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What is a studio flash?
A studio flash is designed to get the best results from shooting in a studio. These flashes have been used for years by professional studio photographers, but some models have also become affordable for other photography enthusiasts in recent years. These flashes are therefore particularly suitable for portrait and product photography. Light plays a major role in capturing people and this can be fully controlled using a studio flash. In addition to a flash head, they also have a modelling lamp to test the photo setup before capturing the final image.
Operation of a studio flash
A studio flash is made up of the housing of a flash head with the flash tube attached to it. The flash head also contains a modelling lamp to preview the effect on the image. The housing of the flash is made of sturdy material and a sturdy construction. This will both dissipate heat from the lamp and ensure that nothing is damaged when transporting the flash. When we talk about the operation of a studio flash, the flash tube plays a leading role. The round flash tube is mounted around the modelling lamp and can in most cases be replaced if it breaks. The quality of the flash during a camera recording depends on the colour temperature. Many flashes are around the neutral white colours of 5500 Kelvin. When the flash is activated via a corresponding remote control, it does not continuously deliver the same power. It is therefore important to adjust the camera in such a way that it can work well with the flash. It is also necessary to set the settings to manual in order to have full control over the recording. The aperture should be wide (think of a minimum of f/8.0) for portrait photography, it may be slightly smaller for photography of smaller objects. The shutter speed should also be adjusted to the flash sync speed of the camera, which is often between 1/100 and 1/200.
Synchronising the flash
In order to initiate the studio flash, it is important to adjust it so that the camera and flash communicate with each other at the right time. Frequently used options can be divided into wired or wireless. The risk of wiring is that someone will trip over it or the wire may catch on something. Radio control or a flash trigger are better options in that respect. Flash triggers are very affordable and can be set up to work well with the camera.
Maximum flash power
As with a external flash, the flash power plays an important role in capturing subjects. An important difference between these two types of flash is in the way the flash power is expressed. With an external flash, the guide number in metres is important and with a studio flash it’s more about Watts per second (Ws). The power of Ws is a bit more difficult to read than the guide number since a flash only lasts a fraction of a second and thus never uses the full amount of Watts. There are models at 200 Ws, but also studio flashes that can handle 1000 Ws. The difference is mainly in the size of the subject that you want to capture and what distance you want to do this from. In principle, 200/300 Ws power is enough for product photography or when taking a close-up of someone’s face. It is advisable to look at a flash from 500 Ws to capture a full person in focus. Another important influence to take into account is the use of other accessories such as flash umbrellas, a softbox or a reflective screen. If you are going to reflect the light, you need more power than if you directly illuminate the subject. For this, it is useful to use a light meter, so that you can clearly see whether the power matches the camera settings.
Control buttons on the back
A studio flash contains numerous control buttons to support all functions. Various buttons and connections can be found at the rear of the flash head. We’ve highlighted a number of important parts. First, the button for the modelling lamp. As mentioned before, this is to check how the light falls on the subject when taking the picture. With some models, the brightness of the modelling lamp runs with the set power, with other flash lamps you can work with full light or the dimming function. The power of the flash can therefore be set on the back. The slave sensor is used to trigger the flash when another flash or an infrared lamp comes within range of the sensor. When the flash is charged for the next flash, it gives a signal with a light and possibly a beep. These functions can be turned on and off with the corresponding buttons. In addition, the control panel consists of a test button and a main switch. In terms of connections, there is room for the power cable and an attachment to control the flash.
Use of other connections
A studio flash often has space to connect various accessories. A bayonet connection offers the possibility to attach, for example, a softbox , flash umbrellas or a diffuser. In addition, a flash can be connected to a battery pack.
All about studio flash kits
If you wish to make professional portrait photos, glamour photos or product photos, you cannot avoid a set of studio flashes. In this way, you gain good, even and professional lighting. There are many different kits on the market, something for everyone.
What suits you?
As a beginner, there are enough beginner models available with which you will learn to take photographs with flash lighting. In this case the price is a great advantage. Often the casings are made of plastic and there are less expansion possibilities with accessories. The capacity is also a bit lower because these kits often do not have a built-in motor cooling. The heat has to be discharged properly.
With an average flash kit, you can take excellent portraits and 1-2 people from top to toe. Despite that you receive less light and are therefore less flexible with the settings of your camera, a flash kit will make a world of difference. You can make lovely photos easily.
If you are a seasoned photographer or you wish to make a profession of photography, there are enough good-quality flash kits on sale. The casing is usually metal and can cope well with intensive use. These flashes are equipped with motor cooling, so you can use the flash all day long without any problems. The capacity is also (much) lower because these kits often do not have a built-in motor cooling. This gives more light and more flexibility.
What capacity do you need?
The capacity that you need exactly is determined by the space in which you work and that subject that you want to photograph. You can make the following division:
- 150-200 Ws – Portrait photography of max. 1 person or product photography of smaller objects
- 200-300 Ws – Fashion photography, glamour photography of 1-2 persons from top to toe or product photography of medium-sized objects
- 300-400 Ws – Group portraits up to max. 8 persons or product photography of large objects
- 400-600 Ws – Group portraits of large groups or interior photography