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Continuous or Strobe Lighting?

Lighting is arguably the most important aspect of photography, after all, a photograph is how we capture light. Whether you are taking portraits outdoors in natural lighting or setting up a product shoot in a studio, you'll need to pay attention to how you are lighting your subject.

The first thing to do is to determine what kind of photography you'll be doing and what you are trying to achieve. If you are doing a product shoot for an online web store, you're going to need a lot more than just one light on the products or else there will be a lot of shadows showing up.

The two main types of lighting are fairly straightforward to understand, you have Continuous Lighting or your have Strobe Lighting. There is no argument to say that one is definitely better that the other, they have different purposes to suit different photographers' requirements.

Continuous lighting is fairly self explanatory. The lights are always on which allows you to see exactly how the light falls on to the subject and what shadows might appear. In a professional setting, Strobe lighting works as an on-camera flash would. The only difference being that you have the flexibility to move around and position the lights in a place where you'll get the best results.

The level of experience the photographer has is definitely a major factor in making a decision. If you are unfamiliar with how you'd like to light up your product, it would make a lot of sense to go for the option where you can automatically see the results. With Strobe lighting, there will always be an element of trial and error as you can't see the exact output of light (even with a modelling light).

Power output and consumption is something that might also affect the reason you decide to go with one and not the other. The power of the light sources are measured in Watt seconds (Ws). Without getting too technical, this refers to the maximum power used if the lights were sustained for a constant second. Continuous lighting is measured by Watts (W) which refers to the potential power used for every hour the light has been sustained. While these figures don't refer to the brightness of the bulb, it gives us a rough idea as to the power of the lights.

Strobe lights offer a short burst of light and tend to be more practical if you need a bit more power. If you have 800W continuous lights on for even half an hour, they get incredibly hot. However if you tend to do a little bit of video as well, then you can't go without continuous lights.

The price is between the two types of lighting systems can go from one end of the spectrum to the other. An entry level continuous light kit can start from about £150 up to the thousands. Whichever type of lighting you decide to go for, make sure you have the end product in mind and how the lighting will help you to achieve it.


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