Strobe vs Continuous Lighting for Newborn Photography

Strobe vs continuous lighting … is one better than the other for newborn photography? What are the differences between the two forms of studio lighting anyway?

While this topic can get really complicated, Lisa breaks it down quickly and simply. Many newborn photographers have described the change to studio lighting as life-changing, and deciding whether to use strobe or continuous lighting will be the first decision you have to make.

Strobe vs Continuous Lighting – prefer to read?

The differences between continuous lights and strobe lights are not really as complicated as you might think!


The difference between a strobe and continuous light

A strobe light is actually a flash. You have a trigger on your camera and a receiver on the light and this just is a way for the camera and the light to talk to each other. When you press your shutter, it’s going to cause the flash to fire and this is going to freeze the motion so you’re able to take the picture.

Studio with beanbag, light, modifier stand and trigger
This strobe light will flash only when fired

In comparison, a continuous light system means the light is always on. You see the same light you will see in your final image.

Continuous light
A Continuous light is always on

Why do you even need studio lighting?

You may be a little confused about whether to get a continuous or a strobe light. Both are fantastic light systems, and to be completely honest, I use them both! I love the versatility of having studio lights. I use them primarily in my newborn sessions – the beauty of it is that I can really shoot at any time of day that i want to. I live in Canada, where it is dark in the winters! This means I used to only be able to shoot at ISO 1200 between 10:00 and 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon in December, and that really sucked. It really limited me in the number of clients that I could book and what I could do and when I could have my sessions.

natural light baby
Natural light is great … but only when it’s not dark or gloomy outside!

When I delved into the world of studio lighting, it opened up a whole different availability for me. I was able to shoot in the evenings (when may be the only time clients were available) and it just gave me so much more of my life back because I had that versatility.

With a continuous light, you’re going to have the same versatility. It’s a light that’s always going to be on. There are different power settings, but I tend to use mine on a higher power as it gives that look that I like. But the real difference between the continuous and the strobe is that the continuous is always on – it’s literally like having a window light.

The modeling light

Now what can be super confusing is when you see a video of someone using a strobe, and it seems like there is a light on all the time as well. What you’re seeing is actually the modeling light which is always on. The modeling light is just a low power light on a strobe that allows you to see what you’re doing, and allows your camera to have enough light to focus, but it isn’t the actual flash. It turns off automatically as the strobe fires.

The modeling light on a strobe is just there so you can see what you’re doing

But which is better? Strobe or continuous?

When choosing between continuous and strobe lighting, there are a few reasons that I choose the continuous over a strobe sometimes and a strobe over a continuous at other times.

The case for continuous…

One case for continuous is that a baby can startle because of the flash firing on a strobe, so if you have a real jittery baby, sometimes using a continuous light can be a better option.

Also, when I’m doing cake smashes or I’m doing images with older children who are sometimes really timid and shy, or with older children doing a sibling shot with my newborns, I tend to gravitate toward the continuous because they’re not getting that pop of light, which often causes them to look at the light and to stop paying attention to me.

siblings in studio
Older children are easily distracted by strobe flashes so continuous lighting can keep their attention focused on the photographer.

In most other cases, I use the strobe because of its capacity to freeze motion for any of my fast-moving clients! If you shoot newborns, but also families and toddlers, and require more precise control over your light, then a strobe will be more versatile.

busy toddlers in crib
A strobe allows you to freeze the action for those busy toddlers!

If you haven’t already downloaded our handy dandy getting started Gear Guide, you are gonna want to get yourself a copy of that! We go over all the different options when it comes to continuous and studio lighting to help you on your way with your studio lights.

Click here to download your copy!

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