Two Strobes Are Better Than One Right?!

July 15th, 2019

Two Strobes Are Better Than One, Right?!?!

Two Strobes Camera Equipment

Strobes are a very important element when it comes to underwater photography, they bring out the colour of the subjects! Although using manual white balance or shooting with a video light bring out colour, there is nothing quite like strobe light. Divers who are thinking about starting underwater photography often ask what is best, one strobe or two? When it comes to light, many people would say that of course two is always better than one. However, for underwater photography the answer is not so simple. Like many things in life, the best way to illuminate a subject will depend on each individual situation. Let’s have a closer look at the pros and cons of one vs two strobe photography.

Two Strobes Diver

Diver with Two Strobes

Two Strobes


Even Lighting – For many photographs, especially wide angle, there is a desire to create even light across the image. This helps bring out the color of subjects and illuminate the details.

Two Strobes Illuminate a Wide Scene

Two strobes needed to light the scene

Backup in Case of Failure – The most obvious reason for having two strobes is that if one fails underwater there is always another.

Great for Wide Angle – When shooting wide angle scenes most strobes cannot cover enough angle to light the entire frame. Therefore, having two allows the subjects to be fully illuminated.

Two Strobes Reef Scene

Perfect for ID Shots – When shooting identification shots, two strobes will help spread an even light across the subject.

Two Strobes illumination

Even light for I.D. shots


Expense – Strobes are not cheap, purchasing two plus arms and fittings is expensive.

One Strobe

One Strobe Sample


More Contrast – Light from one side allows shadows and texture to be more prominent in an image.

Frogrish Right Strobe

Directional Light for contrast

Better For Subject Separation – separating the subject from the background is important in underwater photography. This will allow the subject to stand out from the surroundings.

Two Strobes

Two strobes producing flat light

One Strobe Right

One strobe from the right avoids illuminating background

Directional lighting – Using techniques such as snooting is often better with one strobe rather than two.

Snoot Light

Snoot from the right

Price – Purchasing one strobe is much cheaper than two.


Wide Angle – There are very few strobes which can cover an entire wide angle scene.

Backup – If there is a problem with a strobe such as dead batteries on a dive, there will be no backup.


What is the Right Answer?

So what is the answer you may ask? Simple, what are your main goals in underwater photography and what is your budget? Many new photographers don’t want to spend a lot of money on a setup but are worried that one strobe is not enough. However, in many situations it most certainly is. If you peruse the “Pros” for single strobe use, there are a lot of them! Macro and critter photographers often use only one strobe to “paint” light across a subject. In fact, when I am shooting macro I typically use one strobe 80% of the time.

One Strobe

One Strobe


Two Strobes

Two Strobes


Wide angle photographers on the other hand may prefer to use two. This will insure that they can cover an entire scene with the appropriate amoutn of light.

Light Across

Two strobes lights the coral head


One Strobe

One strobe only, no colour on the left



If it’s within the budget, having two strobes is obviously an advantage. However, there is certainly no rule that they both should be set on the same power all the time.  Far too often we see “flat lighting” on wide angle subjects due to both strobes set to full power.  Instead, experiment with one strobe or with strobes set on different power settings.  A creative photographer can light up a wide angle scene in interesting ways with one strobe.


Two Strobes

Two strobes same power setting

Different Power

Two strobes different power settings

What if budget doesn’t allow for two? We don’t suggest buying one larger/more powerful strobe and also purchasing a smaller/less powerful strobe. Instead, buy a powerful strobe and then save money to purchase a second larger/more powerful strobe later on.

Interested in more Underwater Photography Tutorials?  Check out our Photo Tutorial Page

Check out Wetpixel for a huge database of interesting questions about underwater photography.

Mike Veitch