Experimenting with Light

Using LEDs for headshots and portraits


"It's not a purchase, it's an investment" is a phrase I've only used once, and that was at a trade show in London whilst wheeling out a Rotolight Neo 2 three-light kit. I'm a photographer without a car - I travel most places on public transport and for the last few years it's involved me carrying around a huge yellow suitcase with a stack of fluorescent bulbs inside. I turned up at one family home looking like I was about to move in.


The Neo 2's were lovely. Continuous bi-colour LED with HSS flash. Highly portable. Bright in doors with a nice fill when used outside. So I took them along to an event, all excited... and it was tough. The learning curve was high in the pressured environment of a meet and greet studio. I found I had shadows where I had none before, and guests found the LEDs distracting. I was stressed and, whilst all the customers were happy with their prints, they didn't meet my standards. I reverted back to my trusty fluorescents and before long lockdown happened and events were cancelled altogether.


So they might not have been suitable for my primary purpose, but something made me hang onto them. Before long I'd got barn doors for more control, an Elinchrom transmitter for off-camera flash and an Illuminator to soften the light further. And before long, the Neo 2s became a life-saver for working from home, creating a perfect ring light for Zoom and Microsoft Teams. They became a temporary light installation when I moved home, and helped me understand and practice headshot reflector techniques in a brief respite from lockdown last summer.

I loved being back on the road for Fantom Events April Signing Spectacular after around seven months away - but again, I was packing my kit into my big yellow suitcase, which was beginning to feel the strain. - as was I when I got home that night. Whilst I kept my fluorescents, the Neo 2's now became a third key light to balance out the shots, with a trusty second as interior lighting for our socially-distant TARDIS prop.

And so I bit the bullet. Relaunching Paul PW Photography needed to become serious. The fluorescents have been great, but they're becoming more battered and are wholly unsuitable for location or more subtle portrait work. If I'm in the Rotolight World, let's just jump in. Thanks to a special offer from Jason Lanier (and a handy interest free card...) I upgraded to the Aeos - probably the light I should have bought in the first place.


First impressions have been superb. Light to hold, soft, controllable. Last weekend, I tested out the Aeos for headshots and portrait work - and they delivered brilliantly. I tried a series of different combinations - left and right key lights with reflector and Neo 2 as fill; Left key light in an illuminator with second Aeos as fill, and all varieties in between. The small size of the Neo made it perfect for backlighting, either as a spotlight, or with projected gels.


I feel I'm still getting there, and I need more practice, but the Aeos will make their debut next week in the wild. Early days, but I'm loving the flexibility so far.


There's a special offer on headshots at the moment whilst I rebuild my portfolio and adjust to the new set up. Visit the Headshots and Socials page for 33% off the session fee and quote this blog in the contact form.


Plus, I need more models so I don't have to look at myself quite so much. Self portraits are tough on the soul...






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