I have been having a ton of fun shooting with these LED lights and even learned some cool stuff along the way. I wanted to close by sharing my thoughts on LED lighting for photography, and, of course, I’ll take you behind the scenes for another shoot using ALL of the LED lights that I reviewed in this series and I am even going to show you how I used an LED light to paint my subject during a 6 second exposure.
Let’s Review The LED Lights
After comparing studio strobes to LEDs in Part 1, we looked at Spekular from Spiffy Gear in Part 2 of the series. This is a modular lighting system with a 94+ CRI, 5600k color temperature and 1,500 lumens of light per section. Sold as a set of four, you have 6,000 lumens of dimmable, configurable light to work with.
Then I showed you the Edge Lit Pro LED Panels from Savage Universal in Part 3. These ultra-thin 12” x 9” panels are blendable from 3200k to 5500k, which makes it very easy to use these lights mixed in with other ambient light. They have a CRI of 95 and they output 1,677 lumens at three feet.
In my last segment, Part 4, I showed you the Smith Victor CooLED series – the 20, 50, and 100 as well as their brand new 19” Bi-Color Ringlight. The CooLed lights with a CRI in the mid 80s are designed like and function like studio strobes and accept modifiers such as softboxes and umbrellas. The 19” ringlight has a CRI of 95 and outputs 6000 lumens of light with adjustable color temperature from 3000k up to 5500k.
You can see more of the shots that I created with the Smith Victor lights in the LED Part 4 video.
All six of the lights that I showed you in this series are AC powered but also have DC power options available. All six are dimmable and designed to attach to standard light stands.
More types of LED Light
So are these the only six LED lights on the market? Of course not! Just like flashes and studio strobes, there are tons of options available. There are lots of gimmicks, ranging from some cheap knock-off gear from China all the way up to the normally overpriced gear by companies like Wescott.
There are two others that I wanted to mention because I’ve had a lot of people asking questions about them.
Let’s start with the Rotolight NEO 2. This is a $400.00 light that was announced about a month ago and is expected to hit stores later this month. It is being called revolutionary because of its ability to go from continuous LED to a high speed sync flash without any recycle time.
I do think that Rotolight has done a great marketing job of being the first to combine continuous and strobe lighting, which I do see as the future. BUT this light is only 5.7” in diameter which makes it a very small light source. According to Rotolights stats, using this 5.7” light at 3 feet from your subject at ISO 200 you can shoot at f/8. An f/8 – ISO 200 setup doesn’t sound too bad until you factor in the idea of putting a light source that is smaller than 6 inches only three feet away from your subject – that is NOT going to make for a flattering light source.
So just like any other light, if you are well versed in lighting and have the knowledge and skills to handle it properly, this could be a light that offers some convenience. It has a $399.98 price tag for the basic light, AC adapter, some filters and a case. You will still need to purchase the Elinchrom Skyport Transmitter for another $250.00 if you want to be able to use it as a flash, plus rechargeable batteries if you intend to use it on location. This is not an inexpensive light and- for my money- it just doesn’t offer enough punch and options to justify the cost. I am not a fan and would not purchase it, but I do give Rotolight props for being the first to jump into this hybrid type of lighting.
Wescott Ice light 2
The other light that I am frequently asked about is the Wescott Ice light 2. This is a very cool light wand that puts out 1,740 lumens of light at 5500k. It is 21.6” long and will operate for 60 minutes on a full 2.5 hour battery charge. It sells for $499.00 or Wescott sells a 2-pack at B&H photo for $998.00. That is a whopping savings of… NOTHING!!! Great marketing there.
Yongnuo YN360 Light Wand
On the flip side Yongnuo offers the YN360 Light Wand. This unit is 22.95 inches long and has a two hour run time. With 2,560 lumens of light output The Light Wand has a variable color temperature from 3200k to 5500k, and also an RGB mode that will yield vivid reds, greens, blues and yellow. This unit is designed to be handheld, but also has a 1/4”-20 thread mount at the end of the handle. It operates on AC or an optional NP-F750 battery. It can also be controlled by a free iPhone app. The Light Wand sells for $78.98 and does require you to purchase an AC cord or a battery, which is approximately $40.00 depending on your brand choice.
Yongnuo also offers the YN360W Light Wand which is daylight balanced only and also outputs 2,560 lumens of light. It sells for just $81.00.
