Mixing Flash and LED Light: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey


in this video I’ll show you how to combine low-cost LED bulbs and flash in a small home studio. Hello, I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching Adorama TV brought to you by Adorama the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers .. Now normally when I’m shooting in my small home studio the lighting I use is some kind of flash, it’s really versatile, it’s really bright, much brighter than the LEDs that I’m using right now to light me, but today I’m actually gonna do a shoot where I’m balancing flash and LED. The LEDs are actually gonna be these little small household LED bulbs, my first problem is it’s not very bright, certainly not compared to flash, but luckily I’ve got quite a lot of them, so I need to balance the exposure to get the look I’m after, and then I’ve got other problems like, are they the same white balance.. Will that work with flash, well there’s only one way to find out, that’s to finish the styling here, then we’ll get a light set, get a model in, and get shooting. So to help me out today I’ve got the amazing Gracie. Gracie’s gonna be the model for this, and as you can see I’ve turned my studio into this sort of behind the scenes dressing room sort of look here, and that’s what we’re gonna use for the shot, but what about the lighting? Well for this, I’m going to combine lighting types, but my theory is always if the ambient light is good enough use that. Well the ambient light for this shot is actually gonna come from the mirror itself, which I’ve put all these little light bulbs around, and these are giving really good light, so maybe before I add in the flash, I should see how it looks with just the ambient light. Okay let’s take a few shots, that’s lovely, and if you can look into the reflection of yourself… so going to stare straight into your own reflection. That’s great… these ambient light only shots look really good, but there is a couple of things to consider. First of all I’ve got no control over the spread of the light, so it’s bouncing all around my studio lighting everything up, and that’s being reflected in the mirror, so it limits where I can shoot next. Gracie can only face the mirror, the moment she turns around and looks away from the mirror, then no light reaches her face, and this shot doesn’t work, so that’s where I’m gonna use flash, to make this shot better. Now if I was shooting on location, I’d try and work out the ambient exposure… under expose a little bit, and then fill with flash, and that’s exactly what I’m gonna do with this scenario. The ambient light today is the light bulbs, so let’s try and figure that exposure out. First I’m gonna switch to manual mode, I’m going to dial in an aperture of f/28 wide open on this lens, and let’s go with my flash sync speed, 250th of a second with a nice low ISO, of a 100, so at those settings I’ve got some detail inside the light bulbs, and a little bit of detail in the surrounding area too. At this point, I need to think about color, according to the box these LED bulbs came in, they have a color temperature of around about 2700 K. Now if I shoot at 2700 K that means they’ll produce white light, but that’s not the look I’m going for. I want that warm tone, so I’m going to increase my camera’s white balance to 4700 K which gives that nice warm tone to the bulbs. So for the flash I’m using the Explorer 400, and it’s in a long thin strip box. I want to work out the light I’m shooting at f/2.8, so I’m hoping that’s what it’s going to be, let’s just take a test reading. I pop this under your chin, and my flash meters at f/2.8, so I’m good to go. Let’s take a test shot, see how this looks, so again if you can look straight ahead… Flash produces light that has a color temperature that’s around about 5600 K but I’m shooting at 4700 K, which means my flash is in effect slightly blue in tone. I could just increase my white balance to match the flash, but then the bulbs would become even more orange in color, but in this case what I’d like to do is try and balance the color of my light bulbs with the color of the flash. Now I can’t change the light bulbs, so I’m going to change the flash with a little bit of gel… I’ll slide in front of the flash, to make that a warmer tone of color closer matching the light bulbs, so that’s the lighting in place, but it’s worth remembering with this setup, Gracie can’t look towards the mirror, because well we’ve exposed for her face being lit by flash, so she has to keep looking in this direction. We’ll get a reverse shot where she’s looking in the mirror in a minute, because that is a bit more tricky. Let’s get some shots like this, Gracie are you ready, okay, here we go. It’s gonna stretch your legs out, and stretch yourself back… that’s okay… let’s give you something to interact with pick a prop, surely has got to be that one doesn’t it? The reason I’m using a strip box for this setup, is purely down to controlling the spread of the light. Now if you don’t have a strip box, you could get broadly the same effect by using a standard softbox, and making it appear thinner with a couple of flags or v flats so what if you want Gracie looking into the mirror, how can I light with the leds and flash, well it takes a little bit more work but it is possible, so what I’ve got now is an explorer 200, with a snoot and that’s important, because I’m gonna fire light and just hit this mirror area… the light will bounce off the mirror, and into Gracie’s face. It does need a bit of precise adjusting, and you might find that some of the pictures work and others don’t, but the basic principle is exactly the same as before. Work out the exposure for the ambient and then add in the flash, so I’ve got the flash set up. I’m shooting at f/2.8, let’s just take a test meter reading see what we get. I’m gonna pop this where Gracie’s face will be, and I’m getting f/2.8, so we’re good to go. Let’s take a test shot, and see how this looks. So Gracie, if you can look into the mirror for me, and that looks absolutely great.. Okay let’s take some pictures like this, the snoot also has the same orange gel stuck on the front, and as a bit of a bonus it gives a lovely hair light to separate Gracie from the background… which was a little bit of a happy accident. Well no shoot would be complete in my studio, if I didn’t add some smoke and I think in this scene, it would add some really great atmosphere. Now for this to work, I’m going to use both lights, so I’m back to having my key light in the strip-box, and I’ve still got the Evolve 200… but this time I’ve got much wider beam of light. First of all make sure that your lights are right before you add the smoke, because once it’s in the room it’s really hard to take it away. Let’s take a test picture… here we go and that’s going to look absolutely amazing, so let’s get Sam in, let’s get some smoke going, let’s do a shoot. Gracie you ready.. okay… from this side of the dresses as well, Gracie, right grab your props… what I love about smoke is, it makes my shoots a little bit unpredictable, and that’s really exciting, but to get the very best out of smoke, be prepared to quickly adjust your camera settings or your flash settings as you’re going along. I often joke that smoke in my small home studio makes everything look better, but today it really did look good, especially when it was combined with these 4 watt LED bulbs, now if you’ve enjoyed this video leave me a comment below and of course click on the Subscribe button, to get all the notifications of the brand new videos right here on AdoramaTV. Click on the bell icon… I’m Gavin Hoey thanks for watching.

