Working with LED Modeling Lights

“To me, lighting really sets the mood for a room. A 40 watt bulb in a cheap lamp is the same as a 40 watt bulb in an expensive one.”—Edward Walker

led-setup2The upside of using an LED source as a modeling light means that there are no more bulbs to lose or break. An LED will save energy and last longer than an incandescent or quartz bulb but the downside is they are visibly dimmer than the 150 Watt quartz lamps used in monolights I’ve tested in the past. This difference shows up in two ways: Because output from the LED is dimmer, it can be tricky to see the effect of reflectors when there’s high ambient light; in a dark studio it’s not as much a problem. To be fair, this is not consistent with every LED modeling light that I’ve used; Paul C Buff’s DigiBee’s, for example, seems to be an exception to this and Ive noticed it also with high end systems such as those from Bron.

pam-led-modelingThe lighting setup above uses a Flashpoint DG400 monolight with 86-inch parabolic umbrella at camera right with a 32-inch 5-in-one reflector on the left. The shot of Pam Simpson was made with a Canon EOS 5D with EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 60mm) with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/14 and ISO 100. Background is my home studio studio wall before I painted it the grey color it is now.

Tip: When moving the reflector watch where the main light is located but also as you move it pay attention to the shadow side of the subject’s face—ignore the other side—and you’ll get it where you want regardless of the kind of modeling light being used. The second problem relates to autofocus and depends on how well your camera focuses under low light, low contrast situations. For all of the cameras I used when testing the Flashpoint’s DG monolights, for example, the only problems I encountered was when shooting an EOS 60D in Live View mode, where it tends to focus slower in low light anyway. When shooting through the viewfinder—no problem.

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To learn more about studio lighting techniques, please pick up a copy of my book, “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as

Author: Joe Farace

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