I purchased one of the YN360 light wands about a year ago and it is frequently used for lighting b-roll shots of camera gear that you see in my videos.
Painting with Light
For my final segment on LED lighting, I wanted to do something a little different to hopefully inspire you to think outside the box.
A neighbor of mine is a very talented metal artist and he creates aluminum flowers, which he calls Alumaflowers. It started with roses and now he makes all different types of flowers, like the ones in my finished shot below. You can check out his website here.
I asked him if I could borrow a few of them and promised him some nice photos in return. Now I did this knowing that I would potentially regret asking because these aluminum flowers are very glossy and shiny on every surface. If you have ever photographed glass or metals you understand that this is potentially the biggest nightmare that a photographer can face. So I decided that I would paint the flowers. With light.
To get the shot above, I placed an arrangement of Alumaflowers sitting on a white table about 6 ft from a Savage Black seamless paper background, as you can see in the visual above. On the floor behind the table is a Smith Victor CooLED20 with a teal gel aimed at the backdrop. I am shooting with my Nikon D810 and 50mm f/1.8 lens tripod mounted with a TetherTools TetherBLOCK to secure the cables and my laptop is setup in the digital ala cart case.
I decided before taking any shots that I wanted maximum depth of field to keep all of the flower arrangement tack sharp. So I began by setting my aperture at f/16 at ISO64. With a few minutes of testing, I arrived at six seconds for the proper exposure time.
The most important detail when painting such a glossy surface with light is to be sure not to keep the light wand still for too long in any one spot and to not keep covering the same areas of the arrangement with light. So I opened the camera’s shutter using Capture One Pro software so that I wouldn’t risk any camera shake during the 6 second exposure. Then I moved the light wand all around the arrangement – even passing in front of the camera lens to be sure to get light on the rose petals from below.
I would check the computer preview after each attempt to see if I was creating hot spots where I didn’t want them and work to find a movement pattern that delivered even light. Then you can repeat the process over and over with amazingly consistent results. You can check out more examples, including how to shoot a rose with a chrome stem, and more behind-the-scenes footage in video at the top of the page or click here.
Portraits with LED light
Okay – back to people photography – I wanted to do one last creative shoot and use as many of these LED lights as I could AND add electronic flash into the mix. Yes – continuous and strobe lighting combined in one shot. Why not?
For this first setup I placed a Smith Victor CooLED100 in a Photoflex Medium-sized softbox in front of and above the lovely Monae. I have a simple Walmart reflector placed below her face – just out of frame to create a subtle clamshell effect. I also have two Paul C. Buff DigiBee DB800s firing at 1/6 power to light the white background. With the CooLED set at full power and the DigiBees at their lowest power, I was able to get a clean white background without having it blowout and cause lens flare. You can check out my finished image here.
Then I switched to one DigiBee DB800 behind Monae and aimed up at my Savage Orange Seamless Paper backdrop. I used two of the Savage Edge Lit Pro LED panels to create a clamshell lighting setup with one above and one below. The top Edge Lit Pro was at full power. The bottom was at about 60% since it was actually a little closer to Monae’s face than the top one and the Digibee was at 1/6th power. Check out my final image here.
For my last shot, I wanted to use the Spekular light as a part of the scene so I decided to expand on an idea that I had seen done by a few of the early testers of the light, and that was to create an almost star-like effect behind Monae. I switched to a black seamless paper backdrop and used the Smith Victor CooLED100 with a teal gel to get the glow and placed two Savage Edge Lit Pros – one on either side and slightly behind Monae to create the rim lights. I had the color temperature set to 4,000k to give the rim light some warmth. No filter or gels required. Then I used the Digibee as my main light with it placed in a beauty dish in front of and above the camera. You can also see in the shot above that I have Monae resting on a Walmart reflector just to give me a little extra fill from the bottom.
LED lighting is here to stay. In my opinion, LED lighting is definitely the way of the future and offers us so much potential that we haven’t even begun to think of yet.
As you have heard me say several times during this series, there is no one light that will handle all of your needs. LED, Strobe, Incandescent; it doesn’t matter. Photographers love light. Light is a photographer’s friend – it is a tool, it is a challenge and an obstacle. Without light there would be no photography.
I do encourage you to pay close attention to LEDs, even if you aren’t planning on owning any yet and if you are just starting out – I would encourage you to consider LEDs because of the simplicity of using them and the fact that it is much easier to learn the subtleties of lighting with continuous light then it is with a flash.
I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman