Introduction to Studio Flash Photography

In contrast to hot lights (lights that are continuously \”on\”), studio flash heads emit light only in very short bursts. Studio flash systems have a number of advantages over hot lights. Let\’s go over a few of them:

– Flash heads stay cool when in use and, therefore, provide a more comfortable working environment.

– Flash provides the photographer with more options for light manipulation.

– The maximum output of flash is usually much higher than a hot light can provide. Therefore, flash offers more creative choices regarding exposure settings.

– The light output of individual flash heads can be easily altered. This gives the photographer a simple way to either brighten or dim the light without having to physically move the head.

– Multiple flash heads can be synched to fire simultaneously, giving the photographer a wide array of creative possibilities.

There are two distinct types of studio flash systems. One type is known as a “pack-and-head” system; the other type is known as a “mono-light” system. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types.

The pack-and-head system is powered by a central power pack. This power pack must be connected to a power source (a wall outlet, for example). The actual, light-emitting flash heads do not supply their own power; they must be connected individually by way of cables to the power pack.

Varying the flash output of individual heads is done with controls on the power pack. The majority of electronics that are required to run this system are also located in the power pack. Because the power packs take care of these needs, the lighting heads themselves are relatively small and lightweight.

Unlike the pack-and-head system, a mono-light system does not require the use of a central power pack. In this system, each individual flash head contains all the electronics and controls that are needed to power the head and provide varying levels of light output. With a mono-light system, each individual flash head must be plugged into a power source (typically, a wall outlet).

Pack-and-head systems require that each head have a power cord running to the power pack. Since you’ll usually want the power pack to be placed near you (so you can make adjustments), there can often be quite a few cords getting in the way of your workspace.

Multiple mono-lights require more outlets (power sources) than the single one needed to run a power pack. However, since most rooms (and studios) have outlets on nearly every wall this is typically not a problem. A major reason I prefer mono-lights is because they can be positioned near their own outlets and leave the main shooting area free of cords.

When it comes to deciding between the two systems, you’ll have to go on your own individual preference. Some factors to consider are reliability, consistency, maximum power output, power variation control, recycling time, price, and portability.

It’s not possible to cover all the details and variables that are involved in studio flash photography. I discuss this topic in more detail in my ebook, “Money Shots: The Insider’s Guide to the World of Nude & Erotic Photography” (available for purchase and immediate download at

The best way to learn what does and doesn’t work for you is to get a relatively simple system and start experimenting with it. The good news is that, in this digital age, you can experiment with different lighting setups by taking unlimited amounts of pictures at no cost to you; as well as having immediate feedback regarding the results.

My first flash system was a pack-and-head style. However, I now exclusively use mono-light systems. I like to keep the main working environment as sparse as possible and mono-lights help me do that. In addition, to keep the working space even more cord-free, I use a remote triggering system that eliminates the need for a sync cord. No matter which system you decide on, you will also be using various accessories that will help you modify the light that is emitted.

Author Bio: Michael Charles is a professional photographer based in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of \”Money Shots: The Insider\’s Guide to the World of Nude & Erotic Photography\” (this book is available for purchase and immediate download at For over a decade, Michael has shot exclusively in the world of nude, erotic, and adult-oriented photography. His work has been featured in hundreds of national and international publications and appears on a wide variety of prominent websites. For a complete course on the techniques, styles, moneymaking secrets, and amazing fringe benefits of nude and erotic photography, visit

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