Continuous lighting vs flash: what’s difference in photography?

There are so many photographic lights that differ by type, color temperature and power. This article is intended to tell you the definition, differences, advantages and disadvantages of two most commonly used artificial lights, continuous lighting vs flash.

What lights do photographers use?

Undoubtedly, only two kinds of lighting are used in photography, that is, natural and artificial.

Natural light is the light of the sun or the moon. Though it provides free lighting, its limitation is obvious - timing which restricts you from impromptu action.

This problem could be easily fixed by artificial lighting which has a full coverage of every other source.

Theoretically, artificial light consists of two lines. One is flash and the other is continuous lighting.COLBOR continuous lights

1. Continuous lighting

As the name suggests, it provides continued lighting for the subject. There are manly four types of this continuous lighting for photography: fluorescent, tungsten, HMI, and LED.

Table: Fluorescent vs. tungsten vs. HMI vs. LED lamp

Item

Fluorescent

Tungsten

HMI

LED

Type

Tri-color light

Solid state light

Gas light

Electronic diode light

Light source

Area

/

Point

Point/area

Color temp

3200K/5500K

3200K

5600K, similar to daylight

Wide range switchable

Color rendering

Low

High

Moderate

High

Energy efficiency

++

+

+

+++

Strobing

Yes

No

Yes

Possible

As shown in the table, the LED continuous lighting has been well received in the video light segment as it does not consume much energy and has the ability to change the color temp in a wide range and even replicate the feeling of natural light.

2. Flash lighting

Flash lighting, also known as strobes, offers a daylight-balanced (5600K) quality light with a flash tube (to create the burst of flash) and a modeling lamp (to provide a continuous light source).

How does continuous lighting differ from flash one?

Pros & cons of continuous lighting

Continuous light allows the photographers to see the lighting results in real time. That means either the new or professional photo- and video-makers could have a direct and easy observation of them.

Many of this type of light are controllable now by power and color temperature. Modifiers such as softboxes can be added to further tailor the light effect.

Here we would like to highlight the LEDs which have the ability to record video thanks to the adjustable color temperature. It means that you can use them not only for video but also for slow-motion shooting.

However, you need to completely darken the studio or shooting area when you use the continuous light. This is because its power output is comparatively low and the brightness would be off-putting when there is any other ambient light.

Pros & cons of flash lighting

The most outstanding feature of flashlight, which is also the key reason why professionals like to use it is the greater power output and preciser light control compared to continuous light. This offers more flexibility for photographers to set the cameras, for example, to customize the depth of field.

However, its cost is high and it’s not suited for video making.

Conclusion

There is no type of light perfect for all photographers. Continuous lights do play an important role especially when it comes to video work, but they cannot completely replace strobes as they are designed for different purposes. For instance, LED lights, as the most popular type of continuous light, are excellent when used relatively close to the subject. If it is about portrait or fashion photographing, then a flash is a better option as you will be able to work both indoors and outdoors.

COLBOR is dedicated to develop LED continuous lights for both photo and video making. To date, we have launched products categorized into 2 lines, the pocket-sized fill lights and the chip-on-board lights. In the future, more LEDs for special purposes would come out to offer more possibilities for photographers to achieve their perfect lighting setup.