In this article- Part 4 of my LED light series- I’m gonna show you some lights from the Smith Victor CooLED series. These include three LED studio lights that look more like studio strobes that you can attach modifiers to like you do with a strobe. I’ll also add a Smith Victor bi-color ring light into the mix and show you that ring lights are not just for circle catchlights and YouTube videos. So let’s dive in!
Watch the VIDEO…
Smith Victor has been around for my entire career and was founded by photographer James H. Smith in the late 1800s. The company has been at the forefront of lighting, beginning with flash powder and powder cabinets that created even light. Then came flashbulbs in the 1920s, the famous Photoflood incandescent bulbs, and later quartz lights, strobes, and now LED studio lights.
I learned lighting as a teenager using Smith Victor Adapta-Light reflectors and Photoflood bulbs. What thrills me with these new Smith Victor LED lights is that they are designed to be basic, reliable, durable lights, with no gimmicky bells and whistles. They provide high quality light, they are easy to use, and extremely reliable.
Let’s take look at the four lights.
First up is the Smith Victor CooLED Series of LED studio lights. There are three models – the Smith Victor CooLED 20, 50 and 100. All three of these units are single chip LEDs with a color temperature of 5,200k and are dimmable through 5 steps. With all-metal construction, these units are built to last. They are fan-cooled but REALLY quiet with just 32db of noise, which is not audible over 3 feet away. Because of this, they can easily be used for video production.
Each has a standard 5/8” stand receptacle and an umbrella mount.
The Smith Victor CooLED100 unit is built to look like and act like a studio strobe. It weighs just 6.1lbs and has a Bowens mount for adding speedrings, soft boxes, snoots, and pretty much any modifier that fits a Bowens mount.
The unit has a 100 watt LED bulb that puts out about 10,000 lumens of light, which is equivalent to a 1,000 watt incandescent bulb. This bulb is rated for 50,000 hours of use.
This is an AC-only unit that can be powered with an external battery pack like the Photogenic ION Inverter or a Paul C. Buff Vagabond Mini.
The CooLED100 ships with an 8 in. 90-degree beam angle reflector, an ac adapter, and the removable frosted dome and diffuser sock.
The Smith Victor CooLED50 is also built like a studio strobe with an all-metal casing, the CooLED50 also has a Bowens mount and ships with two barn doors included in the package.
This unit has a 50 watt, 5,000 lumens LED bulb which is equivalent to a 500 watt incandescent bulb.
This is an AC unit that does have an optional DC power pack available from Smith Victor. You could also power these with an external battery pack like the Photogenic ION Inverter or a Paul C. Buff Vagabond Mini.
Like the CooLED100, the CooLED50 also ships with an 8 in. reflector, ac adapter and the removable frosted dome and diffuser sock.
Last in the Smith Victor CooLED series is the CooLED20, weighing in at just 3.4 lbs. with the included barndoors. This baby unit has a 200 watt, 2,000 lumens LED bulb that puts out the equivalent of a 200 watt incandescent bulb.
The CooLED20 ships with a tungsten filter, diffusion filter, filter pouch, AC adapter and handle.
19 in. Bi-Color Ring Light
The fourth and final light I’m going to talk about is the newest addition to Smith Victor’s LED lineup: their 19 in. Bi-Color Ring Light.
This is not a basic ring light. With a CRI of 95 and 6000 lumens of light, this ring light has fully dimmable output and adjustable color temperature from 3000k up to 5500k. The housing is a very strong ABS plastic and aluminum mix. Also rated for 50,000 hours of bulb use, this ring light ships with a flexible stand mount (which has a rubber grip so that it can be used as a handheld), a ball head adapter for mounting small cameras or microphones, the AC power cord, a padded carrying case, and a wired remote control that allows you to control both the power and color temperature of the light.
Let’s Shoot with it
The circular ring lights have been a favorite with YouTube beauty bloggers for quite some time now, and for still shooters they create an interesting circular catchlight. This is one of those things that photographers ether love or hate. For me, I think they’re cool but somewhat overdone. My goal is to use the ring light a bit differently.
First, I shot a simple headshot with the 19 in. bi-color ring light as my main light and the CooLED20 behind Monae and aimed up at the #24 Savage Orange paper backdrop. You can see the ring light provides a beautiful, even light with quick fall off. You can check out the final version here. Then, by adding some blue tulle material and some flowers that Monae crafted into a headpiece, we have a simple beauty shot.
For both of the shots mentioned above, I had Monae about 4 ft. from the background. If I move her closer to the background and remove the background light, I can get a darker orange background and add a little more drama to the overall feel of the image. You can see in this behind-the-scenes-shot below that I have the light high in front of Monae and I am shooting through the ring light. For the rest of the images, watch the video at the top of the page or click here.
