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"Strobe" refers to studio flash lights or, occasionally, to portable flashguns. Speaking exactly, the strobe is the rapid pulse of light fired by such equipment, but the word is rarely used in this sense when talking about photographic equipment. Generally speaking, "Studio strobe" refers to the lights that produce these.

Studio strobes differ from hand-held flashguns in the following ways:

  1. They are much larger, typically larger than an average dSLR camera
  2. They are always mounted on stands
  3. They are much more powerful, with a much greater guide number, generally described in WattSeconds
  4. They recycle more quickly, typically in less than a second even during repeated use
  5. They are either mains powered, or powered from large, high capacity batteries
  6. They are capable of being used with more frequent repetitions without overheating
  7. They do not integrate with the camera electronics, meaning that the camera must be set to manual exposure
  8. They are generally not weatherproofed

Higher end strobes have some or all of the following features:

  1. Higher power - 800 WS (WattSeconds) or more
  2. Built in modelling lights, which are continuous tungsten lights which help to understand light balance and shadows
  3. Optical cells, meaning that the flash can be triggered by an infra-red unit mounted on camera or by the firing of other flash
  4. Radio triggers, allowing the flash to be triggered by a radio remote mounted on camera
  5. Fan cooling, enabling them to be used repeatedly without overheating
  6. Stabilised colour, ensuring that the colour temperature does not vary in use
  7. Audible warnings, usually to tell the photographer that the strobes are ready for use
  8. Computer control, from a Mac or Windows PC using network cables and special software

All studio strobes are equipped to be used with a variety of light-modifiers, typically including umbrellas, soft-boxes, beauty-dishes, and gels.

Studio strobes have a typical duration of 1/2500 seconds, thereby freezing the action, with a colour temperature of 5600 K.

Studio strobes are generally preferred over continuous lighting because they do not overheat the subject, because they freeze the action, and because they use relatively little electricity. However, they are harder to set up, even using modelling lights.

  • This page was last modified on 29 December 2008, at 15:41.
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