Flash units have been the mainstay of photography studios for decades. Direct, reflected or diffused, they provide the power, precision and colour accuracy that photographers need.
But despite its ubiquity, it’s not an easy technology to work with.
The first challenge is not to glare the talent in front of the lens. (Strobing flash lights and Kleenex often go hand in hand). The second is to synchronize multiple flash units – not easy to achieve, especially if multiple camera systems are in use. The third obstacle is to preview results, which is much, much easier with a continuous light. Because of the harshness of flash, lights are often bounced off walls or umbrellas and are therefore very difficult to control.
Professional photographic studios have long learnt to live with the shortcomings of these single fire lights. Models have learnt to arrive at shoots prepared for runny eyes and a regular re-application of mascara.
For years, continuous lights have been available that can deliver the lighting quality and power photographers need. However, it’s only recently that stills shooters have started to make the transition away from flash and towards LED lighting.
Today’s professional LED lights are colour accurate, low energy, cool-running and affordable. Their bulbs outlast other technologies by a significant margin and can be very conveniently battery powered to move around a studio at will.
But… can they offer photographers the power they need? Since the light from an LED is soft, there’s an assumption that they don’t deliver the necessary punch.
Because they run cool and are easy on the eye, LEDs can be moved very close to the talent, to envelop the subject in a soft, natural light. Alternatively, LED 600w or 1200w fresnels beam a focused light, picking out features or highlighting the face against a background. Add a softbox to throw a direct but gentle light.
Either way, LEDs now deliver the power, flexibility, control and accuracy photographers need. No Kleenex required.