LED Lighting

July 10&12, 2020

I’ve been looking for a photography project and decided to pull out my LED lighting panels. I have an Aputure HR672S panel and two smaller Aputure H198 panels. I gave up on using these a year or so ago because even using the provided diffusers they give a harsh light that leaves shadows and shiny spots. I even purchased an off brand external diffuser for the HR672S but it didn’t fit well. Then I realized that the light pole adapter I’m using has an umbrella mount. Hmmm.

I mounted the large light shooting through a white umbrella to the front left of the subjects – about the 7 o’clock position. I then put a smaller light at the 3 o’clock position pointing across to the 9 o’clock position to knock light up the back sides of the subjects and knock down shadows. The final smaller panel was at the 9 o’clock position shining toward the back wall at the 12 o’clock position to get some reflective light on the subjects.

I pulled out my lighting subjects and took some pictures.

LED Lighting Sample

Not bad, no discernible shadows and good overall lighting. However, these subjects are all made of wood, so I picked some reflective surfaces.

LED Lighting Sample

The glass and metal lid have a bit of shine on them but, definitely acceptable. Here is another mix with a reflective surface.

LED Lighting Sample

My next go ’round was to use the setup for a regular cooking shoot. I was cooking a dish I made in June: Crispy Tofu with garlic-honey sauce. You can find the I Am A Food Blog post/recipe here. The light in that shoot came from two Godox speedlights shooting through umbrellas.

For this shoot I took off the stock diffuser panel off the 672 but still shot through a white umbrella. Here are some typical shots from one of my cooking posts you can compare with that previous cook. The product shots include two highly reflective surfaces. You can see a bit of sheen but it’s not glary,

Coconut rice ingredients
Crispy Tofu ingredients.

Nice. No big reflections.

Here is my favorite picture of the shoot: I’m pressing the moisture out of the tofu – good light under the overhanging iron weight.

Pressing liquid out of the tofu

Sliced and ready to toss with cornstarch and bake.

We’ll dust the tofu chunks in corn starch for baking

This picture is a little dark on the left side.

I roasted the tofu according to directions, then tossed in a warm sauce of garlic, honey, and soy sauce.

Baked tofu tossed in garlic/honey/soy sauce

In my last post on this dish I wrote that next time I’d serve it directly over rice instead of on the side.

Crispy Tofu with garlic/honey/soy sauce

I baked the tofu a bit longer than last time and they got a bit darker. By the way, if you are a kimchi fan, and you live in Portland, try Choi’s Radish Kimchi. Instead of cabbage you get nice chunks of daikon (?) radish in that spicy kimchi sauce.

When cleaning up, I was struck by the residue on the parchment paper the tofu was baked on. Better here than on the sheet pan where I’d have to scrub it off.

Tofu residue on parchment paper after baking.

I still give it ★★★★ stars – we eat this on the regular.

What are my thoughts on using the LED light panels?

On the Pro side, the lighting was nice. And shooting using permanent lights makes adjusting camera settings for the lighting much easier. I was easily to get the correct white balance using an 18% gray card. When using a flash, I usually adjust the white balance in LightRoom using a picture of the white balance card. And setting exposure parameters using speedlights takes a few pictures to get everything right.

I had two big and one small problems with the lighting. The small problem was that I was using a small (6-inch) Joby multi-node tripod for one of the small H198 panels. Try as I might, it kept tipping over. The panel was too top heavy. On the other side of the counter, the Manfrotto MTPIXI-B performed like a champ. Easy solution: I ordered a small Amazon Basics desktop tri-pod similar to the Manfrotto to replace the Joby.

The light panels just don’t put out the bright light that flashes do. Shooting through the umbrella required me to push the Exposure Compensation ⅓ to 1 stop. That isn’t horrible, even using my light hungry Sony RX100M7, increasing the EC my ISO was low.

Finally, these panels suck the power. The large panel uses 2 large NP-F690/NP-F970 batteries. The small panels use one NP-F770/F750/F730 battery each. Even turning them off between photos, I used 50% – 67% of the batteries. I’d be pushing my luck trying to use these for a long cook. And it takes a few hours to recharge the larger batteries. Maybe I’ll buy some extra batteries if I can find some inexpensive ones.

I’ll also try the Aputure EZ Box+ II Diffuser Softbox. This is a newer model than the model that got such poor reviews a couple of years ago. We’ll see. Apparently I got one of the last ones on Amazon since it is not available now. At least it is still on the Aputure sight. I’ll let you know what I think.

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