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This post was most recently updated on Feb 13th, 2022

Which type of light should you use to enhance your photographs? There are many different lights available, and this article will explain speedlights, strobes, and flash photography and what type of light you should use depending on the photography project you are undertaking.

Do you value portability in a photography light? Or are you looking for some serious power and intensity? It can be tricky to know which is the best light to use, especially if you are new to photography.

With so many on the market, it can be hard to choose, and often you find yourself overwhelmed and continuing to work with poorly lit photographs.

Well, no more! Today we have the answers for you, so just keep reading to see the differences between speedlights and strobe to help you decide which is best for you and your flash photography!

What Are The Different Types Of Lights?

There are two different types of lights today that we will be looking at, speedlights, strobes, both are part of flash photography. Before we dive into looking at them in more detail, let’s first learn what they are!

Speedlights are portable and battery-operated flash units that can be attached to camera hot shoes or used as an off-camera flash unit.

Studio strobes are large flash units that are usually used in the studio. They are not always powered by a power pack, but instead are powered by batteries.

Flash units are all pretty much equal. There is no single type that is better than another. It depends on what you want to do with them.

Some people prefer high-speed flashes because they’re more powerful and faster. Others prefer low-power flashes because they’re cheaper and lighter. Now that we have established what these lights are, let’s move on and look at them in closer detail.

Speedlights

Speedlight Vs. Strobe Vs. Flash Photography (Which One Is Better)

The major positive features of using speedlights in flash photography are outlined below to help you decide which type of light is best for your photography project.

Portability

Speedlights are portable and lightweight. Their main differentiating factor is portability. They make great travel cameras. Speed lights are great for taking pictures when you’re on the go. You can use them to take photos without having to carry around extra equipment.

Modifications

However, speed lights aren’t always the best option. Modifying them can make them much better than what they were originally. Speedlights are cheaper than mono lights. However, they’re usually slower to recycle power and have fewer features available.

There are fewer modifiers available to modify the light from speed lights but one way that speed light manufacturers try to help with that is by building a way to zoon the light in or out directly on the flash unit. This way you can widen or narrow the beam of light without using any modifier.

Swivel Head Function

Speedlights have a swivel head that can be twisted to affect the exact direction of the lights easily without having to adjust your stance.

This is a great feature to improve the ease of use.

Through The Lens Feature

Most speed lights have a built-in feature called TTL (Through The Lens). This allows the flash to send out a pre-flash before firing the main flash. This gives the camera a chance to adjust the amount of light being used by the flash.

For example, if you normally take pictures indoors without a flash, but want to take a picture outdoors under overcast conditions, you could turn off the auto function and let the camera choose the correct amount of light needed for the scene.

However, if you’re shooting in Manual Mode, you’ll need to make sure that you know how much light you need for each shot. You can do this by turning the Flash Power down until you get the right amount of light for the scene.

Synching

Most speed lights have high-speed sync capabilities. However, there is a trade-off in using this feature. Ambient light can be further reduced but that comes with a price. You should only use high-speed sync if you need to.

Ease Of Use

Speedlights are great for beginners because they are cheap and easy to use. You can buy them second-hand or new, but if you do decide to sell them later, they are still worth something. So if you’re just starting try speedlights.

Strobe Lights

Speedlight Vs. Strobe Vs. Flash Photography (Which One Is Better)

The major positive features of strobe lights are outlined below to help you decide which type of light is best for your photography project.

Power

Strobes tend to pack much more power than speedlights. Therefore, they can be used with smaller modifiers or used to overcome the sun. Studio strobes using a power pack will have even more power output.

Most photographers find the amount of power from most good-quality speedlights more than sufficient for just about any situation, but some people may need a bit more power so should opt for strobes.

Recycle Times

Studio strobes are used by professionals because of their ability to quickly fire off several flashes. Speedlights require a long recycling time because of their slow response times.

This means you have to wait longer between each shot. When shooting fast or at high power, this difference becomes very apparent.

Power Consistency

Batteries in a speedlight start losing their power when you’re shooting fast. When that happens, the power starts becoming inconsistent between shots. That means you might get some shots overexposed while others are underexposed.

Strobe lights don’t have this issue as there is plenty of power in them, making them a fine choice for those that need lights that will last all day!

Light Modeling

Strobe lights normally have more LED or an incandescent bulb to be used for light modeling. You can therefore preview light quality and set lights to their optimal position.

Modifiers For Lights

There are many ways to use lights. Some people prefer softboxes, others prefer umbrella-like reflectors, some prefer strip boxes, some prefer octo boxes, some prefer beauty dishes, some prefer barn doors, some prefer rings, some prefer mag grips, some prefer flash brackets, etc. The sky’s the limit!

Battery Charge

Speedlights need to be charged every day, otherwise, they won’t work properly. Most speedlights use four AA batteries, but some use only one.

Strobe lights are usually connected to a power pack or a wall socket, allowing them to last longer. If they do require batteries, opt for rechargeable batteries as they will last longer than disposable ones.

Overheating

Speedlights can get very hot when used for long periods. Most speedlights have fans built into them to help keep them cool. For most speedlights, there is no need to worry about overheating. Strobe lights do not heat up as much as speed lights, but if they do, they also have built-in cooling systems.

Final Thoughts

Whether to use strobe lights or speed lights primarily comes down to portability vs power, but also the other factors listed above make a difference. Flash units come in two main categories: portable and studio.

Both have strengths and weaknesses, so you should check these out before you purchase a photography light. It depends on what sort of photography project you are doing and what features you need the most from a photography light.

Start with a type that makes the most sense to your current photography and go from there!