9.24.2012

LED Lighting. My first choice for studio still life projects.



As you may or may not know I wrote a book about LED Lighting for photographers that was published this past Spring. Naively, I expected the book to be the hot seller of the season.  After all, who won't want to read an "edge of your seat" thriller about the promises and perils of the coolest hot, new lighting trend of the decade? Well, as it turns out photographers are more like stamp collectors and model railroad train hobbyists than they are adventurous revolutionaries. While the vast majority of reviews are five stars, and people who've actually read the book love it, most people keep looking for yet another iteration of a book on... How to Make Happy Light with a Battery Powered Flash... (can we all say, "been there, done that. and the t-shirt was lame?).

I've given seven or eight speeches and demonstrations about LED lighting and I guess I'll have to admit that I'm not a fiery on stage evangelist. I think my big marketing mistake was showing off the lights by using live models. People. The average photographer has worked hard to become comfortable shooting family and friends with his reliable electronic flashes and is loathe to learn new tricks if he or she can help it. But, I'd like to try a different tack in both selling my book and the general use of LED lighting------it's the best thing yet for anyone who does still life photography.  No long explanation, rather it's really just a matter or what you see is what you get. Or, what you light is what you get.  Good quality LED panels have never been cheaper, easier to use or more visually reliable. I still believe they are the game changers in the lighting space, going forward.  And with the special secrets revealed only in my book or my two week long, $15,000 workshop you too can learn the.......

I'd like to formally request that, if you have been a long term reader of the blog, you consider ordering a printed copy of the book. Even if you never decide to pull the trigger on purchasing a single lighting panel you'll have the knowledge to at least convincingly attack the whole folly of everyone else's adaptation of LEDs... And you'll make me happier into the bargain. But, if you shoot food, still life or studio work, and especially if you are dipping your toes into the world of DSLR video I think you'll be amazed at how fluid and easy LED lighting can make your jobs.  And, of course, your book club will thank you for introducing the drama and power of LED Lighting: Photographic Techniques for Digital Photographers, to them....

Below is a quick tutorial about using LED lights to photograph an old, folding Kodak camera. It goes like this:  "set up camera. set  up two lights, one on either side. turn on lights. play with positioning until the effect looks good in the viewfinder of your taking camera. Push shutter button.


 An in-depth look at the very complex lighting set up.

By using an EVF endowed camera I was able to pre-chimp the entire shot, from comp to exposure, to color balance, without looking away from the finder.

If you are interested in dipping your big toe into the LED waters and trying out the promise of the future I recommend one inexpensive lighting unit about all others. It's is the Fotodiox (or similar OEM) 312 AS.  The output is great. The color balance is infinitely adjustable between 3200 and 5500 and the whole fixtures output can be controlled with a simple rotary control on the back of the unit. It comes with two rechargeable lith-ion batteries and a keen carrying case. It's about $160 bucks.  But if you have to choose get the book first.  It doesn't have three easy steps to losing weight or making new friends but it is the first book on the subject on the face of the planet......





22 comments:

G Gudmundsson said...

Just bought the book. Happy! Seriously love your blogs... and also your book on Photographic Lighting Equipment (have that in my library). Regards, one of your fans in Iceland.

Peter said...

Had your book since it came out, and I bought 2 Fotodiox units when you recommended them. It's a very easy set up for photographing the wooden lathe turned objects that I and my friends make. (Works for other things as well!) Now at last I can avoid the blown highlights that were such a problem before. Thanks, Peter.

Anonymous said...

I'm in! But one question: How well do LED lights bounce? Do they have much throw? I shoot my food shots with one light from the back and then medium-sized v-cards on either side of the plate for fill. No separate light for the front. Will I be OK?

Gregg Mack said...

Kirk, I've got the book, and I've got the Fotodiox 312AS LED panel that you recommend. Both are excellent, and I thank you for both. I will be using that LED panel to help someone photograph tiny surface mount resistors and capacitors using a camera mounted to a microscope later this afternoon. For our bounce card, I thought we would just use a business card, or a 3x5 index card!

Kirk Tuck said...

But if I tell you here how will I sell you the book? :-)

Seriously, it's all relative. You won't get enormous light back from a high ceiling bounce. But a big LED panel from the back of a food set should be just right.

Bruce Walker said...

Kirk, I'm as sold as you are on LEDs as the future of lighting. I'm just working out mechanical details of strapping a $50 160 LED panel into my popup 24" softbox.

But I have a marketing suggestion for you: pitch to the indie cinematography market. I was at a low-budget shoot (comedy/horror/puppets) on Saturday, talking with the DoP and he was getting quite pumped about using LED panels. My wife was interviewing hin using her P&S on an L-bracket with the 160 LED source. He was amazed at the output from it. These guys are used to low light high ISO shooting conditions. Perfect!

I'll be getting your book ASAP, btw. It's in my Amazon wishlist.

Mike said...

What was the exposure on these shots? B/C I've done still life work with an Alien Bees B800 at half power or more to get f/16 at ISO 200 when using a double-diffused softbox. I'm just curious at how much light these things put out. I do see the appeal for food photography - less heat than modeling lights.

Keith I. said...

