Strobe Lights: Everything You Need to Know About Strobe Lights for Strobe Photography

Strobe Lights - Everything You Need to Know About Strobe Lights

Lighting devices, do not stand still and constantly surprise consumers with their novelties and non-standard solutions (thanks to the movement of scientific and technological progress). One of the most non-standard types of luminaires that have found widespread use today are strobe lights. Such lighting installations have a number of distinctive features, advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss in more detail in our today’s article.

A stroboscope is a light source that instantly turns on and off. It is a tool for showing and adjusting moving or vibrating objects by illuminating them with flash lamps to create a still effect.

The stroboscope was invented in 1836 by Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, professor at the University of Ghent (Belgium). In 1931, MIT professor Dr. Harold Eugene Edgerton developed the xenon flash lamp. Thanks to this invention, the stroboscope was also used in photography, as well as in many areas of commerce and industry.

A stroboscopic lamp produces a very short burst of light, one hundred thousandth of a second long. Thanks to short bursts of high intensity, the image of the subject “freezes” on the retina of the eye, creating a clear freeze frame. If an object continues to move, its movement is perceived as a series of freezes, whether it be the movement of a baseball or a person dancing under a strobe light in a disco.


Types of Strobe Lights

A stroboscope is a special lighting installation that is capable of creating a stroboscopic effect for the emitted light flux. This effect is based on the perception by the human brain of the so-called afterimage. As a result, the device produces bright and repetitive flashes of light at high speed to create this effect.

The stroboscopic effect is a kind of optical illusion.

The principle of operation is based on the characteristic nuances of perception by human visual analyzers of moving objects against the background of flashes of a light source. In a situation where there is a combination (coincidence) of the frequency of movement of a rotating object with the frequency of flashes of light for a person who observes this phenomenon, it will seem that the moving object is at rest.

Stroboscopic Effect
Stroboscopic Effect

Despite the fact that it is not so easy to create a stroboscopic effect, such devices in their most unpretentious interpretation have existed already in the last century. In those days, a stroboscope with a gas discharge lamp was used to adjust the speed of rotation of a disc in a turntable.

Today, there are several types of stroboscopes, which, according to their design features, are divided into the following types:

  • Electro-Optical. In order to interrupt the luminous flux in such devices, light shutters are used. Their work is based on a variety of optoelectronic effects;
  • Optical-Mechanical. Such devices are also called tachometers. Discs with slits are used here as a light interrupter;
  • Electronic. They include an electronic circuit. It is a pulse generator that regulates the pulse frequency, as well as the light source. In the role of a light source in electronic models, either LED bulbs or gas-discharge lamps are often used;
  • Oscillographic. They are used for all kinds of surveys of electronic circuits.

Note: Today, electronic strobe lights are the most popular and popular in the world.

But this is far from the only classification of devices operating on the principle of creating a stroboscopic effect.

Classification of Stroboscopic Instruments

In addition to the classification by design features, stroboscopes are divided into three more groups:

  • Basement or with base;
  • Baseless. They have two lead-out contact fields for connecting them directly to the mains;
  • Super Strobes. They look like a plastic pipe, the length of which can be 1.5 m. Inside there are 4 to 8 stroboscopic bulbs. For their operation, a special connection is required through the appropriate controller. With its help it will be possible to create the effect of "running fire". Such devices were developed by the Neon Corporation.

Note: The light emitted by super-strobes is visible at a distance of up to three Kilometers. This is despite the fact that conventional models shine at a maximum distance of 1 km.

Different types of stroboscopes are used, respectively, in different areas.

Uses of Strobe Lights: Where Are Strobe Lights Used?

The use of stroboscopes (of various types) is currently possible in a wide variety of areas of human activity. According to the scope of application, such installations are divided into:

  • Industrial;
  • Automobile;
  • For nightclubs, discos and other entertainment events;
  • In the advertising field (in particular for outdoor advertising);
  • Flashlight stroboscopes.

In addition, very often such products are used in the scientific field to study periodic processes. For example, to take measurements regarding the amplitude movements of various objects and objects.

Another area where you might not expect to find a stroboscope is medicine. Here, such devices are used as a laryngophone for people with various speech disorders.

Consider the features of work, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular types of lighting devices capable of creating a stroboscopic effect.

1. Automotive Strobe Lights

For adequate operation of the car, correct installation of the initial ignition moment is necessary. In addition, correct operation of the ignition timing controllers (vacuum, centrifugal) is also required. If these elements were installed incorrectly, it will lead to an increase in fuel consumption, as well as a decrease in the life of the vehicle in the correct mode. Automotive stroboscopes were developed to optimally regulate processes so important to the machine.

