Many of us have had the doubtful pleasure of shooting alongside a video team using hot halogen lamps at an Indian wedding. Gladly, this trend is quickly fading away as both photographers and videographers adopt the usage of the more advanced, and easy to use lights. Some photographers find flash, be it on-camera or off-camera, to be the best light solution, while others find them a bit intimidating. I am not a technical writer, but I’ve been using both flash, as well as LED lights, and although I love working with off-camera-flash, I think LED lights are under appreciated. I believe that young photographers, but not only, can extract an incredible value from LED lights as an alternative option for flash.
Shooting Indian Wedding with LED lights
I say nothing bad about working with off-camera-flash. Not at all. I actually love it myself. After almost three years of working with Fuji cameras, and not being able to find a decent system of TTL triggers for off camera flash till recently, I am now shooting OCF again using the new RoboShoot tigers. These enable me to use my Nikon flash with the Fuji cameras on iTTL! Yes, quite revolutionary actually. I am super happy with this solution.
Off camera flash is a super amazing way of lighting, as many Indian wedding photographers already know. We’ve had Erika and Lanny give an amazing workshop at SILK INSPIRE 2016, and will have Zack Arias add to that in at his OneLight Workshop at the upcoming SILK INSPIRE 2017. However, working with LED lights have some great advantages.
My affair with LED lights started back in November 2010 at a wedding in Jaipur. We were shooting a sangeet at an open garden and I did not have enough light to shoot the couple coming in. I found myself following the video team who had a small LED mounted on the camera, and used their light for exposure. It then dawned on me that there is no real reason why I could not make use of the same kind of light. I found a cheap local light in Delhi, and mounted it on my camera. It looked something like this. (Photo by Sunny Pariani).
I was still using the big bulky Nikon cameras, and used the light just to fill-in deep shadows. This was the beginning. Prior to that, I used a hand held flash with this heavy beast of a camera held in one hand. That was NOT fun! The beginning was bad, but I eventually managed some pretty decent shots with off-camera LED light. All the images below were shot using LED lights.
The Pros & Cons for Using LED vs Flash
Knowing light is the first step. Understanding the quality and nature of light; direct, bounced or defused, is the first stage for any photographer. Selecting the tool should be based on what you want to achieve. Working with LED can be fun, and is very different than using flash. Here are the main differences the way I see it:
- Easy to use – Not like working with a flash, when you use LED you actually see the image that you take. It is much easier to shoot this way, and control the light if you are only starting out in photography and not so comfortable with flash yet.
- Cost – A good LED light, and I’m talking good stuff, will cost you a fraction of the price of a flash. I just bought some very exciting lights in Bangkok for ₹5,000 a head. Can you compete with this? There are many options in India, and the variety and quality keeps getting better. I recommend going for a unit that enables you to control the colour temperature of the light. This way you can use it well for tungsten or day light colour balance.
- Power, Shutter speed and exposure – Here is the thing. Using flash enables you to work in higher shutter speed, and control available light easier. There is no way to overpower the sun with LED, so if you are looking at creating some underexposed sky images with well lit couples, a flash is your solution. If you want to underexpose the DJ lights on the dance floor, again flash is your solution.
- Visibility – Working with LED also means that whoever it is that you shoot is well aware of you lighting him. You want to be stealth, don’t use LED.
What about you? Have you used LED as a main light source at Indian weddings? What is your experience? Having read this post, would you consider it, if you haven’t till now? Let us hear from you in the comments below.
I’m assuming many of you will have more questions on using LED as a light source at weddings. I will be doing a FACEBOOK LIVE event to discuss all this on Wednesday, July 19th at 9pm. The event will be live on SILK PHOTOS Facebook page.
I was shooting a dark birthday party at a club in Mumbai last night….i was equipped wid a 5d mark 3 and a 24-105 f4 lens the lens was finding it difficult to focus due to low light conditions so i was forced to use a external led light to get focus and expose my subject but the led was too harsh so used an third party biginner level flash on camera to fill the shadows cast by the single led….how ever the led worked fine for me but it made the whole club bright creating alot of attention towards the light and the camera….can you help me how to find focus in low light condition without an led light….such as a club (a fresher photographer this side sharing his experience)….i found out a solution that i could hire a low aperture lens such as the 24-70 2.8….but i tried using a 85mm 1.8 that i had that time and even the 85 would rarly focus….need suggestion thank you
You know what they say; there is nothing better than a fast lens, other than an even faster lens! I see your issues, but I only work with f1.4 or f1.2 lenses so I don’t have that problem of focus.
As for the light “killing” the ambiance; you really need to work with he light and. Hold the new mood with it. Straight on the camera it will always look like shit. Get someone to hold it for you and create back lit silhouettes. This way you have light for exposure, but still keep a dark looking room. Cheers
Thanks for sharing the pros and cons of LED and flash. It’s always a pleasure reading your blogs. Frankly speaking, after reading this i would love to use the LED since it won’t be killing an ambience also like you have shown in your images. Also i believe with reference to your 2nd and last image where you have spotted the LED just to highlight the faces, it gets really difficult to do that sometimes with flash or have to edit in post to give that effect.
However it’s true that it will be very difficult to take candid shots with LED because you need to spot on the people you are clicking and they get conscious sometimes. Also i would like to add, a lot of time we face this problem where the theme/ambience is dark specially on the dance floor where people hate photographer’s to use LED’s, i think flash is always a good option there.
Let me try something creative with the LED i have in my next event. Once again thanks for sharing the knowledge.
Thanks for the comment Nitin. I’ve used LED on the dance floor often, and it is tricky but lovely. You must silhouette the subject with the DJ light to get a good effect with the LED, but I love th outcome. However, I did start using OCF on the dance floor again recently, ever since I got the new RoboShoot triggers for the FUJI.
I actually waited for this post, I saw you used LEDs instead of speedlites. Are they powerful enough for good exposure without boosting up the ISO so much?
They are definitely nice in open environment where you can use burst mode for some instances but definitely can’t be bounced off the walls and ceilings.
I use both LED as well as speedlights. LED is good from a close distanc, unless you have a full panel of them. I usually work on ISO 3,200 at night and the expose is easy.
Thank you SEPHI for sharing your experience with LED.
Yes, even I do use LED and it works amazing some time. Specially at the time of portraits & posed shoot of couple or individual. I use it with the small stand also to get directional lighting instead of loading on camera to avoid making the image look flat. And get beautiful pictures some time.
As u said the biggest advantage over flash is we can see what the picture will be.
Even we can control the amount of light very smartly, some time i use small white umbrella kind of diffuser to avoid harsh lighting.
Only trouble I am facing is need to be very careful for white balance. But as u said very soon buying and trying the LED available with variable colours or kelvin control.
Well, excite for the FB live session on this topic.
Thank you once again.
Eager to meet you all in October.
Very nice pictures. Using LED flashlight is really good, it gives enough brightness to take clear pictures in low light.
Sephi Bergerson, Thanks for sharing this post
LED lights are great option for colorful photography. But, once a client asked us to remove the LED lighting from stage because he feel irritative
Oh well, what can you say? 🙂 Flash does have a lesser impact sometimes. I’m s all about knowing when to use what. Cheers
Shooting in wedding with LED lights is a good grend coming up with these days and useful information is given in this post to work on this.
True, many photographers follows traditional method or satisfy with flash lights, but LED effects makes photographs more attractive and fascinating. Very interesting and useful article for every photographers whether newcomer or experience. Thank you so much for sharing… Keep sharing.