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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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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