Flash vs. Constant Light: What’s the Best Lighting for Photography?

6/04/2021 6:12 am

Natural light might be the holy grail, but it doesn’t always cut it. Enter: artificial light. It’s reliable, consistent and powerful, all things photographers crave when they’re on a shoot.

 

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and buy an artificial light source, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of products on the market. To make your decision easier, you want to start by learning the difference between the two main types: flash vs constant light.

 

Here’s our guide to both, plus which kinds of photographers they're best suited for.


First things first, what’s flash lighting?

 

If you’ve ever had your photo taken, you’ll know all about holding your pose until a burst of light comes from the camera. That intermittent lighting is known as the flash. Most cameras have a built-in flash that’s triggered when you fire off the shutter, but it’s limited and only useful for everyday snapshots.


For professional photography work, you’ll want to invest in an external flash unit. As for your options, a speedlight flash sits on the hot shoe of your camera, while studio flash setups are larger and fire off camera.

Flash vs Constant Light: What's the Best Lighting for Photography?

Ok. What’s constant light?

Flash vs Constant Light: What's the Best Lighting for Photography?

 

 

On the other hand, constant light stays on for a lengthy period of time — definitely longer than it takes to press your camera’s shutter button. This term can refer to household lights, such as desk lamps, or photography accessories, like portable LED lighting kits, which is what we’ll be talking about.

What’s the best artificial light for photography?

 

 

The short answer is that there isn’t a definitive one! Both flash and constant light have their pros, and they’re suited to specific styles of photography.

 

Now that you know the difference between flash vs constant lighting photography, it’s time to figure out which one you need in your kit. To do this, think about the settings you work in and the scenes you like to capture.

Flash vs Constant Light: What's the Best Lighting for Photography?

When you should use flash lighting

Flash vs Constant Light: What's the Best Lighting for Photography?

Flash lighting is a go-to for many photographers, and particularly for those shooting studio portraits. We admit flash units and strobes are much trickier to work with than constant lighting devices, especially if you’re playing around with advanced techniques. But they’re undeniably more powerful.

 

A high-powered flash head lets out a huge burst of light when you fire the shutter. This allows you to shoot with your camera at a low ISO setting, leaving you with crisp, high-quality and noise-free images.

 

Since flash lights provide a burst of light, they help you to freeze action. Because of that feature, they’re great for shooting moving subjects and experimenting with styles like high-speed flash. A good example of this is water drop photography.

Thanks to their power, flashes can also be used outdoors, and they work with the sun to provide fill lighting to heavily backlit scenes. In other words, they’re strong enough to light up all of your shots, even if the lighting conditions are less than ideal. You might assume such a powerful light would be bulky, but flashes are often more compact than continuous lighting sources. They typically run on battery power, so they’re the best portable lighting kit for photography and perfect for taking on location.

The best studio flash lighting sources

 

If you’re shooting with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, your model’s manufacturer will most likely have a speedlight-style flash on offer. That’s a solid starting point. 

 

As for third-party options for the best camera flash, these are our top picks:

 

Flash vs Constant Light: What's the Best Lighting for Photography?

When you should use constant lighting

Flash vs Constant Light: What's the Best Lighting for Photography?

 

Constant light is easier to work with, so it’s a good choice for beginners. Since the light is on and illuminating your subject before you press anything, you can visually see the effect it’s having on your image. For this reason, constant light sources can help you to develop and sharpen key photographic skills such as framing and composition.

 

Many photographers turn to constant light when they’re experimenting with advanced lighting techniques, such as 3-point lighting. The steadiness of the constant light can help you in trying different positions and outputs and looking at your viewfinder to see the results in real-time. With a flash, you’d have to take a string of test shots to do the same thing. On that note, you can take multiple exposures in a row without waiting for your light to recycle, which is necessary when using a flash.

 

Finally, constant lighting can light up your videos. If you take still and moving images, a constant light can make sure your work looks uniform and consistent.

The best constant lighting sources

 

 

We stock a range of options that can be used with various camera models. These are our favourites:

 

Flash vs Constant Light: What's the Best Lighting for Photography?

Get the best light for your style of photography

To recap, there isn’t really a competition between flash vs continuous lighting photography. They’re useful in their own ways. If you’re often on the go or shooting moving subjects, a flash would be a valuable addition to your kit. The same goes if you want to try your hand at advanced lighting techniques.

 

If you dabble in video work, or simply need a bit more light for your selfies or product photos, you can’t go wrong with constant lighting. 


Ready to invest in a reliable artificial light? Drop by your local Ted’s Cameras store to speak to our experts about the best lighting for photography, or shop online and score free shipping on all orders over $100. We also offer click-and-collect at our nationwide stores.


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