photo by PeopleImages via iStock
Lighting for portrait photography can be simple, sophisticated, or anywhere in between. It’s really a wide open field of possibilities, equipment, techniques, and configurations. Recently I’ve been incorporating LED lights into my portrait photography lighting to take advantage of several benefits.
As I see it, there are several nice advantages of LED lighting for portraits. They are bright and clean, LED lights run cool, they are continuous lights, and LED lights are efficient enough to be powered by battery or wall current.
Bright and Clean Light Output
One of the top reasons I like LED lights for portraits as well as for my videography is because the high quality LED lights are very bright for their power consumption and the color emitted is clean.
When I say a light source is clean, I’m referring to what is measured by the CRI, color rendering index, of the light. CRI tells us how natural the light allows colors to appear. A higher CRI is better than lower, with 100 being the best score.
Lights used for photography and videography should have a CRI in the 90 and above range, with many fine studio and portable LED lights coming in at 96 and 97. The Stryder Fanless Bi-Color LED Fresnel Light from Ikan is an excellent example of a high quality studio with a CRI of 96 and 97 defending on the color temp used.
With continuous lights, the longer they stay on, the hotter they get. If you’ve ever worked with incandescent floods or HMI lights, they can get so hot that you could injure yourself if you touched the bulb. Plus, the bulb life is often very short.
LED lights stay safe to the touch and they last a long, long time. Even the versions of lights such as the Fresnel light mentioned above, which use a lens system to concentrate the light beam, will stay comfortable to handle when they’re made with LED bulbs.
Continuous lighting for portrait photography has a great benefit for beginners to lighting, which I also enjoy a lot. One of the main advantages of LED lighting for portraits is that you can see the effect of your lighting choices as you set up.
Many studio strobes have modeling lights, but a lot of compact portable flash units don’t. Being able to see exactly where a shadow falls or how much brighter one light is than the other makes varying lighting configurations much easier and quicker to do.
Before LED lights became common in photography, using any continuous light source for portrait work was not often recommended, primarily due to the heat involved which would make portrait subjects uncomfortable. Especially would be problematic with kids or pets as the subjects.
But with the cool running LED lights, that issue is pretty much eliminated. This is really advantageous with multiple light configurations, such as when adding in a fresnel light like the DMX controllable Stryder Fanless Bi-Color LED Fresnel Light which opens up many possibilities of lighting variations in portrait photography.
DMX controlled continuous lighting is a standard for digital videography studios, as it allows precise control and timing of light levels and special effects.
Flexible Power Options
Continuously on lighting with incandescent bulbs or HMI lights consumes a lot of power, so plugging in to the wall socket is often the only choice with many of these types of lights. Portable flash units are portable because of their being operated by batteries.
Going back to the Stryder Fanless Bi-Color LED Fresnel Light from Ikan, since it’s an LED light, the power consumption is efficient enough that it can be powered by either wall plug-ins or by batteries.
I find that the professional portrait photography lighting options of LED lights are usually much more reasonably priced than some of the other gear cinematographers like to use.
Large HMI lights like what you see on TV and movie sound stages can easily soar into a high figure per light and even the smaller ones intended for more modest studios are still quite expensive. When you absolutely need what those lights offer, though, usability triumphs over pricing concerns.
Most of the LED lighting for portrait photography and videography are much more budget friendly. I have enjoyed using, reviewing, and even purchasing for my own use the top notch gear from Ikan. The company was set up by active videographers and photographers, so the gear is designed to meet the needs of these shooters.
Since they either make or design their own equipment, Ikan is able to bring to the market very high quality gear for lower prices than many of the other brands out there. Check out their full line of lights, filters, tripods, and specialty gear.