Continuous LED Lighting vs. Flash Strobe Lighting – Hypop
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Continuous LED Lighting vs. Flash Strobe Lighting

Published 27th May 2021

Continuous_LED_Lighting_vs_Flash_Strobe_Lighting_1

Featuring. Godox QT600II (Flash) & Godox SL150W II (Continuous)

Are you wondering if you should choose flash strobe lighting or continuous LED lighting for your photography? If so, we’re here to make that choice a little easier with our comparison of the two, along with the pros and cons of each lighting option. 

We’ll look at the differences between the two lighting systems later, but it basically boils down to this: 

Continuous LED lighting - When you switch the light on, it stays on and provides continuous light while you shoot. It’s great for photography and video made with DSLR and mirrorless cameras, or even with smartphones and other devices.

Flash strobe lighting - Strobes don’t illuminate a subject until you set them off with some form of trigger system. It can only be used in still photography with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and they are typically more powerful than continuous lights.

If you want to take a deeper dive and actually see the results of shooting with the two lighting systems, why not check out our video on continuous LED lighting vs. flash strobe lighting? We shot the comparison photos for this video in Sydney at the awesome Innkeeper Studios, which is a great, friendly place to have a photoshoot.

 

The Difference

Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between the two systems:

Continuous Lighting

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Featuring. Godox SL-60W (Continuous)

This type of lighting is becoming ever more popular, and one of the reasons is because it’s so versatile. You can shoot with a smartphone or DSLR, and you can use it for still photos and filming videos. 

Another reason for the popularity of continuous LED lighting is the simplicity. It’s a ‘what you see is what you get’ type of lighting, so you know how your subject will look in the light before you press the shutter or the record button.

Along with being able to see and adjust the lighting before taking the photo, continuous lighting doesn’t need any complicated trigger systems to make them work. If you want to adjust the light, you can turn the dial to dim it or increase the brightness. 

 

Flash Strobe Lighting 

Continuous_LED_Lighting_vs_Flash_Strobe_Lighting_3_AD100pro

Featuring. Godox AD100Pro (Flash)

While flash strobe lighting remains a firm favourite in many photography studios, there are more factors to consider, which can put beginners off.

You must use a flash trigger system to set the strobes off, and you need to dial in the correct settings in your camera and adjust the light output power. All the equipment needs to be compatible in order to work properly, too. 

This type of lighting is only used with DSLR and mirrorless cameras and is not suitable for filming videos because it’s not continuous.

 

Pros and Cons of Continuous Lighting

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a continuous lighting system in order to help you weigh up the options. 

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Featuring. Godox CL10 (Continuous)

Pros

  • You can use any camera or device to shoot photography and video
  • You can easily see what your lighting will look like on the photo or video before shooting
  • You can use any modifier, like a grid, snoot, or softbox to shape the light and create a different ambience
  • It’s great for giving your images and videos a cinematic feel
  • If you want to capture motion you can get some great soft and blurry creative effects
  • You can set your shot up perfectly before pressing the shutter, so you don’t have to waste time shooting and then adjusting your lighting each time until it’s perfect
  • Continuous lighting is generally cheaper to buy than strobes
  • They are easier for beginners to understand and get good lighting results with
  • No need for trigger systems
  • No sudden bright flash means they are well-suited to shooting children or animals

 

Cons

  • Continuous lights tend to be less powerful than flash strobes, and they give out a softer light
  • It’s really hard to use continuous lights successfully with ambient light, especially if it’s bright sunlight. They just don’t pack enough power to overcome bright conditions
  • You have to use a slower shutter speed or a higher ISO with continuous lights because of the lack of power compared to strobes

For those who want the best of both worlds, the Godox FV150 Hybrid Continuous/Flash Light is both a continuous light and a high-speed sync strobe in one hybrid light. Team it with a modifier like the Godox Collapsible Lantern Softbox (65cm/26.6") and you have the ultimate in flexible, versatile lighting for indoors or out.

 

Pros and Cons of Flash Strobe Lighting

We’re going to take a quick look at the pros and cons of studio flash heads here:

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Featuring. Godox AD100Pro (Flash)

Pros

  • You can capture movement and freeze it without blurring, especially if you use a high-speed sync flash
  • The light from a flash has a sharp, almost glossy, effect which is popular in many commercial shoots
  • Strobes are powerful enough to overpower the ambient light, even on a bright day
  • Many strobes have Bowens mounts, which means you can use any kind of Bowens or Godox light modifier to create different light effects
  • The power of strobes means you can shoot with a low ISO. This means your images will be sharper and have less digital ‘noise’.

