Shooting portraits for my LED book, ten years ago. This one with a Canon camera. But not a new Canon camera.

Back in 2010 Amherst Media published the first book about LED lighting for photographers. Ever. It had samples from famous wedding photographer, Neil van Niekirk, and lots of lesser samples from the author; me. It was early days for LED light sources aimed at photographers and most of the affordable fixtures were made in China and didn't have much street credit with people who were obsessed with specification sheets. Oh, I mean photographic numerology... Most people's experiences weren't based on actual, personal use but were conjecture based on glancing and dated reviews of an early generation of tiny, cheap plastic LED panels.

The feedback I got from everyone I mentioned the book project to was that "all" LEDs had really bad color, and a deadly green spike was almost always unavoidable, so the lights could "never" be used for portrait work. Ever.

I plodded on, doing experimental shoots and gathering really wonderful LED lit portraits from friends and professional associates across the country. My memory about that time is that it coincided with my flirtation with Canon digital cameras. I had three different models and liked them for three different reasons. But I used the 7D (APS-C) along with a 70-200mm f4.0 Canon zoom to make the image above. We were in the studio using some inexpensive Chinese fixtures that had 512 small LEDs on a rectangular panel. I don't remember the exact price but I think each panel was about $200.

I came across this image of my friend, Selena, recently while cleaning up old hard drives and preparing them for short term storage ( you know, put them in a vacuum chamber, suck out all the contaminated air, seal into a non-porous, anti-magnetic storage containers filled with pure helium....just the routine archival regimen...) and I remembered all the bluster from the ignorati about the inability of LED lights to render a pleasant skin tone. I think a quick custom white balance got us right into the ball park. Not too hard to do if you read your camera's owner's manual... Ah, nostalgia for the early days of what is now very, very popular tech.


Eric Rose said...

The "putz" factor runs deep in those obsessed with specs. I still haul out my old D70s and take photos (oh ya the same people insist on saying "make" photos) that blow people away and will not believe I didn't use a much newer FF camera.

It just goes to show a real professional can produce (see I didn't say make) a pleasing photograph under almost all conditions.


Anthony Bridges said...

I don't have much budget for new gear right now. Most of my recent purchases have been gels, photo paper, etc.

Last month I decided to go really cheap and go to Lowe's for an LED task light. My first experiment was underwhelming. The 2000 lumen panel was ~ 5000k, easy to use, no weird color casts and color corrected easily with my Olympus OMD EM5II I usually use for still lifes. However, it wasn't bright enough.

I returned my new "studio" light and got the 3000 lumen panel of the same brand. It's still in the box waiting for it's moment to shine. For $50 it's something fun to play with to make functional.