A flash, a speedlight and a strobe. What’s the difference?

Updated: 2021-08-17

With the advancement of technology and the emergence of new and improved cameras, it’s easier than ever to capture high quality images in all kinds of light. A photographer can now take a photo of a wedding in broad daylight and have it come out perfectly exposed, or shoot a photo in the middle of the night with a slow shutter speed and capture the world around them without having to worry about camera shake or blur.

In photography, there are two kinds of lights; the ones that you control and the ones you don’t. The ones you can use as an artist to create your vision and the ones that are beyond your control. You are limited only by your imagination.

Flashes, speedlights, strobes, monolights. Lights are one of the most important pieces of photographic equipment. Most photographers have more than one light, and many have a large collection of them. Light can make or break a photo. That’s why it’s crucial to choose the right type of light for your scene.

Detachable lights have been a huge part of the digital photography revolution. With their ability to provide a long exposure, to freeze a moment in time and create a stunning effect, they are a popular choice for professional photographers, but also an ideal way for an amateur to capture shots of food, drink, people or places around.

If you’re a serious photographer, chances are you own at least one and know the difference between them. But if you’re a novice, it can be hard to know which one to buy and use. In this post, l’ll take a look at each of them as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

What is a strobe?

A strobe (stroboscope) is an electronic flash unit. It has the ability to emit a very bright light which is a requirement for photographs in low-light conditions. Strobes can be used in photography and video production to provide illumination in both daylight and night conditions.

The light from strobes can be made to appear as if it is emanating from the device itself or from an off-camera location. A strobe can emit light in a highly concentrated form. The word stroboscope was coined by analogy with the Greek strobos (στρόβος), meaning “whirling” and skopein (σκοπεῖν), meaning “to see”.

What is the difference between the flash and a strobe light?

When most people hear the word “flash” in regard to photography, they probably think about a bright burst of light that captures a special moment in time.

The flash produces a burst of light that temporarily illuminates a scene or subjects within a scene and may be auto- or manually-controlled. This is a great way to capture a perfect picture of a memory and keep it as a keepsake. However, the flash is not the same thing as a strobe.

While we can say that every strobe is a flash, not every flash is a strobe. These terms are not interchangeable, they technically refer to two different types of light.

A strobe, as its name implies, is a flash of light that happens rapidly over and over again in a steady rhythm.

A flash is a single burst of light, like the flash on a camera. However, the terms are often used interchangeably to refer to both types of light.

Disadvantages of the strobe lights

There are some disadvantages to using strobes for photography. They are large and bulky and need to be set up prior to taking a photograph. The light they produce is often very intense and can make it difficult to get the shot you want. Strobes are not portable and are quite expensive.

What is a speedlight

Speed lights are Nikon brand of portable strobes. A speed light is a portable type of flash unit that can be used with most cameras. They are small, lightweight and provide a convenient way to add light to any scene.

Speedlights are designed to be used in conjunction with a camera’s pop-up flash unit, through the camera hot shoe, or other flash units, to provide a more natural look to the resulting photographs.

The light from a speedlight is more direct, providing a more natural look to the portrait, for example, and less likely to produce red eye effect. Photographers also call them flash guns.

What is the difference between a flash and a speedlight

One difference between the two is the power source. A flash uses a battery or an A/C outlet to power its LEDs, while a speedlight is powered by two AA batteries. Speedlights are portable flashes, they can be used as a standalone strobe lights without the camera, they are compact and generally smaller than standard flashes.

Disadvantages of using speedlights. How many speedlights equal a strobe?

Light from speedlights is different from that of a strobe, which is why it makes sense that they are different tools. One of the advantages is that the speedlight takes much longer time to regain the full power between flashes. When used indoors, speedlights produce weaker light output than studio strobes. The strobes are generally at least twice as strong as speedlights.

What is a monolight?

A monolight simply is a lighting system in which a single light source is used. The light can be either a flash tube, LED or an incandescent lamp. Some photographers prefer to use one light when shooting, because they say it gives them more control over the lighting. 

A professional monolight is a big, powerful, “dedicated” flash unit, designed to be used with a studio flash stand and reflector. Although the light produced by monolights is harsh, it is easy to control and delivers a crisp, clear picture. The monolights are often used for shooting in studios, hotels, museums, and large venues.

Which is better, strobe or continuous lighting?

When it comes to photography, there are two kinds of light sources that photographers use, continuous light and strobe light. For professional photographers, the debate over continuous lighting versus strobe lighting has raged on for years. It’s a debate that has only intensified with the arrival of LED continuous lighting.

When starting in photography, one is often told that using strobe is easier and that continuous light is more difficult. This is not 100% true. A lot also is said about the different look that each produces, but the reality is that the look of the images is different mostly because of the lighting modifiers that you use for the different types of lights. Let’s take a look at the differences between strobe and continuous lighting and why you might use one over the other.

The main benefit of using a strobe light over a continuous light is that you can use a slower shutter speed and not worry about your subject getting blurry. A slower shutter speed allows you to capture more light and this can help you to achieve a great deal of depth in your images. Strobe lights make your subject pop, however, they are expensive and a little hard to use.

Many photographers choose to shoot with a flash because of the quality of light they can produce. Others prefer continuous light sources that produce softer light, that can be positioned anywhere around the subject, and still others opt for a combination of both.

The reason for this is simple: a photographer’s choice of light source is a deeply personal preference. Some photographers like the stronger shadows that are produced by a flash, while others love the softer look of continuous light.