I’ve had a couple of these ~$35 LED lights in my bag for a few years now, but never thought to do a post about them. Back many years ago, when we made/converted a ceiling light into a panel, it was a novel and simple idea, but the technology has definitely improved and come down in price a lot. It’s never going to replace sunlight or a strobe, but having a portable constant light in the bag is definitely worth the space and can help you in many situations.
Below are some random portraits, some on work gigs, but mostly from days when the weather is not so good and we just want to goof off with some lights inside. Since cool-to-the-touch LED light technology is so commonplace now, I wonder if this lighting style will be looked at in the future as old fashioned. That’s pretty much the course for many trends, and photography is no different. The studio lighting style of family pictures and album covers from the 1980’s is definitely something that isn’t looked back on as advanced. Until then though, it’s just fun to shoot with the colored gels and see how the light shapes a face or figure in real time. Flash photography is still very hard to use, especially for beginners I’ve found, so an accessory that can speed up the visualizing of light is worth much more than an expensive lens or camera.
You can find this handheld/shoe mount LED light and many other variations on Amazon.
One LED with a blue gel on the left, and one with the red gel directly in front
This BTS shot shows all my different lights: the 2 handheld LEDs, the bigger LED panels, the Mola beauty dish and speedlight, and the Arri Fresnel tungsten. All have different purposes and strengths/weaknesses.
There was a crazy lovely sunset that appeared during this wedding. Having no time to bring out the beauty dish or softbox from the trunk of my car, this one light was enough to light the couple.
The little LED light, combined with the 105mm 1.4E and the low light sensitivity of the Nikon sensors is a pretty cool mix. Again, this shot would have looked very different with a garish pop up direct flash. That technique does give you the opportunity to have different exposures for foreground and background, but in this situation with the fast fading sunset, nothing is easier than real time preview with the handheld LED light.
When it came time for the ceremony, the sun had already set and the back of the venue was pitch black. Handheld LED light to the rescue.
Having covered lots of events at the Ga Aquarium, I’ve found that flash does not work well in front of the big glass wall. Beauty dish will show the circular reflection. Bounce flash will show the reflection of the ceiling in the glass. What works best is direct LED. These lights will look a bit dim to human eyes, but in the camera there’s plenty of illumination on the subjects. Top photo: D610 Bottom: D750
It’s quite easy to get images that look right at home on a club announcement flyer. Plus it’s a good learning tool to simulate nighttime city street scenes.