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The 8 Advantages of Using Speedlites vs Studio Strobes #Strobist

October 16, 2013 | By | 8 Comments

I am a #Speedlite #Strobist. Some of my heroes are Joe McNally, David Hobby, and Dave Black.

I’ve owned studio strobes for the past 8 years or so. Currently I own four White Lightning x3200s, and an Alien Bee ring flash with the MoonUnit modifier. I also own many softboxes, PocketWizards, sync cords, power cords, shot bags, and everything else one needs to use studio strobes well.

In the last year I have been migrating away from using studio strobes and toward exclusively using Canon Speedlites w RadioPopper triggers. Here’s why.

  1. Like the Einsteins, Speedlite flash duration is extremely fast (courtesy of their thyristor / igbt capacitors) and thus much better at freezing action than studio strobes.
  2. Unlike Einsteins or any studio strobe, not only is my flash duration very fast, but my shutter speed can be as fast as 1/8000 of a second. While useful for freezing action, fast shutter speed is even more useful at darkening ambient light, without closing down aperture to f/16 or f/22, thereby requiring much less power from lights. I can darken the environment by 1 or 2 stops and keep my aperture at f/4.5 – f/5.6, which is plenty deep for full focus on my subjects, while maintaining great bokeh.
  3. Unlike my bulky heavy studio strobes, I can quickly put many Speedlites in many places. No c-stands, no power cords, no off-camera batteries, no sync cords to get in the way. Rim lights. Side kickers. Snooted bump light on subjects’ faces, etc.
  4. As primarily a wedding photographer I combine and then separate my lights throughout the day, something not possible with big studio strobes. For example, during big formal portrait sessions I gang up my two foursquares into an eighsquare behind an umbrella for gorgeous light at f/11 strong enough to light groups of 30 or 50 w everyone in focus.
  5. At the reception I separate my lights and put four or five individual Speedlites all around large hotel ballrooms allowing me to “raise the volume” of the whole room, for a much more professional look than typical on-camera flash phoophed off walls or ceilings one sees from many wedding photographers where the whole room is dark and only the near subjects are lit.
  6. With RadioPopper PXs, I have complete control of my Speedlites at all times. I can, and often do, switch between ettl and manual. For example I can change ratios on groups A B & C. Or I crank B up to 1/4 power and C down to 1/32 power. To save batteries I turn off C or B & C when I want to. And I do it all from the back of my camera.
  7. All of this power, flexibility and control fits inside one rolling camera bag and one or two very portable cheetah c-stands.
  8. I buy used Speedlites from ebay for about $150 each.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Steffen

    Great article, Steve, thanks!

  2. Hi Steve! Thanks for this article. Love the pic of the couples & it also shows the set-up of the flashes. I have a Canon 580 EX II. I am planning to upgrade to 2 600RTs with a Canon ST-E3 trigger.

    If I shoot at twillight, with a Silver umbrella, will 2 Speedlites suffice? I cannot afford 4 Speedlights as of now.So I was thinking of one behind the couple and one in front which will shoot into a Silver umbrella & light up their faces.

    Best!

  3. Justin Munn

    Prateek, try the Yongnuo 600ex-rt it’s literally the exact model as the canon 600ex-rt and works off the same frequency. Both the Canon and Yongnuo models (wireless speedlite and transmitter) are interchangeable. For the price of one Canon 600ex-rt you could get roughly three Yonguo 600ex-rt. (Yn-E3-RT is the transmitter model number fyi)

  4. agboola gbenro

    can speedlite be used for studio photograpy and like how many

  5. Alli Richards

    How do you hook up mutiple speedlights onto one stand????

  6. Agboola, absolutely. you can use speedlites for studio photography. If you put them into manual mode (which you can do from the back of your 5D or 1D body, or from the flash itself), it behaves like any studio strobe. Use a light meter to meter exactly your light output. Wrap them in all the usual modifiers, like beauty dishes, or softboxes, or umbrellas, or strip boxes. I usually gang them up in twos, threes, or fours using different accessories.
    4 way bracket: http://bit.ly/1Tdu9dJ
    3 way bracket: http://amzn.com/B00MUNPUVY
    2 way bracket: http://amzn.com/B00NH1HOMG or http://amzn.com/B01ENO4Z68

    I shoot with Canon 600ex-rt speedlites. I own 6. I find the YongNuo YN-E3-RT E3-RT (Radio Trigger) works every bit as well as the genuine Canon version http://amzn.com/B00V62FTB6 when triggering Canon 600ex-rts and YN 600ex-rts. I don’t believe there is anything you can do with traditional studio strobes in studio that you cannot also do with Speedlites. But Speedlites have the advantage of portability, universally-available batteries, very lightweight, completely remotely controllable from the back of your Canon camera, they do HSS high speed sync natively in case you need to darken the sky by cranking your shutter speed way above 1/200 up to as high as 1/8000, and because they use a thyristor capacitor they emit a very fast and fast-falling light to freeze high speed action like running.

  7. Jim

    Hello, great article. If I use these 1,3,4 way bracket, I still need to mount each trigger to each speedlight? Is there a way to use one trigger for all?

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