LED Vs Strobes for Lighting

LED Vs Strobes for Lighting

People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.

Charles F. Kettering

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

W. Edwards Deming

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

John Kenneth Galbraith

So why the quotes? We are in a world that is changing, and technology is developing, and some of us are early adopters and then when its past about 15% suddenly it becomes the thing to have, mainstream and sales in that product take off. The Innovators are the first 2.5% they are taking technology and making new uses of it, the early adopters are grabbing something and making use of it.

Ok so who is using LED constant lighting for portrait stuff? Is the technology there yet? Is it already mainstream? And what its use? These are some of the questions I had and decided to write a review about.

Sekonic L-358
Sekonic L-358 “Mr Smarty Pants”

I have a light meter (named Mr Smarty Pants), which I use less than I should. It’s like having the smarty pants answer in my bag, pull it out take a reading, damn thing always seems to be right!!! I use it for Speedlights, my studio strobes lights and in difficult lighting situations, sometimes!!! Why only sometimes, is because once I have a test shot, my hand or the scene, I normally know what I have to do. And sometimes I cheat in with my studio lights (monoblocs) as they have dimmable modelling lights, so softboxes on, position for the lighting pattern I want, adjust the dimmable modelling lights then use about the same ratio onto the main strobes, adjust the overall level. Job done! Speedlights are great, portable and convenient, but you need to practice to set them up (or I do!) the lighting ratios don’t fall out quite so easily, I need Mr Smarty Pants! So how close are LED’s to giving me a continuous lighting source I can use?

Continuous lighting is used by video guys, and use to be used as a cheap lighting in studios. They used a lot of electricity and doubled as heater, caused makeup to run, headaches in models and put you under time pressure. The emergence of small florescent bulbs helped and now changes in technology are bringing LED panels to the market, and into products for photographers.

Below are some comments and descriptions where and how people are using these or the arguments aginst them.

Neo 2 Front
Neo 2 Front

Arguments

Continuous Lighting (LED)

For:-

  • Able to see how the light is falling before you take the shoot
  • Not able to lift the shadows outside (yet)
  • Able to bring the environment into the background
  • Able to change the colour temperature
  • Operate on batteries or plug pack
  • UV possible
  • Iris in eyes not dilated (more colour showing)
  • Create motion (blur) possible

Against:-

  • Not able to black out the background
  • Can’t shoot wide open, without lots of power
  •  Need backup batteries or a power source

Flash or Strobes (Monoblocs)

For:-

  • Able to black out the back ground
  • So much power you can ‘force’ or override any other light in your studio, outside you can challenge the sun.
  • Depth of field not great but using back drops so not important, unless you want a shallow depth look (wide open)
  • Lower ISO
  • Free from pollution
  • Brightness
  • Freeze Action

Against:-

  • Difficult to see the shot before taking a test shot (Speedlights)

Typical Set up equipment being used

Jason Lanier – RotoLights

Yongnuo-YN360II-YN360 II Handheld Pixel ICE Stick LED Video Light 3200K 5500K Video Light RGB
Yongnuo-YN360II-YN360 II Handheld Pixel ICE Stick LED Video Light 3200K 5500K Video Light RGB

Yongnuo YN-360 LED Stick Introduce colour and selectable colour from an App.

Yongnuo YN-300 II video led light

Yongnuo YN-300 III 3200k-5500k led video studio light with remote mobile control

Yongnuo YN600 RGB 3200-5500k video led light panel

Yongnuo YN-216 led 5500k video light

aputure ls c120t light storm 3000k led video studio light
aputure ls c120t light storm 3000k led video studio light

Aputure LS C120D light storm 6000K CRI 96+ LED video studio light

Rotolight NEO 2 LED Light Rl-neo-ii

And some selected pro comments are:

“Flash has more power and is able to do more. I find continuous light to restricting and only really use it for video. There are other ways to get your exposure right with flash other than a hand help light meter and it doesn’t take long before you wouldn’t really need to see where the light falls. Although I have strobes with model lights I rarely use them”

Environmental Portrait taken with Neo 2 from Robo Light


“I use both. I use flash in the studio. Depth of field is less important because I shoot onto backdrops. Also I need detail in the fabrics, so f2.0 isn’t really an option as this is so shallow the eye would be in focus but the ears would start falling out of the focus area.”