 

Cons

  • Strobes have a steeper learning curve than continuous lights due to the need to dial in settings, but once you have mastered the art, you’ll get much more control over the lighting on your shoots
  • It’s difficult to see what result you’ll get before you take the shot, even if you use a modelling light to give you an idea. 
  • You have to sync the flash head to your camera, either by wireless flash trigger, or a sync wire.
  • More expensive than continuous lights

The Godox SK400II Studio Flash Strobe is a typical example of a modern flash strobe. Flash Strobe output can range from 100W up to an impressive 1200W. 

 

Continuous and Flash Strobe Lighting Specifications Comparison

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Featuring. Godox FV200 (Hybrid Continuous & Flash)

Take a look at our quick lighting specifications comparison table to see how each lighting system stacks up against the other:

Flash

Continuous

Power Output

More, from a single burst of light

Less, because it’s continuously on

Trigger Required

Yes

No

Light Source

Xenon Flash

LED Bulbs

Mount

Bowens

Bowens

Can be Used to shoot Video

No

Yes

Preview Light

No, unless there’s a modelling lamp built-in

Light is always visible

Weight

Usually weighs less than continuous lights

Usually heavier because of the cooling system

Battery Operated

Yes, battery powered options available and can last up to a few hours depending on the light output

Yes, battery powered options available and can last a few hours 

Operating Temperature

While the flash tube remains hot, the unit itself is cool to operate

Being on continuously means these lights tend to work hot


Technology has brought us some great innovations, like the hybrid light. The Godox FV200 Hybrid Continuous/Flash Light is the bigger, more powerful brother of the hybrid light I mentioned earlier.

 
Achieving the Best Results for Continuous Lighting

  1. When you’re looking for continuous lighting, get the most powerful lights you can afford, like the Godox SL150W II Continuous Light. If it’s too powerful you can easily turn it down. It’s better to have more brightness than you need than too little!
  2. Use lighting modifiers to soften the light coming from the LED panels and heads, especially for shooting portraits. Umbrellas or softboxes are popular choices.
  3. Some continuous lights allow you to change the colour temperature, unlike strobes. For the most natural look, set them to a daylight colour temperature, which is around 5500-5600K.
  4. Turn off any other lighting or close the curtains before shooting. Other light sources can affect the colour temperature of continuous lights
  5. Because they aren’t as powerful as flash, it’s recommended to use a three-point lighting setup. Use two front lights as a key and fill light, and then you can use the back light as a hair light or background light, as in the diagram below:

Continuous_LED_Lighting_vs_Flash_Strobe_Lighting_7

 

Achieving the Best Results for Flash Strobe Lighting

  1. Unless you have High-Speed Sync (HSS) on your strobe, set your shutter speed to 1/125. If you have HSS on your flash such as on the powerful Godox QT600IIM Flash Strobe, you can set it to whatever shutter speed you choose above 1/125 and freeze motion such as water splashes.
  2. Keep your ISO as low as possible to give clear and noise-free images.
  3. Use the modelling lamp if you have one so you can see to gain correct focus on your subject before the flash goes off.
  4. Use a light meter in front of the subject to find the correct camera settings while you fire the strobe at the subject. This will tell you the settings for perfect exposure.
  5. Strobes are powerful enough so that you only need to use one to shoot portraits or fashion, like in the diagram below (although you can easily use two or more for extra effects). Setting a strobe and softbox roughly 45 degrees to your subject at head height should give you the classic Rembrandt lighting.

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Final Thoughts 

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Featuring. Godox FV200 (Hybrid Continuous & Flash)

Thanks for reading our guide, and we’ve hopefully made choosing the right type of lighting system easier for you. Beginners to artificial light will probably find continuous lighting much easier to learn, as you can see the effects of moving the light around and changing the power without needing to mess with triggers or light settings.

More established photographers often need the extra power a flash gives, especially if they shoot outdoors or on location a lot. And that particular sharp and glossy look that flash strobes give to an image is often what they are after.

Hybrid lights give the best of both worlds in one package. They are becoming ever more popular with photographers who also want to shoot videos without having to use separate lights.

So, it all comes down to individual preferences, as well as budget constraints. Whichever lighting system you choose, have fun experimenting with different modifiers and gels to create a range of effects.

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