Most photographers would agree that the best lighting you can get is already given to us by Mother Nature. Natural light is amazing. It can be harsh with deep shadows on a cloudless day. It can be soft and almost shadowless when the sun is not visible behind a cover of white clouds. It can be a mix of both, or lots of other scenarios depending on your location, weather, and time of day. Simply put, it is beautiful!
But the beauty comes with a price. We can’t control it. We can’t even predict conditions with 100% accuracy. So many photoshoots got ruined because of a sudden change of weather conditions. So many great shots were underexposed or overexposed because of the moving clouds.
Professional commercial photography is not only about being a good photographer with a great eye but also about being prepared for any eventuality and taking responsibility for the result. That is why photographers use artificial lighting for their photoshoots. They might aim at recreating a natural-light look or they might be creating something unusual. In both cases the most important factor is control.
For the last 15 years I have been working in a photography industry and have tried almost all available lighting solutions available to photographers. From on-camera speedlights to studio flashes, from halogen Redheads to fluorescent tubes by Kino Flo, from metal halide Arri units to LED lights. I loved them all and they all serve their purpose well. But with time, and because of my inclination to shoot more artistic and personal projects, I’ve started to build lights myself. Most of commercially available lighting solutions have had some disadvantages. Some were simply too heavy to handle, some too bulky and difficult to operate, some too fragile, and some too power-hungry. And most of them - too expensive. I wanted to create ideal lights which would be powerful enough for a staged and controlled photography; light and flexible, highly customisable, economical to run and cheap in production.
Solution was obvious - LED lights. They are combining all the required attributes and, most importantly, the industry is still evolving, and every month LED producers create ever better products which I’m happy to use for my lights and photography.
At this point, for most of my photoshoots, I’m using the following setup:
Before building my lights, I’ve done some research into LED technology and was lucky to discover Yuji LED. I ordered 100W COB and 50W COB from them and was blown away by the quality of light and similarity to the light from the sun it offered. To the point that I was even using it in our office during winter months (here in Latvia we have terribly dark and long winters with only about 6 hours of daylight and more often than not weeks on end without a single sunny day). It really helps to stay positive and optimistic as your brain is fooled into thinking that this is in fact daylight and that it is a bright and sunny day outside. So what makes this LED from Yuji so special? There are two main factors which are very important for photographers and videographers - the outstandingly high CRI number and pure white light with no chromaticity shift.
CRI of the sunlight is 100. Most LED from your local building warehouse or lighting shop will have CRI of 60 to 80. Lighting made for photography will have CRI 80+. All LED products by Yuji have got CRI from 95 to 98.
Colour accuracy of Yuji Led is also superb. I run my own postproduction studio and do a lot of high-end retouching and colour grading for other photographers, advertising agencies and production houses. And I can often see the difference in saturation and colour of RAW files from different photographers. We all use various lighting setups and it all influences the final result. The better your lights are, the less postproduction work is required. My 100W and 50W COB from Yuji gives me such beautiful colour that often I don’t even do grading at all.
Here is some samples where only DIY LED lights were used.