All Photos Courtesy of Emily Voss
Recently I had the opportunity to try out the new LED Video Light Plus from Savage Universal. I received 2 of the video lights along with a barn door kit in the mail and couldn’t wait to start shooting. My photography has always been centered around light and I feel my knowledge and ability to control and shape light is what differentiates my work from other photographers. That being said I have only ever utilized strobes so the chance to try out a continuous light source was both exciting and nerve wracking! I have a very full grasp on what strobes can and cannot achieve but without a background in continuous light I was ready see and experience light in an entirely new way!
Upon unpacking the boxes I received from Savage Universal, I was pleased to see how lightweight and compact everything was. Additionally, I love the fact that the light can be plugged in or run by a very small battery that slides onto the side. I take my strobes with me on location and outdoors on nearly every shoot and therefore am forever lugging around heavy power packs and generators. The fact that the LED Video Lights are so compact and transportable made me fall in love at first sight! I immediately plugged the two lights in, unsure of what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the max output! My fear with continuous light systems has always been that they would never be bright enough to eliminate the need to have to push the ISO outside of my comfort zone. I immediately discovered they had a much wider output range than I had originally anticipated. The lights have a convenient dial on the light itself and also come with remote controls to adjust the power allowing you to make changes without leaving your shooting post.
For the test shoot with my new video lights I wanted to go all out and test the potential of the continuous light source. With continuous lights what you see is what you get so I decided to really push myself to create a unique set of images based on light and shadow. I love strong black and white images with a lot of contrast so right from the start I knew that the end result would be in black and white. I wanted an edgy, film noir feel to the series. To prepare for the shoot I recruited a model and makeup artist, compiled a mood board, collected a variety of materials I could use to cast shadows and tried my hand at making homemade cucoloris.
For those of you that have utilized cucoloris you know how difficult it is to find precision with them while using strobes. You do not know exactly where the shadows will fall until you fire the strobes and making the necessary subtle moves to frame your subject can be painstaking and tedious. In order to create a variety of types of shadows I decided to try my hand at making my very own cucoloris’. I purchased several 20”x30” boards of black foam core from the local art store and cut a variety of patterns to create negative space. I then utilized the pieces I had cut out of the foam core to assemble an additional piece to cast shadow on my subject. The trick to utilizing cucoloris’ successfully is to determine the distance from the light source and the subject. If you are looking for soft, dappled light you will want to position your shadow-casting object close to the light source and if you are looking for hard, defined shadows, you must move your cucoloris very close to the subject. The continuous light source makes it easy to experiment and see how the light is being shaped or manipulated which certainly lessens the frustration of trying to control errant shadows or highlights that can occur with strobes.
While typically my go-to portrait lens is the 70-200mm, I decided to go with my 80mm prime for this particular shoot. This allowed me to dial down my shutter speed but still have the ability to handhold the camera without camera shake. You could also use your tripod but after years of trying to convince myself to use a tripod I have simply decided they are too restricting and simply not for me. Throughout the shoot I varied my camera settings based on the materials I was using to shape the light as well as my depth of field. My ISO ranged from 300-1000, my shutter speed was around 1/100 and my aperture ranged from 2.8-5.6.
For the majority of the shoot I utilized one of the lights with the barn door on full power. This allowed for a very strong contrast in the shadows. I controlled the light by moving it toward or away from the model as opposed to dialing it up and down. The second light I used either as a back light on the opposite side of the main light to separate the model from the background or as a fill light at a very low power. Additionally I used a reflector and white foam core to bounce light and fill the shadows. I used black foam core for the opposite purpose of deepening shadows. With this wide array of tools I was able to create a diverse range of effects throughout the series of images!
In summary, I found that there are many advantages to the Savage LED Video Light Plus kits. I love the fact that what you see is what you get as it makes it much easier to shape intricate and dramatic shadows or eliminate shadows that you do not want to see in the image. It also makes it very easy to make immediate corrections and direct the model so that the light looks perfect before even wasting a shot! It is also very advantageous that you do not have to wait for the light to recycle and it is always a consistent output of light. I tend to shoot very quickly and I find that I don’t always allow enough time for my strobes to recycle which results in inconsistent output or images where some of the strobes are not triggered at all. I also love the fact that the lights are very cool and quiet which allows them to be used for video or photography purposes. Finally, the fact that they are lightweight and include a battery option is a huge benefit as it makes travel simple and convenient. I look forward to continuing to play with the LED Video Lights and discovering more ways in which to put their potential to full use!