LED Lighting Tips

Photographer Jacob James shares his tips on using LED lights for portrait work.

| Studio Lighting and Flash
LED Lighting Tips: Portrait

Over the last few years the use of continuous lighting in photography has started a bit of resurgence. Always seen as the ugly brother of strobe lighting, continuous lighting was frowned upon by many photographers. However with the release of HD video enabled DSLR’s photographers and film makers have been thrust into the same market.

In the video world continuous lighting has always been king for obvious reasons, however as time has progressed and technologies have improved it has paved the way for the introduction of LED lighting to replace traditional continuous lighting set-ups. LED’s have the advantage of running extremely cool even when they have been on for a prolonged period of time.

Any photographer who travels will know the trials and tribulations of packing for air travel. At this point weight is imperative and having a kit size as small of possible is generally an advantage.

For photographers shooting video and stills, LED lighting can help to minimise their kit size by using a light source which can be useful for both. However it also has its downsides too but as with everything it’s a personal choice if it works for you or not.

LED Lighting Tips: Portrait
  1. Can be used for both stills and video. Some new LED products such as the Manfrotto Hybrid range also combine the ability to shoot continuous as well as strobe for them moments when you need to freeze the important action.
  2. Simple to use. With continuous lighting you can see what you are getting. This makes it really easy to set-up how you want to. It also makes it easier for beginners in photography who may be confused by the slightly more technical side to using strobes manually.
  3. Really easy to get dramatic lighting, unlike flashguns where you are required to use some sort of sync cable or trigger to take the flash off camera. Continuous lighting is independent of the camera so you can put it anywhere you like. This makes it easy to hold out in one arm or attach to an item of furniture to get some interesting lighting. In the image below an LED was attached to the street food stall giving a fairly hard key light that really accentuates the man’s facial expression and body shape against the dark night street.
  4. Daylight balanced throughout the power range, (Warning: some cheap LED lighting will colour shift when dimmed) this makes it really simple to balance it with sunlight when using it as a small fill light. LED’s excel when used to soften shadows as a small on-camera/on-axis fill light. In the image below the LED lighting adds a subtle bit of fill light to the small boys face just to lift it from the background. As you can see the power is fairly low as it drops away towards his dad.
  5. Similar in a way to point 3, LED lighting can be used to light certain elements in an image. In the image below I used it off camera to add a bit of extra light to the monk’s hand. I did this to really help it stand out a little and to draw the eye through the image.
Article by Jacob James.

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