LED Continuous Lights vs Strobe Flashes: Which Is Better for Studio Photography?

Screen shot of lighting video

Strobes have long been the primary lighting choice for studio photographers but that’s changing with the advent of better and more powerful LED continuous lighting systems. Thanks to their improved color accuracy, the ability to easily adjust color temperature and brightness on the fly, and their overall ease of use, LED lighting has gotten more popular with photographers, particularly those just beginning to shoot in the studio.

The other appealing characteristic of LED lighting and continuous lighting, in general, is that it offers a “what you see is what you get” effect. This makes LED less intimidating to some photographers unfamiliar with how to use strobes to properly light a photo.

But is LED lighting really better than strobe flashes for photography? That’s the question that photographer and educator Karl Taylor tackles in the below video where he does side-by-side comparisons of both types of lighting to show the key differences and how they can impact your photography.

According to Taylor, who also addresses the subject of LED vs strobes in a comprehensive blog post, here are some of the pros and cons of the two lighting systems.

LED Continuous Lighting Advantages

  • Allows you to see your lighting results in real time
  • Gives you quick control over power, color temperature and brightness
  • Flicker-free LED lights are suited for shooting video including slow motion footage

LED Continuous Lighting Disadvantages

  • Lower power output compared to studio flash
  • Less brightness makes it hard to capture moving subjects
  • Blare of continuous lights can be uncomfortable for models or portrait subjects
  • Continuous lighting requires you to completely darken studio to prevent contamination from ambient light

Strobe Flash Lighting Advantages

  • Greater power output than continuous lighting allows more flexibility with camera settings, particularly aperture
  • Gives you more precise control
  • Quick flash bursts of flash help freeze movement either of people or smashing glasses and splashing water
  • Wide variety of strobe modifiers allow you to control the light further

Strobe Flash Disadvantages

  • Generally, more expensive than continuous lighting
  • Not suited for video work
  • Studio flash can seem intimidating to newcomers

So which type of lighting does Taylor prefer overall for studio photography? Watch the video below where he shows why he thinks strobes are still superior. You should also check out our lighting guide where we chose our eight favorite LED and strobe lighting systems.