Shooting Headshots Using LED Lighting

Every time I tell a photographer I’m shooting portraits with LEDs they always say, “I hear there’s all kinds of color balance problems.” I hate to be the one to break it to you but there are color variations in every kind of light source—even daylight. At noon the light from the sun measures 5500 degrees K but on an overcast day the color temperature rises to 6700 degrees K. In open shade, you can encounter 9000 degrees Kelvin.

Bowens Mosaic DaylightNo light source is perfect and not all LEDs are identical. They have the advantage of continuous lighting being “what you see is what you get” but that’s not without some downsides. Some LEDs have narrow angles of coverage and problems, such as Pulse Width Modulation, can cause flickering giving the appearance of a continuous light when it’s not. Then there is the question of what is the actual spectrum of light being produced. Top it all with the fact that some LED lighting systems I’ve tested are not all that bright. Nevertheless, lights like these Bowens Limelight Mosaics, have both clean color and bright output

My set-up at right is a loosely constructed version of a headshot booth, where a Bowens Bicolor Mosaic LED light panel is placed at camera right and a Mosaic Daylight is at camera left. A 22-inch reflector was placed on a Savage Tech Table to kick light under the subject’s chin. Background was Savage’s Infinity photo grey vinyl backdrop

pam.headshot2This lighting setup is perfect to create a cover girl look and the Mosaics allow you see Pam Simpson’s lovely aqua eyes better than most electronic flash setups.

The background is Savage’s Infinity photo grey vinyl but because of the way the lights were aimed and the LED’s 40-degree coverage, the middle gray background photographed almost black.

To make this headshot, I used a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 85mm f/1.8 lens with an exposure of 1/320 sec at f.4.5 and ISO 640.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.13.43 AMIf you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from with, as I write this, new non Prime copies selling for $17.50 (plus shipping,) cheaper than the Prime price.

Author: Joe Farace

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