on YouTube out of all the "photographer" channels, and I always love your conclusion after each video: "stop worrying about your gear and go out already, shoot, make mistakes, learn from them, improve".
    The camera manufacturers would go broke for sure, if every gearthographers would share your mindset tho 😀 But some people are too satisfied by counting eyelashes, soooo…..
    Love your work Sir!

  3. Great info Joe !! I found your channel about a week ago, Love your experience and knowledge. Im at a point in this great hobby, that I don't want to throw my money away buying gear on a whim.
    I currently shoot with a 5DMK3 with these lenses, 24-70 2.8 ver.2, 70-200 2.8 IS ver.2.( I have more lens,But these 2 are my Fav's) I  Shoot mostly landscape, but love those 2 lens and am starting to shoot more family portrait's. I own no flashes. I almost bought the canon 600Ex II-RT, then decided to do lots of research for off camera gear. I agree no 1 flash can do it all. Would like to have gear for portrait shooting in the field,( love natural light). I don't have a budget per say, meaning I would like buy some lighting gear for my needs without having to upgrade say a year later. I hope going into off camera flash photography  isn't going to be a slippery slope..lol. I would like one day to start a business shooting Family Portraits for some cash. Any thoughts you have would be most appreciated. 🙂 Cheers, Dave

  4. Great perspective on a timely topic. One reservation: In your example using a Savage Edge Lit Pro, it's a 1700 lux panel. I'd think that would only suffice for a fill light, compared to the DigiBee DB800 at 320Ws, strong enough to use as your main strobe. I've used four Dracast 500's (5500 lux each) in my studio, enough light to shoot at 1/200 sec f2.8, but that's almost as bulky as fluorescents.

    Could a hybrid best-of-both approach work? Strobes for the key lights and LED's for fill and hair lights? That would suit my style as I'm very picky about fill light modeling and hair fringing, less so about background illumination.

  5. Aged 16, I started as a (apprentice) pro photographer in 1978, in the studio we always used flash with modeling lights. Obviously, experience with equipment enables the user to get things right instinctively, rather like riding a bike. I can remember back in the days of film, confidently shooting weddings without a light meter (when I broke it on the job a couple of times) and getting all my shots perfectly exposed, it's the result of experience. Yet, I feel uncomfortable without modeling lights, they are not just for beginners, they help at any level.

    I understand your view that the increased iris gained without using modeling lights, or LEDs adds colour to the eye. However, when the eyes are dilated wider, it can make the subject more attractive. I suppose it depends on the effect you are after. 

    Great video Joe, looking forward to the next in this series.

  6. I use both systems..but for the moment I prefer the flashs. Maybe will rethink about it in, let's say 5 years ? thx 4 the video !

  7. Joe I find these 8-10 min videos more efficient than going through the 1 hour plus togchats. Not sure which is more convenient for you but just wanted to give you some audience feed back that you may not find with in your youtube stats. For some reason they also get higher views, probably because people are more willing to take 10 min to watch a video than 1 hr. Lets get you to 100K your content is of the best you can find for photographers.

  8. LED lights look interesting in a studio setup. But can we really use them and keep a low ISO? From what I have seen, you had to raise the ISO a bit to get enough light. And what about the ambient light, don't we usually want that off in a studio environment?

  9. Hey Joe. From what I've understand is that led light does not have the full spectrum of actual daylight. That it makes a film look less good ( more green or red). Is it in the more high price range led's that this goes away? Or will it remain with every led and do you always have to work on the corlors in computer edit software? I film with a Canon 750D, want to film more often in a space of 5×5 meters. More daylight lamps will use a lot of space. Now I have one key light, day light lamp. (on a budget) Wonder if I want to invest in more daylight lamps or LED. Can't seem to get a good grip on this. Thanks in advanced! Also thanks for the last 2 answers. Kind regards, Frank, The Netherlands, Europe

  10. Another well thought out and presented article. Can't wait to see the day when LED flashes start to become more practical and affordable.

  11. Another great vídeo with straight and easy-to-understand explanation. You are really an awsome teacher. Thank you, again.

  12. Love the editing! Sir you're doing a great job. Please, please, keep shooting people 😀 and please keep sharing your experience!

  13. Definitely support the idea of other people buying continuous light sources and carrying them around everywhere. I can just piggyback off them half the time and shoot high ISO. Then, if I need the actual power, versatility and lower annoyance factor of non-continuous light somewhere I can just use my own.


  14. Yeah so let's not forget LED light must connect to electricity (unless battery powered but even then, don't dream). So sport photography, architectural, and almost all outdoor photography its not a good solution. LED lights are good for studio. So it all comes to what kind of photographer you are.

  15. Awesome video Joe, though I was surprised you did not push the DB800s as a great hybrid solution when recommending starting with LED lights rather than strobes/flashes. It seems to me to be the best of both worlds (though maybe led modeling light portion is not quite as powerful as a dedicated LED panel)?

  16. Joe,
    Thanks for what you do for the Photography Community. Your work is beautiful and your mini-tutorials are invaluable. Keep up the great work !
    Gil from Largo, FL
    aka SemperFiGuy

  17. you're the best! I like to use both continuous lights and modified speed lights depending on what i'm doing 🙂

  18. Bismillah

    Thanks Joe for all your hard work and sharing your knowledge. What do you think of the software "portrait pro"? Thanks again!

