Product photography relies heavily on lighting to showcase the item in its best possible condition. Speedlights and strobes are two of the most commonly used types of lighting, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these can help you choose the best option for your product photography needs.
What are Speedlights and Strobes?
Speedlights are battery-powered flashes that use a hot shoe mount. They measure their maximum output using a guide number, which is the distance expressed over an f-number. For example, if a subject is 17ft away, you would need an aperture of f11 to get proper exposure.
On the other hand, studio strobes offer much more power and come in two types: a monolight and a pack and head. Monolights have power supplies and controls on the flash unit, while pack and head setups have a separate pack with controls for the flash head, and can control multiple heads if necessary.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Speedlights offer flexibility in their output and are typically lightweight, making them easy to carry and use in various settings. They are also compatible with many available modifiers, adding to their versatility. However, their recycling time can be short with full batteries, and there’s a risk of overheating and melting the bulb or circuits if used excessively.
Strobes, specifically studio strobes, have modeling lights that show what light will look like when flashed. As the flash increases, the modeling light increases too. Although strobes offer more power, they are proprietary, meaning each one is different, and you may have to buy adapters to use modifiers.
Choosing Between Speedlights and Strobes
Both speedlights and strobes have their place in product photography. For most product photos, speedlights are typically sufficient, especially if you’re just starting out and working only in a studio setting. However, if you plan on shooting outdoors or in other varied environments, it may be beneficial to have one TTL speedlight and one manual. Once you’re comfortable using those, adding a strobe to your setup can be beneficial.
In conclusion, the choice between speedlights and strobes ultimately depends on your specific needs and budget. By understanding the pros and cons of each, you can make an informed decision that best suits your product photography requirements1.