Most photographers rely on flashes and studio lights for artificial lighting. Both have advantages–one is portable, while the other provides continuous lighting–but neither is perfect, either. If you often struggle with the limitations of flashes or studio lighting, you might be interested in the newest type of lighting: portable LED lights.
Portable LED lights give you continuous lighting with the mobility of flash. Instead of spending time setting up lights whenever you have a shoot, you can just attach the LED light and go.
LEDs are also safer and more energy-efficient than tungsten light. They produce less heat, so you can touch them without getting burned and hold them close to sensitive subjects, like food or people.
While portable LED lights can’t solve every lighting problem, they do give you more flexibility with continuous lighting. You can easily bring them to remote locations and move around with them during events.
Here are our favorite picks for portable LED lights that can be used for both photography and video.
The FoxFury Rugo™ is a rugged lighting tool that’s built to last. It’s fire-resistant, waterproof, and tough enough to survive all weather conditions, from desert heat to heavy snow. It’s super lightweight, too. At only 5.6 oz, it’s easy to pack with you anywhere.
One major advantage of the Rugo™ is its versatility. It has three lens settings for area, spot, and floodlighting, and it includes thumbscrews with different mounts, so you can use it for all kinds of devices (DSLRs, action cameras, drones, etc.). You can even use it as a utility light for setting up a shoot or as an off-camera accent light, such as for the drone’s landing area.
The Rugo has 4 brightness levels, powered by a rechargeable Li-ion battery system. These batteries are built into power packs, which you can quickly swap out without any tools. Each power pack gives you 1-6 hours of light and recharges within 2.5 hours via a USB adaptor.
Basically: if you need a durable lighting tool for rugged shoots, this is our top pick. Watch the promotional video and read more about the FoxFury Rugo™ on their website.
If you just want a simple portable LED light that’s easy on the budget, this $50 Neewer R-160 is a good choice. Its compact ring shape makes it easy to carry or pack away, but don’t be misled: it’s a powerful little device. You’ll be blown away by how bright it is. The 160 tiny LED light bulbs put out an amazing 1200 lumens at full power.
This level of brightness is perfect for videos or macro photography. If you’re shooting jewelry, insects, or outdoor flowers, you’ll be happy with the R-160.
You can dim the light to low, but even at its lowest setting, the R-160 is fairly bright. For this reason, it’s best to use it with lenses larger than 50mm, so the light won’t spill over the lens. You could also use it with an articulated arm, attached to a tripod, or as an off-camera light.
Read more about the Neewer R-160 on Amazon.
Rotolight NEO II
The Rotolight Neo II is another good option for both filmmakers and still photographers. It’s pricier than Neewer R-160, but also more adaptable. You can adjust the brightness and the color temperature of the light (from 3150K to 6300K), so it matches the atmosphere you’re trying to capture. The color and light quality is fantastic, giving you beautiful skin tones and a lovely soft light.
You can further customize the light to create a variety of cinematic lighting effects, like lightning, fire, or a flickering TV. These effects are fun to play with and open up dozens of possibilities for filmmakers.
Another unique feature of the Neo II is its ability to calculate and display the F-stop for a subject at a certain distance. This feature eliminates the need for a light meter or trial-and-error shooting. It performs especially well in dark or low-light situations. Although it’s not quite as powerful as the R-160, its output of 1077 lumens is still impressive.
Read more about the Rotolight Neo II on Amazon.