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jcs

Why Color and Skintones are so tricky to get right

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When learning still photography, I spent a lot of time (and money) buying LED lights to replace strobes (best bang-for-buck strobes I found were the Einstein E640s, fantastic light output and quality (one strobe can easily overpower the sun in broad daylight at the beach). However they don't fire 100% of the time (recommend perhaps Profoto as a step up or if doing full-time stills and traveling, etc.)). Even with gels and a light meter I couldn't get the LEDs which weren't great from the factory to produce nice skintones. Spending a lot more on Dracast LEDs, which are built like tanks, got closer, but they still didn't look great for skintones (magenta bias). The lower cost Aputure LSx series LED panels finally produced great skintones, as did the spot source LED Fiilex (fantastic skintones though not a great bang-for-buck and relatively low light output per dollar, plus the fan can be audible in recordings (it's pretty quiet, but not silent)).

We talk a lot about how Canon has too much red, and red objects don't look right, etc. The reason Canon does this, is to make sure skintones look good. However for certain lights and conditions Canon's red bias can look no so good and must be fixed in post.

To get a better idea of what camera and light makers have to deal with: https://www.provideocoalition.com/doestlcireallywork/ . CRI and even TLCI aren't great predictors of light quality. I can say I agree- only testing the lights has shown whether they work well for skintones/color accuracy. I recently replaced LED bulbs in my studio office to help make shooting video from my desk look better. The new Hypericon LED bulbs rated at CRI 95 were purchased to improve the light/color over these Crees which IIRC were 80-85 CRI. To the light meter, both bulbs have a magenta bias, but to the eye (and cameras) the bias is green. The CRI 95 Hypericons looked no better on camera than the older ~80-85 CRI Crees. At least they use 2W less power, 16W vs 18W.

What's the deal with red and skintones? http://www.leapfroglighting.com/why-the-led-r9-value-isnt-important/  (read the article- they are actually saying the LED R9 (red) is the most important for skintones).

If you are having trouble getting great skintones indoors, take a closer look at your lights, especially if using LED or fluorescent lights (my first lights used fluorescent bulbs designed for photography/film and they still had a green bias: skintones didn't look that great). If on an ultra low budget, tungsten with china balls is still perhaps the best bang-for-buck (provided all the lights in scene are tungsten).

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2 hours ago, jcs said:

When learning still photography, I spent a lot of time (and money) buying LED lights to replace strobes (best bang-for-buck strobes I found were the Einstein E640s, fantastic light output and quality (one strobe can easily overpower the sun in broad daylight at the beach). However they don't fire 100% of the time (recommend perhaps Profoto as a step up or if doing full-time stills and traveling, etc.)). Even with gels and a light meter I couldn't get the LEDs which weren't great from the factory to produce nice skintones. Spending a lot more on Dracast LEDs, which are built like tanks, got closer, but they still didn't look great for skintones (magenta bias). The lower cost Aputure LSx series LED panels finally produced great skintones, as did the spot source LED Fiilex (fantastic skintones though not a great bang-for-buck and relatively low light output per dollar, plus the fan can be audible in recordings (it's pretty quiet, but not silent)).

We talk a lot about how Canon has too much red, and red objects don't look right, etc. The reason Canon does this, is to make sure skintones look good. However for certain lights and conditions Canon's red bias can look no so good and must be fixed in post.

To get a better idea of what camera and light makers have to deal with: https://www.provideocoalition.com/doestlcireallywork/ . CRI and even TLCI aren't great predictors of light quality. I can say I agree- only testing the lights has shown whether they work well for skintones/color accuracy. I recently replaced LED bulbs in my studio office to help make shooting video from my desk look better. The new Hypericon LED bulbs rated at CRI 95 were purchased to improve the light/color over these Crees which IIRC were 80-85 CRI. To the light meter, both bulbs have a magenta bias, but to the eye (and cameras) the bias is green. The CRI 95 Hypericons looked no better on camera than the older ~80-85 CRI Crees. At least they use 2W less power, 16W vs 18W.

What's the deal with red and skintones? http://www.leapfroglighting.com/why-the-led-r9-value-isnt-important/  (read the article- they are actually saying the LED R9 (red) is the most important for skintones).

