As I do more and more video LED's seem more and more important.

 I've been doing more and more video projects and I've come to really appreciate the role of LED's in my lighting tool kit.  I remember the bad old days of video when sensors were barely able to scrap by at ISO equivalents of 80 and 100 without noisy gain and the solution was to bring is lights.  Big lights.  Hot lights.  And if you wanted to do something nice with the light, like pop it thru a scrim you needed even bigger (and hotter) lights.

Now the working methodology is different.  We do a bit of jujitsu with lighting.  We let available light reign and fill in around the edges and we use more efficient and much cooler LED's to fill in, add direction to the light and generally even things out to match the range of the current cameras.

The top image of Noellia Hernandez (now a famous New York theater actor) was taken in the studio as a test for my upcoming book on LED lighting for Amherst Media.  A lot of people trash talk the color quality of LED's and while I'll admit it takes a tiny bit more finesse in PhotoShop or Lightroom there's really nothing you can't do with the better LED light panels when it comes to correct color.

The next three photographs were taken at Fair Bean coffee shop here in Austin.  The second photo from the top shows the placement of a small 160 bulb LED panel on a stand adding some fill to the scene.  Directly behind the light is a big open window.  As you can see in the photo just below the set up shot, the color matching with ambient light is pretty darn good.  Just a touch of fill to make the shots work the way I wanted them to.

 When I'm shooting video I'm mostly using ambient light but there's always the need to add just a little more fill.  Or to add direction to the light.  What I love about working with small and medium sized panels is how convenient they are to place (they have so little front to back depth) and how easy it is to dial up or dial down the levels to match the look I want.  Most of the time I can see the effect I want directly by eye.  Sometimes I'll roll a little test footage just to play it back and make sure that what I'm seeing translates to what the sensors sees.  Either way there's no color shift as I dial up
and down.  I can't say that about any of the strobes I own and I certainly can't say that about conventional hot lights.  I recently went on location to a medical clinic to shoot.  Most of the scene was top lit by florescents and it was okay but I really needed to fill in the shadows as the doctor leaned over a patient in an exam chair.  I did what all the guys always tell you not to do.  I put an LED light directly on the camera and used it as a direct fill.  In that case and in the case of Noellia in the very bottom image, I used the little ring light I talked about on this blog about a month ago.
 I paid $39 for mine, it takes two double "A" batteries and it worked like a charm.  The only way it would have worked better would have been to include a control to vary the output.

In the photos where Noellia is wearing a white coat, just outside the coffee shop, the top one is filled with a panel just behind camera, dialed way down and the second one is lit by a panel just to the side. You can see how the light sculpts her face.  It was good not to rely only on the flat light bouncing all over the place.
The light also tends to clean up the image by adding additional light and a bit warmer color to the scene overall.

Finally,  I included a shot that's pretty close up and filled with the small ring LED on the lens.  Two things I like are the filled shadows and the catchlights in the eyes.  When working close like this with a fixed source you set the exposure based on getting a little closer or a little further away until you get the balance between the on camera light and the ambient light.  Further away gets you less snap and less fill while getting closer makes you stop down (or increase shutter speed) to compensate for the subject to light distance and that makes the background darker.  Thank you inverse square law.

I've noticed that most people are reticent to change.  But once change starts to happen it's no longer a long graceful curve.  Now, when we get to a tipping point everyone seems to capitulate and move to the new technology simultaneously.  Witness the iPad.
Two years ago I didn't have a single LED panel or Ringlight in my
 collection of lighting tools.  Now I can't imagine not having them.  I don't use them all the time.  They aren't economically at the point where you have the power to challenge the sun for mid-Summer fill light.  But in the studio, especially for still life, and for the kinds of open aperture portraits I like to do I now find them indispensable.

I recently saw two lights from Fotodiox that I really want.  One is a variation of the 1000 LED bulb panel I already own but it has two sets of LEDs and can by using them in concert can be varied in color temperature between 3200K and 5,500K.  And the steps between the two are, for all intents and purposes, infinite.  It can also run on battery packs.  The other is a smaller, battery powered version with 312 bulbs that is portable enough to be used on camera or stuffed into a camera bag as a back up.

Kind of fun to realize that the future is here how.  Tomorrow I'll be shooting fast in a school.  That little panel might be just right......


Wolfgang Lonien said...

Noellia! As I just learned from Facebook, she has her own Noelliahernandez.com site now. It's great to see her stepping up... and I hope it's ok to link to her here.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Wolfgang, Always okay to link anything about Noellia.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Thanks Kirk - oh, and I love those images too! The last one really has a kind of 3D "pop". Perfect combination of photographer, model, (lighting) technique, maybe lens. Everything came together beautifully here.

A propos LEDs: have you heard of "Priolite"? They're a spin-off of Hensel IIRC, and they have a 500Ws mono light with built-in lithium cells, so it is very convenient to set up out there in the wild - all because they use LEDs for their modeling light now...

Michael Meissner said...

Especially after reading your site for some time, I've had this feeling that at least at the low end of the photographers, studio strobes are on the way out, and LED and florescent lights are on the way in.

I suspect that in 5 years time, many of the herd photographers will think of strobes like they think of film (oh we used to use those, how quaint). Of course like film, it will still have various niches where it is the preferred solution, it just may not be the dominant position it is in today.

I wonder when the strobist crowd that likes having lots of little manual flashes will move. My perception of some people with strobist leanings is that they are sometimes more in love with the gadgets (flash love) than with lighting the subject to produce the best effect. Of course there are many people who use strobist techniques to produce wonderful images.

Somehow though the image of the papparazi wolf pack stalking some celebrity just doesn't look the same without having a hotshoe flash on each camera going off at the same time.

Frank Grygier said...

Light is light. Use the tool that best suits your needs. I have actually seen a photographer use flash and an LED flashlight in the same photo..Blasphemy!

Rick Dickinson said...

While I do see Michael's point, I doubt that we'll be seeing flash go away entirely. In fact, for balancing artificial light with fairly bright ambient light (such as outdoor daylight), the shutter speed independence of flash is too useful a tool to give up without a fight.

Even if we could vastly improve battery technology, and get 100% efficient battery-chemistry-to-photon-emission energy conversion, a lightweight, portable, continuous-emission light source that could compete with (or overpower) the sun for more than a few minutes without completely draining its batteries would be impossible.

Flash lets us overpower it for just the tiny fraction of a second that we need to, and saves our batteries when we don't. Since it "fires the photon torpedoes" in less than a millisecond, it gives us the freedom to use the shutter speed dial as a volume control for the sun, which is a handy ability to have.

I'm definitely going to be buying some LED panels. But, I'm not selling off my flashes. Flashes have their place, and are likely to do so for the foreseeable future.

Horses for courses, and all that.

energy efficient lighting said...

Using light to make video is more important because light it has a big role it give more natural scene and more bright to convenient to watch a movie.. Thanks for sharing ..