Smith Victor CooLED Series
Now onto the CooLEDs! I started with just the CooLED100 in a Photoflex Medium softbox for this first setup. Remember the CooLED100 and 50 both have Bowens mounts, so you can attach modifiers – which is an awesome feature.
For this first portrait, Monae is directly in front of a Savage Black seamless backdrop and the light is placed just above my camera lens. Because I have her seated so close to the backdrop, it will appear as a very dark gray instead of black. This was an intentional choice.
Shooting tethered with my TetherTools TetherBLOCK and cables, I have my laptop set up in the Digital ala Cart case so that I can monitor the shots while I shoot. This is just the one light above the camera and slightly to the right so that I would still have soft shadows and some depth to the face. I did not use any reflectors. I also thought that this setup would make an interesting black and white image as well, so while I was shooting I did convert a few frames to black and white with the Capture One Pro software to see if any lighting tweaks were needed for the black and white. I was happy with it – no changes were necessary.
Next up, I moved Monae away from the background and added the CooLED50 as a background light. This background light turns the black background to a medium gray with a gradient to dark gray as the light falls off. Still with the CooLED100 in the medium softbox that is now on camera right, I switched to a lower camera angle and had Monae look towards the light for a more dramatic feel.
I’ve carefully placed my main light so that I don’t have harsh shadows from her nose, but so that I do get sharp fall-off on the camera left side of her face.
Then I added a yellow gel to the CooLED50 in the background. To help give the shot a bit of a different look, I have closed the yellow jacket to hide the cleavage and rust-colored top that is underneath. Click here to see the final shot.
Next up I am going to add the CooLED20 as a rim light on camera left. The rim is placed a little high and behind her to add some additional depth to the shadow area on the camera left side of Monae’s face. You can see that it also adds a hint of highlights to her hair on the shadow side as well.
If I move the yellow gel to my rim light and then place a blue gel over the CooLED50 in the background, I arrive at this look, which is my favorite:
To see all my variations, check out the video above or click here to see them all.
I wanted to do a shot that included all four of the Smith Victor lights, so my next challenge was to see how I could integrate the ring light.
Remember that a ring light is still a light, in this case a light with a 19 in. diameter. There is no rule that says you have to shoot through it, and that you have to have those circle catchlights. You can use it as a background light, a main light, a rim light, or a hair light.
Buying a ring light just to get the circle is a lot of money to spend for an effect that you won’t use that often. The way you balance the GEARtographer side of your personality with the financially responsible side is to remember that these lights have a lot of different uses. Heck – they even look cool if you include them in the shot. I’ll show you what I mean.
Back to the shoot
Still with the same cool hair style, Monae changed to a purple top and added some sparkly rhinestones and a lace choker. I knew that I wanted to be a bit more dramatic with this look and also that I wanted to involve the ring light in some way.
I started with the CooLED100 still in the Photoflex Medium softbox and placed on camera right almost far enough away from the camera to create a Rembrandt shadow – but not quite, because I’m not really a fan of that triangular shadow that you get with Rembrandt lighting – so I usually stop just a bit short. The CooLED50 is aimed at the background with a blue gel. Check out the results here.
Now it’s time to experiment with the ring light. I know you thought that I meant to add it as a light source. Which, I kind of do. First I placed it behind Monae and dialed the power all the way down to eliminate any flare from the light. The rest of the setup is the same as the previous portrait.
Next I decided to go with a horizontal shot and using the flexible stand mount I was able to lower it over Monae’s head.
Now, look closely you will see that her purple top to does have some wrinkles and they are not the same on each side. For my taste, this shot needed some solid symmetry so I did a little Photoshop magic and removed the wrinkles on her top and then flipped one side over to mirror the other. This gave me a very clean and symmetrical look. I promise to do a video in the future about flipping parts of your beauty images to get this kind of feel.
I mentioned that the 19 in. Bi-Color Ring light which is a brand new light from Smith Victor has a CRI of 95. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention the CRI of the Smith Victor CooLED series. That’s because I wanted you to see the images first and I wanted to remind you that unless you are shooting something that requires exact color, CRI is NOT something that you should stress over or pay more for.
The Smith Victor CooLED series of lights have a CRI in the mid 80s, which is more than adequate for photographing people.
Next up in the LED lighting series: the wrap-up. I have shown you six cool and interesting LED lights and I have shown you just how versatile and easy they are to work with. I want to take a few minutes and do a quick review of them and also mention a few of the other styles of LED lights that I didn’t discuss in this series – just to give you a sense of where they all fit into the mix.
Until next time, go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because your BEST shot is your NEXT shot. So keep learning, keep thinking, and keep shooting. Adios!