Light­ing is the most impor­tant tool for a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, which allows you to cre­ate real mas­ter­pieces. Flash­light is still the go-to choice for most pho­tog­ra­phers in the stu­dio: no won­der, since nat­ur­al win­dow light can be too finicky and unpre­dictable, and con­stant light (which we wrote about ear­li­er) some­times lacks pow­er. In this arti­cle, we’ll show you how to choose a stu­dio flash based on your needs and stu­dio size, and take a quick look at a few pop­u­lar mod­els.

Types of studio lighting for photography

There are three main types of flash lights: on-cam­era flash­es, gen­er­a­tors, and monoblocs. Small on-cam­era flash­es are usu­al­ly not designed for the stu­dio — they usu­al­ly lack pow­er, and some­times it is more dif­fi­cult to use var­i­ous mod­i­fiers with them (more on that below).

You can, of course, use a sys­tem of sev­er­al on-cam­era flash­es. How­ev­er, to achieve the same pow­er and light­ing qual­i­ty as with larg­er stu­dio flash­es, you will need to spend sig­nif­i­cant­ly more mon­ey and effort on set-up. The prob­lem of cost, of course, can be solved by using the cheap­est Chi­nese mod­els, but one can­not hope for a high qual­i­ty of such a sys­tem.

On a monoblock, all con­trols are locat­ed on the body …

A more ver­sa­tile and sim­pler option is a monoblock, or sim­ply a “stu­dio flash”. A monoblock is a sin­gle hous­ing that hous­es all the elec­tron­ics, con­trols and a lamp. Usu­al­ly they are equipped with two lamps (a flash lamp for the flash itself and a mod­el­ing light for a pre­lim­i­nary assess­ment of light­ing). All con­trol takes place with the help of organs on the body. The main advan­tages of monoblocks are ver­sa­til­i­ty and low price rel­a­tive to gen­er­a­tors.

… and on the gen­er­a­tor all con­trol is placed in a sep­a­rate block

The gen­er­a­tor light con­sists of the main unit, which hous­es all the elec­tron­ics and con­trols, and heads with lamps that are con­nect­ed to it with a cable. Gen­er­a­tors boast very high pow­er and a short pulse. How­ev­er, such light is much more expen­sive, and in this arti­cle we will focus on more ver­sa­tile monoblocks.

Monoblocks dif­fer in a num­ber of para­me­ters that you need to pay atten­tion to when choos­ing. We will con­sid­er them below.


The first thing to con­sid­er is the pow­er of the stu­dio flash. It ranges from mod­est 100J fill lamps to super-bright 1500J lights. For most appli­ca­tions, the 500–800J range will be a sol­id start­ing point. In gen­er­al, in terms of pow­er, it is bet­ter to take devices with a mar­gin. Excess light can always be dis­si­pat­ed, but get­ting more than stat­ed will not work.

Weak­er 200 joule lamps are suit­able for shoot­ing small objects (for exam­ple, for prod­uct pho­tog­ra­phy) and close-up por­traits.

For small spaces, such as home stu­dios, you can use lamps start­ing from 300 joules. For exam­ple, the Ray­lab Rossa RS-300 pulsed stu­dio flash has a pow­er of 300 joules, so it is suit­able for var­i­ous types of shoot­ing in the home stu­dio. The mod­el is equipped with a touch screen and a begin­ner-friend­ly con­trol sys­tem.

Ray­lab Rossa RS-300 is suit­able for home stu­dio…

For shoot­ing in larg­er rooms, open spaces and for large groups of peo­ple (20+ peo­ple), it is worth using flash­es with a pow­er of 600 joules or more. The Ray­lab Sprint IV RTD-600 has just such a bright­ness that it can be used in pro­fes­sion­al pho­to stu­dios. The active cool­ing sys­tem pro­tects the device from over­heat­ing dur­ing shoot­ing, allow­ing you to work for a long time with­out inter­rup­tion.

Power setting

It is worth pay­ing atten­tion to what lev­el of pow­er con­trol the mod­el you are con­sid­er­ing offers. The more pre­cise adjust­ment avail­able, the bet­ter. Most mod­ern mod­els can be adjust­ed in very small incre­ments to fine-tune the bright­ness. For exam­ple, the Rosa and Sprint series mod­els can con­trol pulse pow­er in 0.1‑stop incre­ments, which is enough for most sit­u­a­tions.

Relat­ed to this is anoth­er impor­tant para­me­ter — the adjust­ment range, that is, how much you can reduce the flash pow­er from the max­i­mum. The same rule works here — the larg­er the range avail­able, the bet­ter. This para­me­ter must also be cor­re­lat­ed with the pow­er of the illu­mi­na­tor. For exam­ple, if you have a 500 joule monobloc that only allows you to reduce the pow­er to 1/4, in some sit­u­a­tions it will be too bright. On aver­age, it is nec­es­sary to focus on the pos­si­bil­i­ty of reduc­ing pow­er to 1/16 and below.


The next thing to think about is speed. If you plan to shoot not only por­traits but also action scenes, choos­ing a fast recy­cle lamp is cru­cial. In order to make fast sequen­tial flash­es, many man­u­fac­tur­ers add a spe­cial mode to their mod­els (com­mon­ly called “high-speed mode” or “freeze”), which reduces the pow­er and dura­tion of the flash, there­by reduc­ing the recy­cling time.

