Mixing Flash and LED Light: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey
Mixing Flash and LED Light: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

in this video I’ll show you how to combine low-cost LED bulbs and flash in a small home studio. Hello, I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching Adorama TV brought to you by Adorama the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers .. Now normally when I’m shooting in my small home studio the lighting I use is some kind of flash, it’s really versatile, it’s really bright, much brighter than the LEDs that I’m using right now to light me, but today I’m actually gonna do a shoot where I’m balancing flash and LED. The LEDs are actually gonna be these little small household LED bulbs, my first problem is it’s not very bright, certainly not compared to flash, but luckily I’ve got quite a lot of them, so I need to balance the exposure to get the look I’m after, and then I’ve got other problems like, are they the same white balance.. Will that work with flash, well there’s only one way to find out, that’s to finish the styling here, then we’ll get a light set, get a model in, and get shooting. So to help me out today I’ve got the amazing Gracie. Gracie’s gonna be the model for this, and as you can see I’ve turned my studio into this sort of behind the scenes dressing room sort of look here, and that’s what we’re gonna use for the shot, but what about the lighting? Well for this, I’m going to combine lighting types, but my theory is always if the ambient light is good enough use that. Well the ambient light for this shot is actually gonna come from the mirror itself, which I’ve put all these little light bulbs around, and these are giving really good light, so maybe before I add in the flash, I should see how it looks with just the ambient light. Okay let’s take a few shots, that’s lovely, and if you can look into the reflection of yourself… so going to stare straight into your own reflection. That’s great… these ambient light only shots look really good, but there is a couple of things to consider. First of all I’ve got no control over the spread of the light, so it’s bouncing all around my studio lighting everything up, and that’s being reflected in the mirror, so it limits where I can shoot next. Gracie can only face the mirror, the moment she turns around and looks away from the mirror, then no light reaches her face, and this shot doesn’t work, so that’s where I’m gonna use flash, to make this shot better. Now if I was shooting on location, I’d try and work out the ambient exposure… under expose a little bit, and then fill with flash, and that’s exactly what I’m gonna do with this scenario. The ambient light today is the light bulbs, so let’s try and figure that exposure out. First I’m gonna switch to manual mode, I’m going to dial in an aperture of f/28 wide open on this lens, and let’s go with my flash sync speed, 250th of a second with a nice low ISO, of a 100, so at those settings I’ve got some detail inside the light bulbs, and a little bit of detail in the surrounding area too. At this point, I need to think about color, according to the box these LED bulbs came in, they have a color temperature of around about 2700 K. Now if I shoot at 2700 K that means they’ll produce white light, but that’s not the look I’m going for. I want that warm tone, so I’m going to increase my camera’s white balance to 4700 K which gives that nice warm tone to the bulbs. So for the flash I’m using the Explorer 400, and it’s in a long thin strip box. I want to work out the light I’m shooting at f/2.8, so I’m hoping that’s what it’s going to be, let’s just take a test reading. I pop this under your chin, and my flash meters at f/2.8, so I’m good to go. Let’s take a test shot, see how this looks, so again if you can look straight ahead… Flash produces light that has a color temperature that’s around about 5600 K but I’m shooting at 4700 K, which means my flash is in effect slightly blue in tone. I could just increase my white balance to match the flash, but then the bulbs would become even more orange in color, but in this case what I’d like to do is try and balance the color of my light bulbs with the color of the flash. Now I can’t change the light bulbs, so I’m going to change the flash with a little bit of gel… I’ll slide in front of the flash, to make that a warmer tone of color closer matching the light bulbs, so that’s the lighting in place, but it’s worth remembering with this setup, Gracie can’t look towards the mirror, because well we’ve exposed for her face being lit by flash, so she has to keep looking in this direction. We’ll get a reverse shot where she’s looking in the mirror in a minute, because that is a bit more tricky. Let’s get some shots like this, Gracie are you ready, okay, here we go. It’s gonna stretch your legs out, and stretch yourself back… that’s okay… let’s give you something to interact with pick a prop, surely has got to be that one doesn’t it? The reason I’m using a strip box for this setup, is purely down to controlling the spread of the light. Now if you don’t have a strip box, you could get broadly the same effect by using a standard softbox, and making it appear thinner with a couple of flags or v flats so what if you want Gracie looking into the mirror, how can I light with the leds and flash, well it takes a little bit more work but it is possible, so what I’ve got now is an explorer 200, with a snoot and that’s important, because I’m gonna fire light and just hit this mirror area… the light will bounce off the mirror, and into Gracie’s face. It does need a bit of precise adjusting, and you might find that some of the pictures work and others don’t, but the basic principle is exactly the same as before. Work out the exposure for the ambient and then add in the flash, so I’ve got the flash set up. I’m shooting at f/2.8, let’s just take a test meter reading see what we get. I’m gonna pop this where Gracie’s face will be, and I’m getting f/2.8, so we’re good to go. Let’s take a test shot, and see how this looks. So Gracie, if you can look into the mirror for me, and that looks absolutely great.. Okay let’s take some pictures like this, the snoot also has the same orange gel stuck on the front, and as a bit of a bonus it gives a lovely hair light to separate Gracie from the background… which was a little bit of a happy accident. Well no shoot would be complete in my studio, if I didn’t add some smoke and I think in this scene, it would add some really great atmosphere. Now for this to work, I’m going to use both lights, so I’m back to having my key light in the strip-box, and I’ve still got the Evolve 200… but this time I’ve got much wider beam of light. First of all make sure that your lights are right before you add the smoke, because once it’s in the room it’s really hard to take it away. Let’s take a test picture… here we go and that’s going to look absolutely amazing, so let’s get Sam in, let’s get some smoke going, let’s do a shoot. Gracie you ready.. okay… from this side of the dresses as well, Gracie, right grab your props… what I love about smoke is, it makes my shoots a little bit unpredictable, and that’s really exciting, but to get the very best out of smoke, be prepared to quickly adjust your camera settings or your flash settings as you’re going along. I often joke that smoke in my small home studio makes everything look better, but today it really did look good, especially when it was combined with these 4 watt LED bulbs, now if you’ve enjoyed this video leave me a comment below and of course click on the Subscribe button, to get all the notifications of the brand new videos right here on AdoramaTV. Click on the bell icon… I’m Gavin Hoey thanks for watching.

