LED lighting hype ?

In the last few years LED’s have become very common as a source of light for us image-making types.  As someone who in the early 2000’s started a company to produce LED lighting based fixtures for film and television, I guess I’ve known about the pros and cons for a while.

With such a highly monochromatic light source, even using red green and blue LED lights combined to make white, you still end up with a very “spiky” source of light.  There are lots of colours that aren’t “lit” by the narrow bands of colour these LEDs emit.  This means accurate colour reproduction is very difficult to obtain…if the colour isn’t emitted, then it won’t be reflected back to the camera.

White LED’s also suffer similar problems…they are usually blue LED’s that are doped to emit other colours, but usually very feebly.

When we look at the specs of these lights, we look at CRI or Colour Rendering Index, which describes how evenly across a spectrum of colours the light emitted will be.  A high CRI is better than a low CRI.  Tungsten is typically up around 99.  Most KinoFlo’s are 90-95.  A normal fluro tube might be as low as 80. Sodium vapour street lighting might be as low as 20-30.

Art Adams has done a very interesting comparisons of the commonly available LED based lighting.  What it does show, is that LEDs still have a long way to go with regards to accurate colour reproduction.

So should they be avoided ?  Of course not.  but it helps to know that some lighting is more appropriate than others.  If I want accurate and flattering skin tones, I probably wouldn’t want to be using LED’s.  But they are great when you need low power and low profile lighting !

Have a look at the test here and click on how does it look bottom left…be surprised…

To see who the test was done go here


And yes, I still have the prototypes of the LED lighting units I had made at the time, including a ring light. I spent thousands of dollars, but was never really able to solve the same issues, much less get it to market.

About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
This entry was posted in Lighting, Philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to LED lighting hype ?

  1. Thanks for this, Mr. Brawley. I am using an LED. I think on small spaces they offer a lot more flexibility. But, they can be problematic for achieving the best image for the situation.

    • johnbrawley says:

      Hi Greg.

      I’m certainly not advocating abandoning LED lights but it’s important to know that they have their own issues. I use them daily, but with an informed knowledge of their colour reproducing shortcomings !


  2. Ya I like it. Its very informative post. Thanks for share it. A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor light source. LEDs are used as indicator lamps in many devices and are increasingly used for other lighting. Introduced as a practical electronic component in 1962, early LEDs emitted low-intensity red light, but modern versions are available across the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared wavelengths, with very high brightness.

  3. earnestkroell says:

    led rgb controller I believe that the LED’s will be encased in a bulb with a reflective coating that will disperse the light, being diode based, cost will ultimately be reduced by mass production, smaller arrays will allow for higher light levels.

  4. richreilly says:

    It would be great to revisit this with current tech…Litepanels Astra , Area 48, ARRI L7 etc.

    • johnbrawley says:

      Hello again.

      I’ve used most of the “newer” ones you’ve mentioned. Area 48’s are great by the way. I think we’re at the point where they are “good enough” but it’s always going to depend on what you’re doing…


      • richreilly says:

        Any thoughts on the Astra? Certainly bright as well as durable…witnessed a demo where one was thrown a short distance to floor. Seem to have encountered a positive review regarding color as well. Although I work with Area 48 and L7 of a client’s, I’m curious about Astra since It doesn’t cost as much as the vehicle I own 😉
        Although I haven’t been able to try it, I am intrigued by the possibility of using cool fixtures like these closer..dimed..so as to increase effective size of light source in a way that hot lights can’t.

  5. richreilly says:

    Btw, if you haven’t encountered them yet, Mole has some updated LED versions of some of their classics..including my personal fave, the baby soft. I’m biased because I still have two tungsten baby softs that I like for their light quality and ease of setup…considering the egg crate just drops right in. I know..I’m a Luddite 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s