The Truth About Constant Light vs Flash for Photographers

Which side are you on with Constant Light vs Flash?

If you are struggling to use more than just natural light, we’ve got just the thing. Many people these days reach for constant light. Tons of YouTube videos show you how to use it. But proper photography needs more than that. Does this mean you can’t shoot great photos with Constant light? You totally can! I don’t know about you, but I can’t name any lifelong photographers who’ve only used constant lighting. I’ve even seen the great Peter Hurley use strobes. But I can name a ton who’ve used flash! And in this cheat sheet, we’ll break constant light vs flash down further for you.

Flash is Better for Creativity

Generally speaking, flash gives you more in-camera control. Many photographers these days spend more time on their computer editing than behind the camera. In our book, that makes you a photo editor. Not a photographer! But flash lets you do things like the stroboscopic effect, high-speed sync, fast motion stopping with quick flash durations, and much more. They’re harder to use, but they’re not impossible. Like everything, just have patience with it.

Photos like these aren’t easily done without flash—lots of photographers like shooting at night at these times. You get the most creative lighting control that way. But sometimes, you can’t shoot at night. The photo above shows a Profoto flash that’s been gelled. The image below shows off the sunset look that it gives off. This look is incredibly tricky to get with LEDs in the day time. But this is just one battle where strobe wins out in constant light vs flash.

The look below is done with high-speed sync. Again, it’s complicated to do with LED lights. The flash in the scene here lets us use the shutter speed to lower the ambient light. Then the flash illuminated the women. It gave us more balance in the image.

Would you believe this photo below was shot during the daytime? Only a flash could really do this. You’d otherwise need LED lights that are insanely expensive.

The photo below could have been done with LED lights. But it was done with flash. This is the kind of lighting that you see in most Facebook groups if you do not see natural/ambient lighting in the scenes.

Why We Prefer Flash

Perhaps the biggest reason why we prefer flash has to do with the signature pop that you can see in the photos. The output from flash works far different from constant lighting. Flash has what’s called flash duration. This acts as a second shutter speed. With studio strobes, it can deliver a flash duration of over 1/1000th. The flash duration gives an extra layer of crispness and sharpness to your photos. The flash duration combined with specular highlights is really worthwhile.

Constant Lighting Can Be Useful

We’re not trying to totally hate on constant lighting here. It surely can be useful. It’s an excellent tool for learning. But eventually, you need to step up to flashes. And if you get enough money, you can step up to really high-end LEDs or constant lights. Practically speaking, though, these are the types that are used on high-end movie productions. And most people rent those instead of keeping them around. With a strobe, you can get a modeling light with a lot of power and a strobe in one. I haven’t really seen that for cinema lights yet. Of course, that’s because it’s not needed. Versatility indeed goes to strobes in regards to constant light vs flash.