Learning About Strobe Light Kits
Strobe light kits are essential accessories for flash photography and can be powered via a cable or battery. Plug-in models are mostly for studio and indoor use. Portable kits with battery-powered strobe flash heads are suitable for set and outdoor photography. A complete kit usually includes a flash head, light modifier, power source, and stand.
What's a Strobe Light?
A strobe light emits bright flashes of light to illuminate scenes and subjects. Unlike continuous lighting devices, strobe lights produce more striking illumination, and are suitable for faster shutter speeds, making them ideal for capturing action shots. It's possible to use multiple strobes to light up a scene from different angles. This is achieved by using slave strobe kits with two or more flash units. One light serves as the master flash and triggers the others when it fires.
Strobes vs. Speedlights
Also referred to as flash guns, speedlights are smaller and fit on camera hot shoes, or you can use them wirelessly on cold shoes. In contrast, studio and portable strobe lights are stand-alone items. Flash guns are less powerful and have slower recycle times. Generally, strobe flashes are twice as bright, and can flash ten or more times per second. In contrast, flash guns take 1.5 to 5 seconds between flashes. Speedlights also run on AA batteries, while strobe units connect to AC power or run on high-capacity batteries. Most battery-powered lights use lead acid and lithium batteries.
Monolight Strobe Kits
This is a self-contained strobe lighting kit with a flash head that houses a bright lamp with its cooling fan and power source. Also included are a stand and a reflector. Monolight lighting offers the convenience of having everything you need in a single unit. DC-powered models even have batteries built into their lamp heads. Some kits have more than one lamp head and may contain infrared and/or radio slaves, too. Monolights are excellent for studio work while being portable enough to use outdoors where there are no power outlets.
How Much Power Is Necessary for a Strobe Light?
Manufacturers rate strobe power in watts per second (Ws). While this is not a measure of brightness (a lumen indicates brightness), it provides a good approximation. Amateur photographers should opt for battery-powered strobe lights rated at 200 Ws or less. Models with 300 to 400 Ws of power are ideal for home studios and portrait photography. Professional studios and outdoor photography require units with power outputs of at least 600 Ws.