Studio light for photography: What is it and how to choose?

If you decide to take the next step in the photographic lighting and shop for studio light for photography, you will need to ask yourself some questions to narrow down the options. Taking time to learn about different types can also help you make a choice. Before you go to the store, read the article so you can make a quick and wise purchase.

Types of studio lights for photography - Definition, pros & cons explained

This section discusses the main types of studio lighting. It should be noted that each type differs in terms of use, mobility, cost, and other factors.

Continuous lighting - What you see is what you get

COLBOR CL60 studio lights for portrait photography are powerful to light up the scene.

Photography continuous studio light operates in the same way as a conventional house lamp does: when you flip on the switch, the light turns on. It will then remain on until you turn off the switch or the bulb burns out! When lighting a studio, it is quite useful since what you see is what you get. If you don't like a certain shadow or reflection, you are able to move it and check the instant effects.

There are usually three types:

LED: LED lights are a popular choice for studio light for photography. They don't overheat and are reasonably priced. On the plus side, most LEDs allow you to adjust the color temperature, making them ideal for creating different moods, applying creative effects, or correcting the white balance when paired with other light sources. Check the video by YouTuber MAURO'S FILMS to see how COLBOR LED studio light performs in lighting for photography.

Fluorescent: Fluorescent bulbs come in a variety of colors, including white, green, yellow, and red. They are popular because they are energy efficient and do not overheat. They are the best studio lights for product and portrait photography. You could buy socket stands with several sockets to illuminate bigger spaces. They are incredibly affordable and available in entire kits, single lamps with accessories, or single sockets.

Tungsten: These bulbs emit a warm yellow light, which we associate with interior lighting. The majority of household lights employ this sort of light or a tungsten-halogen mix, which is more energy-efficient.

Tungsten is commonly used in photographic studios, albeit it can overheat.
Tungsten studio lights offer a warm, natural color palette that is ideal for portraiture and still life photography. Tungsten lamps have a color temperature of around 3200K, so make sure you change the white balance settings on your camera.

Pros

  • Often affordable
  • You can see the lighting effect in real time
  • Photography studio lighting for beginners
  • Can be used for video shooting in addition to photography

    Cons

    • Can produce much heat (particularly tungsten) and be a fire risk
    • White balance can be challenging and relies on the bulb
    • Lower power output
    • Often a set power output (particularly with lower-end devices)
    • Not appropriate for outdoor shooting
    • Battery drain (LED)
    • Issues with color cast (tungsten)
    • Life duration and fragility (particularly tungsten)

      Table: Comparison among tungsten, fluorescent, and LED studio lights for photography

      LED

      Fluorescent

      Tungsten

      Most expensive

      More expensive

      Inexpensive

      Generates a modest amount of heat

      Does not produce much heat

      Generates enough heat to be a fire hazard

      Some are dimmable

      Not dimmable

      Dimmable

      Hardly uses any electricity

      Uses very little electricity

      Uses a lot of electricity

      Much cheaper to operate and better for the environment

      Produces more toxic waste from the chemicals within such as mercury

      More expensive to use and bad for the environment

      10,000 to 50,000 hours

      4,000 hour bulb life

      2,000 hour bulb life

      Speedlights - Portable lighting device with high power output

      Speedlights are photography studio lights that usually mount on the camera. They are compact and portable, and some of them has really high power output. Although they are somehow limited by output and size, they are still useful for photographers who are keen on on-camera studio lighting.

      Pros

      • Cost less than higher-end light types
      • Compact size and light weight
      • Convenient to carry and take anywhere
      • Versatile and suitable for a variety of shoots
      • Power output can be adjusted
      • Easy white balance
      • Get power from ubiquitous AA batteries

        Cons

        • Not able to see the preview of the lighting effect
        • Not ideal for video shooting
        • Batteries may drain fast
        • As batteries deplete, the time required to recharge rises.

        Strobe - Flash units popular with professional photographers

        A studio strobe, often known as a monobloc or monolight, is a specialized flash light for studio photography. Strobes are typically powered by cables, while more battery-powered options are being introduced to the market every day. Power output varies substantially across models; strobes are the most frequent studio light utilized by professionals.

        Pros

        • A good choice for starting a first studio
        • More powerful than speedlights
        • Wide range of power outputs

        Cons

        • Cost more than continuous lights and speedlights
        • Size and weight makes transporting challenging
        • It is an issue to keep stable on stands
        • Only support on-board adjustment
        • Must service the entire device if any part breaks

        Three factors to consider when choosing studio light for photography

        The video studio light you use will depend on a variety of factors including:

        Budget: The amount of money you have to spend on lighting will immediately reduce some of the options accessible to you. You'll be surprised at what's available, even on a tight budget.

        Subject Matter: What are you planning to film? Portrait photography requires a different style of lighting than food or product photography. If you're going to photograph groups of people, you'll need more than one studio strobe. If fashion and beauty photography is your passion, you'll need a system to which you can attach various light modifiers.

        Studio or On Location: The difference between lighting for studio and location photography also decides what you should choose. If you intend to be a travel photographer, portability and power will be important factors to consider while purchasing. You should ensure that your equipment is easily transportable and that it can be set up at the numerous places where you will be filming. You should think about whether the strobes are AC or battery-powered, and occasionally both, because in some situations, such as industrial photography, you may not have access to AC power or have wires strewn everywhere that might be a safety problem.

        Natural lighting VS studio lighting: Which is better in photography?

        When you are shooting photos, you may come across the question that whether natural or studio light is better. In fact, there are pros and cons of each type of lighting, and you can make the decision based on the types of photo and video production and your budget.

        Natural Light

        One of the primary benefits is that it is free. You don't need to rent a studio or buy expensive lighting equipment because you can simply go outside and use the sun's rays. Natural light is also very adaptable; it can be used for a variety of photography and video applications, from product shots to interviews and extreme sports footage.

        As for drawbacks, it is not always available. When shooting outside, you must consider the time of day and the weather conditions. If you're shooting inside, there might not be enough natural light coming in through the windows.

        Natural light is suitable for photography and videography like:

        • Product photography
        • Interviews
        • Lifestyle
        • Sports footage
        • Portraits

        Studio Light

        Studio lighting is an excellent choice for shooting indoors, where natural daylight is not always available. It can be very controllable, allowing you to adjust the intensity and direction to achieve the desired effect. This adaptability is especially useful in video production, where you might need to create a specific look or mood for your footage.

        The main disadvantage is the high cost of setup. You must rent studio space or purchase your own lighting equipment, which can be an expensive investment. It can be difficult to achieve the desired results if you are unfamiliar with studio lighting.

        You can use studio light for photography like:

        • Video production
        • Portraits
        • Product photography
        • Interviews