Let’s face it. If you are a “natural light only” photographer, learning flash can seem like a monumental task. And it may be a monumental task that you have little-to-no interest attempting to learn. As someone who’s been exactly where you are, I can confidently say that learning flash is WORTH THE WORK. Once you learn it, you will feel unstoppable. And THAT is a great feeling, my friend.
Speedlight, Strobe, or Continuous Light?
If you are at a point of frustration with relying on natural light and you’re curious about starting to use artificial light, you may be wondering, “Which is best for me? A speedlight, strobe, or continuous light?”. Many photographers are tempted to go the continuous light route because there is not much of a learning curve since the light is continuous. Before you dive right into purchasing a continuous light, please read on, because while you may be tempted to take the easy way out, it may not be the best way. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
There are a number of pros to using speedlights. Speedlights are small flash units that can be used ON or OFF of your camera. Because of their size, they are easy to just toss in your camera bag and take with you on-the-go. They are battery-powered, so do not have to be used with any sort of external power source. Most speedlights have flash heads that swivel, so you can bounce your light instead of having to point it directly at your subject. Speedlights can also be a bit more budget-friendly than strobes or continuous lights.
Some of the cons of speedlights are that they do not pack as much power as a strobe. The battery life can be significantly shorter, especially if you’re frequently using it at full power. You also do not have as many options available when it comes to modifiers.
I’m not going to lie, strobes are my light of choice! I use a strobe (specifically the Profoto B10) for every single one of my in-home sessions. There are many pros to strobes. They are extremely powerful. One strobe provides PLENTY of light for an in-home session. Many strobes are smaller and way more portable than they used to be. My Profoto weighs approximately 2 pounds, and it has a rechargeable battery that lasts a long time. Strobes can also be used with a very wide variety of modifiers and accessories. And keep in mind that some strobes actually have the option to be used as flash OR continuous light (talk about the best of both worlds!).
Some of the cons of strobes are that you don’t have the convenience of using them ON your camera, so you will need to purchase additional equipment, such as a trigger to even use them. Although some strobes these days are fairly small, some are still large and can be cumbersome to set up. Some strobes require an external power source in order to work. And, lastly, most strobes often come with a hefty price tag.
Continuous lights may seem like the way to go if you know nothing about artificial light. There are definitely some pros to continuous lights. What you see is what you get. It’s really not much different than using natural light. You turn the light on, and you can see how it will look on your subject before you take a shot. You also don’t need to purchase a trigger. You just turn the light on and it stays on until you turn if off.
Although continuous seem easy-peasy, there are some cons. Continuous lights are not very powerful, so you may need more than one to reach your desired amount of light. This could be challenging in a home with small rooms. You may not have the space to set up more than one light. Also, continuous lights do not freeze motion, so in order to maintain a high shutter speed, you still may need push your ISO way higher than you’d like to. Continuous lights can also get very hot if you’re using them for an extended period of time, so waiting for them to cool before you can disassemble them could be a nuisance. Another issue is color. If you are using continuous lights AND natural light, you may have trouble getting an accurate white balance because you’re mixing the lighting. Your only option to fix this is to block out any and all ambient light, which can be challenging depending on where you’re photographing.
As with anything else, there are pros and cons to each option. Do your research and determine what will benefit you and your business the most! And if you need help, you know who to call! I’m here for it.