Using LED Lights for Portrait Photography: The Good and the Bad

If you're new to artificial lighting, you may be wondering about using constant LED lights versus more traditional strobes. This excellent video will show you the pros and cons of using LEDs and why you might prefer one over the other.

Coming to you from Francisco Joel Hernandez, this great video talks about constant LEDs versus strobes. The biggest and most immediate advantage of using LEDs is that you will always see where and how the light is falling on the subject, making it easier to figure out exactly how to place things and at what power to get the best shot. Beginners often find the lack of immediately visible results from strobes a bit intimidating, which means a constant source can be a huge convenience for newcomers and pros alike. On the other hand, the biggest downside is power. If you want to shoot during the day and overpower the sun, an LED light just isn't going to cut it. Nonetheless, there's more nuance to the debate than just those two items, so check out the video above for the full rundown. Also, if you do decide to go the LED route, make sure the lights you choose have a high CRI rating, preferably 95 or higher

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7 Comments

Pawel Paoro Witkowski's picture

It's a well done video, I believe a lot of effort was put into it and results are pretty good, Thanks Francisco ! :)

Francisco Hernandez's picture

Thank you! I did put some time into this so I appreciate you and others watching. What I forgot to include as a pro and con (which I'm kicking myself over after uploading) is the con of price of LEDs compared to speedlites and pro of LEDs in the ability to focus easier and faster in lower light. =)

Spy Black's picture

Not sure if I'd use them outdoors except at dusk or night as he did, but I've certainly considered them for studio and indoor use. The Aputure unit is pricey for my tastes, I've been looking at the Godox SL-200 units, which are 5600K versus the Aputure's 6000K (which is a bit surprising I think), and the SL-200 are brighter, albeit not battery operated, which is not a problem in the studio or indoors. LED lighting is slowly bringing photography back to the old days of continuous light shooting, which I find interesting.

Francisco Hernandez's picture

Yeah the Godox SL-200s are nice and I might pick one up soon. Each light has their pros and cons and for me the Aputure pros outweighed the cons. The only gripe I have with the Aputure 120D is the bowens mount which is 'wobbly' to me. Wish it were sturdier.

Philip Smith's picture

You mention the lack of "immediately visible results" from strobes, but you fail to metion that most strobes have modeling lights (although some are so weak as to be essentially useless). Also - I would argue that digital provides pretty close to immediately visible results. In the days of film, modeling lamps were key, as were polariods to aid in fine-tuning the lighting. Just my 2 cents. BTW - nice images in the video.

Francisco Hernandez's picture

Thank you. You're right, I didn't both to mention the modeling lamps some strobes have for that reason; their low power. This video was aimed for on location portraiture and for that I wouldn't recommend a modeling lamp. And yes, digital photography does provide *close* to immediate results, but with LEDs you get the result immediately which was why I mentioned it as a pro.

Alex Cooke's picture

What Francisco said. A modeling light isn’t going to be visible in a lot of on-location situations.