  19. Great Video Joe! I'm a beginner photographer and i think you decided for me to buy continuous lighting.. because i like the hole idea that "what you see is basically what your'e going to get"

  20. I am looking for an adequate continuous light for baby photography. Can you add big soft boxes to the LED Lights, or have you tried the Jinbei EF 200LED?

  21. I really struggled today to get a strobe low enough for a background when I wanted to work at f2.8 in a confided space. Looking for at least one led light and I think the future is a mixture.

  22. great video. thank you so mush.

    i need your advise please

    what do you recommend as an LED for the Westcott 7' Umbrella (Silver) with its Diffuser and a Triple Threat Speedlite Bracket




    i am planing on using 3 LED light sources for that huge umbrella mainly for baby photography

    thanks again

  23. This is exactly the video explanation I was looking for. Thanks Joe. I had to re-edit this comment and add that this was a fantastic video.

  24. I never considered the pupil to iris ratio. Thanks for the tip!

    Do you have any thoughts regarding shoot-through modifiers vs mount style systems? ie.. Bowens vs using a second light-stand to diffuse the light.

  25. Very helpful. I’ve been wanting to learn more studio work and I think LED maybe a great start. Thanks for putting this together. Been really behind on Togchat.

  26. Hello Joe, I'm pondering on getting the Tokina 100mm 2.8, your thoughts, please. I'm a Nikon shooter at the moment, I'm using the 60mm and 24/70. Also, trying to find a good mono-light with bower mount, that wireless at a low price. Thank You Again.

  27. Tony and Chelsea always just seem to try and sell me something and end up wasting my time. You get to the point and explain what I’m looking for!

  28. Thanks Joe. Very cool point about low light modeling and the pupils. Nice and informative. I shoot both LED and studio strobes, but getting more and more into LED.

  29. I just purchased a Neewer monolight, couldn't find a good review, but because of the price, I jumped into the river. Can't you do any review with cheap gear? Thanks, and thank you for all your help.

  30. This is a great straight to the point video I loved it thank you
    Do you have a video comparing cheaper led lights?

  31. Maybe I missed it being mentioned, but some lights allow both strobe and continuous lighting. I use 2 XPLOR 600's that do this.

  32. Hi Joe, i love your videos, so informative. I would like to know if this LED light can be used for Newborn photography?

  33. Why didn't I click this video earlier, could have saved me an hour of my life! Thank you for the helpful video 🙂

  34. Joe, which LED light would be portable, strong enough for sunset backlit photos? how many would I need? thanks 🙂

  35. Joe, quick question..Are speed lights good enough to use in a lets say 36" octobox outdoors for high speed sync.. I ask this because I see people using studio strobes like explorer 600 for example. They say they need the power. But when they use it they say it was 1/8 to 1/4 power. So if it is that low of a setting why not just use a speed light at full power?

  36. Great video – thanks so much for this! I've been primarily a landscape photographer for about 30 years. I've branched into product shooting and dabbled with stock (which is more hobby than anything). I've recently been interested in doing portraits and have made a fairly small investment in a continuous LED setup with one octabox key light, one 24" square softbox fill and am combining these with the speed light I already had plus some background lights (those terrible silver cones do ok for this).
    I am happy to see yur video supports the approach I am taking. I'm learning quickly and enjoying the ride!

  37. Thanks to Joe. This is great comparison review.If I want to shot jewelry ,would you recommend LED or Storbe? If LED is best option for me beginner ,do you have any LED brand model for my to buy?

  38. Great vid. I have learned a great deal about products and more importantly about light and seeing possibilities with your vids. I am scheduled to present a portrait photography workshop and want to use constant light , rather than flashes, so beginners can see the lighting in real time. I have not used continuos lights, but are considering that it would be beneficial to beginning students and better for me with logisitc, rather than everyone waiting to use my pocket wizard. A few questions regarding the Savage Edge light pro. light. If I wanted to put it in a softbax, is it possible? Would a Westcott Apollo Orb (taht I presently own) work if I attached an adapter that would accept an umbrella? I'm looking to shoot around f/4 or wider….would the Edge light provide enough light in an interior room? Thanks so much!

  39. Hi Joe. Love your videos. This question is a little bit 'left of centre'. I have a 'Lola' as well to practice lighting in my home studio but she is 6' tall! (in 2 parts) I have noticed yours – how have you attached her to the base shown. Thanks (from 'downunder')

  40. I recently invested in a Neewer LED portable light for the Xmas season. I love taking photos of holiday lighting, but am having difficulty balancing a speed light with the dimmer holiday lights. I happened at a photo shoot at Peddler's Village in Lahaska, PA. I saw the photogs were setting up portable studio strobes in beauty dishes, but only using the modeling light to light the subject. I took a grab shot between the photogs and when I got home to post process the photo, I was amazed how much better it was than my speed light shots which were still overpowering the holiday lights. That convinced me that a continuous lighting source was much better and balanced over a speed light in that situation. Thanks for a great video on this subject.

  41. This is wonderfully useful and concise tutorial on the differences between continuous and strobe, thanks for doing this? Did you ever do any more videos in this series? Thanks, Art

  42. Sir. I just wanted to say thank you for this explanation, as you said in the video i have a dilema to buy led or strobes. Now i know what to buy, thank you very much 🙂

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