Flash vs LED Continuous Lighting — Which is right for you?

March 27, 2018

Photography is all about light but all too often it is not available naturally. So, how do we create our own light to achieve the results we're looking for?

For still photography, we have the choice of using continuous or flash lighting while for video we have to use continuous lighting.

So what is the difference between these 2 types of lights?

Continuous lighting behaves much like the sun, it is just on and we see its effect on the subject exactly as it will photograph with our eyes. Any standard lighting fixture in our house is also referred to as a continuous light. Historically, the types of continuous lights used for photography and filmmaking were tungsten filament. Tungsten lights unfortunately were very power hungry, generated huge amounts of heat, and in turn were a fire hazard. They also didn’t match the colour temperature of daylight and were very difficult to dim or change their intensity.

Fluorescent lighting solved some of these problems, yet created a few of their own in flickering and colour quality issues. Price even went up in some cases.

Most recently the introduction of high powered LED’s have revolutionised the continuous lighting market for both stills and video.

Flash lighting (often called strobe or speedlight) is a unique system of extremely high powered, but short duration bursts of light from a device called a xenon flashtube.

For the stills photographer, these bursts of light mix very well with daylight and provided a huge amount of illumination capability, all derived from a very compact battery powered device often mounted on top of the camera.

Flash lighting revolutionised the still photography industry when it was mass adopted in the 1970’s and stated to be built in to pretty well every model of camera manufactured. In a very short period of time, the one shot flash bulb became history.

Higher powered flash units that run from external power packs and large batteries are the industry standard for high end studio photographers world wide.

Flash lighting unfortunately can’t be simply used for motion picture photography. For this application continuous lighting is required.

So how do we choose what to use now that we understand what the choices are?

A few cases where LED continuous lighting is the clear winner.

  1. If you need to shoot video with your lights, flash can’t do this so you will want continuous light and LED is the best option these days.
  2. If you want the freedom to use multiple cameras (even mobile phones) without trigger systems, shoot unlimited bursts and use a wide aperture lenses at fast shutter speeds, then LED is the right choice.
  3. If you like to see exactly what your light looks like on the subject before you even take the shot, then continuous light is for you.
  4. If your subjects find the bright flashes of strobes uncomfortable or distracting then LED’s will be a huge benefit for your peace of mind while making your customers happy to work with you.
  5. LED’s have extremely long run life and are very tough.

Flash lighting will be your best choice in these cases.

  1. If you need to stop motion, flash is the way to go.
  2. If you need very high power level to light up large spaces, flash will get the job done at a lower price and with less gear.
  3. If you need to produce very soft light at high power levels, flash again is the winner.
  4. If you need the smallest size then flash systems (not considering light modifiers) win most of the time.
  5. If you need to overpower the sun, high powered flash along with fast shutter speeds will do the trick.
  6. Flash delivers more power per dollar than LED at this point in time.

If you require both continuous and flash lighting options, you will find Jinbei’s range of lighting gear in both Flash and LED models covers a very wide range of applications all at a very affordable price. Jinbei use the standard Bowens mount for modifiers enabling the same units to be used on both the LED and flash heads. This standard mount also means a wide range of light modifiers from other manufacturers are ready to use with Jinbei’s systems.

Jimbei also has the unique Softball modifiers that tick all the right boxes when it comes to keeping it simple, yet delivering beautiful results.

Brisbane newborn photographer Kelly Brown explains how the Jinbei Softball used in conjunction with the high powered 200 watt LED EF-200V Sun Light has changed her studio routine.

    The Jinbei Softball brings a wide range of features to your lighting kit.

    • Works for both LED and flash heads
    • Large soft key light and natural fill — all from the same head
    • Omni directional Key Light lets you concentrate on the subject, not aiming the light
    • Great for video and stills
    • Single light shooting that acts like more than one light
    • Folding and rigid models available

    If flash is what you are looking for and you want what the pros use, Profoto is going to be on the top of your list for brands to consider. The Profoto line is synonymous for high quality and very long service life. This is one of the key reasons Profoto is one of the most hired lighting brands in the world — including at michaels.

    From the worlds smallest studio light — the hotshoe mounted Profoto A1, all the way up to the incredibly high powered studio flashes, Profoto has you covered with a huge range of flashes and lighting modifiers. Pros depend on Profoto to earn a living and once you have a chance to experience the Profoto lighting ecosystem, you will want it for yourself.

    Featured LED Continuous Lighting Products


    Jinbei LED EF-200 Sun Light with Bowens S Mount

    Jinbei 50cm Softball Diffuser with Bowens S Mount

    ProMaster Specialist 504B Bi-Color LED Light

    Promaster B170 Basis LED 2 Light Studio Kit

    Lishuai LSC1500RSV 80cm Round Edgelit LED Panel

    Lishuai LSC700RV 45cm Round Edgelit LED Panel

    Ledgo 3x560 LED Colour Adjustable Lighting Kit

    Promaster B270 Basis LED 2 Light Studio

    Aputure Amaran LED HR672 Kit


    Featured Flash Lighting Products


    Profoto A1 - The World's Smallest Studio Light

    Profoto B1X 500 AirTTL (includes bonus Speedring & Beauty Dish)

    Profoto D2 Duo Kit 500/500

    Jinbei DM5 Twin Head Kit

    Jinbei MSN III 600ws Studio Flash With HSS

    Jinbei HD610 TTL Battery Flash 600ws with HSS and Fast Flash Duration

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