Portraiture with LED Light Bulbs? Why not

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“The pictures have a reality for me that the people don’t. It is through the photographs that I know them.” —Richard Avedon

“Light,” as a wise photographer once told me, “is light.” The most important characteristics of any studio lighting setup are the quality, quantity, direction and color of the output. The kind of hardware that you use will have an impact on these aspects and the quality of the light can further be affected with light modifiers.

Continuous lighting is “on” continuously, much like the sun, enabling you to use your camera’s light meter to measure the light falling on your subject. It lets you see how the light and because these kinds of lights can be relatively inexpensive, they are a good starting point for anyone wanting to shoot portraits on a budget.

Continuous lighting sources typically use quartz or photoflood bulbs that can be hot, leading to the use of the term “hot lights” to describe them. An increasing number of continuous lighting tools are being made with fluorescent lights producing cool “hot lights.” But what about using light bulbs as a light source? Light bulbs! Yup, today’s portrait was made using two LED light bulbs from Home Depot and…

Gary Fong’s Lightbulb Adapter Kit contains a Lightsphere Adapter mounted on a Light Socket Adapter with an AC power plug attached. The Adapter is compatible with Fong’s Lightsphere Collapsible Speed Mount or SpeedSnoot and fits atop a lightstand. When paired with a Lightsphere Collapsible Speed Mount Diffuser and an LED light bulb it produces “true-to-life skin tones.” When the Lightbulb Adapter Kit is paired with a SpeedSnoot, the result is a spotlight effect that’s useful for adding impact to a background.

How I made this shot: I photographed Pam Simpson using two LED light bulbs. She was photographed against a Savage Economy Background Support Stand with the white backdrop. One Gary Fong Lightbulb Adapter is placed at camera left between the subject and white backdrop. The other Lightbulb Adapter is at camera right with Fong Speed Snoot and grid and used a color-controlled LED light bulb (set on magenta) so the only part of Pamela that’s in natural color is her face with colored light spilling on her neck and arm. Camera was Canon EOS 60D with EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens with an exposure of 1/60 sec at f/2 and ISO 800. Image was retouched then processed using Color Efex Pro.

If you want to try some studio lighting techniques without going broke give Gary Fong’s products a try and visit your local Home Depot or Loews for some LED bulbs and make some portraits.


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If you’re interested in learning how I shoot portraits and use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere that’s available new from Amazon.com for $19.06 or $9.77 used, as I write this. The Kindle version is $11.99, if you prefer a digital format format.