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Topic: Power LED's for Photography (Read 3603 times) previous topic - next topic


Dec 07, 2010, 05:07 pm Last Edit: Dec 07, 2010, 05:53 pm by focalist Reason: 1
I originally posted this on another thread, but then realized this topic should have it's own thread, as it should (hopefully) become a good topic.

On my last gig, I did a series of headshots with my favorite local model.. with virtually all of the lighting being provided by two 10w Power LED's from Home Depot, being sold as an energy-efficient replacement bulb for recessed can lighting.  They were $20 each, so I'm sure you can get them for $10 or less online shopping around a bit.  The only addition was a 150w modeling lamp at 50%, through a softbox, to provide for a little hair lighting and a bit of dramatic contrast, from a few feet above and to the right..  We were featuring her eye makeup.  All of the facial and balance lighting is those LED's.  Suffice to say, these are very viable and nearly indestructable studio necessities from here on in.  Cheap is critical for me.. to be honest I try to break even with my costs, and barely most of the time.  I'm not a Pro... I'm a skilled amateur at best.  

Here's a scaled B&W headshot from that series.  The thing is, the LED's were great to work with- we could hand-hold them by the base of the bulb comfortably for up-close lighting.  The color temp is a very pleasant warm white, in fact, color balance correction was needed in some shots because I had absentmindedly left the camera calibrated for flash color balancing.  The shot was post-processed into B&W using Photoshop Elements.  It was taken with a Canon 350D, ISO 200, f/1.8 50mm Prime ("Nifty Fifty" rev 2.  Under a hundred bucks new and worth it's weight in gold).  Though I've scaled it here for posting, the shot is uncropped, the only post processing was B&W downconversion by Photoshop Elements.


Now consider that lighting is just two 10 watters.. coming from LED's which are probably (will be checking internals) running a much more managable voltage internally.. a voltage which could be supplied on-the-go like with batteries (Pb gel cell or Li).  I'm envisioning either a PVC frame with directable LED heads, or maybe even a ring light on roids.. PWM control and possible inclusion of some RGB elements for color balance and accent light.  As you can see on the side of the bulb unit I purchased, it's a CREE emitter inside- the price on these is dropping like a rock.

Not only is the light very workable, it's low enough power consumption to make portable studio lighting a reasonable idea..  Thoughts?


I've been observing the state of the art of led lighting for photography, too. My usual lighting setup is four Elinchroms, but I wanted to shoot some video earlier on in the year and the fans on my studio lights are too loud, so I started looking in the direction of leds.

What's put me off so far is that leds have quite bad CRI. Compact fluorescents had quite bad CRI some years ago too, but that exceeds the best that leds have to offer now. Some cfls for photography now have quite usably high CRIs, up in the 95s. Led for video is quite a good match, apparently, but for stills photography and skin tones I'd want some more of the spectrum filled in, whereas led lighting is quite notchy across the spectrum and this can look odd.


Dec 08, 2010, 02:44 am Last Edit: Dec 08, 2010, 03:26 am by focalist Reason: 1
These are quite warm, if I remember right, 2700K.  Yep, CRI of 92... not too shabby.  575 Lumens and they are dimmable by standard dimmers (interested in how they manage that.. pwm maybe?).  The lack of a filament or glass to break, the long life, and the lack of heat are all big wins.  With minor modifications they should be able to converted to run from DC, and with that low current draw, battery power is within reason.  Here in one of the color shots, you can see just how warm the lighting is.. it's a bit exaggerated in terms of reds as I had the camera set for flash spectrum:



Here in Massachusetts the price is subsidized by Nstar, so instead of $49 each they are $19.99.  

Wouldn't you know it, too- just got a call from the client, the project has been canceled due to budget constraints.  All that work is great for the portfolio, but there went what was supposed to be xmas shopping cash.  Paying gigs are few and far between for me, this truly sucks.  When all's said and done, I walk away from the gig with less than a hundred bucks profit for three days work.  Suffice to say I'm pissed.  Not a chance they are getting anything past the low-res proofs they've gotten.. not to mention I will still have to drive out there and tear down and transport back my gear, which was left onsite for the next shoot.  Hauling heavy lighting gear is almost a sure-fire way to kick me into an attack.. not pretty.  That, and I need to call Heather and tell her we're out of a job..

Spewing some creative expletives and mixing a drink.


i know how you feel. its tough being a photographer.

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