Flash Lighting vs Continuous LED Lighting

Many photographers new to studio lighting are often tempted to go for continuous LED lighting due to the fact that they are able to see the lighting results through the viewfinder first hand. However, flash lighting offers a similar alternative in the form of the modeling lamp. Although the power and colour temperature is not as accurate when compared to continuous lighting, the modeling lamp does still enable the photographer to see the result of the light first-hand too.

When considering flash lighting versus continuous lighting, there are many other benefits to shooting with flash. The biggest benefit to flash lighting over LED lighting is that flash provides much more power and in a shorter burst that is less disrupting to a model. In this class, when using flash, Karl demonstrates how he can shoot with much higher apertures and therefore gain a deeper depth of field without having to increase the ISO or shutter speed (which is particularly helpful when photographing moving objects and people).

Despite these advantages, LED lighting has nevertheless become an increasingly popular lighting choice for a number of reasons, including the ability to see the results first-hand and the ability to provide a continuous daylight balanced light source (which is useful for video work). Throughout this class, Karl outlines these benefits of flash versus continuous lighting in more detail, offering demonstrations and comparisons between the two types of lighting.



  1. Karl,

    Kudos again, I am learning so much. At times i get bogged down but after applying it into action starts to make since. I do have one question and I believe you mentioned it before, but I couldn’t remember where. What is your thought on studio lights with L.E.D. modeling lamps vs incandescent modeling lamps. In my budget and starting out most have L.E.D. modeling lamps these days. thank you for your time .

    1. Hi Robert, LED modelling lamps are a great idea if they are bright enough but often in lower budget lights they are not very bright compared to halogen/tungsten. For very bright LEDs they take up alot more space and electronics so you don’t really see these in studio lights yet.

  2. Artemus

    Hello Karl,

    I love your education on your videos, I am learning a lot! However, Since watching this video of LED and Flash, I was wondering if you could do a video comparison showing the research and development of the Pinewood Englands new Rotolight’s? When I started Photography 4 years ago, I really got pulled in by using Rotolight’s LED/Flash combination but I also use Mono-lights. Now they just came out with their new revolutionary LED/Flash/RGB/Self Diffusing lights that are 2 times brighter in constant mode and 3times that amount in flash mode in any one of 16.7 million colors or 2,500 digital filters, whilst zero recycle time and with a 99% color accuracy.

  3. Candez Photography

    Dear Karl,

    I just finished watching this video as well as “ Lighting Comparison: Parabolic Softbox vs Regular Broncolor Softbox” and I must say I feel pretty lonely and silly owning just a Chinese GVM 80 watt continuous 5500k LED Softbox.

    So if I understood well knowing that I will shoot product photography indoors as well as fashion photography and portraits also indoors in my apartment I would need to get a flash lighting system ? I already have my GVM 80 watt soft box that I could use as backdrop light or fill light I guess so which model flash light + reflector would you suggest I get: If you could give two options (one of them being a more expensive version and another option having a medium budget. I read from you on previous video description about the 70cm beauty dish and focus deep 110 umbrella or just the 150 octabox but I am not sure I understood sell

    I hope I have managed to make sense in what I was tryin to explain lol

    Have a great day Karl & team

    1. Hi, the type of modifier you require is based on the type of photography you want to shoot. For example a beauty dish is no use for product work, a softbox is good for some product work and some portrait work. I would say for product work usually you need a scrim and bare bulb or a large softbox. For beauty/fashion work then the beauty dish or Para 133 would be the best option but the deep 110 is also useful.

  4. Hi Karl,

    I’m new here and have to say you push out amazing content. Kudos to you and your team.

    I’m looking to shoot gold jewellery (yellow gold to be specific). I do understand that it can be quite tricky to shoot a highly reflective surface like jewellery. Would you recommend using a continuous light source or flash lighting?

    I was also considering getting a pair of godox sl100bi colour to shoot the mentioned gold jewellery; would this be sufficient to start out in a home studio setting? Otherwise what would you recommend?

    Looking forward to hearing back!

