Many of us have had the doubtful pleasure of shooting alongside a video team using hot halogen lamps at an Indian wedding. Gladly, this trend is quickly fading away as both photographers and videographers adopt the usage of the more advanced, and easy to use lights. Some photographers find flash, be it on-camera or off-camera, to be the best light solution, while others find them a bit intimidating. I am not a technical writer, but I’ve been using both flash, as well as LED lights, and although I love working with off-camera-flash, I think LED lights are under appreciated. I believe that young photographers, but not only, can extract an incredible value from LED lights as an alternative option for flash.

Shooting Indian Wedding with LED lights

I say nothing bad about working with off-camera-flash. Not at all. I actually love it myself.  After almost three years of working with Fuji cameras, and not being able to find a decent system of TTL triggers for off camera flash till recently, I am now shooting OCF again using the new RoboShoot tigers. These enable me to use my Nikon flash with the Fuji cameras on iTTL! Yes, quite revolutionary actually. I am super happy with this solution.

Off camera flash is a super amazing way of lighting, as many Indian wedding photographers already know. We’ve had Erika and Lanny give an amazing workshop at SILK INSPIRE 2016, and will have Zack Arias add to that in at his OneLight Workshop at the upcoming SILK INSPIRE 2017. However, working with LED lights have some great advantages.

My affair with LED lights started back in November 2010 at a wedding in Jaipur. We were shooting a sangeet at an open garden and I did not have enough light to shoot the couple coming in. I found myself following the video team who had a small LED mounted on the camera, and used their light for exposure. It then dawned on me that there is no real reason why I could not make use of the same kind of light. I found a cheap local light in Delhi, and mounted it on my camera. It looked something like this. (Photo by Sunny Pariani).

I was still using the big bulky Nikon cameras, and used the light just to fill-in deep shadows. This was the beginning. Prior to that, I used a hand held flash with this heavy beast of a camera held in one hand. That was NOT fun! The beginning was bad, but I eventually managed some pretty decent shots with off-camera LED light. All the images below were shot using LED lights.

The Pros & Cons for Using LED vs Flash

Knowing light is the first step. Understanding the quality and nature of light; direct, bounced or defused, is the first stage for any photographer. Selecting the tool should be based on what you want to achieve. Working with LED can be fun, and is very different than using flash. Here are the main differences the way I see it:

  • Easy to use – Not like working with a flash, when you use LED you actually see the image that you take. It is much easier to shoot this way, and control the light if you are only starting out in photography and not so comfortable with flash yet.
  • Cost – A good LED light, and I’m talking good stuff, will cost you a fraction of the price of a flash. I just bought some very exciting lights in Bangkok for ₹5,000 a head. Can you compete with this? There are many options in India, and the variety and quality keeps getting better. I recommend going for a unit that enables you to control the colour temperature of the light. This way you can use it well for tungsten or day light colour balance.
  • Power, Shutter speed and exposure – Here is the thing. Using flash enables you to work in higher shutter speed, and control available light easier. There is no way to overpower the sun with LED, so if you are looking at creating some underexposed sky images with well lit couples, a flash is your solution. If you want to underexpose the DJ lights on the dance floor, again flash is your solution.
  • Visibility – Working with LED also means that whoever it is that you shoot is well aware of you lighting him. You want to be stealth, don’t use LED.

What about you? Have you used LED as a main light source at Indian weddings? What is your experience? Having read this post, would you consider it, if you haven’t till now? Let us hear from you in the comments below.

I’m assuming many of you will have more questions on using LED as a light source at weddings. I will be doing a FACEBOOK LIVE event to discuss all this on Wednesday, July 19th at 9pm. The event will be live on SILK PHOTOS Facebook page.

Sephi Bergerson