If you are having trouble getting great skintones indoors, take a closer look at your lights, especially if using LED or fluorescent lights (my first lights used fluorescent bulbs designed for photography/film and they still had a green bias: skintones didn't look that great). If on an ultra low budget, tungsten with china balls is still perhaps the best bang-for-buck (provided all the lights in scene are tungsten).

I agree with this 100%.
Always struggled with skintones and LED until I bought my Aputure 672C (R9 value at 84) lights. Skin always looks great, even on my GH4.

Now I have to figure out, which LEDs I should buy for our feature film project. The Aputure Lightstorm LS 1 or the Lupo Superpanel Variwhite (R9 value at 79, at least 2 times brighter than the Lightstorm). Or just 2 different Lupos with either daylight and tungsten, since their R9 values are really good and have the same output.

CRI is not everything, since the Dracast Leds have a good rating as well... So unsure what to pick :D

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10 minutes ago, Sage said:

What do you think of the new GE Reveal HD+ LEDs?

I haven't tried them- best bet buy some that you can try and easily return if they don't work out. You really can't trust the CRI or marketing spiel. I always buy daylight (5000k or so), so all the lights match somewhat closely, even if sun is coming through window etc. (it's never perfect but you're better off with close color vs. all over the spectrum (unless you're going for an artistic/emotional effect). To see how well good light should look on your camera, shoot with just tungsten bulbs (and no other sources) with WB set correctly. Tungsten is a black body emitter which is continuous spectrum and more or less a perfect light source. Then when you test your LEDs (regardless of color temp), compare to the tungsten shots. You can also shoot outside in the shade using the sun as a reference black body source. Outside is a bit trickier since you'll get lots of bounced light from your surroundings (ideally with black, gray, or white bounce surfaces only).

23 minutes ago, deezid said:

I agree with this 100%.
Always struggled with skintones and LED until I bought my Aputure 672C lights. Skin always looks great, even on my GH4.

Now I have to figure out, which LEDs I should buy for our feature film project. The Aputure Lightstorm LS 1 or the Lupo Superpanel (at least 2 times brighter, high CRI as well). CRI is not everything, since the Dracast Leds have a solid rating as well... So unsure what to pick :D

Same suggestion- perhaps purchase both lights and test them, keep the winner (and let us know how it turned out). Dracast has upgraded their panels, so I wouldn't count them out without testing. LED tech is constantly improving and manufacturers are upgrading the LEDs in their panels. We need more LED spot/Fresnels (have 3, but only use the Fiilex P360EX (others have bad color and noisy fans)). IMO variable spot/Fresnels + light boxes / umbrellas + barn doors (and all the other available shapers) are a lot more useful than panels, and can pack pretty small. I would check out the Aputure daylight Fresnels too (120d and new 300d when available). Like the reviews have said, the Fiilex P360EX isn't super powerful (it is also variable color temp), however it's a tiny versatile light (Fresnel and soft dome options) and color and build quality are excellent.

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3 minutes ago, jcs said:

I haven't tried them- best bet buy some that you can try and easily return if they don't work out. You really can't trust the CRI or marketing spiel. I always buy daylight (5000k or so), so all the lights match somewhat closely, even if sun is coming through window etc. (it's never perfect but you're better off with close color vs. all over the spectrum (unless you're going for an artistic/emotional effect). To see how well good light should look on your camera, shoot with just tungsten bulbs (and no other sources) with WB set correctly. Tungsten is a black body emitter which is continuous spectrum and more or less a perfect light source. Then when you test your LEDs (regardless of color temp), compare to the tungsten shots. You can also shoot outside in the shade using the sun as a reference black body source. Outside is a bit trickier since you'll get lots of bounced light from your surroundings (ideally with black, gray, or white bounce surfaces only).

Same suggestion- perhaps purchase both lights and test them, keep the winner (and let us know how it turned out). Dracast has upgraded their panels, so I wouldn't count them out without testing. LED tech is constantly improving and manufacturers are upgrading the LEDs in their panels. We need more LED spot/Fresnels (have 3, but only use the Fiilex P360EX (others have bad color and noisy fans)). IMO variable spot/Fresnels + light boxes / umbrellas + barn doors (and all the other available shapers) are a lot more useful than panels, and can pack pretty small. I would check out the Aputure daylight Fresnels too (120d and new 300d when available). Like the reviews have said, the Fiilex P360EX isn't super powerful (it is also variable color temp), however it's a tiny versatile light (Fresnel and soft dome options) and color and build quality are excellent.

