Creating photographs shouldn’t be easy. Let me rephrase that — creating photographs that push you and make you do inspiring and fulfilling work shouldn’t be easy. It should be a process of experimentation, foresight, adaptation, and emotional roller coasters. But in the end, you should create photographs that you should be very happy with — not now, then in a few years when you realize that you actually did incredible work. And I sincerely do not believe that constant light will do that for any photographer if you plan on using off-camera lights. Instead, I genuinely believe that flash is better.
This is a hot, passionate take on why I hate constant lights and all the terrible marketing around them. First and foremost, constant lights and typically used by content creators that simply just want to create content, not art. They want to output as much of it as they can to please an algorithm that will chew them up and spit them out when they decide to take a break or to stop creating.
But with a flash? You press a shutter while a little voice in the back of your head says “Abra Cadabra” or some other incantation to make a photo. And depending on the combination and settings, you get something just right one photo at a time — not a million lackluster images so that you can refine a single photo later on in post-production. A flash forces you to pay attention to a scene and try things with more care and attention than a constant light does.
And thus far in the photography world, there isn’t a single photographer that has had a long, healthy career using constant lighting. They’ve all used Flash. You could make an argument for Peter Hurley, but he hasn’t had a lifelong career yet — and most of what he does is instruction-based. I’m also not talking about instructors, content creators, or social media influencers. I’m talking about photographers and people who are photographers first. They might occasionally use constant lights, but everyone ends up going back to strobes because of the magic they create.
I’m not just talking about the end result — let’s face it, many creators make photos that can easily be replaced by an AI image generator these days because they just create to satisfy an algorithm. But the process of making these photographs is important. If a subject is sitting in front of you and just doing whatever with a constant light, there is no steady back-and-forth pace. But if a flash is going off, then they subject knows to switch stuff up as needed. There’s a conversation creatively happening there that’s like no other. Every time a flash pops, a subject knows to switch it up. And this preps the subject to think and not just be passively captured by a camera. In the best of times, it also prompts the photographer to stay in tune and give directions.
The industry of content creation is well into the world of LEDs and constant lighting. But the world of photography is something completely different. We don’t necessarily care to make content. We make art. And the two have totally polarizing mindsets in the way that a season of a Netflix show comes out vs your favorite YouTuber putting out weekly content. Imagine if your YouTuber friend made content on a seasonal basis instead of needing to rush to put something out every week.