If you were at the Photography Show in Birmingham back in March you would have seen lots of stands selling LED lighting. While I didn’t make any purchases on the day I did come home and do my research in to this type of continuous lighting.
I have always preferred continuous lighting to flash photography. I find flash to be too harsh for my still life work, and you have to spend a great deal of time firing off shots to get the right exposure. With continuous lighting you can see the effect of the light on your image straight away. You can of course combine continuous lighting that is daylight balanced with daylight from a window. This makes it perfect for food photography for example; where you want to keep a fresh simple look to the food. One of the most popularly choices for continuous lighting has always been Tungsten Halogen lights, but they have several drawbacks. They are expensive to buy, expensive to run, and they get hot very quickly, which means they are not ideal for photographing anything that might suffer under the heat such as food or flowers.
But thankfully there is a new solution – LED lighting. It is more energy efficient to run as it converts about 80-90% of its energy in to light compared to only 20-30% with Tungsten. It also operates without getting hot. As you will see from my video part of this review I had been working for about two and a half hours without anything getting hot. This is great news for those of you who are food photographers.
I tested kit at the mid to lower range price point because that is all my budget will allow, and to be honest I was really curious to know how low I could go and still get a good result. So how does £13.88 sound? I know ridiculous right, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what can be achieved. I purchased a Bonlux 40W LED Studio Light Bulb (5500K) from Amazon.
If you don’t already have a bulb holder you will need an E27 Bulb Holder. I purchased a brand called FoxHunter again from Amazon for £9.00. This particular Bulb Holder also includes a socket to hold an umbrella, so I was able to put it on my existing light stand and use my umbrella and soft box. You can pick up this type of soft box from a brand called Neewer for between £20-25. (I have listed all the products I used for the review in an Amazon widget below). The bulb was really bright and in conjunction with the soft box it worked really well as an overhead light or side light in combination with daylight coming in from two windows. I was disappointed with the FoxHunter Bulb Holder as the cable is really short. It could do with being at least another metre long and the only on off switch is on the back of the bulb holder when it would be so much easier if there was an off and on switch on the mains cable. But I guess as a budget priced bulb holder it does its job. So if you want to experiment with LED lighting on a really low budget then you could in theory have a light, soft box and a lighting stand together for about £60.00. I would say that’s a bargain. And the results are pretty good. See below still shots taken with the bulb and soft box used on a boom arm above each subject.
My next more costly choice was a Yongnuo YN300 Air Pro LED Video Light. You can choose to work at either 3200K or 5500K colour temperatures and the level of light can be dialed in and adjusted to suit your subject. This light is a fill light at a close distance as it’s range doesn’t stretch too far so perfect for still life and food photography. That said I did photograph a friend and used it as a fill light on her portrait and it gave a really nice tone to the final shot. That experience makes me think that I will definitely go on and invest in a larger LED light panel that is more suitable for portraiture. The Yongnuo light produced a really lovely soft white light. It comes with a soft case to store it in, along with a handle and small stand. You will see from the video that it is pretty easy to set up and once you have dialed in your choice of settings you can press the set button to store them.
The light on its own will set you back £33.00 or you can purchase it with a battery pack for £59.00. I purchased just the light on its own and an additional mains adapter that cost £24.00. Every LED lighting panel I looked at did not include a battery or mains adapter so you do need to factor the price of these into your budget. If you decide to invest in an LED Lighting Panel the large professional level lights seem to start at around £130.00.
Overall I have to say I have been really impressed by my purchase of both the bulb and the LED panel. This budget end of the market is great if you are new to studio photography or a student just starting out and looking to be creative on a tight budget. For less than £150 you could have a small studio set up, making savings not only on the kit but also on the electricity you are using on a daily basis.
If you haven’t guessed already I think there will be no going back for me, I am definitely sold on making the switch to LED lights.