98 thoughts on “Mixing Flash and LED Light: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. Patricio Loyola says:

    Thx for such amazing content

  2. wullie G says:

    Gavin wins again.thanks for your vids.

  3. Bikefreakstl says:

    First woo-hoo

  4. ZVCH says:

    The man, the myth, the legend. Gavins awesome!

  5. Patty Mattes says:

    I love this! Thank you!

  6. Huie D. says:

    Thank you sir. I always love your cinematic Hollywood theme shoots the costumes, the makeup, the smoke is all make for a really compelling image. Given me many ideas and many reasons to practice and I am loving it. This is one of your best. Keep them coming please

  7. bigdap100 says:

    This was awesome!!!

  8. PioneerMountainHomestead says:

    Thank you for all your videos, but this particular one just helped me realize an issue I was having the other day when I was mixing LED and flash. You are the best! Awesome work. 😁

  9. Sportserjeff says:

    Love that you referred to happy accidents in lightning. Cause that happens to me sometimes.

  10. digitalrules says:

    This was a very good tutorial. As are all of your tutorials Gavin. I like how you give instruction in shoots that I’d actually like to do myself.

  11. glennskitchen says:

    Excellent, but could you include some Photoshop tips/tricks in future videos (like you used to do). Many thanks.

  12. David Centifanto says:

    Does this smoke have an affect on smoke detectors?

  13. Nicoló Verderame says:

    Thank u Gavin, you are the master

  14. Nina Cleven says:

    You never disappoint, fun video as usual and so informative.

  15. Radu Malain says:

    I ve learned so much from you. Thank you and keep it going.

  16. Marko Marin says:

    Awesome content as usual!

  17. Saeed Ahmad says:

    When you are having photo through mirror, where you focus (the refection of subject in mirror, On mirror or on subject, especially when we had very short DOF) I always struggled with that. Please any one help me.

  18. Mike James says:

    I've enjoyed all of your videos, Gavin, and your results are always striking. Always appreciate your tips, as well as your enthusiasm!

  19. mac baar says:

    Charming… lights? 🤔😜🇨🇭

  20. Alan Vandever says:

    Always interesting. Great video.

  21. Kirsty Hepworth says:

    wow, great video and I like mixing the flASH and LED light just love it!!!!!!!!

  22. Wendy Arthur says:

    I have never done portrait photography before, but I have to say i absolutely love your videos. You are so creative and always have such perfect props! You are the master!!

  23. Enrique says:

    Great tutorial as usual.

  24. Great Day says:

    Nice one. Thanks.
    From South Africa.

  25. Ron Speer says:

    Gavin, great video! I've a question: I've a similar Glow softbox (mine is 36"X36"). When you placed the CTO inside the box, did you purposely omit the reflector dish so the gel could work better or did you replace it off camera?

  26. W3flyh1gh2 says:

    Is that a brownie camera I see? I just bought one last week and it works! It made the shoot have a more retro feel! Love it!
    I also just bought a Kodak No 3 model 2B and it works as well!

  27. Malik studio Mushir Photogrphy says:

    Sar your video is the very good creative I like it this suggestion

  28. Paul Scott says:

    Ha ha shiny surfaces are tricky. No matter how much you clean the mirrors they always show up smudges you don't need.

  29. dunnymonster says:

    The Smoke machine returns! 😊 Always inspiring shoots Gavin, excellent stuff!

  30. Macula Madness says:

    Great Video… I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge….

  31. Barky Von Schnauzer says:

    Great stuff Gav' cheers

  32. Dawid Bober says:

    Love your tutorials. Great work. Thank you.

  33. Martin Conrad says:

    I love how excited I get when I see a new Gavin Hoey video in my notices!

  34. Remigijus Stirbys says:

    Thanks. You are legend

  35. Steve Moon says:

    That was great, Gavin. Thank you for the video. I must say that Gracie did a great job as well.

  36. Roger Nilsson says:

    Great video as always!!

  37. Adrian Williams says:


  38. MEHMET TUFAN says:

    you're my idol in photography

    I'm asking from you to publish more videos.

  39. Jesse Martinez says:

    Simply the best

  40. Patrick Nehls says:

    Thanks Gavin, another great tutorial.

  41. Bunarath FoTo says:

    So amazing light and smook… I really love so much.. Thank for shearing

  42. 口子油 says:


  43. Sabyasachi Chatterjee says:

    Excellent creativity…!

  44. birdie399 says:

    Inspiring content as usual. Really well explained. Thanks for sharing your skills.

  45. German Bueso says:

    I can't wait to try something like this!
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  46. Hans Eras says:

    Inspiring as always!

  47. Ian Davies - DavcoMedia TV says:

    Another brilliant tutorial, Gavin. I believe I've watched all of them (including before you joined the Adorama team) and this ranks as one of the best. 👏👏👏

  48. Orcun Acik says:

  49. Gordon Elwell says:

    Great stuff, as always!

  50. P1ratRuleZZZ says:

    WOW! When I saw the photo in instagram I thought that this was shot in REAL DRESSING ROOM! The atmosphere of the dressing room os awesome, and I've just found out that this was Gavin's studio! Great photograther, always new creative ideas

  51. v3rlon says:

    As always, a great tutorial from Gavin.

  52. John Bivins says:

    Wonderful tutorial!!! Quick question. Around the 6:13 mark you used a light meter, What type of case is it in? I have a Sekonic 478d and wa looking for a carry solution to use in the field and in the studio. Thanks!

  53. Wilfri Castillo says:

    Now I feel inspired to shoot

  54. phynx2006 says:

    Gavin the Great Gagician – talk about smoke and mirrors! hahaha another great video Gavin!

  55. Jake Jacobs says:

    Awesome! Enjoyed the video…. Now I am gonna run out and grab me a smoke machine!

  56. Pete Julienne says:

    what happens if you have no strobe and only a speed light. How would you set it up?

  57. Francisco de Assis da Costa says:

    Valeu, Gavin, sempre fazendo um trabalho fantástico.

  58. Pierre Morin says:

    Another great ´´Gavindeo’´ . I really like your photo projects. Always very entertaining and superbe. 👍

  59. Promogeeks Media says:

    Gavin is the best

  60. Chris J says:

    Once again, and again and again, an excellent video Gavin 👍🏻

  61. Shawn Vine says:

    Lovely video. Thanks for showing the steps to balancing two different light sources.

  62. Andrew Frost says:

    Excellent as always!

  63. Stephen Elder says:

    It’s amazing how you and Sam manage to create scenes like this in your small home studio Gavin. This one was particularly impressive and the images looked fantastic.. Very inspirational and educational!

  64. forrwhat says:

    Dude Clean the mirror!

  65. Tony Smith says:

    Gavin, do you find that there are any downsides to using a smoke machine? I'm thinking of picking one up for some toy photography and would be using it in my finished basement. I wouldn't be using it heavily, but I would like to have some input from someone who has used one for years. Also, great video as always!

  66. RodeoRocks_Games says:

    you are GOD with the lens and compositions! Thanks a lot sir….once again

  67. Juan Lopez says:

    Being missing these tutorials. Great work and awesome educator.

  68. Jorge says:

    Great effects Gavin. Thank you!

  69. Fotografie, Kampfsport & Fitness Peter Hoffmann says:

    Good work. – Love the pics!!

  70. Norm says:

    Many photographic concepts (balancing ambient with flash, using gels for effect, composition, smoke, color temperature) were demonstrated in this excellent video. Gavin thank you for teaching us.

  71. Hammerhaus Kennel says:

    Always love your videos Gavin! The "DO NOT MISS" content on the Adorama channel. 🙂

  72. Sarvesh Parakh says:

    What I've learned most from this video is that I need a freakin' smoke machine! This guy is a Legend!

  73. st.clair mac aulay says:

    15 minute photo challenge !!!!!??????

  74. Agustin Tajch says:

    Your videos are amazing! I didn’t experience the time of Bob Ross but I feel like you are my Bob Ross of photography! Thanks you so much for your hard work and amazing creative ideas.

  75. hagbard1st says:

    What setting is the flash in? Full (manual)?

  76. Mohamed Monir says:

    Love your way & your work just amazing

  77. amir hussain says:

    Wow, nice

  78. Gaston Shutters says:

    You are so versatile and incredibly talented

  79. ron ace says:

    you're the best!!! thanks as always!!!

  80. Thanh Tùng says:

    i'm from in vietnam and i really like adorama tv . I especially like gavin because he always inspires me through shots

  81. Alejo Segovia says:

    excelente Gavin, siempre brindando esos conocimientos que alimentan nuestra pasión fotográfica…. Saludos desde Venezuela…

  82. Tim Weaver says:

    Nice work, as always. Two questions:

    1) why did you choose LED lights vs. incandescent that could have a higher output (or, use higher output LEDs)?
    2) If using LED, why not choose more daylight balanced lights and forgo the need to gel the key light(s)?

  83. Ayo says:

    This is another very good tutorial. Thank you for sharing.. What type of smoke machine did you use here?

  84. Anton Haddad says:


  85. Ismael Baldrich says:

    Awesome.. great work…. but please,, clean that mirror 😂

  86. 10 Thousand Pixels says:

    You've been master of light way back…. And still proud u keep getting better and better… Nice content senior.

  87. Brokenvhs says:

    Gavin is the best. I heard he has a new album coming out with Jay-Z though, is this true?

  88. Jules Ferlatte says:

    Wow gréât video thank you

  89. Marc Labro says:

    super tuto ! is snoot on top right ? is it bouncing on mirror or on the wall to the face ?

  90. Gavin Caventer says:

    Hello I'm just starting out as a very amature love you styling and your tutorials where do you find your props thank

  91. Terra says:

    Clickbait: The Flash was not in the video

  92. H3LLC4T 683 says:

    I genuinely cannot believe there isn’t a single comment asking who the model is

  93. PhotoZen says:

    Gavin , from your video in this low light situation it seems your Oly did not miss a beat as far as focus and that slams the myth that Olympus suffers in low light situation

  94. Lukas Beran says:


  95. Aberug says:

    Greats photographers can do everything no matter how big the studio is. Thank you very much Gavin for your great job on doing such beautiful videos. Again, thank you very much indeed.

  96. Sample Dude says:

    Those shots with just the bulbs were really good.

  97. Csilla Harmos says:

    Great, thank's.👍

  98. Varun Kamal says:

    Beautiful pictures. One of the best photographers I've seen.

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