I also bought both and the panel has been very handy. It got a lot of attention when I used it at a wedding for detail photos like the cake and rings. I swear I will read the book soon. It is in my stack near the top.

theaterculture said...

Do you know if anybody is making lensed photographic instruments with LED technology yet?

Considering the diminishing cost and the life/efficiency of LEDs, I'm actually pondering investing in a couple of panels to replace the awful overhead fluorescent lighting in my office. I especially like the idea of having control over color temp - cool light is way better for long reading sessions (especially with very small documents printed out from microfilm...), but not so flattering for general lighting purposes, so the ability to switch between cool and warm in one light source is tempting...

Kirk Tuck said...

Funny you should ask, I use one of the panels on a small boom as my main reading light. I find that there's a sweet spot where the light looks just right on a printed page and I can angle it perfectly for looking at photos in magazines. I think the color temperature I'm partial to is around 4800K...

Kirk Tuck said...

Mike, I didn't keep track but if you are already on a tripod and you're shooting still life you could go to 1 second and get whatever tiny f-stop you want. I"m going to bet I was at f16 for about 1/30th or so on the shot above.

Jim said...

You should have left up the "phone call" post. It was a good one. She was clearly an amateur at it. When you asked 'what's in it for me' a pro would have hit you with "Having your photo appear in our book will do wonders for your reputation", in a perky voice of course. I know it's unpleasant to get those calls but it is reassuring to the rest of us that we're not alone.

Marco Venturini-Autieri said...

Hello Kirk,
I am always tempted by LED panels and your book. What holds me back? I am an amateur, with two fluorescent continuous studio lights (two is a lot for a non pro like me) and I would hate it if I could not make them work together (colour: mine is almost white with some greenish ugly tint).

Little question: could I use LED together with fluorescent?
Thanks!

Kirk Tuck said...

You got it.

Kirk Tuck said...

Borrow a set and see if they match.

Marco Venturini-Autieri said...

Oh :-(
If you live in the middle of nowhere, you can't do that.
If you live in Northeastern England, you do live in the middle of nowhere :-(

Anonymous said...

I have been meaning to pick up a couple of your recommended LED units for a while now...
According to Thom Hogan (byThom) it looks like we all better act soon.
from a paragraph on his blog, in his Photokina coverage, under the New-Trends heading...

"LED lights are another example of that: new material used to generate light. Now let's talk about the barrier thing. Litepanels claims to have a US patent on using LED in photographic lighting equipment (that's a really broad patent, and I'd argue that it's obvious, as every time we've had other new lighting sources they've been used in photographic lighting equipment). Here at the show there must be more than 100 companies showing LED lights, ranging from some very big players (including Litepanels) to your basic Chinese knockoffs. The talk of the show in lighting is about Litepanels complaint to the USITC (trade commission) in the US, where the preliminary decision apparently is in favor of Litepanels. See the complaint here. This could allow Litepanels to shut off all other players in the US market (it currently is directed at Flolight, Prompter People, IKAN Corporation, Cool Lights, Elation Lighting, Fotodiox, Fuzhou F&V Photographic Equipment Co., Yuyao Lishuai Photo-Facility Co., Yuyao Fotodiox Photo Equipment Co. Ltd., Shantou Nanguang Photographic Equipment Co., Visio Light, Inc., Tianjin Wuqing Huanyu Film and TV Equipment Factory, Stellar Lighting Systems, and Yuyao Lily Collection Co. Litepanels one of the expensive options, so they'd piss a lot of photographers and videographers off when all the less expensive ones disappeared from the market. Is that the way you want to acquire a customer? Making their options disappear and forcing them to pay you more? So even when you have a barrier to entry--and again, this seems like a faux barrier to me, though one that is looking like it might hold--you have to be careful, as the pain from enforcing the IP barrier might exceed just iterating and moving to be the best provider."

Anonymous said...

Got the book. Am reading the book. Wish I'd had this book years ago!

Chris Malcolm said...

Your recommended LED panel isn't in the inexpensive category for this pensioner. I've been tracking the development of white LED technology in detail for some years, waiting for good really cheap photographic LED lights with good colour balance to arrive. I've been using powerful (7ish Watt) wide beam LED flashlights for years as extra accent or rim lighting when their often slightly weird "white" didn't matter.

So partly as a consequence of your eloquent enthusiasm for led panels I stuck an experimental toe in the water with a little HDV-Z96 16x9 panel. It had good reviews for smooth spectrum well-balanced colour. I'm impressed with the light quality!

I now carry it just in case more often than a flash. I use it as a fill or extra light source for head & shoulder portraits, flower and product shots. For general purpose be-prepared-for-anything opportunistic carry-along I'm now more likely to pack a flash and the led panel then I am to pack two flashes.

But I'm not yet fully converted. When I recently had enough cash in hand to buy one of those "inexpensive" fotodiox panels I bought another flashgun instead :-) Well, it had HSS and a few other snappy modern features which my ancient film-era manual guns don't have. Versatility and speed of deployment.

Kirk Tuck said...

It's not really my job to "convert" people. The book is there to tell you the reasons you might want to use LED lights for some of your photography. If you don't need them it doesn't make sense to buy new lights.

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