Are the variable white Fiilex and the 120D/T about the same output? The 120D/T are already on my list, but the 300D/T sound exciting with their high output.

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8 minutes ago, deezid said:

Are the variable white Fiilex and the 120D/T about the same output? The 120D/T are already on my list, but the 300D/T sound exciting with their high output.

120D/T is much higher output than Fiilex P360EX. Decent lists: https://www.cinema5d.com/7-awesome-led-soft-lights/https://www.cinema5d.com/?s=led+fresnel

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Jcs, have you tried daylight http://www.yujiintl.com/high-cri-led-lighting (CRI 98, not that it matters) ? They match sunlight entering my room very well and under this light colours in prints match what I see on a calibrated Eizo screen too. I believe they sell led strips which would be perfect for creating video panels https://store.yujiintl.com/products/vtc-series-high-cri-led-2835-ribbon-120-led-m-unit-5m-reel-1

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9 hours ago, tomekk said:

Jcs, have you tried daylight http://www.yujiintl.com/high-cri-led-lighting (CRI 98, not that it matters) ? They match sunlight entering my room very well and under this light colours in prints match what I see on a calibrated Eizo screen too. I believe they sell led strips which would be perfect for creating video panels https://store.yujiintl.com/products/vtc-series-high-cri-led-2835-ribbon-120-led-m-unit-5m-reel-1

@tomekk- those look like fantastic LEDs. Excellent spectrum examples on their site as well, and excellent R9 performance. As competition heats up, expect even better light performance, not just in color but also thermal and luminous efficiency per Watt. Fiilex-sized (and build quality) point-source lights with more power will be amazing! (Aputure produces excellent light, however not in the same class in terms of size, build quality, and industrial design (to be fair, Fiilex are much more expensive lights per Watt/Luminous output)).

Fiilex is just releasing the new 360 Pro Plus: http://www.fiilex.com/products/P360_ProPlus.php. At $995 ($845 without hue control (still has color temp control)) it's a few hundred more than the Aputure 120d, however it's also variable color (including optional hue control!), much smaller, IP24 weatherproof, and has many cool modifiers available. The Aputure uses 135W vs. 90W for the Fiilex (+ Fiilex is variable color), so I'd expect the Aputure to be brighter, however we'd need to see independent tests for lux at 1m for both lights).

Fiilex has more powerful lights (e.g. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1043613-REG/fiilex_flxq5ac_q_500_ac_5_bfresnel.html), at $2k we're no longer in the best-bang-for-buck category (the build quality and light quality is amazing. Would be interesting to see a comparison with the new Aputure 300d when released).

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Regardless of your lighting, other factors will affect skintones. You can have an LED with 100 CRI but if the person is sitting at a large orangey wood table, the light is going to be bouncing off that and giving a slight orangey cast to the face. Same with red carpets, snotty green sofas, big blue walls, etc. Sometimes you will have to tweak in post. I'm no expert but I always key the skintones in resolve, tweak hue vs hue and desaturate a bit, always helps.

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At least several DP's that I know (and in a couple of cases hugely admire), will choose tungsten instruments when in a controlled environment for any kind of beauty shoot.  They have access to the very best of the best daylight balanced LED, HMI, plasma, and Fluo sources, but will still choose tungsten when it's practical.  It does look better for skin.  

I myself am moving toward all LEDs for practical reasons, especially now that they are getting good results.  But, the best stuff I've shot has always been in natural daylight or tungsten.

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On 2017-5-17 at 5:36 AM, ozmorphasis said:

At least several DP's that I know (and in a couple of cases hugely admire), will choose tungsten instruments when in a controlled environment for any kind of beauty shoot.  They have access to the very best of the best daylight balanced LED, HMI, plasma, and Fluo sources, but will still choose tungsten when it's practical.  It does look better for skin.  

I myself am moving toward all LEDs for practical reasons, especially now that they are getting good results.  But, the best stuff I've shot has always been in natural daylight or tungsten.

I've got solux daylight halogen bulbs used in art galleries all around the world for ultimate quality ( http://www.solux.net/cgi-bin/tlistore/infopages/index.html )but they're such a pain to use! They're perfect reference for testing leds, though :)

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