Understanding the different type of Flashes

As I often say, Photography is the art of capturing the light and sometimes while a situation would be worth capturing, there is not enough light to do so. Hence the use of Flash or flashes which refer to any artificial light.

There are mainly 2 type of artificial light out there: Continous and strobe. However, I like to refer to 3 different kinds of Flashes

  • Pop-up Flash built in the camera body.
  • Studio Flash that requires being plugged to electricity (wall socket or battery pack) to function.
  • Speedlight that can be mount on and off the camera.

Let’s see the pros and cons for each…

Pop-up Flash

They can be found on almost all consumer cameras from the simplest compact (even phone camera such as iPhone) to the neo-professional DSLR.

small compact camera
Small compact camera
a dslr camera
a DSLR camera


  • They come built-in, so they are cheap per definition.
  • They do not take any extra space when carrying the camera around.


  • They are located too close to the lens which leads to red-eye affect in portraiture.
  • They have only a few feet of light coverage.

Studio Flash

They are the big guns in photography, and a must have in any interior professional photo studio. They either provide a continuous light source of a flash burst similar to the pop-up flash but much more powerful.

a studio flash
A studio Flash
a studio flash kit
a studio Flash Kit


  • Can be very powerful and mimic a sunny day.
  • Some of them provide either continuous or a modelling light which enables the photographer to adjust their orientation without having to fire the camera for test shots. Hence gain in set up.
  • The head can be adjusted to any angle.
  • Can be used with Softbox and other light diffusers.


  • Quite a heavy machinery that cannot be transported anywhere anytime.
  • Requires being plugged to electricity or a battery (similar to a car one).
  • Rather expensive, starting price from a few hundred pounds.
  • Require being triggered by the camera via cables or remote triggers.

Speedlight/Off-camera Flash

They are the bridge between Studio and pop-up flashes.

a Canon Speedlight
a Canon Speedlight
a Canon Speedlight vertically oriented
a Canon Speedlight vertically oriented


  • Can be very powerful and mimic a sunny day.
  • Some of them provide modelling light which eases their set up.
  • Do not take much space, very light in weight and therefore can be carried in the camera bag.
  • Runs on 4 AA batteries.
  • Starting price is 50 pounds.
  • The head can rotate 180 degrees and up or down to facilitate light bouncing.
  • Can have a fairly quick recycling time ( time needed between burst).
  • Can be mounted on or off camera and work as a slave triggered by the camera built-in flash, or via cable or a remote trigger.
  • Can be used with a softbox and other light diffusers.


  • Less powerful that Studio Flash.
  • Do not provide a continuous light source.

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