flash photography techniques
off-camera flash  ~  video lights for photography  ~  flash photography elements

using video lights in photography

In addition to using various speedlights and flashguns, I also use video light as additional lighting with stills photography. Using video light in a scenario where tungsten light is the dominant source of light, helps in achieving a more natural look.  Video light is also a continuous light source, making immediate changes to the lighting intuitive – what you see is how it will appear.

Since a video light is a small light source (compared to a flash with a softbox or umbrella), it will lend a more dramatic look to  portraits. It has a specific aesthetic, and coupled with the direct intuitive way the light can be used, a video light can add more variety to your portraits.

using LED video light for photography from Neil van Niekerk on Vimeo.

articles on the use of video light in photography

Also, check out the blog category for video lighting for stills photography for updates.


the video lights I use

There’s a variety of video lights available on the market.

The two that I currently use are:
– the Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor), and
– the Lowel ID-Light (vendor)

The Litepanels Croma LED video light – it is compact; doesn’t run hot and works off  AA batteries. The color balance can be continuously changed from Incandescent WB to Daylight WB.


The other video light I use is a system based around the Lowel ID-Light. I use the Lowel ID-light with the XLR power connector. Other options are available. The Lowel ID-light is fairly powerful as these lights tend to go.  The system includes barndoors and diffusers to manipulate the light.


next section:  just ambient light


video tutorials to help you with flash photography

If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.


photography books by Neil vN

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{ 28 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Phil Barnett August 21, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Hi Neil, I’ve recently purchased a similar video lighting setup, based much on your recommendations here. Do you find that the tension screw that keeps the head from pivoting stays put? If I bump the light or hold the handle at an angle where the head is cantilevered from the handle, the head easily pivots. I’m wondering if after time it becomes looser, or if the whole purpose of a tension screw is to keep it on the verge of easy adjustment. I’m thinking back on old tripod mounts and flash grips that almost required pliers to tighten down for use.


2 Neil vN August 23, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Phil, I have to agree – the way the head is tightened onto the stem / handle, isn’t the most elegant design. I too need to adjust the tension knob several times during a shoot.

Neil vN


3 Fred Reed August 28, 2009 at 11:11 am

Hello Neil, I’m a big fan of your work and follow your tips. I recently purchase some Lowel equipment at an auction. Got a hell of a deal. The equipment is as follows: 3x Tota light, 3x Omni-light, 3x DP light. Do you think I can get the same result as the ID Light in which you use as the equipment I have?


4 Neil vN August 29, 2009 at 2:14 am
Fred, I had to go have a look at the Tota-Omni lighting kit to actually see what you are referring to. It certainly looks like a serious kit!

You would definitely be able to get the same results .. however, the kit you have consists of light stands and umbrellas as well. And this implies a more static approach.

The beauty of a video light or two, held up by an assistant, is that it is very portable. You can set something up, shoot, and then quickly move on.

There is an additional side-effect (and often a benefit), to the video lights being hand-held. Your assistant will purposely or inadvertently change position of the lights .. thereby changing the way the light falls on your subject .. frame by frame.

With a more static set-up you would gain more predictability, but also lose that serendipitiy factor of stumbling onto a specific way the light falls that just works beautifully. Unexpectedly so.


Neil vN


5 Fred Reed August 29, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Thanks Neil!!


6 Warren February 21, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Hi Neil

I’ve just purchased a second hand Lowel ilight. I’ve tried using it during the daylight, but it doesn’t seem to have enough grunt to work. I’m guessing that it’s used to fill in shadows (when in open shade) or as a key light when it’s getting dark. Also, the light seems quite harsh on your subject’s eyes, but if I feather it, it doesn’t seem powerful enough to beof much use!!!!?


7 Neil vN February 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Warren, the light type you get from a video light will be fairly harsh. It certainly isn’t soft. But what we’re chasing here is the dramatic quality that this kind of light can give us. It needs specific attention to how you position the light. In comparison to that, using a softbox is much more forgiving.

Check this page for some advice on how I position the video light when doing portraits.

The video light certainly isn’t strong enough for use in daylight. You’d need something akin to a deer light to even make a difference in daylight.

With settings around 1/180 @ f2.8 @ 800 ISO … the video light is obviously for indoor or low-light use only.

I hope you settle into this … there’s some amazing work created with just a video light. : )


Neil vN


8 claybrook May 24, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Excellent resources as usual! Thank you! A couple questions – Can that light fit on a typical light stand? And about how long does that battery last if the light is on full or almost full power?

Finally, for Neil or anyone else – any other video light recommendations for still photography? Thanks a million!!


9 Neil vN May 28, 2010 at 1:08 am

Hi there .. The light does fit onto a lightstand, and screws into position.

The battery lasts about 15-20 minutes with continuous light. It doesn’t sound like much, but the way we use it for stills, it is enough. You just light your subject for short periods before setting up again.

I’m looking at reviewing some LED lights, and see how they stack up.

Neil vN


10 claybrook May 28, 2010 at 7:18 pm



11 Rowan September 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Hi Neil
You are a mine of information !
I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind. Do you use the Lowel diffuser much and the snoot at all?

What wattage of bulbs do you use ?

How far from the subject do you put the light (close as you can or a fixed distance)and do you use it mainly at full power.

I shoot weddings and I find Brides think the light is blinding them, it may be because I use it too close and too much power.

One last question, do you ever use two lights on a bride-one main light source and a second to soften the shadows on the face.

I live in Ireland and was wondering if you are coming over for a seminar at any stage. I would be first in line to buy my ticket!

Cheers Neil


12 Neil vN September 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Rowan .. I have the diffuser disc, but it cuts down considerably on the power of the light, so I tend not to use it. I do use the barn-doors though to create interesting shapes to the way the light falls off.

