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Speedlights vs Strobes: A Guide for Beginners


Portrait photographer Miguel Quiles is tackling one of the most common beginner questions out there: should I invest in speedlights or strobes? In this video, he covers the pros and cons of both, and which you should go with depending on your needs and shooting style.

As with almost any gear comparison, the answer is “it depends,” which is why Miguel focuses most of the video on the pros and cons of each light, so that you can decide which option fits your specific shooting needs.



  • Size and Weight: Speedlights are generally your lightest, most portable option
  • AA Batteries: Accessible and affordable power
  • Advanced Features: Features like HSS and TTL are common at affordable price points
  • Versatility: Use them on- or off-camera
  • Cost: You can find basic speedlights for as little as $30


  • Recycle Time: Much slower than strobes, especially at full power
  • Battery Drain: You’ll run through those AA batteries quickly
  • Complicated Menus: There’s definitely a learning curve
  • Power Output: Typically produce only 50W/s to 80W/s
  • Small Light Source: Smaller light = harsher shadows



  • Fast Recycle Times: Opens up lots of creative possibilities
  • Power Output: Options range from 200W/s to 1000W/s and beyond
  • Larger Modifiers: Bigger lights allow for bigger modifiers, which gives you more creative options
  • Powerful On-Location Light: Battery-powered strobes can now be used in situations that used to require speedlights


  • Size and Weight: A ‘typical’ monolight is much larger than a speedlight
  • Cost: Generally much more expensive than speedlights
  • AC Power: Many strobes need to be plugged in to mains power, battery-powered strobes cost more

As Miguel outlines in his conclusion, these various pros and cons mean that each type of light serves a different purpose in a photographer’s toolkit.

While both strobes and speedlights have started to encroach on each other’s territory in recent years—you can now find smaller, battery-powered strobes and more powerful, feature-rich speedlights—they still offer a different mix of options. Strobes give you more power at the cost of size, weight, and, well, cost; speedlights are more versatile, convenient, and affordable, but you sacrifice a lot of power in the bargain.

To dive into each of the pros and cons above, and see both types of lights in action, check out the full video up top. And if you’re new to studio and portrait photography, give Miguel’s YouTube channel a look—you’ll find lots more useful content on there for all skill levels.

Image credits: Photos by Miguel Quiles and used with permission.