95 Replies to “Mixing Flash and LED Light: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. Thank you sir. I always love your cinematic Hollywood theme shoots the costumes, the makeup, the smoke is all make for a really compelling image. Given me many ideas and many reasons to practice and I am loving it. This is one of your best. Keep them coming please

  2. Thank you for all your videos, but this particular one just helped me realize an issue I was having the other day when I was mixing LED and flash. You are the best! Awesome work. 😁

  3. This was a very good tutorial. As are all of your tutorials Gavin. I like how you give instruction in shoots that I’d actually like to do myself.

  4. Excellent, but could you include some Photoshop tips/tricks in future videos (like you used to do). Many thanks.

  5. When you are having photo through mirror, where you focus (the refection of subject in mirror, On mirror or on subject, especially when we had very short DOF) I always struggled with that. Please any one help me.

  6. I've enjoyed all of your videos, Gavin, and your results are always striking. Always appreciate your tips, as well as your enthusiasm!

  7. I have never done portrait photography before, but I have to say i absolutely love your videos. You are so creative and always have such perfect props! You are the master!!

  8. Gavin, great video! I've a question: I've a similar Glow softbox (mine is 36"X36"). When you placed the CTO inside the box, did you purposely omit the reflector dish so the gel could work better or did you replace it off camera?
    Cheers!

  9. Is that a brownie camera I see? I just bought one last week and it works! It made the shoot have a more retro feel! Love it!
    I also just bought a Kodak No 3 model 2B and it works as well!

  10. Ha ha shiny surfaces are tricky. No matter how much you clean the mirrors they always show up smudges you don't need.

  11. Another brilliant tutorial, Gavin. I believe I've watched all of them (including before you joined the Adorama team) and this ranks as one of the best. 👏👏👏

  12. WOW! When I saw the photo in instagram I thought that this was shot in REAL DRESSING ROOM! The atmosphere of the dressing room os awesome, and I've just found out that this was Gavin's studio! Great photograther, always new creative ideas

  13. Wonderful tutorial!!! Quick question. Around the 6:13 mark you used a light meter, What type of case is it in? I have a Sekonic 478d and wa looking for a carry solution to use in the field and in the studio. Thanks!

  14. Another great ´´Gavindeo’´ . I really like your photo projects. Always very entertaining and superbe. 👍

  15. It’s amazing how you and Sam manage to create scenes like this in your small home studio Gavin. This one was particularly impressive and the images looked fantastic.. Very inspirational and educational!

  16. Gavin, do you find that there are any downsides to using a smoke machine? I'm thinking of picking one up for some toy photography and would be using it in my finished basement. I wouldn't be using it heavily, but I would like to have some input from someone who has used one for years. Also, great video as always!

  17. Many photographic concepts (balancing ambient with flash, using gels for effect, composition, smoke, color temperature) were demonstrated in this excellent video. Gavin thank you for teaching us.

  18. Your videos are amazing! I didn’t experience the time of Bob Ross but I feel like you are my Bob Ross of photography! Thanks you so much for your hard work and amazing creative ideas.

  19. excelente Gavin, siempre brindando esos conocimientos que alimentan nuestra pasión fotográfica…. Saludos desde Venezuela…

  20. Nice work, as always. Two questions:

    1) why did you choose LED lights vs. incandescent that could have a higher output (or, use higher output LEDs)?
    2) If using LED, why not choose more daylight balanced lights and forgo the need to gel the key light(s)?

  21. Hello I'm just starting out as a very amature love you styling and your tutorials where do you find your props thank

  22. Gavin , from your video in this low light situation it seems your Oly did not miss a beat as far as focus and that slams the myth that Olympus suffers in low light situation

  23. Greats photographers can do everything no matter how big the studio is. Thank you very much Gavin for your great job on doing such beautiful videos. Again, thank you very much indeed.

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