I mostly use the light at full power, and hold it above my subject at about 6-8 feet away.

The light is very bright. Best is not to switch the light on and then lift the light up to height. Rather, hold the light above them, pointing up … switch the light on (still pointing it up), and then rotate your hand until the light shines on them. THis way, the light “rolls in” from above, and it isn’t this sudden sharp bright light in their eyes.

Also, it helps in how you pose them. THey don’t have to look at the camera or in the direction of the light. If the bride drops her gaze and snuggles in with the groom, the light from the video-light can look romantic and intimate.

For boudoir I often work with two lights, since I have them on light-stands .. and have the time to adjust them. With the romantic portraits at a wedding, the tempo is usually quite fast, and then I work with just one light. Simplicity is easier then.

Ireland workshop in 2011 .. it’s a near-definite. Subscribe to the email list to be kept up to date.


Neil vN


13 David January 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Hi Neil,
I love your blog and the information you give.
Please, tell me, to have a narrow/spot beam of light, is it enough the barndoors or do you have to use the snoot?
Thank you!


14 David January 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Also, between Lowel ID Light NiMH Kit, Cigarette Lighter Connector and XLR connector, which one do you recomand? Thank’s


15 Neil vN January 20, 2011 at 11:38 pm

The Lowell ID-light can be focused to an extent. (See the comparative review for example shots of the difference between wide & tight.) The barn doors are also quite effective in controlling the light spill. So personally, I wouldn’t bother with a snoot for this.

I have the version with the XLR connection. I’m sure the one with the cigarette lighter connector has it’s uses, but I don’t need it.

Neil vN


16 William January 27, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Can you provide some links to where you use the MicroPro ?
I am trying it out and love to see how it is used by others.



17 William January 27, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Just to follow up on my last message, I mean another link on your site other than the review of the MicroPro. Thanks


18 Neil vN January 30, 2011 at 3:53 am

William, the links mentioned on the main post, should have more examples scattered in there.

Here are three specific posts showing work with the Litepanels:

romantic wedding portraits with video light
lighting ideas for the romantic wedding portraits
positioning the handheld video light

Neil vN


19 Tony February 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Hi Neil

If you had to chose just one between the ‘lowel id’ and the ‘MicroPro’which would you choose and why?


20 Neil vN February 5, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Tony … I would choose the LitePanels over the ID-light. Even though it has less light, it runs for longer, and doesn’t become hot, and is more compact.

Neil vN


21 Tony February 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Hi Neil, thanks for that, it’s very useful to know your view as I thinking of purchasing one or the other. I have used the ID light and I love the results but they are heavy and awkward to carry. How much is the difference in power between the two? if say you were running the Lowel on a 50 watt bulb?

Just as a matter of interest five minutes ago I saw an ID light sell on eBay, over here in the UK, for £400 (second hand) which is increadible when you can but them new for £365


22 Neil vN March 25, 2011 at 2:30 am
23 Stephanie Zettl May 6, 2011 at 12:12 am

I have several different LED video lights including the Lightpanel and the Fancier 126 light. The Lightpanel is about $300 and the Fancier is about $60. In terms of the quantity of light output they are about the same. But in terms of quality of light and color balance of the light, the Lightpanel wins, hands down. I’ve been frustrated lately with the green color caste of the Fancier light. When I am working in B&W it doesn’t really matter, but for color work, the Lightpanel is much better.


24 larissa September 3, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Hi Neil

Your advice on this site has been incredibly helpful. I found your site 2 days ago and have barely left the screen since! I think this has to be the best site out there. Can I please ask your advice on my dilemma…. I have had lots of requests to shoot boudoir and burlesque… but having read all your advice and looked at all your shots I’m still not sure which is the best to go for Lightpanel or the Lowel ID… I want those beautifully lit, dramatic shots, as simple as possible so I can concentrate on the model. I’m leaning towards lightpanel based on the short battery life of the Lowel…. many thanks…


25 Shane terney January 15, 2012 at 8:05 am


I have seen lowel id lights in the states much cheaper my question is, would they work over here in the UK as regard voltage etc….


26 Trev January 16, 2012 at 11:19 am


The Lowel ID lights run on battery, so voltage is not a concern as they are normal 12 volt battery operated.

I am in Australia and I got 2 Lowel IDs out of B&H far cheaper than here in Oz, but I did not get the battery from them, I went down to a motorcycle place, bought a motorcycle 12v sealed battery and it lasts for over an hour or more, have not actually tested it running full, since it does a full wedding for me on the one battery.

Even bought a battery nylon case which zips up, just leaving the XLR connector sticking out, neat and tidy. Heavier than others you buy but far more durable and longer lasting. I have 2 batteries and they are over 3 years old, still run strong.

You also need to purchase the male XLR connector to fit into the one supplied as the other end of this is what I connect to the battery with the push on clips onto the battery terminals.

Also purchased the special charger locally here to charge them.




27 Irina June 29, 2012 at 11:28 am

I somehow stumbled upon your website and just wanted to say how much I am so grateful that I have. Such a great plethora of information and it’s all so well organized.. and it all makes sense! I’ve always had such a fear of lighting – basically because I don’t know how to use it well enough. But your site and the information you’ve put forth will definitely help me with my issues and will broaden my horizon. I will be studying and practicing from it for the next several days. Thank you thank you thank you!!!


28 Aydin Odyakmaz April 7, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Being a videographer , filmmaker for years this works well for me , so will try using it for my next photo shoots. The light I have used after many that I like the most is the Torch LED by Switronix. It is adjustable between 3200/5600k and is very powerful, I have two of these and even use them for interviews . Thanks for the tips on angles etc. My first time on the blog, have two of your books on Photo Lighting.


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