Types of Studio Lighting

So many lights. So much to learn. Let Karl break it down for you.

In this class, legendary professional photographer Karl Taylor illuminates the world of studio lighting, covering the many different types of light, how they work, and when to use them.

Highlighting the key differences between different systems, he explains the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as the type of work they are best suited for.

This class will give you a deeper understanding of studio lighting – one that will help you to improve your photography.

In this class:

  • Different types of studio light
  • The fundamentals of working with lights: power sources, power settings, and triggering lights
  • Adjustments and attachments
  • Pack systems vs monoblock systems vs lithium systems
  • Best lighting systems for studio and location work

If you enjoy this class, check out Lighting Modifiers and Their Effects and Precision Lighting: Modifiers and Techniques.

You may also enjoy playing with our amazing Lighting Comparison Visualiser tool.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Karl,

    I have 2 x Siros S Monoblocks which as you know plug into the mains. I have 2 x picolites coming today (1600J) and would like to get to Unilites. I also have 2 x Canon EL-1 Speedlites.

    I work in a small converted dining room and create product, food and a small amount of Portrait.

    I would really appreciate your thoughts on power pack – 1600 (ideal for my budget) vs 3200. I would rather wait if the 3200 is going to make a huge difference to me and my work.

    As always, thank you for your time and professional advice.

    Many thanks


    1. Hi Nick, the only difference between the 3200 and 1600 is one stop of light in power (equivalent to changing your ISO from 100 to 200). If that one stop of power is not a problem for you then you can certainly save some money by going for the 1600. The other thing to consider is how many output ports, on the 3200 pack there is 3 on some of the 1600 packs there are only 2 outlets. The total power available to you is the amount of the pack then divided however you like between the outlets. As an example whenever I’m using a 3200 pack on power 10 then I’m using all 3200J and there would be no joules left for the other outlets, if I’m using an outlet on power 8 then that is equivalent to 800J and I still have 2400 left between the other outlets. If I had 2 outlets on 8 and one on 9 then I’d be using 1600, 800 and 800.

      1. Hi Karl,

        Thank you for your detailed reply and explanation about power distribution between outlets on the power packs. Karl Taylor Education truly is the best photographic learning platform by far. As always, it’s greatly appreciated!

  2. Thank you for such an informative video. I have a Canon R5 with an RF 50mm prime L series and RF 100mm macro prime L series. I love product and commercial photography with a hint of portrait.

    I am looking to purchase a new lighting setup and can’t choose between the Broncolor Siros 800S Pro Three Head Kit – WiFi/RFS2 or the Broncolor Siros 400S Expert Twin Head Kit – WiFi.RFS2. I think that I would have much greater flexibility with a three-light setup; however, I would appreciate your opinion, please? I won’t be taking the kit outdoors and ideally plug straight into the mains as I can’t stretch to the power pack (yet).

    Broncolor Siros 800S Pro Three Head Kit – WiFi/RFS2

    Broncolor Siros 400 S Expert Twin Head Kit WiFi/RFS 2

    I apologise if we are not supposed to post links, and I will remove them immediately. They are merely for reference.

    Many thanks in advance


  3. Hi, Karl, thanks for making your wealth of knowledge available to us. I would love your opinion on the cost/benefit ratio in regards to studio lighting. With camera sensors and lenses, speeding lots more money can get you a dramatic improvement in image quality. I’m wondering if the same holds true for spending lots more money on studio monolights.

    I’m using a Fuji GFX 100s with Fuji lenses in my home studio for still lifes and portraits. The upgrade in image quality from my full frame Canon camera was pretty dramatic and to me worth spending 2 to 3 times the money. In your opinion, does spending 2 to 3 times more to upgrade my current Godox QT 600 monolights give me a similar upgrade in image quality? Or with studio lighting does that increase cost go mostly for things like reliability, color consistency, and material quality, all of which are important to professionals. But does the quality of your monolight have a significant, direct impact on your image quality similar to the quality of your lens and sensor?


    1. Hi Mark, in answer to your question mostly no. The biggest increase in quality will come from your choice and range of modifiers. More expensive flash heads like Broncolor or Profoto etc will get you more consistent exposures level bursts so if you’re doing a layered composit of say a focus stack then each flash will be exactly the same output meaning you have no problems of exposure shifts when comping together. If you’re doing lots of high speed or fast fashion work then the faster flash durations may be better on the more expensive systems and the power range greater and the recharge time quicker but in terms of the light that comes out of the unit on a standard sort of shoot then no. Here’s an example of me shooting with your lights – https://visualeducation.com/class/live-photography-workshop-creative-portrait-lighting-2-0/

  4. HI, Karl, I really enjoyed learning the courses you developed as I strongly believe light and shadow is what visual works about.

    My question is I am doing mainly videography and I have already a few continuous light. I wonder if its possible for me to do product videos and photos + wedding video /photos with these continuous lights to achieve roughly same result except for high speed photography which obviously not possible

    1. Hi Evelyn, if you continuous lights are high CRI then they will work perfectly well for still life and product work as long as you can use the right modifiers and are able to black out your studio. For wedding work or anything with movement I don’t think they will be versatile enough.

  5. Hi Karl,
    This is my first time that I have paid for online tutorials and I think its paying off immensely in my first week itself. For the first time, I really understood the science behind strobes. Thank you very much.

    I am a nature and birds photographer, but now would like to venture into product, portrait and commercial photography. I am planning to set up my own mini studio to begin with.

    I am not able to afford broncolor which is way off my budget. What alternatives would be able to recommend? As I grow and make money, I may be able to spend higher but for now Broncolor is out of my range unfortunately.


    1. Hi thanks and glad you are learning lots from our classes, keep going through them as there is a lots more to learn. If broncolor is out of your budget then maybe Elinchrom or Godox?

  6. Hello Karl really enjoying learning . I am very new to flash lighting. Does the modelling light stay on during the shoot? I saw on some of your other videos you have a constant light on then the flash on top. Is this right? Thank you. Sarah

    1. Hi, Yes the modelling light stays on and in most cases it has little impact on the overall lighting from the flash burst surrounding the modelling bulb as the flash burst is so much brighter but this is covered more in the following classes.

  7. Remig

    Hello Karl,

    My name is Remi and I am a new member. I am really enjoying KTE, learning a lot, it is like a gold mine.. So first of all thank you so much for all you do!

    I’ve got a question which I am not sure was asked before: as a beginner on a budget, would you start with a set of new entry-level studio lights such as godox, or would you prefer old second hand quality lights such as broncolor?

    1. Hi Remig, welcome aboard and I’m glad you are enjoying the platform. That’s a good question, the Godox brand seems very good value I must say I have 3 Godox lights and they seem to work just fine but I don’t use them all the time so I don’t know what they would be like with heavy usage in terms of durability. The broncolor stuff is renowned for being built to last, and I know people still using packs that are 25 years old so I don’t think you’d have any problems with second hand, a flash tube might need replacing now and again but more often because i smash them accidentally. Either choice I’m sure you’ll be fine, 400J power is the minimum you should go for though.

  8. Hi Karl,

    I have a budget to invest in one light , and I need your advices.

    If you have to choose between the Profoto D1 500 or the Broncolor Siros 800 S, which one is the best.

    It’s for food photography , and Im looking to create the chiaroscuro light.

    Thank you very much

    1. Hi Lou, personally I have to recommend broncolor because I prefer their lighting. You would also need an Octabox 150 or Octabox 75 to acheive the lighting style you are talking about. The size of the softbox you need will be dependent on the distance from your subject. Please see our ‘lighting theory’ section for further information.

  9. Karl, I am really excited to learn from you. These gems that you are sharing with us have motivated me to take my equipment out and enjoy this art of photography that I love. Thank you so much for your dedicated approach and attention to detail. I hope I can master these techniques. You are masterful in shaping the light, and I want to learn all I can from you. Thanks so much for re-invigorating my passion for this beautiful platform. I can’t tell you how much I antiscipate gaining the confidence I need to do this. I am so grateful and honored to learn from you and your masterful teaching techniques. Thank you so much!

    [email protected]

  10. Hi Karl, you are a great inspiration for photography, it’s incredible what you create. It was the reason for me to also follow your education. It’s amazing and my best investment on photography ever. You have a totally no-nonsense approach, I love your style and highly respect the craftmanship you possess. Thanks, and greetings, André

      1. Like your videos. May I ask you something? I just have a speedlight and Id like to know what is the difference betweeen it and a strobe. The spread of light, due to a rounded bulb surface? The full light spectrum? Thank you!

        1. Hi Alessandra, a speedlite puts out a burst of light that is 5600K (daylight balanced). A studio light does exactly the same except it is more powerful and the bulb protrudes outwards a bit, there are also more modifiers available for studio lights than speedlites. The spread of light from the protruding bulb makes the modifiers more effective. That is really the only differences.

  11. Thank you great lesson! is there anywhere where you discuss TTL vs. Manual? I want to get lights but I am confused with these options.

    1. Hi Molly, there are several live shows where I mention how pointless TTL is in studio flash lighting. Don’t worry about TTL, as you progress through this platform and learning lighting you will see how simple it is to control the power of your lighting like the volume control on your music player.

  12. Many thanks Karl i learn a lot from you i am from EGYPT i need to do Business with you here like a academy in Egypt or make a studio for any business need

  13. Hello Karl, thank for the video and explanation above. since im also using some of broncolor product, i wanted to ask if can a broncolor move L head lamp powered by a broncolor sccoro 3200 pack/capacitor ? if yes, are there any risk that it will be damaging the move L head because of power difference ? thankyou

    1. Hi Nugi, don’t plug a 1200 Move/Mobi head into a Scoro pack. Check with Broncolor or your dealer on this.

  14. Gary Stasiuk

    Hey Karl
    I’ve yet to find in your videos an explanation of why you might use a fresnel lens on a light. I’ve heard it mentioned in various videos I’ve seen on youTube and I think you mention it in some of your videos but I haven’t seen what it does, or how to use it, or why you might choose to use it. With a light it creates a spotlight or focus of the light.. I am assuming, but have not seen it used. I used to shoot 4×5 and I am understand the way it works as the focussing screen uses the aid of a fine fresnel, but that is a different purpose, even if the physics and principles are the same.

  15. Hey Karl when using an Studio Strobe Flash Light do you have to close the lights off the room and keep it dark and when using the camera light meter do you need to keep the button on 0 to get right exposure
    Because when using 50mm 1.8 it’s not getting right exposure with the flash studio strobe is that because you can not change the shutter speed less than 1/200

Leave a Comment