As I do more and more video LED's seem more and more important.

 I've been doing more and more video projects and I've come to really appreciate the role of LED's in my lighting tool kit.  I remember the bad old days of video when sensors were barely able to scrap by at ISO equivalents of 80 and 100 without noisy gain and the solution was to bring is lights.  Big lights.  Hot lights.  And if you wanted to do something nice with the light, like pop it thru a scrim you needed even bigger (and hotter) lights.

Now the working methodology is different.  We do a bit of jujitsu with lighting.  We let available light reign and fill in around the edges and we use more efficient and much cooler LED's to fill in, add direction to the light and generally even things out to match the range of the current cameras.

The top image of Noellia Hernandez (now a famous New York theater actor) was taken in the studio as a test for my upcoming book on LED lighting for Amherst Media.  A lot of people trash talk the color quality of LED's and while I'll admit it takes a tiny bit more finesse in PhotoShop or Lightroom there's really nothing you can't do with the better LED light panels when it comes to correct color.

The next three photographs were taken at Fair Bean coffee shop here in Austin.  The second photo from the top shows the placement of a small 160 bulb LED panel on a stand adding some fill to the scene.  Directly behind the light is a big open window.  As you can see in the photo just below the set up shot, the color matching with ambient light is pretty darn good.  Just a touch of fill to make the shots work the way I wanted them to.

 When I'm shooting video I'm mostly using ambient light but there's always the need to add just a little more fill.  Or to add direction to the light.  What I love about working with small and medium sized panels is how convenient they are to place (they have so little front to back depth) and how easy it is to dial up or dial down the levels to match the look I want.  Most of the time I can see the effect I want directly by eye.  Sometimes I'll roll a little test footage just to play it back and make sure that what I'm seeing translates to what the sensors sees.  Either way there's no color shift as I dial up
and down.  I can't say that about any of the strobes I own and I certainly can't say that about conventional hot lights.  I recently went on location to a medical clinic to shoot.  Most of the scene was top lit by florescents and it was okay but I really needed to fill in the shadows as the doctor leaned over a patient in an exam chair.  I did what all the guys always tell you not to do.  I put an LED light directly on the camera and used it as a direct fill.  In that case and in the case of Noellia in the very bottom image, I used the little ring light I talked about on this blog about a month ago.
 I paid $39 for mine, it takes two double "A" batteries and it worked like a charm.  The only way it would have worked better would have been to include a control to vary the output.

In the photos where Noellia is wearing a white coat, just outside the coffee shop, the top one is filled with a panel just behind camera, dialed way down and the second one is lit by a panel just to the side. You can see how the light sculpts her face.  It was good not to rely only on the flat light bouncing all over the place.
The light also tends to clean up the image by adding additional light and a bit warmer color to the scene overall.

Finally,  I included a shot that's pretty close up and filled with the small ring LED on the lens.  Two things I like are the filled shadows and the catchlights in the eyes.  When working close like this with a fixed source you set the exposure based on getting a little closer or a little further away until you get the balance between the on camera light and the ambient light.  Further away gets you less snap and less fill while getting closer makes you stop down (or increase shutter speed) to compensate for the subject to light distance and that makes the background darker.  Thank you inverse square law.

I've noticed that most people are reticent to change.  But once change starts to happen it's no longer a long graceful curve.  Now, when we get to a tipping point everyone seems to capitulate and move to the new technology simultaneously.  Witness the iPad.
Two years ago I didn't have a single LED panel or Ringlight in my
 collection of lighting tools.  Now I can't imagine not having them.  I don't use them all the time.  They aren't economically at the point where you have the power to challenge the sun for mid-Summer fill light.  But in the studio, especially for still life, and for the kinds of open aperture portraits I like to do I now find them indispensable.

I recently saw two lights from Fotodiox that I really want.  One is a variation of the 1000 LED bulb panel I already own but it has two sets of LEDs and can by using them in concert can be varied in color temperature between 3200K and 5,500K.  And the steps between the two are, for all intents and purposes, infinite.  It can also run on battery packs.  The other is a smaller, battery powered version with 312 bulbs that is portable enough to be used on camera or stuffed into a camera bag as a back up.

Kind of fun to realize that the future is here how.  Tomorrow I'll be shooting fast in a school.  That little panel might be just right......