September 27, 2010

video light for photography – positioning the light

A light source like a video light is comparatively unforgiving when you look at how easy it is to get beautiful results with flash and a large soft box. The smaller light source (video light) needs to be positioned with more specific intent than the larger soft box.

My starting point in using a video light is in looking how the shadow falls under the nose of my subject. I usually direct the person holding the video light to follow the movements of my subject, and keep the nose’s shadow under the nose as much as possible.

This of course is only a starting point in placing the light, and you should look for interesting ways in using the light when combined with how your subject is posed. Then there is always serendipity coming in to play when your assistant’s inadvertent changing in position and your subject’s change in position, gives you that fortunate and unexpected great image.

In first switching on the light, I hold it so that the light points overhead and above my subject. This way I don’t blind them with the sudden direct light. I also warn them not to look at the light. Then from above, my assistant will slowly bring the light into position.

I want to show some examples here of lighting patterns that I normally would avoid:

Here the light comes in at too great an angle to her face, and the shadow of her nose falls across her cheek. The light here also creates a weird pattern on the side of her mouth. The light was also held too low, and needs to be held higher.

Here the light is at the correct height, but is aimed too low, lighting up her arms and chest more. The sweet spot of the light needs to be aimed at her face. If the intention is to have your subject’s face slightly darker, accentuating something else, then that’s great.

With this simple portrait of Anelisa right at the top, I ‘feathered’ the light a little higher up, forcing an even greater light fall-off on her arms. This way her face is accentuated even more.

Here I wanted to show an image with the video light held too high, creating a shadow under her eyebrows. It’s not flattering.

Ultimately, our consideration here is to create light that is flattering or interesting. Our direction of light is crucial then. In that, using video light is no different than our approach in using flash or great available light.

Equipment used:

Camera: the classic 5D. The lens is the Canon EF 85mm f1.8 USM (B&H);
lighting with the Litepanels MicroPro LED video light (B&H)



help support this website

{ 11 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Sean S September 27, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Ever clear with easy to follow iterations.

Would be curious to see your CORRECTED version of the Rembrandt pattern in a final shot


2 Neil vN September 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Sean, with the video light, a Rembrandt light pattern isn’t something I’d purposely tried for on this occasion.

Neil vN


3 Stephen September 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Those are very useful comparison photos about where not to shine the video light.


4 Neil Patel September 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Hey Neil, these are amazing images created with light.


5 Erik September 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Funny, I like #2 best…more drama in the lighting.


6 Sheri J September 27, 2010 at 5:14 pm

very good illustration…. now to see if hubby will let me play with his new video light :)


7 shahn September 28, 2010 at 9:37 pm

How does the brightness compare of this Litepanel -vs- Lowel iD?
If you were to measure in f-stops…?


8 Neil vN September 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Shahn … I’m waiting for a Dedo LED-zilla to test against the Lowel ID-Light and LightPanels unit, and then I’ll post a proper comparative review. I hope to have that up in the next few weeks.

Neil vN


9 MJ October 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Hi Neil,

videolight is very better. I Order this one Video light 160LED in ebay. It`s cool to use. Very thanks for your tips.


10 Sean van Tonder October 29, 2010 at 9:26 am

Great work Neil. How do you correct the white balance of the LED lights


11 Neil vN October 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Sean … you absolutely have to shoot in RAW any way … and then WB correction becomes much easier.

The LitePanels MicroPro comes with different gels .. so the WB correction depends on the gel you’ve added, and the color you’d like.

Neil vN


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: