Types of studio lighting

There is a multitude of studio lighting options available, but essentially they all do the same thing — give artificial daylight balanced illumination. There are, however, a number of differences in the way each works, which Karl explores in detail in this chapter.

In this photography class he explains the fundamental workings of studio lighting, the advantages and disadvantages of different systems as well as the type of work they are best suited for.

In this photography class we cover the following:

  • Different types of studio light
  • The fundamentals of working with lights:
  • – Power sources
  • – Power settings
  • – Triggering lights
  • Adjustments and attachments
  • Pack systems vs monoblock systems vs lithium systems
  • Systems best suited for studio and location work

NOTE: This photography class is available with English subtitles.


  1. I’m enjoying this – and I love your approach.

    I was worried you would “assume” some knowledge and brush over things, but your clear, simple and comprehensive modules are brilliant. I had some knowledge of flash / continuous and I own three GODOX AD200’s but I had missed some aspects of the lighting.

    I am getting more excited about learning some of the more advanced techniques as your coaching style is perfect for me.

  2. Really liking the classes.

    Mind if I ask what light stands are you using?

    I am for one considering purchasing some used Broncolor equipment (torn between the unilite and the pulso g, thinking if the focusing / zoom function of the pulso g is a deal breaker) do you have thoughts on this? Also I wanted to understand if say a 1600w/s Power Pack can power say a 3200 w/s Lamphead just trying to understand the nuances. Thanks.

  3. Hello, Dumb Newbie question here.

    It seems I have continuos lighting – 2x Esddi soft boxes. It says they are 85w bulbs each but it adds up to 400w. I don’t understand that?

    I’m trying to understand it as if I brought 2 x 400w strobe lights, it would be twice the price but surely it’s a lot brighter? or there would be no point getting them? I feel I’m getting lost in Watts!

    I also have 2 x Neewer continuos LED’s which are dimmable but can also change from 5600k to 3200k. I’ve had some great effects using the warmer lighting.

    If a strobe light is stuck at 5500 how do you get other temperatures of light. Do you use filters or do you have to by other strobes?

    Basically I’m wondering if I should buy some strobes, so I can practice what’s on the tutorial or would it make any difference?

  4. Thank you so much! Interesting class. You are doing that I lose the scare to these equipment. I am amateur photographer but it’s my first time that I’m so glad paying a subscription. I’m learning a lot. Definitely I’m in the right place. Thank you!

    1. Hi, there are many types of lighting systems and brands, the principles I’ve explained are similar for all. The more expensive units have faster flash durations, greater durability and usually a better choice of modifiers. Although the broncolor modifiers have adapters to fit other brands.

  5. Hi Karl,

    Really learning alot from your videos so thank you.
    Quick one for a beginner looking to get into using strobes.
    What would you recommend, to buy 1 light to start learning(to see what you can and cant do with just one) or a couple for flexibility?

  6. Hi sir, I am beginner and want to buy studio light kit or setup on budget. i have canon 600d camera. Can you recommend any brand for studio light?

    1. Hi Jatin, no I’m afraid we can’t recommend any particular budget brand. Our favourite brand and the one I use is Broncolor but if this is out of your budget there are plenty of others to chose from such as Elinchrom, Bowens, Godox.

  7. A question about the Siros-L units from Broncolor:

    I have two of these. Sometimes, they flash at maximum power regardless of the setting. For example, it might be set to 3.5 but will flash at 10.0. Usually it happens once and then reverts to whatever the setting is but sometimes it happens twice in a row, or will flash at 10., then 3.5 (if that is the setting) for many flashes, then 10 again, then back to 3.5. Have you ever seen this happen? Do you know what is going on and if there is a way to prevent it?

    Best regards,


  8. Hi sir, I am beginner and want to buy studio light kit or setup on budget. i have canon 600d camera. Can you recommend any brand for studio light?

  9. This should be mandatory content for every aspiring studio photographer. I’ve been looking for a clear description like this for years. Thank you!

    Do you have any recommendations for portable batteries when you need to use a mono light in the field?

    1. Thanks John. The Siros or Move pack lights that I use in the field have their own lithium batteries as do some other brands. There are also independent power sources for some lighting and I think Godox make something.

  10. I just got my replacement protective dome for my Siros-L. I went to put it on but it isn’t so easy as removing the broken one. After watching you screw yours off in this video, I tried that and it worked but the same technique doesn’t work (or doesn’t seem to) for putting a new one on. Instead, it looks like I have to press it into place. My concern is that if I push too hard, it will fracture. Can you answer if there is a special way to attach this, or is it simply pushing hard until it goes on?

    1. Hi, is there any of the old one left trapped on there? You should see three metal pins that hold it in place, make sure they are not bent out of position. Hold the dome in a cloth, line it up straight and just work it on. It will be a bit stiff but with a bit if left and right twisting it should go on.

  11. Thanks to this video, I now know who was at fault for breaking the glass housing around my Siros-L’s flash tube. It was me. It broke when my assistant took it out of the bag, but I must have pre-fractured it months earlier when I replaced the housing after another assistant dropped it on its face, thus breaking the original housing. I didn’t know it had to twist on until I saw this video and saw Karl remove the housing from his light. When I replaced it, I pressed it hard until it went on, thinking it was a snap-on accessory.

    Thanks for the lesson, I won’t be doing that again, but might have when my second replacement arrived had I not seen this video in the interim.

  12. Karl, I want to thank you for the high value content here. I’m a photographer for four years right now and I’m going to make more studio work in the future and your content is really well presented and I’m learning a lot.

    Thank you and all the best for your!

    Greetings from Germany!

  13. i’m going to buy two speed lights but i’m not sure which brand shall i go with “Godox AD600 Pro or Profoto B1X” as there is a huge deference with the price considering the very expensive Profoto light accessories, is the quality deference between them worth that amount of money ?

    1. Hi STV, probably not. If it fires a burst of flash and it is consistent then that’s what you need.

  14. Which of the above lights do you use as a gradient light to create the ball of light effect? Thanks Karl. Andrew

  15. Hi Karl,

    Thank you for being a constant inspiration!
    I’ve spoken with Urs at Broncolor-Photokina and I’ve missed you for 10 minutes as he told me you were around.

    I am planning to buy tow Siros L as my first lights, I would like to go with the Siros as they’re mobile. I know they come as a kit with the trolley but Urs suggested that I buy a 400 and an 800 jules so to cover more range. What did he mean by that? That the 400 shoot with a further minimum power than the 800?

    What’s your suggestion with that? I also think that the modelling light (LED) on the L series isn’t as good as the S (300W lamp).

    Thank you!

    1. HI Enrico, I think he meant it would be better to have at least 1x 800 rather than 2 x 400. Personally if you can afford it I’d go for 2 x 800. The 800 is one stop more powerful in light output than the 400.

  16. Hi, I really love the teaching style and have been binge watching since I signed up 🙂

    In terms of lighting you do mention continuous very briefly but mention poor CRI and few other things that seem to relate to older style ones. I’ve been looking at one that has a CRI of 96 that is adjustable between 3150-6300 Kelvin and also has a flash function to it. It seems that since the light is already quite soft wouldn’t need diffusers. As I’d never be shooting in harsh daylight sun and need to overpower it wondering what thoughts you have? It’s the rotolight aeos in particular that I’ve been looking at.

    1. Hi Cameron, LED’s are improving all the time in terms of CRI etc but you’ll never be able to claim that the lighting is soft unless A). The LED panel is 2m x 1.5m and close to your subject, or B) The light is modified through a diffuser such as a scrim or large softbox. There is no such thing as a small soft light, that would break the laws of physics 🙂

  17. Thank you so much, Karl, for all if that information and thanks for your time you spend to teach us.

    1. Thank you Ahmed and thanks for being a member in our community so that we can provide you with great new content!

  18. Awesome course Karl, I am very new to using lights and flash and this is really pointing me in the right direction,

  19. One thing I was curious about is the modelling lamp. Does its light output impact on the scenes overall lighting? It looks like it would though I wondered if perhaps it is not noticeable because the flash is brighter so the halogen is drowned out? Or maybe it is removed with the use of adjusting the white balance in post?

  20. Hi Karl

    Besides BronColor, do you recommend any other Light Brands that are not as expensive?

    Is it okay to mix lights from different brands?


  21. Karl,
    Are light stands like tripods where different brand light heads can fit on any stand in the way that tripods are universal to accept different heads? There is a large used market for lighting where I am at and good deals can be had on different bits so I am wondering if they can always be put together?


  22. Karl , Loving your website and learning a lot, I have quick question. I would like to buy a pair of ELB 400 for location people photography. The only drawback seems to be that the battery ports have only two settings 100% and 50%. Am I missing something? Is the power more adjustable ?

    1. I’ve had a quick look at the specs and it has variable power settings like most studio/location flash units. I think you may be looking at the charging settings not the power outputs.

  23. Karl,
    I’ve gone through all your videos at least once and came back here to ask what may seem to be an obvious question. Still, I want your opinion.

    For my first “serious” lighting setup I’m considering one “location” type light with the internal battery. I’m planning on doing a lot of outdoor shooting, in rural areas of field and forest, or just away from from power sources. I could put the light head in a backpack and take it as far away as I need, and then have attach it to whatever is available to hold it, or pack in a stand too, or have an assistant simply hold the light, Then, obviously, I could use it indoors occasionally with a diffuser or box to do portraits or weddings.
    I would compliment it with a lower priced light that would probably require a battery pack or plug into the mains when I needed extra lighting indoors at events.

    Do you think that is a good choice for my situation?

    Thanks so much,

    1. Hi Steve, as it sounds that you are mostly set on the outdoor portraits and fashion then I’d consider two outdoor lights with a lithium battery. I’m not sure of your budget but the Siros L kit could be a great choice. You can of course use these lights indoors too and they are often as versatile as mains powered lights you just might want to invest in a couple of spare batteries. Cheers Karl.

  24. Hello,Karl!I`d like to ask U a question.
    I watched broncolor “How to`s” on YOUTUBE,in the episode DANCING,Urs used HMI light and a slow shutter speed to creat a stunning motion blur, I don`t have that light. Can modeling light be used as continous light???
    One flash fires,but the other one doesn`t(I can chang the channel so that it can`t fire),just lit model.If this works,shoud I put gel on the modeling light to change the color temperature?

  25. Love the videos, we stopped watching tv these days and seem to watch your tutorials instead. We’re weird.

    I’ve just bought a cheap studio light to play with, I’ve never done anything in a studio before, and I just want to play with the different types of lights and reflectors etc.. I believe (I’ll know when it arrives I guess) it fires from a flash sensor. Should I use that or from a sync cable?

    1. Hi Justin if the lighting kit comes with a wireless or infra red trigger then they usually work well, a cable will do exactly the same but can get in the way.

  26. Hello Karl very much enjoying your courses, you are an excellent instructor.
    I am curious if you have ever used continuous lighting ( in particular arri lights) in conjunction with strobes, for fashion shots, I am starting to experiment with this and am interested in your take on it.


    1. Hi Gerry, I’ve used HMI lighting in conjunction with strobes/studio flash but Arri are usually video lights that are at 3600K colour temperature so you would need to put correction gels on them or on the strobes to get them both the same colour – flash is 5600K. HMI is already 5600K.

  27. Fantastic training style, its not easy to teach even if you are brilliant at your subject.
    I am learning so much and a great start to my passion

    1. Thank you James, I enjoying explaining things and in my photography I like to work in a logical process and I find I can apply that process to explanation too.

  28. thank you Karl and Team, perfect tutorial as usual. may i ask your opinion for the quality of Godox products which are more economy for students?

    1. Hi Art, I’m afraid we have never used Godox products so we are unable to comment on their quality or reliability.

    1. Hi Jean, let us know when you want to do that and as a member of KTE we’ll see if we can arrange a discount with bron for you.

  29. You’ve done a great job on these tutorials, Karl, and you are a very good instructor.

    Question: Why use a flash at all? What does a flash light do that a spot light cannot do? I know in another episode you explain how flash duration, etc. captures motion and therefore it is imperative to utilize it; but why use it on a model, for example, that is not moving? Flashes seem rather complex, they have to be timed to the camera, and therefore expensive?

    1. Hi Steve, I think your questions will be answered as you continue through this course. But do come back to me at the end if you have further questions. Cheers Karl.

  30. This is amazing,no doubt internet is full of knowledge (may be relevant or not) but at least someone like you is giving the pin point information to others.

    I am happy that i found one of you video on you tube and subscribed your channel after watching it.

    This is the exact way of knowledge transferring…loved it !

    btw Karl … you look more handsome without hair 🙂

    Love from India !


  31. I am really enjoying this course! The content is helping close gaps in my knowledge of their use even though I ‘ve watched many other courses simply showing them in operation. Excellent fundamentals!

  32. Wow, that Broncolor line is really extensive. I’m presently using P C Buff gear, but plan to upgrade at some point. Great lesson.

  33. Awesome content! I watch a ton of training videos and have actually learned more from these than I have in the past.

  34. For someone like myself who has limited experience with studio lighting, I’ve watched so far the first and second video’s in this section and have been very impressed with the presentation and the information given on each subject. Just what I’ve been looking for.

    1. The best $14 ever spent. This course gives “Lights, Camera, Action” a whole new meaning and armed with such knowledge and insight, we too can bring life and Action” to our still photography.

      Great job. Your explanations and examples are simply amazing.
      Well done Karl

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