It's time to rework what I've used for 'product shots' indoors. I'm not shooting for hire, so we're talking ebay pics and personal projects. I've generally worked out the surround, stage, and reflector panels for the environment, but until now, I've hesitated on going to LED lighting of any kind and still use a mix of AC powered Cool-Lux Mini-Cool halogen lights on standard light stands. Between softbox kits and barndoors, they work pretty well, but they are very, very hot. After the previous blistering summers and the possibility that in future they will continue to be brutal, it might be time to take a look at replacing these skin-searing monsters with something far cooler.
LED's concern me from the number of their shortcomings in the quality of light, to the quality of the light fixture itself, and I'm not a fan of Chinese-Cheap gear, when it falls apart after a few weeks. I don't mind fluorescents, but there are times I'd like a harder edge or a controllable beam. I've used flash in the past, but it's a pain to set up, unlike constant lighting where you see everything as you set pieces up and see the shadows and hotspots as you go.
So... am I missing something in the LED world, or should I keep using halogen (or switch to DC power), or revert back to flash? I'm open to suggestions and anyone's personal experiences to enlighten my choices.
It has those 4 barn doors for directional use and has 5 output levels of daylight-balanced LEDs. It also comes with a variety of coloured gels. I also use LED ring-lights from time-to-time - again these have variable power outputs as well as options for using only sections of the ring in order to provide the option of more directional light.
Most of the recent piccies that I have provided to this Forum have simply used a standard overhead bulb - not daylight balanced - as in the case of this shot because the Olympus camera's class-leading IS permits long hand-held exposures and its auto white balance works a treat too. It is unusual not to have to use a flash or LEDs for product shots. One thing I do like about using LEDs is that you can see the effect of their light easily before taking a shot and adjust in real time which I find better than taking a flash piccie and then having to check the resulting image and resetting as required.
Manfrotto produce some superb LED lights - it's definitely worth checking their website.
I use halogens only when working with a microscope because they are very bright and continuos. But for normal use, I consider them too hot.
I heard some good things about LEDs, but for most of my artificial light shots I stick with my old, trusty, cheap, powerful Vivitar 283s in whatever set-up is warranted. For most EBAY and my website shots, I have a table-top studio with the addition of a Sunpak ringlight (12R, as I recall) -- and a couple of low-powered, tungsten spotlights for easy focusing. They all work great together, plugged into the AC power.
The pricing for anything from the major players would have been cost prohibitive to match what I wanted for CRI (95+) and Lumen/Output quality (+>2500) at a 2-3 meters light to subject distance for diffuse lighting. LED Panel lights that come close would run from $175 on up for each piece - mostly, up!. After a lot of searching for suitable replacements, I ended up going in the direction I didn't really want to and ordered cheap Chinese lights to initially test with, and that means severly shortening the distance from light to subject and dealing with deeper shadows. The output/falloff is horrible for still work with stopped-down apertures for the way I usually shoot.
Getting 3 lights (the minimum I'd use), now puts them on the stage itself, along with whatever I'm shooting. That also means they're not as diffuse as I'd hoped for, and their light falloff and low output makes it more of a pain when they have to be smaller and less obtrusive. And for the record, the claims made on cheapo light specs are usually wrong by a significant amount, or stupidly outrageous nonsense when put to the test. The compromise I leaned to, was that they'd have to be bi-color LED's at least, to match stray and ambient light - and each other - and one would be RGB capable, so that I didn't have to come up with some solution for using gels if I need colors or color correction.
After a 2 week wait to get light #3 - the RGB - and find some time to go through a few tests, I can get something close to the goal, but it's still not where it should be yet. Yes, I'm extremely picky, so this might be perfectly fine for some, but I have more to do before I'll say I'm done.
Don't mind the subject. It needs a thorough cleaning, and I forgot to yank the filter off. Shot at 1/80 sec., at f/8, with ISO 800. Zeiss VS 35-70mm on A7R.
The test setup shows the 3 lights, angles, distances, to get the shot above.
Quickly set up on a couch (so I can be lazy and comfortable), the white backing is a 24"x48" polystyrene 0.15" thick thermoplastic sheet, oriented vertically. Bi-color light #1 on the left, is 11 inches away from the lens rim, with bi-color #2 at 12" away, and the RGB is up a bit, and 14" away. Every light is set at 5600k, since that's as high as the bi-color's will go. Ambient lights are daylight balanced 5600k Par 30 LED spots in a ceiling track 6 feet away. After all that's pointed at that camera, you'd think that I wouldn't have to pump up the ISO to 800 in order to get a shutter of more than 1/60, at the depth of field I'm after.
The parts for a proper frame for the base, a pair of supports for side pieces (for reflectivity) and the vertical backing piece are on the way. I'm planning on adding an exsisting 24x36 softbox over the top and introduce a spare flash in that to kill of any harsh shadows and give a bit more light that should allow me to crank down the others. That also lends to the choice of bi-color lights to match white balance more easily.