LED lighting will play a crucial role in the evolution of photography. I’ve dreamed of a specific light my entire career and LED technology makes that light possible. The light would be small yet bright, dimmable and with adjustable color. This light would run cool and quite on battery power. That’s exactly what LEDs can do.
LED lights are quickly replacing all forms of lighting. In most cases it’s just a better technology. Just look for a flashlight or camping lantern and you’ll see what I mean. My friends at 360s.com have developed a light engine that will be manufactured for mobile operating rooms. This LED light source replaces traditional incandescent systems, and it lasts over 4x longer than other lights using similar battery packs . I’ve been playing with one of these “light engine” prototypes and I love it. It’s shows incredible potential as a photographic light: bright, cool, adjustable, and small.
Look for manufactures of all sorts of photography lighting to move to LED sources in the coming years. As I said before, it’s simply a superior photography technology. I’m curious weather or not these lights could be “pulsed” like a strobe. An LED light that could turn on for a 1/4000 of a second would replace the need for standard on-camera flash and studio strobe systems . At the very least, manufacturers will replace modeling lights with LEDs and compact flash units will become hybrid lights.
The move to hybrid cameras that shoot both stills and video is driving a need for continuous lighting. Also, strobes can’t keep up with the frame rates that are possible with today’s cameras. HDR imaging also requires a continuous light source because shutter speed adjustments are necessary for exposure changes (changing the aperture changes pixel alignment).
Strobes are available and usable in far brighter ranges than LEDs, however I find this unnecessary. An LED equivalent to a 6400 watt second strobe would blind everyone on the set. For portrait work, I’m often using 1600WS lights on their lowest settings and sometimes adding neutral density to dim them down. Modern DSLRs do an excellent job at higher ISOs like 400-800, so the need for all the power has really diminished.
There is already an abundant selection of stage lighting and architectural lighting available in LED. There are also many on camera video lights and ring lights for macro work. Larger arrays of LEDs for studio and location lighting are available, but the selection is limited. I do expect there to be a vast selection of adjustable color LED lights with available within two years.
Many of these lights are controllable by a stage lighting communications protocol called DMX
Here are a few LED Lighting resources: