We bring you the low-down on LEDs — the af­ford­able con­stant light source that’s an es­sen­tial ad­di­tion to any pho­tog­ra­pher’s kit

New Zealand D-Photo - - EXPLANED -

Over the past decade, light-emit­ting-diode (LED) tech­nol­ogy has come into its own. As a light­ing tech­nol­ogy, you will find LEDs in ev­ery­thing from tiny in­di­ca­tor lamps in de­vices to large-scale in­te­rior light fit-outs and ex­ter­nal sig­nage. In ad­di­tion to bright­en­ing our ev­ery­day lives, LED pan­els are in­creas­ingly find­ing favour as a light source for pho­tog­ra­phers. Tra­di­tion­ally, the first step for pho­tog­ra­phers look­ing to ex­per­i­ment with in­tro­duced light has been flash light­ing. Built-in camera flashes can give a rudi­men­tary in­di­ca­tion of how a scene can be changed with in­tro­duced light, with an en­try-level ex­ter­nal flash unit be­ing the log­i­cal fol­low-up. But, as tech­nol­ogy evolves and be­comes more af­ford­able, other op­tions open up in the form of con­stant light­ing. While flash light­ing fires very brightly for an ex­tremely short span of time to co­in­cide with the camera’s shut­ter, con­stant light­ing stays on, well, con­stantly. This has pre­vi­ously been the purview of film and video, as a scene be­ing recorded ob­vi­ously has to re­main con­sis­tently lit for the du­ra­tion. On film sets, this has been tra­di­tion­ally achieved with pow­er­ful tung­sten lights that pro­duce a bright, con­tin­u­ous light on set. Tung­sten lights are a fine op­tion for your av­er­age big-bud­get film, but they are power-hun­gry, ex­pen­sive, and run ex­tremely hot, and are not the kind of equip­ment a small­bud­get pro­duc­tion can of­ten use. So, along­side the rise of the in­de­pen­dent film in­dus­try, a cat­e­gory of cheaper, more con­ve­nient con­stant light­ing sources has emerged. And to the fore comes the ubiq­ui­tous LED.


An LED panel has a num­ber of ad­van­tages over the likes of tung­sten light­ing rigs. It is a lot smaller, lighter, and more por­ta­ble than the cum­ber­some al­ter­na­tives, which can be very ap­peal­ing to a pro­duc­tion that has to move a lot or has limited space to op­er­ate from. Be­ing a far more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient tech­nol­ogy, LEDs run on less power and don’t reach the dan­ger­ously hot tem­per­a­tures a tung­sten bulb can. This means less need for bat­ter­ies and no need to worry about gloves (or ac­ci­den­tal burns) when al­ter­ing the light­ing set-up. LED pan­els are also, in gen­eral, a lot cheaper than tung­sten lights. These ad­van­tages hold equally true for still pho­tog­ra­phers look­ing to get cre­ative with light­ing.

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