    1. Hi Shafiq, if you are only going to shoot jewellery then good quality continuous light can work just fine as long as you can work in a completely darkened rooms so that your exposures are not affected by other ambient light. Personally though I prefer studio flash as it is more versatile and you don’t have to worry about darkening the studio too much or movement of the product etc.

  5. Hi Karl, always wanted do know why do they use incandescent bulbs as modeling lamps, since there are other led options that don’t overheat that much and also have a color temperature similar to flash…

    1. Hi, as for the LED’s to be as bright the lamp head would have to get much bigger and also LED’s don’t protrude from the lamp head enough to emulate what the flash tube will do so if they did that then there would be no where for the flash tube to go. At some point soon I expect they will design a cylindrical LED lamp with good CRI and very bright and then this will hopefully be able to replace tungsten bulbs.

  6. Hi Karl, I’m a videographer and I have 3 Arri tungsten lights and 3 Led lights Panels. They have nice quality and power. Right now I’m looking into photography and I was wondering if I needed to buy flash lights. I want to do product photography but also fashion. And if possible somehow I want to do video and photography at the same photoshoot, take some still shots and then shoot video clips. What would you recommend?
    I hope you get to see my message. Thank you

    1. Hi, well as you would have seen in this video I pointed out some of the setbacks of weaker LED for fashion stills compared to flash. For still life though continuous light is fine as long as you are in a darkish studio space. To get enough continuous light for models/fashion requires either very bright lights or much higher ISO which makes those scenarios not really suitable. So at this moment in time for fashion then flash is king.

  7. Hi Karl
    I am a newbie and just joined your academy. I need to learn photography because I have a handmade jewellery business.
    I bought a strobe flash light recently and I could already see a difference it makes in my photos. However I feel I need to invest in another source of light so I can play around with the looks of my jewellery. (My jewellery is more a fashion jewellery not diamond or gold kind)
    What’s your recommendation for me please? Do I buy exactly the same speed light with the same strength (400 watt) or should I buy stronger one for an investment/upgrade.
    I set up my studio in a corner of my house, 3.5×3.5m with 2×2.5m window (south west facing). Thank you in advance.

  8. jmhedrick

    Hi Karl,

    Not sure if you have covered this before but there is an issue with LEDs that some might be concerned about, particularly product photography. Unlike flash, the big LED lights that people are using like Aputure and Nanlight, have a big light emitting “chip”. The grid-like pattern of the LED chip projects that pattern in a subtle way when it is on. I have experienced this while working with a smoke machine and bare LEDs providing a backlight for an editorial shoot. Zooming in, I could see the pattern of the LED chip in the smoke. It’s not a big issue for what I was doing but it was something I noticed. This begs me to wonder if the light is coming off the LED in a weird way that can interact with my sensor (grid photocells) and create some phasing issues when using hi-res sensors. I digress. Cheers.

    1. Thanks for the info JM, i’ve not experienced it with the bron LEDs but they do have a very good frosted dome over the LEDs.

  9. I am wanting to use a soft box as a backdrop and then have an additional light to light the product (jeweller). I was thinking of getting a continuous light for the soft box (for a white background) and a flash light for the product light. Would that work well? or should they be switched.

    I suppose my biggest question is will led lighting work well as a soft box backdrop lighting? will there be enough intensity?

    1. Hi, Yes LED could work as the background but you’ll need to leave a slightly longer exposure to capture it, where if it was flash then you wouldn’t need to do that. In addition when working with continuous lighting you really need to work in a darker space to avoid any other light pollution or ambient light as you will be shooting with slightly longer exposure times than if it was just flash which means any other light may be recorded in your shot unless you are in a darkened space with only the lights that you intend to shoot with.

  10. Dear karl

    Do you suggest to use additional flash light with LED to achieve the right exposure due to LED have less power

    1. Hi Yahya, it is perfectly possible to mix LED with flash (as you will see me do in some of the car photography) but if you enough have flash then why not just use flash or if you have enough LED just use LED, if you don’t have enough of either then yes you can mix it as long as it is the correct colour balance.

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