High-Speed ​​Sync (HSS) is also an increas­ing­ly com­mon fea­ture, and is espe­cial­ly use­ful for fast-mov­ing sub­jects. Flash­es of the Luxio series, for exam­ple, Ray­lab Luxio RL-800, have this func­tion. The max­i­mum recy­cle speed of this flash is only 0.05 sec­onds (mean­ing the flash can fire up to 20 flash­es per sec­ond), so you can freeze even the fastest move­ment.

Ray­lab Luxio RL-800 is suit­able for “freez­ing” move­ment

But even for nor­mal shoot­ing, you obvi­ous­ly don’t want to take a flash that “thinks” for too long: you take a pic­ture, and after that you look at the mod­el for a long time and lan­guid­ly, wait­ing for recharg­ing. Of course, this is a rather sub­jec­tive para­me­ter, but we would rec­om­mend focus­ing on flash­es with a recy­cle speed of no more than 1 sec­ond.

Synchronization of studio flash and camera

Regard­less of which mod­el you choose, the cam­era needs to be able to fire (“fire”) your flash. This can be done with a cable, an opti­cal sig­nal, or a radio syn­chro­niz­er. The most pop­u­lar method for mod­ern cam­eras is a radio sig­nal, which allows you not to tan­gle in cables and pro­vides a more reli­able con­nec­tion com­pared to an opti­cal chan­nel. Uni­ver­sal radio trig­gers for stu­dio flash­es are Ray­lab RL-UT6 and RL-UT7. They allow you to remote­ly con­trol the pow­er of the pulse and acti­vate sev­er­al groups of flash­es at once. Hav­ing mul­ti­ple chan­nels allows you to avoid trig­ger­ing flash­es from oth­er pho­tog­ra­phers’ trans­mit­ters (for exam­ple, when work­ing in large stu­dios with sev­er­al rooms), as well as com­bin­ing flash­es into sev­er­al groups to cre­ate dif­fer­ent light­ing options.

The RL-UT7 syn­chro­niz­er has TTL sup­port — the flash will auto­mat­i­cal­ly pro­duce the amount of light depend­ing on the expo­sure and dis­tance to the sub­ject. If the scene is dark, the flash out­put will be more intense and vice ver­sa.

The radio trans­mit­ters are com­pat­i­ble with all major cam­era brands and work with flash­es equipped with a built-in wire­less receiv­er — Ray­lab Rossa, Sprint and Luxio. Ray­lab Axio III is com­pat­i­ble with the Ray­lab JH-R004 radio syn­chro­niz­er.

Oth­er monoblocks with built-in syn­chro­niz­ers can be con­nect­ed using a spe­cial exter­nal receiv­er RL-SR via a plug.

Some flash­es can be con­trolled via an appli­ca­tion on a smart­phone — for this it must be equipped with a blue­tooth or Wi-Fi mod­ule.

pilot light

Anoth­er fea­ture of var­i­ous flash mod­els is the pres­ence or absence of pilot light. This is the sec­ond lamp with a con­stant light, which allows you to eval­u­ate the light pat­tern in advance. Mod­el­ing light is equipped with flash­es of all Ray­lab lines. Depend­ing on the pow­er of the mod­el­ing light, you can use it as a con­stant light for video shoot­ing, but stand­alone LED pan­els will serve bet­ter for this.

Bayonet and accessory compatibility

Final­ly, the last impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tic is which mount the monoblock uses. The bay­o­net is a ring adapter for mount­ing var­i­ous acces­sories such as soft­box­es. Always make sure that the adapter on the acces­so­ry and the mount on the flash match. The Bowens mount is the most com­mon mount for which a huge num­ber of dif­fer­ent mod­i­fiers and acces­sories have been devel­oped. There­fore, if you do not want to be lim­it­ed to brand­ed acces­sories of any flash man­u­fac­tur­er, you should choose it.

Ray­lab Rossa RS-500 with Bowens mount and umbrel­la hole

As for the mod­i­fiers them­selves, we pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed them in detail in the arti­cle on light­ing con­trol. Umbrel­las, soft­box­es, reflec­tors, and beau­ty dish­es can be used with stu­dio flash to soft­en the light or cre­ate a spe­cial light pat­tern. Most often they are attached to the flash with a bay­o­net mount or on a stu­dio stand. Many flash mod­els, such as the Ray­lab Rossa RS-500, are addi­tion­al­ly equipped with a spe­cial umbrel­la hole.


When choos­ing a stu­dio flash, you need to focus on a few basic para­me­ters.

  • Flash out­put should depend on the size of your room. A good start for a small home stu­dio is 300 joules, and for larg­er rooms and pro­fes­sion­al stu­dios, 600 joules.
  • The abil­i­ty to fine-tune the pow­er should allow you to reduce it at least 1/16 of the max­i­mum.
  • Reload speed. For gen­er­al shoot­ing, a max­i­mum of 1.5 sec­onds is rec­om­mend­ed, and for shoot­ing fast motion, it is bet­ter to choose a mod­el with fast shoot­ing mode (up to 0.05 sec­onds) and HSS sup­port.
  • The flash (or groups of flash­es) is most con­ve­nient­ly syn­chro­nized with the cam­era using a radio trig­ger.
  • For broad com­pat­i­bil­i­ty with a vari­ety of light­ing acces­sories, we rec­om­mend choos­ing a Bowens mount mod­el.

Do you use stu­dio flash­es? We will be glad if you share your expe­ri­ence in the com­ments.