Join Levi Sim for an in-depth discussion in this video Comparing speedlights to strobes, part of Flash Photography: Nikon Speedlites.
This course is all about speedlights, but we've also got studio strobes available out there to help us make better quality and brighter light. And we can use a lot of terms interchangeably between these. A "flash" works for speedlight or strobe. We can also say "strobe" to mean speedlight or studio strobe. A speedlight, however, is a speedlight. It's this big. It's a proprietary term for these small lights. So, if you want to be really specific, you can say, "Hand me that speedlight over there." Or I could also say "Hand me that flash." Or "Hand me that strobe." But we can also call the studio strobes a strobe or a flash.
One of the main differences between these lights is power. This thing is big. It's got a separate power pack that plugs into the wall. Or it can have a really large battery as well. You may also find a studio strobe that has the power pack built into the head, and that's called a monoblock. These have enough power to overcome the sun on even a very bright day, whereas our speedlights just are a lot smaller. They run off AA batteries.
It doesn't have the power to light up an entire family on a sunny day at f/8, whereas with the studio strobe, I could easily do that. Studio strobes also have a lot more modifiers available for them. They've been around for a long, long time, and there's all kinds of tools we can use to shape the light. A modifier modifies the light coming out of a flash, so we can use it to make the light bigger or softer, make it shoot farther. We can use it to focus the light. All of these different tools are called modifiers.
We've got a lot of modifiers available for speedlights too. But because it's just a smaller light, it can't handle some of the larger modifiers. Also, because it's not as powerful, it's not able to fill some of those modifiers up. I love to use a seven-foot umbrella with a lot of my pictures, and that works great with my studio strobe, but one speedlight can't quite fill it up and put out enough light to make it useful. So there's different tools for speedlights, but more and more there are really powerful tools for these that don't work on strobes as well.
The next big difference between these lights is cost. Speedlights are made by the brand Nikon, and they cost what Nikon tells us they're going to cost. The studio strobes, however, we can buy multiple brands, and we have a lot of range of power and capabilities within these. You can go up to several thousand dollars and down to less than a hundred dollars and get a studio strobe. One of the reasons we like to pay for the speedlights, though, is that they have intelligence.
They work with the camera. They communicate with the camera and adjust the output of the light depending on the settings and distance to your subject that the camera tells it. It's really quite a remarkable experience using this light compared to a studio strobe. That i-TTL function just really makes it a simple thing to use the speedlights. And so combining the intelligence of the speedlight with its small size, it really makes it a lot less intimidating both for myself as a beginning photographer and also for my subjects.
Sometimes when I pull out a studio strobe with big modifiers on it, it's a bit intimidating. But if I just pull this little, tiny light out of my camera bag, it's not that big a deal for the people I'm photographing. And so I think the intelligence, the size, and just its versatility really make this a great place to start. I'm really glad that I started flash photography using speedlights. The intelligence built into it and the small size really made it simple for me to learn and transition into bigger lights and using fully manual functions.
I'd recommend speedlights to you as a great place to start.
You'll also find out how to set up your Nikon camera itself to make the most of the speedlight—one of the most liberating photography tools you can buy. Levi Sim helps you master the controls, including the camera and flash modes, flash modifiers, and accessories, and creative options offered by a speedlight: soft light, hard light, and bounced light. By the end of this course, you'll be able to make great light in any situation with your speedlight. If you don't have one yet, you'll understand just what model is best for your needs and what features you'll use the most.
- Why use a speedlight?
- Powering a speedlight
- Choosing the right camera mode
- Choosing the right flash modes
- Using flash modifiers
- Creating soft and hard light
- Accessing Commander mode
- Positioning the flash off camera
- Using an ITTL extension cord
- Extending battery life
- Controlling ambient light
- Using speedlights with third-party radio triggers