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Lighting Tips

A Case for Adding LED to your Light Kit

By Megan Kennedy on February 14th 2014

How we choose to augment, compliment, and create light for our images can be one of the more challenging (and expensive) parts of the photography business. One of the newer genre of tools available for our consideration is the LED light. Originally only available in panel form, newer single light LED products like the NorthStar Lite by Photoflex on the market today are an exciting advancement for a number of reasons.

Check out the product review video by Jay P. Morgan of the Slanted Lens below:

The main benefits that Jay P. outlines in the video are that the LED light is color-balanced to daylight, providing a less-expensive alternative to the traditional HMI lights which come with not only a hefty price tag, but a cumbersome ballast box to lug around. In addition, the single-light source is easier to modify and pack around than the LED panels were.

When single light LEDs came onto the market, it was a huge leap forward. Now you have a single light source in a mono blockhead that is cool enough to attach any strobe soft box or modifier to.

In reality, this daylight balanced continuous light solution is probably most attractive to mixed-media shooters like myself, who would rather have a light kit that compliments video and photo simultaneously. But even so, the lighting setup demonstrated in Jay P.’s video (and in the photos below) provides a nice example for any shooter to consider.



Above, we see the test shot of the subject lit only by the bank of windows to camera left. Below, we see the result of adding the LED light source as the stronger key to camera left, in addition to a large bounce card to soften the shadows on the other side. Notice the nice catchlight supplied by the added light source as well.


More dramatic is the next example, in which Jay P. explains the flexibility of having an added light source in order to expose for your background and light for your subject separately. In the first photo below, he’s exposed for the background while his subject is obviously underexposed.


In the next image, he’s simulates what exposing for the subject might have looked like.


Finally, with the added light from the closely-placed LED, Jay P. creates an example of a controlled image, where the photographer has the freedom to expose for the background and craft the light for the subject. The flatter light from only the window bank is replaced by a look of higher contrast, strong catch lights, and arguably a more polished look.


While continuous LEDs with a dependable color temperature and the ability to attach various modifiers may be most exciting to video shooters, photographers looking for a versatile and daylight balanced tool might do well to give a look at LEDs. Especially if you think you might dip into video production in the future.

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With roots in nonfiction and commercial video production, Megan found a passion for still photography in 2009 while traveling through Ghana. Today she shoots weddings and portraiture with an adventurous bent with her husband at Rogue Heart Media, as well as continuing her work in video production. Connect with her on Facebook or through their website.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Chuck Eggen

    Hoping the prices continue to come down so us mortals can afford a large enough array.

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  2. Sam Tziotzios

    It seems that in essence you recreate the open-shade enviroment where you bring bounce back from the open part into the shady part. Kinda like the Window light effect. I own a 512 bi-color led light and really like it for both its daylight and the tungsten settings ( even in between points for mood).

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  3. Tanya Smith

    I’m loving the idea of LED’s, especially for photographing babies or kids. Strobes can be a distraction for them.

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