Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Special Lighting Guide: Lights!

By William Sawalich Published in Photography Lighting
Special Lighting Guide: Lights!

Light Source Size & Color

LEDs are commonly sold as panel lights. Like most fluorescent fixtures, these produce inherently softer illumination than single-source hot lights or strobes. This is helpful with portraiture. The downside, though, is because each light consists of multiple sources, it can be difficult to shape the light, cut it or create a hard-edged shadow. (LEDs are also starting to show up as single-source-style Fresnel and PAR fixtures.) The big benefit of LED lights is that they can be varied from daylight to tungsten, with the best models allowing for specific Kelvin temperatures to be dialed in. Multiple panels can be mounted together to create a larger "light wall" source. This, though, is only for big spenders when you consider a 4x4 array of LED panels could easily cost upward of $10,000—remembering that it's less than $500 for a professional hot light and a 4x4 silk.

For macro subjects and on-camera fill, LED lights are even available in small hot-shoe-mountable sizes that are extremely compact, and unlike Fresnel hot lights, LED panels are preset for flood or spot. Some less expensive LED lights have built-in cooling fans that can be a challenge for video applications where sound comes into play.

The dimensions of a panel and the quantity of LEDs are often delineated in a fixture's specifications, but the actual light output is measured in lux, which is a quantity of lumens over a given dimension. The lux measurement makes it possible to compare lights and determine which will provide the greatest usable output.

1. Because the light sources themselves are large, you're somewhat limited in your choice of modifiers.
2. LED panels and fluorescent lights are cool and efficient, which makes them popular for location work and weddings.
3. Hybrid photographers will find that the flicker-free aspect of cold lights makes them attractive for motion work.

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