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Tuesday, 03 April 2012


What a great post!

It gives me info, suggestions, and gets the creative juices flowing.

Thanks, Kirk, and thanks, Mike, for inviting Kirk to post it.

I have a dumb question. For something like the two lower priced models recommended, are there circumstances for which they could be used instead of traditional speedlight flashes for similar money? Still images, of course is what I'm referring to. I don't know how wattage translates to a guide number, nor if the light is focused? Thanks.

Thank you for the information. I can see these units being very handy. I took a quick look at the Fotodiox website but couldn't find information on the brightness of these units? Does your book contain any measurements like Lux, footcandle or ISO f-stop/shutter speed light meter readings?

Does anybody think the size of pupils as shown in portraits matters much? Wider pupils allegedly show "interest". (I'm by no means convinced it makes a difference in people's perceptions of the portraits, but I've seen people saying it does.)

(This being the only draw-back of bright continuous light for portraits compared to flashes.)

I thought I'd answer a couple of questions about output on the units. Before I start please remember that these are continuous light sources and they'll never match the intensity of a single burst of light. Don't think of them as a replacement for a powerful flash in dark night club but as a movie light for boosting illumination in most scenes. You have to use them with a different mindset. The same mindset that seems to welcome high ISO cameras with open arms....

Here's my quick test procedure. I set up three lights in a dark room.
They are all five feet from my Sekonic 758 light meter. I have the meter set at 400 ISO because that's where I seem to end up. A lot. I set the meter at a fixed shutter speed of 1/60th.

From five feet away I measured each light in turn.

The first light is the smallest and cheapest of the LED panels, the Fancier160 LED battery powered unit. Here's what I get: 1/60th, f2.8+2/10ths of a stop.

The second light is the 500 LED unit. A cheap, plug in the wall workhorse. Here's what I get: 1/60th, f4 +4/10ths of a stop.

The third light is a 1000 LED unit, without switchable color temperature, from Fotodiox. Here's what I get: 1/60th, f6.3.

All of these are measured without modifiers of any sort. The room is about 600 square feet and has 12 foot ceilings.

When I need more power I gang them together. When I use a 6 by 6 foot scrim, for example, I might use two 1,000 LED panels and a 500 LED panel to get the spread and the level I want for a nice soft spread and a workable aperture. YMMV but I like to work at f2.8 and f4 for portraits. I like to have a quick transition to "out of focus" in the backgrounds. That's my style.

When used with a Canon 5dmk2 I don't really mind shooting some stuff at ISO 3200 and in those cases I get 1/500th at f2.8+2/10th out of even the smallest panel.

It's not flash. It's an alternate universe.

We've mentioned mostly mainstream panels but if you have the budget and the need there are panels from companies like Nila that make powerful LED fixtures for the movie industry. You can even go toe to toe with sunlight if you've got the budget.

If you're shooting video these lights are perfect to meld into a typical home or office scene while blending LED with existing light. The LED's, in those applications, tend to be used to add character to flat light or fill to contrasty light.

And it's fun to do WYSIWYG without singeing yourself.

I'll vouch for the book. I'd been looking at LEDs but hesitating until I read your book. Now I have three small ones (most of my work is natural light and they will be used as supplemental light) and I have a dimmable ring ling light on order for macro work. Thanks for your great advice Kirk.

David, Most photographers use fairly bright modeling lights on their strobes in the studio and on location. The pupils will pretty much be the same. The only time you'll get the "heroin addict" pupil look is shooting with a flash, no modeling light, in a dark room.

I don't know if this is completely off-topic, but LEDs have been quietly revolutionizing a few other markets as well--bicycle headlamps are one of them. The spectrum out of them is awful, but the lumens-per-pound is hard to believe. NiteRider makes a 3000 lumen system that will throw more light than an automotive headlamp. The weight is under two pounds and it'll run at full power for an hour and a half...or a day and a half if you turn it all the way down.

About time a real photographer wrote a real book about real work with LED lighting, and who better than Kirk Tuck to do it.
I've been using LED lights, mostly rings, with all their imperfections, for macro field work since Nikon introduced the SL-1 LED ring for their 9xx Coolpix series way back when. Many people don't realise what a relief LED lighting can be: there are many situations in the field where flash simply is not an option, and conventional studio lighting not practicable.

Having committed every rookie mistake, I now think I have both enough motivation and experience to learn from Kirk's book how to do it right.

An LED aside for the energy-conscious: after my field experience with LED lights, I converted my home over the past three years to 100% LED lighting, using quality high-output LEDs. Ambiental light has increased by over 30% where required, whereas electric energy consumption for lighting is now between 17% and 28% of the previous level, which already included CCFL and high-efficiency halogen for more than half the lights. All investments will be recouped in another 36 months through energy savings. And winter SAD, to the extent that light can prevent it, is now a thing of the past:)

Kirk, I notice that you always use either a DSLR or Micro Four Thirds camera for your shots. Because still photography is important to you, that makes sense. But for someone who will only be shooting video (and who also cares about sound), do you think it's better to go for a DSLR or MFT camera, or to choose a dedicated video camera in a similar price range.

Kirk - what do you think of the Westcott ICE Light? It looks pretty interesting since it's a battery-powered daylight balanced LED stick, but isn't exactly cheap at $500.

Anyone else a bit put off by the way the rectangular-ish specular highlights that these produce in the subject's eyes?

Take a look at the new "Color Quality Scale" developed by NIST to replace CRI. Unfortunately, CRI doesn't correspond well to human perception in some critical situations — like, with skin tones, or anything highly saturated. This gives LEDs higher scores than they maybe should get, so I'd beware of those 90+ ratings. I'm not saying Kirk is wrong (because clearly he's able to do impressive work this way, and that's what matters), but LEDs do have a ways go to yet on color reproduction. See more at http://www.nist.gov/pml/div685/grp05/vision_color.cfm

Thanks, Kirk! I have had your book in my Amazon wish list for a while, so I finally pulled the trigger on that and the 312AS, plus another book Mike had recommended a while back.

I'm sure led will rule the world soon. A friend of mine did a reportage shoot, night portraits at natural settings, recently using a bicycle led lights, and the results were impressive.

I think more photgraphers should try lighting with Kino Flos and other similar fluo tube continous light. They'll be surprised.

I would like to light macro (cheap, dirt cheap and cheaper if possible) without relying on the fision reactor humans call Sol, any ideas? Macro needs a point light source and a coldlight would be an option but that would set me back at least half a grant and that is not concidered cheap (were I come from at least).

Now mr. Falcon eyes offers this:


For about 200 dollars (cheap even from my point of view). Would that be usable for macro mr. Tuck, or does anyone else of the crowd have some sound advice based on experience?

Greetings, Ed

I have one panel purchased 4-5 years ago its ok and have used it a lot, its a Chinese light I bought in SIngapore, colour balance - forget it but that can be fixed up in PS I have been looking for others After reading this I started to look further as I have wanted another for sometime and found this gem. It's Australian designed by Jerry Ghionis but made in the USA by Wescott its called an Ice light and it looks brilliant (lol) Used in conjunction with panels it has wonderful possibilities ...

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