Photography Gear

LED Portrait Lighting With Savage Edge Lit Pro Led Lights

Studio and Location Shooting

How do you make an LED lighting panel that is much bigger than a strobe, yet super thin and has really even light across the front panel?… You light it from the edge.

That’s want Savage Universal did with these awesome Savage Edge Lit Pro LED Lights, which I’ll be putting to the test in the studio and on location.

The folks at Savage decided to take a different approach to LED lighting and instead of building a panel with a few hundred LED bulbs facing forward… which means you have a few hundred point light sources facing forward – they created a panel with LED bulbs that shine inward from the outer edges of the light and are then redirected through a soft white panel, called the Savage Edge Lit Pro LED light.

This gives you a very even, very soft light. It’s essentially a small softbox.

Tech Specs

Savage Edge Lit Pro LED

The Edge Lit Pro LED light is 12” x 9”.  And it’s super thin. Just 1.5” without batteries and 2.5” with them. And yes, that means that it works on AC power or you can power it with two Sony batteries which are very common with video gear. It will run for 75 minutes at full power with fully charged batteries.

This is a bi-color light that is 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, which we learned in Part 2 is really good. They also have an output of 1,677 Lumens at 3 ft which makes it more powerful and a little bigger than some of the units that are getting big buzz right now. Independent lab tests measure the Edge Lit Pro LED light at an even higher 1,784 lumens when used at 5500k, which is daylight balance.

The Edge Lit Pro LED emits almost no heat and it’s completely silent, which makes it great for video work. It has an all-metal design that weighs just 3.5 lbs.The big LCD readout display makes it easy to see your power level, color temperature and channel information from a distance. Each Edge Lit Pro LED ships with a multi-channel remote that can control your lights individually or in groups just like you do with a radio transmitter for your strobes.

Let’s Shoot with the Edge Lit Pro LED

A word of catution: I really like these lights. As you have heard me say many times before – they are not going to be for everyone.

There is no such thing as a light that is perfect for every situation.  Why you may ask?  Because light is a photographer’s best friend.  Remember that the word “photography” was created from Greek roots meaning to “draw with light”. So good photographers are always looking for unique and interesting ways to generate, manipulate, modify and manage light.

The folks at Savage Universal were kind enough to send me four of these units so that I could really put them to the test and I decided to take it a step further and use them both in the studio and out on location.

In the Studio

Example 1

Monae lit with LED Example 1

I started in the studio with a quick portrait session. In this first setup below, I used all four panels – I mean why not?  It wouldn’t be nice to let one of them get lonely in the case all by itself while the others are out having fun. Please fellow TOGS, show some compassion for your gear.

You can see here I have the lovely Monae in front of a Savage Universal #24 Orange Seamless Paper backdrop.

I have one Edge Lit Pro panel placed on camera left as my main light and it is set at 80% power and 5500k color temperature. My fill light on camera right is set at 40% power also at 5500k. Behind my subject is a panel on the floor that is aimed up at the backdrop. This one is set at 65% power and 4300k to throw a little more warm light on that orange and then to camera left I have the last panel also set at 65% and 4300k as a warm rim light.

Please observe that my main light is set above my model’s eyes and carefully aimed down towards her face. The fill on camera right is lower but still above her eyes. I want to have shadows naturally below the nose and jaw – not above.

Tog Tip

5500k is considered daylight balance by most equipment manufacturers. You will find temperatures from 5000k to 6500k referenced as daylight. Basically the way it works, the higher the number, the whiter the light.

The lower end of the scale at 3200k is like a good old-fashioned incandescent light bulb. This feature is beneficial for adding warmth to things like you saw me do in the last headshot or for being able to balance your lights to a room where the ambient light is generated by incandescent or halogen lamps.

Example 2

Monae Three Quarter length lit with LEDs

I also shot a three-quarter length photo with essentially the same lighting setup as the portrait.The noticeable difference is that I have turned the panels sideways so that the light spread will cover more vertical height, as you see below. My settings on the lights and camera were the same as they were for the portrait.

Example 3

Monae lit with LED example 3

Next up I went with a #20 Black seamless from Savage and a three light setup.

I have my key or main light in the same position as before on camera left. I’ve taken the panel on camera right and moved it behind my subject to serve as a rim light. I also removed the background light from behind her and I am still using the rim light on camera left.

You can see that with my main light on camera left, I have a shadow on the camera right side of Lola’s face. By adding that rim light on camera right, I am able to add some depth to my lighting which makes the shot more interesting. If I dial the color balance of the Edge Lit Panel down to 3300k, I get a much warmer rim light. If you are using strobes – you can do this with an orange or, better yet, amber-colored gel. Then if you have a third light, you can add a rim on the other side which will help separate your subject from the background even more.

Tog Tip

It is very important to always pay close attention to the brightness of your rim lights. This applies for both flash and LED lighting. Rim lights that are blown out and overexposed just look sloppy and distracting. This is a perfect scenario where having a handheld light meter can save you a lot of time and guesswork.

