Strobe Light Photography Tips

Strobe light photography is the popular technique of replacing natural light using a device that produces a large spark passing through a tube with gas. Strobe light flashes at a duration of 1/1,000th of a second down to 1/50,000th of a second shot. This quick span of light serves as the main advantage of using strobe light, photographers won’t have to worry about any sudden movement from their subject or model.

Another advantage of strobe light is it can produce the same brightness of daylight; photographers can use this to mix with natural daylight in order to compensate for any lack of natural light in any given time when shooting outdoors and indoors by the window.

Still not convinced at the importance and many advantages of using strobe light? Here are some reasons why you should start learning to use this technique of providing photography lighting:

  1. The speed of strobe lights are mostly adjustable, this gives photographers the opportunity to change the number of flashes per second when the light emits. Remember, the fastest speed does not guarantee the best quality of images, try to experiment with the varying speeds until you achieve the result you want.
  2. Strobe lights can be linked together to produce multiple lights flashing in synch mode. There is a strobe light system that can be bought and use for further strobe light experimentations such as having each strobe flash out of phase to cancels the “slow motion” effect.
  3.  Positioning strobe lights strategically in indoor shoots such as clubs and auditoriums provides proper illumination even with scarcity of natural and the usual electric lights. Even with the many flashes, strobe lights do not blind the audiences.
strobe light photography
Strobe Lights positioning. Photo by Vox Efx
  1. Strobe lights also work well in backlighting stage performers and dancers, when capturing a musical or stage play. You can position strobe lights mounted over the back of the performers behind the stage to avoid blinding the audience at the front.

Here are some additional tips to properly maximize the advantages of strobe light photography:

  • When doing strobe light photography, there are three important elements to remember when adjusting your camera. These are the ISO settings, shutter speed and the Aperture (F-Stop). Most photographers prefers a setting ranging from f8 – f12, while shutter speed may varies depending on the amount of light you want, however most agrees that a speed of 1/200 second is the ideal shutter speed. This allows the light emitting from the strobe to blanket the image with decent lighting with a sharp image and also prevents motion blur. The ISO setting is considered as the most vital part as it can either “make or break” your images. Strobe photography experts are pegging the ISO range from 100-400 as the right setting for your ISO when using strobe lights.
strobe light photography
Strobe Lighting Capturing candies in Mid-air. Photo by Jronaldlee
  • Proper positioning of the strobe lights is another important thing to remember. Most of the time the use of strobe lights will depend on the available ambient light in the room. The ideal setup is having two strobe lights positioned parallel at each other and pointed at your subject This will help in removing unnecessary shadows, adding a third one will greatly enhance dimension of your subject. The third strobe light is highly recommended to be placed above the subject to improve the light at the upper part of your subject. It is fun experimenting with various positions, play around it and be creative.
strobe light photography
Single Strobe side position. Photo by Cacostello

As with most things in photography, play around with your settings and positioning until you are happy with the results. There is not a definite set of rules, but this will get you on your way.

Over-all strobe lights can produce decent amount of lighting although, compared to hot lights and continuous lighting, using strobe requires an imaginative mind and a keen eye for detail. Photographer prefers strobe lights because it enhances their sense for greater quality and detail. Strobe lights is known to produce stunning shadow patterns and lines on your subject, since strobe fires flashes quickly, be prepared to shoot in spurts to achieve the perfect shot. A faster camera with faster shutter speeds is required as well.

Strobe lights equipment is compatible with almost all types and brands of professional cameras. If you want to try it first before making a decision of buying one, you could always rent strobe lighting equipment first to familiarize yourself on how to properly use it.


About Kristine Buenavista

Tin oftentimes takes her folding bike and old camera along country roads. Sometimes, she forgets to take pictures (though she never forgets when she finds great photos elsewhere). She narrates through words and images here. Travel, creativity, laughter, cerveza negra, scavenge hunt for beauty, starry-windy nights are among the things that make her feel weightless.

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