Studio Light vs Video Light – Hard Light Served Two Ways


For my recent shoot with the fabulous Daria Fairway I wanted to create something sophisticated, simple and elegant using one light….

I wanted a definite shadow in shot and so knew that I wanted a relatively hard light source to achieve this.  I also intended the images to be a series of black & white photographs and wanted the white wall which I was shooting against to appear grey.  I knew that if I had too much light pointed in the direction of the wall it would blow to white and so I had to feather the light slightly away from it.  The light would then run slightly parallel to the wall reducing the spill onto the background.

As described in my shoot with Rebecca positioning the light is key when working with hard light as it is much less forgiving than a larger light source.  I started with a single studio light fitted with a 50º reflector, aiming for nice butterfly style shadowing under the models nose.  Or at least, a nice shadow that neither smears across the face or merges with the mouth.  A studio light is of course static when positioned and so I had to ensure the models face was in a direction that I knew would give a nice lighting pattern.  Daria is a pro at modelling and so most of my concentration in posing her simply related to the position of her head.  My task was easy!  Having the modelling light enabled on the studio light allows you to see where the light will fall on the models face, which helps here.

Here is a black and white image, much more in line with my original vision for the shoot…

Camera settings ISO 200, f/11, 1/125


Also in my kit bag I had my recently acquired led video light and was itching to give it a test drive.  My video light consists of 96 led’s which is a handheld battery powered unit.  Normally these little guys are used by videographers on top of their cameras but are becoming increasingly popular in stills photography.

No bigger than approx 15 x 10 cm it is portable and can be used to isolate light on our subject as opposed to flooding a room or space with light.  Being a small light source the photographer must carefully control how the light is positioned!  The light is dimmable and is a continuous light source as opposed to a pulse of light from a flash unit or studio light.  Therefore you have a fantastic ‘what you see is what you get’ approach to the light.  The led light is daylight balanced by default but mine comes with a magnetic filter which will change the light to a warmer tungsten white balance if required.

The image below was taken with the video light….I was still able to achieve a similar lighting effect to that of the studio light.

Camera settings ISO 1250, f/4, 1/125


As you will see from the settings there is an approximate 5 stop difference compared to the studio light.  ISO 1250 is an acceptable setting to shoot at these days with modern cameras controlling noise so well.  I would quite happily crank this up further still if needed.  A couple of quick test shots got me to my chosen settings.

What really excites me about the led video light is, as mentioned above, being able to isolate the subject with flooding a room with light. I got a glimpse of that potential in the below image.  I love it and cannot wait to take this out on location!


The magnificent dress was supplied by Nikki Glamragzz. I finally opted to put some colour into these images to show of the richness of the dress and give them a slightly vintage feel which seemed fitting for the shots.  The make up and hair styling were provided by Miriam King who also assisted in holding the video light in place!

For those that are interested, more images from the shoot can be seen here


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