Speedlight Vs. Strobe: Knowing When to Use One Over the Other in Newborn Photography

Knowing the difference Speedlight vs strobes

In today's post, we will talk about the Speedlight and strobe. Moreover, we will discuss the difference between them and also talk about their use. I had this topic in mind when I was writing the post "How To Start A Newborn Photography Business?" Thanks to my memory! This one is an important topic that every new photographer should know about. So, without further delay, let's begin!

There is a bevy of gear and accessories professional photographers must have in their arsenal, apart from cameras and lenses. An assortment of that would be dedicated to lighting alone. You would be surprised by how much lighting paraphernalia is involved in a professional photo shoot session. And if you are serious about this craft, you have to invest in them.

As one of the key principles in photography, lighting, or the ability to manipulate it, is crucial to capturing shots that otherwise wouldn't be possible with just natural light. It is in such situations that a piece of lighting equipment, for instance, a Speedlight or a strobe, is invaluable. If you are not sure what's the difference between the two or what's the best situation to use one over the other, you should read on the following post to clear the confusion.

The Difference of Speedlight from a Strobe

A Speedlight and a strobe are used in very different scenarios. We cannot objectively say that one is superior over the other because each has its advantages in certain situations. But where they differ is practically in terms of power, portability, speed, flexibility, and, of course, cost.


A Speedlight (also called a flashgun) is a portable flash that you can install on the hot shoe of your camera. You can also use a Speedlight as an off-camera flash (OFC) using a receiver and transmitter. If you prefer, you can even upgrade it to become off-camera lighting with the help of some additional accessories.

What a Speedlight does is it emits a short burst of lighting, which photographers can use to manipulate the image they are capturing. The photographer can control the intensity of light the equipment produces, depending on the amount he/she requires.

The main advantage of Speedlight over strobe lighting is that it is significantly cheaper. You can score cheap ones for as little as $100. A mid-priced flashgun could be fetched for $300, while high-end models usually start around $500.

Also, a Speedlight is much more portable; you can easily place it inside your camera bag if you have an off-studio shoot. It doesn't need to be charged or plugged in for power since almost all speedlights use AA batteries to run.

Although portable enough, the light produced by a Speedlight is less powerful compared to strobe lighting. A strobe can easily outpower any other mobile lighting device, delivering twice the light intensity that a Speedlight can.

Another disadvantage of speedlights is they have a slow recycle time. This means that you have to wait usually about 2-5 seconds before you can fire the next full-powered flash.

Strobe Lights

A strobe light is a much larger piece of lighting equipment. It is not meant to be mounted on top of your camera. Also, instead of running on batteries, they need to be plugged into an AC power source. For this reason, strobes are mostly used in a studio setup.

Studio strobes are lightning-fast; they don't need any recycle time to fire the next burst of light. This enables photographers to shoot in succession without waiting for the flash to catch up. In terms of light intensity, a studio strobe is, without a doubt, superior to a Speedlight. Moreover, strobes have a built-in setting that allows you to adjust the quality of light it gives off. You can decrease

or increase the intensity as needed to achieve your desired

Strobe lights are a more flexible light source option as they can be used in conjunction with several lighting modifiers such as barn doors and softboxes. If you want some advanced light modification, using a strobe light is the option to go with.

While this piece of lighting gadgetry is more powerful and flexible, it could be quite a hassle to bring to every photo shoot session (especially if you are traveling outside your studio for the shoot). They are simply not as portable as speedlights. Also, as strobe lights need to be plugged in, expect electrical cords and cables to run all over your studio, which poses distractions and tripping hazard if you are not careful.

Studio strobes are also an expensive piece of equipment to acquire. This is perhaps the most apparent disadvantage it has over speedlights. Most entry-level models start at $500, while high-end options could easily go up to $1500. If you are thinking of adding lighting modifiers, for instance, umbrellas and softboxes, you'd have to spend even more than that.

What Lighting Accessory to Use in Newborn Photography

In one of our posts, we have already discussed different essential gear for newborn photography. But, what about the lighting accessories? Both speedlight and strobe produce burst flashes to give additional lighting. They may differ in terms of the light intensity produced, but both are useful supplemental tools in flash photography. Investing in both is the best decision you could ever make as a professional photographer.

For Shots Requiring Intense Light Use Strobes

As mentioned earlier, strobes are more powerful than speedlights. Because of this, there are shots that you can only create using a strobe. In newborn photography, for example, when doing a photoshoot in your studio, and you want to have a light effect that is much powerful than the sunlight, a strobe would be perfect. Stronger light eliminates the presence of shadows, which you definitely do not want in your images. It also helps in exposing more details of the baby's body.

However, be aware that using a studio strobe might scare or disturb the baby as it produces strong and loud bursts every time you take a shot. Exposing the baby to intense light flashes is not a very pleasant experience for them. That's why it is crucial to have the baby asleep during a photoshoot because that way, they won't feel much of the flashing action as it is happening.

Photography and Lighting

Speedlight for Softer Shots and Off-Studio Shoots

We already know the lighting requirements for studio shoots. You can read my post on it here - A Hеlрful Guіdе tо Nеwbоrn Phоtоgrарhу Studіо Lіghtіng. However, in this section, we will talk about the off-studio shoots in general.

Not all of your shots will require intense and robust lighting. In fact, a lot of photographers prefer having soft lighting in their photographs, which would be in the form of natural light. Besides, a Speedlight is adequate enough for most photography sessions.

Moreover, if you need to get out of your studio for a newborn photo session (as is the case for lifestyle newborn photography), having a portable flash that you can grab on the go is more convenient. Strobe lights won't do the trick as there is a need to transport them, which is notably not an easy accomplishment. Overall, a speedlight is the more versatile choice for most.