Remember: there is no right or wrong here, but understand that light placement and intensity doesn’t just impact shadows and exposure, it helps to set the mood and tone of your shot.

You can check out more examples and all my finalized shots in the video at the top of the page, or click here to go directly to them. 

On Location

For my location setup I found a small piece of roadway that’s not being used because it’s under construction and took the Edge Lit Pros and my model Monae out for a short 90-minute mosquito-challenged session as the sun went down.

In case you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 of my Smartphone series, I use the app called Sun Surveyor to plan in advance and know exactly when and where the sun will set.

I actually prefer shooting with natural light outdoors, but it if you want to be one of the cool kids, it seems that you need to gear up and get outside.

Example 1

Monae in black and white

So for my first setup, I am still about 30 minutes away from sunset. The sun is starting to fall below the trees, and the sky is in that phase where it is very bright, almost white, and close to the horizon. My finished shot, which I took with no additional lighting or reflectors, has a very soft and natural look.

Example 2

Next I went with the same three-light setup that I used with the black background in the studio – meaning main light on camera left, fill light on camera right, and rim light on camera right rear. You can see that I have placed my lights at about the same distance from Monae as I had them placed in the studio.

Joe taking a photo with LED lighting on Monae

Tog Tip

Good light placement is no different outdoors than it is indoors. I see so many new or young photographers practice lighting in a studio and then go outside and forget everything they learned about light placement. Keep it simple stupid. If you are learning how to light, take the lighting arrangements that you do inside outside and start there. That way you begin by learning how to balance the ambient light with your strobes or LED lights instead of overwhelming yourself with too many variables.

Just like in the studio – I have my lights placed high to mimic natural lighting and I have my main or key light placed where my model is looking so that I am not creating harsh shadows.

Example 3

Taking a photo of Monae after sun has set

As the sun continued to set, I moved to the middle of the road and went for something a bit more dramatic. Now I am shooting full-length with just two lights.

My main light is on camera left and placed well above my model and I have a second panel as a rim light on camera right. I left the panels in the horizontal position so that I would get some light falloff towards the bottom of the frame. I turned Monae’s face turned towards my main light so that I don’t have harsh shadows on her face. You can also see that as the sun is getting much lower, color is starting to return to the sky near the horizon.

Just after the sun has fallen below the horizon is when the sky is going to really start to pick up the rich colors and with my Edge Lit Pro panels in exactly the same positions, I was able to create these amazing shots. 

What – NO HSS?

If you are one of those ZOMBIEtographers who follows the crowd – you might want to skip ahead to the next part of the video. For the rest of you… let me point out that there are lots of ways to have your subject brighter than the background that don’t require extra expensive gear that has high speed sync. I have just shown you one of them. In case you missed it – how did I do it? Planning and patience… two things that don’t cost anything. I just had to plan ahead for a time where the ambient outdoor light would be dimmer than the power of my Edge Lit Pros. It really wasn’t that hard.

So indeed if you are that photographer that is determined to find one light that is going to do everything you will ever need…. LED lights are not going to overpower the sun at high noon. But like I said earlier, if I am shooting outdoors, I would rather shoot with natural light. I did a video on this topic a few years ago. It shows examples of how to find nice light without strobes or reflectors outdoors at midday.

Price and Accessories

The Edge Lit Pro LED light can be purchased as a single unit and it comes with the AC power cord, two Sony batteries and two chargers. Also included is the rotating light stand adapter, a multi-channel remote control and a padded carry bag.

Savage also sells the Edge Lit Pro LED light in a kit that comes with two Edge Lit Pros, two rotating light stand adapters, two power cords, four batteries, four chargers, one multi-channel remote control, two Savage 7ft easy-open Drop Stands™ and a padded rolling case.

I mentioned the 7 ft easy-open Drop Stands™, these stands are awesome. The auto-extending and collapsing legs with air cushioning allow for quick and easy repositioning of your lighting without having to bend over and lock and unlock the legs. Just place the stand on the ground to extend its legs and lift the stand up to retract them automatically. They also have a 1/4 20-3/8 reversible spigot stud that can be mounted vertically or horizontally, which makes the stand very versatile.

So if you are looking for a great light that is long lasting – I’m talking 20,000 hours of use with the installed bulbs and eco friendly and super easy to use – I would encourage you to check out these Edge Lit Pro’s from Savage. I am definitely adding them to my lighting arsenal.

For next time….

Next up in Part 4 of my LED lighting series I am going to take a look at four different LED lights from Smith Victor. From their COOL LED series I will test out the 25 watt, 50 watt and 100 watt models – that’s comparable to a 1000watt incandescent light. I am also going to use the Smith Victor 19” Bi-Color LED Ring Light and I will show you that ring lights are not just for circle catchlights and making YouTube videos.

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

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Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and "No Bull" Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
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