“When I’m shooting on location for instance a café. I want to play with the depth of field. I want the viewer to see the model is at a café, beach or whatever. However, I don’t want the background to get all of the attention so I play with depth of field. As I’m opening up the aperture I don’t need as much light.

Also I like to match the ambient colors with the light I use on my model For instance If the light in a hotel is more tungsten I match the light simply be turning the kelvin up and down.

Here I use video continuous lighting (led). Of course I can do the same with flash by diffusing it multiple times to soften it, feathering it, gridding it, flagging it en color correcting it with gels. However I need to bring a lot more stuff to the set need more time to set all of it up. My foodprint is much larger (No run & gun). And the result is more or less the same with a couple of rotolights.

No light is better than the other. Learn all light. Its however more easy to learn continuous light as you have a good idea of the end results and where the shadows fall.

With led you see before you shoot, with flash you see after you shoot. The advantages of flash are

  • Overpowering the sun outdoors
  • More power to light large groups (weddings, company’s staffs)
  • Stoppingpower (freezing action and movements for instance action sports and waterdrops).”

“I like to match the ambient colours with the light I use on my model For instance If the light in a hotel is more tungsten I match the light simply be turning the kelvin up and down.

“I use video continuous lighting (led). Of course I can do the same with flash by diffusing it multiple times to soften it, feathering it, gridding it, flagging it and colour correcting it with gels. However, I need to bring a lot more stuff to the set need more time to set all of it up. My footprint is much larger (No run & gun). And the result is more or less the same with a couple of Roto lights.”

“No light is better than the other. Learn all light. Its however easier to learn continuous light as you have a good idea of the end results and where the shadows fall.

With led you see before you shoot, with flash you see after you shoot”

“With a flash, you have so much power that any other light in your studio usually doesn’t affect the final image. (Shooting at ISO 100 and f8 at 1/200 of a second makes any indoor photo completely black if the flash doesn’t fire) With other words, you have more control over the light on your subjects and the background. unless you’re in a very dark room without any daylight and no other lights in the room other than the LED panels of course.”

“Light is light but up until recently there weren’t a lot of ways to really shape LEDs like you can strobes. The portability isn’t as accessible either. I think the Apurture style lights are going to be a game changer though because they have a Bowen’s mount and are affordable. They do the the ability to run off batteries but they are still very expensive. The other thing that people have mentioned is the power…the 300d is equivalent to a 2k tungsten which is fantastic! However once to add an octobox with both baffles and you have taken it down at least 2 stops which is now 500w which is still a good amount don’t get me wrong but if you are trying to have them pulled back and shooting at f11 you are going to have to start upping the ISO…they are definitely still limiting and have a ways to go, however this is exciting as they will get better and stronger. Now I love me some Arri Skypanels but you can’t add a beauty dish to them and they are EXTREMELY expensive. If I had some extra change I’d certainly cop a few 300d’s though no doubt…they are GREAT for motion on a budget.”

“Light is light and all producers of it are just tools. It all depends on how you shoot and what the job calls for. I’ve used kinos, hot lights, HMI’s, mono heads and packs from almost every major brand out there and of course natural light…I personally think, at this point, strobes are the most versatile and therefor they are “the best” simply because I can cover almost all of my bases in still photography with them. I use all different modifiers from Molas to Octobanks to China lanterns to scrims…just depends on the look I’m trying to achieve and strobes are good for all mods and can be shot from f1.2 to f22. I am excited to see what the future holds for brands like Apurture though since they are opening the door to using traditional strobe modifiers.”

“The beauty of LEDs continuous lights with barn doors and diffusers are:

  1. you can control temperature and intensity with just a switch and slider control;
  2. can open up your aperture to employ more bokeh;
  3. what you see is what you get. With the barn doors you’re lighting your subject cinematically!
  4. portable, versatile, inexpensive and comes with a battery pack.

Get 4-5 YNs for the price of a speedlite. So now you can do rim and hair lights, and 1:3 lighting. The trick to light your subject cinematically means you have to employ more than one (i use three various sizes); expose for the ambient/background first with more open aperture and higher ISOs to decrease the tendency to be dark. The newer cameras have closed the technology gap of having better noiseless high ISO performance. All these make good qualities for environmental portraiture.”

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