Lighting: studio or strobe? Which is best for a new photographer?

March 07, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

If you take photos, eventually, you will most likely need to invest in some form of artificial lighting.  And unless you have a huge expense account, you have a budget that will limit you. This is where I found myself over the past few months.  The decision I began to wrestle with was whether to invest in continuous studio lighting or strobe.  Both have advantages, but what will be the most useful and practical?  In the end, I opted for portable flash units.  This was my thought process...
 

 

My initial intent was to invest in studio lighting.  It provides a constant light source, so you see the effect the light position and quality has on your subject in real time.  You can make subtle adjustments before you even touch the camera.  There are a number of companies that offer entry level 3-4 light kits with modifiers and stands, all for the cost of a single speed lite (ie 600EX-RT). This is a great option for a studio, but is less practical for location shoots, particularly if you don't have an assistant.  You will still need to purchase at least one speedlite for times when you aren't in a studio or on a formal location.  Think family gatherings, weddings, pics of the kids, etc...

 

Strobe lights are also available in kit forms.  They use less energy and give off less heat.  The drawback is you never know exactly how the lighting looks until you have taken a test shot.  Some kits have a modeling light option, which can make this less cumbersome, particularly positioning.  Portability is still an issue with these units.  Like studio lights, you'll probably need an additional speedlite.

 

After spending months looking at my options, I settled on using speedlites.  I was using a pair of 430ex-II speedlites with reflectors and modifiers.  I had these early on and was content.  The IR trigger on my 70d worked well so I didn't need to invest in pocket wizards.  Unfortunately, they lacked the power I needed for some of my location shots.  At this point I knew I was going to invest in a more powerful flash unit.  Once I aquired my 5D mkIII, I knew I was also going to need a remote system to shoot off camera flash.  So when I decided I was going to set up a studio,  I opted for 2 600ex-rt flashes controlled by the canon St-E3-RT TTL radio trigger.  These serve as my key and fill lights, and are modified with umbrellas and a soft box.  They do have a modeling mode which makes positioning much easier.  Although the radio trigger cannot fire the 430EXII Units, I have them on optical triggers to provid rim and background lighting.  Settings are manual only when used this way, but the triggers are only $20 and I already had the flash units.  A third 600EX-RT was not in the budget.  I use a flash bender and color gels on these.

 

For me, this system works great.  It is extremely portable, I can use the same flash on camera as a bounce for family gatherings, and then on a stand with a soft box for a key light.  It's very versatile.  It's powerful enough to use on location and the canon wireless system works flawlessly.  I don't need to have multiple lighting systems and accessories.  There are other ETTL remote options, as well as third party flashes that can be used.  The only major drawbacks are the need for batteries (which is addressed by using rechargeables), and the power limits of speedlites.  Obviously if you are doing shoots and find yourself needing brighter lighting, or more than 2-3 units, you may need a different setup.
 

 

If you are looking for the most bang for your buck, particularly if you are just starting out. I think this is the way to go.

 


Comments

No comments posted.
Loading...
Subscribe
RSS
Archive
January February March April May June July August September October (1) November December (1)
January February March (1) April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December