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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Mixing different branded studio strobe lights... should you do it?

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

Episode 9 of 1 minute 101's v2

Will different branded studio strobes have different white balances? Yes, but first, I urge you to check out yesterday's blog/101 about how to fire multiple strobes here.. mostly because I brought up the subject there and then figured I should probably talk about it separately too. Different branded strobes will work to their own specs and with their own sourced manufacturing parts (to some degree at least; we know they like to share on occasion), so this means that the chances are that their outputs in terms of white balance will differ from other brands. In fact, it's possible that a cheaper brand's white balance may differ slightly with in their own same model, as of course you pay for consistency when breaking the bank, and they're obviously using cheaper parts to offer a budget price.

So should you mix strobe brands and types? That one is on you and your preference.. I do, all the time! Realistically, how many people are going to know? Well, those who are anal about everything and think they're something special will probably try to flex their arrogance on any minor thing they consider to be 'wrong', assuming they can even tell in the first instance and aren't just looking for clout. There's plenty of them in the industry, ironically they often omit context of why the image is being taken the way it is, and any ambient choices of what the photographer is choosing to convey in favour of their painting by numbers rule book and why they're right. Of course, rules are made to be broken, but only if you know them, and if you're doing a major campaign, it will probably pay to be that little more anal as you'll have the budget for it.

Realistically, how obvious is it if you adjust your colours in an editing program anyway? Well, as mentioned in the video, mixing your two main lights, namely the key (see the last blog) and the fill (your fill light is there to lift, aka 'fill' the shadows should you wish) may not be the best idea as you will have a blending mix of colours on the subject, and warmer (or cooler I guess) shadows than intended from the key light alone. This could be a problem, as it's one thing being creative with editing colours, but it's a far more advanced editing ability (and more time-consuming) having to fix two mixing lights that don't sit right with your eye.

This is a super old shot that was actually taken in the shed at our old place! The light from the warm lamp gives form to the face and offers ambience in the scene. It was shot with a studio strobe, and a speedlite hiding in the lamp that I warmed further with a lighting gel.

If we apply some phycological theory to lighting however, and as stated in the video, street lights and lights around the home tend to be warm, and certainly were before LED bright whites were an everyday thing. In much the same way we only have one key light based on the theory that it's the most flattering in part due to the fact that we only have one sun and are used to seeing things lit that way, then we can apply the concept that a warmer hair or side light is probably not going to look too alien to the brain and from how we see people every day. Going back to an earlier comment, and using the above image as an illustration, you may choose to do this, especially on location to imply a warm cosy editorial vibe, and that the subject and their surrounding are as one.

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