Automotive strobes can be used to check or set the initial ignition timing. Its installation allows you to eliminate all possible malfunctions in this area, which will positively affect the movement of the machine, engine operation and waste on fuel.

In addition, products equipped with LED light sources are often installed on bumpers or radiators. With their help, you can draw attention to the car of other drivers. A strobe light is especially useful at night. The stroboscope circuit equipped with LED bulbs does not imply the use of an on-board current converter for a car.

Automotive Strobe Lights
Automotive Strobe Lights

Here, a 12 V battery is needed to power the LEDs. In this case, instead of a master oscillator for a led switching power supply, you can use a one-shot. When a spark is formed, it will synchronize the signals coming from the engine cylinder. To power the led, you need a pulse from the driver stage, which goes to the electronic switch. It includes powerful transistors.

In addition to LED models, products equipped with gas-discharge lamps are often used for cars. The circuit of such a device has the following elements:

  • Inertia less pulsed gas-discharge lamp. Its ignition circuits in the engine are connected to the spark plug of the first cylinder;
  • Resistors and capacitors that generate voltage in the circuit.

At the moment when a spark forms in the engine cylinder, the gas discharge lamp emits a pulse of light. The adjustment of the adequacy of the functioning of the ignition moment, as well as the actions of the ignition timing controllers, are carried out according to the marks placed on the moving part of the engine.

2. Models Designed for Discos

Probably the most anticipated place where we meet strobe lights will be discos and other entertainment events. Here, lighting systems of this kind provide intermittent lighting that visually "stops" the people dancing on the dance floor.

In addition, with the help of such devices on the stage or in the hall, you can create a variety of lighting effects.

Models Designed for Discos
Models Designed for Discos

Note: The use of five primary colors will create a wide variety of shades. They can be effectively diffused with frosted glass.

This area of application also includes stroboscopic stage lighting. But here there are limitations for the use of strobe lights as a backlight.

In a disco, nightclub or stage, both lamp and LED lighting installations can be used.

3. Strobe Lights in Advertising and Architectural Lighting

Another place where strobe lights are often used is in advertising and architectural lighting of buildings and billboards.

With the help of such a backlight, you can achieve many positive aspects:

  • attracting potential customers;
  • high-quality lighting of buildings or billboards;
  • highlighting a store or architectural structure against the background of the rest of the illumination of the night city;
  • aesthetic and decorative illumination of various objects.
Strobe Lights in Advertising and Architectural Lighting

Two types of LED fixtures are used in this area:

  • surface-mounted models including a group of 20 LEDs. They are placed in a sealed housing and a transparent shade;
  • flash lamps. Here the LEDs are also collected in a group and placed in a housing with an E-27 base.

The choice of stroboscope model here is based on the surface to be illuminated.

4. Flashlight Stroboscope

Another interesting model is strobe lights. Such lighting systems have two modes of operation: normal and, in fact, stroboscopic.

Flashlight Stroboscope
Flashlight Stroboscope

Note that when the flashlight operates in stroboscopic mode, the following consequences are possible:

  • disorientation;
  • violation of peripheral and direct vision;
  • the appearance of short-term confusion and fear.

In this regard, such devices can be used as an element of self-defense when attacking aggressively-minded persons in the dark. Very often policemen use such devices in their work.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of all stroboscopes, regardless of their scope, include:

  • creating a variety of lighting effects;
  • the ability to connect musical accompaniment;
  • creating the necessary atmosphere for a holiday and celebration;
  • the ability to adjust the brightness of the emitted light flux.

It is LED devices that are most popular today. This is due to the merits of the light sources themselves, which include:

  • efficiency in terms of electricity consumption;
  • creation of high-quality light flux;
  • different colors of diodes glow;
  • long period of service;
  • they are highly resistant to various types of influences, especially mechanical ones;
  • complete safety and environmental friendliness.

The disadvantages of such products, regardless of the light source, include the high cost, as well as the impossibility of being in the stroboscopic effect for a long period of time, as this leads to eye fatigue.

You may also like to read: Strobe Photography: A Brief Guide & Important Tips about Strobe Photography


Stroboscopes as lighting elements are currently used in a wide variety of areas of human activity, from entertainment to professional. Therefore, information about what this device is, its main features of operation, as well as advantages and disadvantages, will help you choose the right model for a specific case.