I am new to strobes (studio lighting) in photography. I love the idea of blowing out the background, or making the image very emotive, with a dark black background for sports portraits.

However I am not sure what are the advantages of buying studio lighting specifically for photography over just high powered (very bright) lighting which you can buy from any light store or camping store?

I get that with studio lights you can attach wireless triggers and make the lights go off only when you click the shutter button, but other than that power/money/function wise what am I missing which makes strobes worth the money?

The only factors I can see are branding build quality, and maybe the ability /flexibility to use a wireless trigger (I have yong nuo Y622 C) over a cable when connecting your camera to your studio lighting (strobes)?

And obviously you would pay more for both the build quality and added functionality in the ways you can trigger the lights.

The only downside though that I can see to just using high powered lamps is the fact you wouldn't be able to control the light, only turning it on when you click the shutter button. Instead it would be always on or always off. (since there seems to be no standard for measuring light, specialy across disciplines, e.g. photography >> watt seconds?, cycling >> luminosity, building houses >> watts)

Other than that detractor there must be something I am missing on this topic. For photography lighting I would have though the higher the power or watt sec the better (it can light up more of a scene, and still work really well at night).

  • 9
    I think you're vastly underestimating the light output from strobes. It's almost always much more than continuous lights. My single middle teir hotshoe flash can light up my entire 2 story living room to shoot at a low ISO, but if I crank up all the lightbulbs in the house, I wouldn't get close.
    – rfusca
    Apr 16 '14 at 3:02

Studio strobes are actually much, much, EXTREMELY MUCH more powerful than any remotely sane continuous lighting setup (at lighting scenes for photography).

This is because a strobe delivers its ridiculously high intensity light only for a ridiculously short time - usually shorter than your shutter speed.

For example, the AlienBees B400 provides 7000 lumenseconds over 1/2000th of a second. To get the same light intensity in continuous lighting from incandescent light bulbs (which provide about 16 lumens per watt) would require 875kW or about fourteen thousand 60 watt light bulbs!

Even if you assume that for studio photography, you won't need shutter speeds shorter than 1/100s and thus require your continuous lighting to deliver the same amount of light only over that much longer time, it would still take 44kW or 730 bulbs. Even if you used LEDs (which are much more efficient, but AFAIK not considered usable due to color issues) it would still be about 8kW.

Apart from the price of that absurd power consumption - that energy has to go somewhere! The continuous lighting would heat your studio like a sauna and most likely also cause massive sunburns.

  • That's why continuous studio lighting was called "hot lights" until making a comback with CFL.
    – JDługosz
    Sep 1 '15 at 5:28
  • You can use a strobe to stop motion. Even unwanted! Model moves, camera shakes - who cares with high speed strobes? You use the strobe to freeze the picture, not the shutter, basically...
  • You can use a strobe to avoid excessive suffering of models from strong lighting. Don't underestimate this, this is a serious factor.
  • To have the same wattage continuous light than what you can do with strobes is quite impossible (heat/electricity/cost).

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