How to Make Creative Images with a $12 LED Light


Photography is all about the light. As photographers, our aim is to capture and control the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor to perfect a good photo.

When photographers talk about light, you will hear terms mentioned such as ambient, which is natural light. Note this type of light is always changing, it doesn’t remain constant. Split, Rembrandt, and Butterfly are some of the classic lighting patterns used for portraiture in a studio setup.


A LED torch with a paper snoot.

One of my favorite basic setups when I shoot outdoors is when the day is overcast (dull), which makes the light act like one big soft diffuser. The ambient light provides my main source of light (key light) and I use a white, silver, or gold reflector to act as fill.

This is in sharp contrast to shooting in a studio where artificial lights are used. The choice and range of lights will depend on whether you use flash or continuous lighting. The main advantage to this kind of setup is that you have complete control over the lighting, plus it doesn’t rain!

The best method I find in learning about lighting, be it natural or artificial, is to experiment. Recently, I was flipping through a camera magazine when this product caught my eye – The Ice Light 2 by Westcott. It stood out for two reasons: The concept and the price. I really liked the Stars Wars light-sabre appeal to it. It’s different, and has that wow factor, as does the price. It’s not cheap.

This is not a review of the Ice Light, but it did give me some inspiration for an idea. For less than $12.00 USD, I purchased this LED light which, surprisingly, has 140 lumen. I set myself a challenge to see how effective this light source could be when used for photography.


A small but powerful LED torch light.

How did I test it? I took some shots outdoors, as well as indoors, just to get some variety and scope to this project.

For my initial shots, it was 10:30 p.m. at night, not quite dark, but dusky. I went to a little park near where I live, placed the torch horizontal in the grass, and had the toy plastic Gorilla in a grassy verge, roughly a couple of feet away. I had the aperture at f/2.5, the ISO at 400, and the shutter speed at 1/50th.


A toy plastic gorilla in the grass.

Nearer home and again outside, I place this Lego figure on a garden wooden chair with slats. I had the torch underneath standing vertically. Just by moving my camera rather than the light, I was able to get a bit of flare that really added drama to the shot.


Cool Lego girl figure.


I placed the torch upright under a garden chair with slats.

Back indoors, I had my daughter hold the torch with paper wrapped around the end to form a snoot.


Using plain white printing paper wrapped around the torch to form a snoot.

I got her to move the torch around until I was happy with the light. I really liked the catchlights. The camera settings were: Aperture f/4.5, shutter speed 1/30th, ISO at 800, the focal length was 44mm.


Interesting catchlights from the torch with a white paper snoot.


The torch was placed in the centre of the book facing towards the camera.

I had the idea brewing for some time of trying to get that shot lit from the inside of a tent; the one that is ubiquitous in great landscape shots. I had a lot of fun doing this shoot, and would highly recommend you try to do the same! The plan was to have my daughter inside and get a nice silhouette of her against the wall of the tent. It didn’t go to plan, which was fortunate for me.

As a last resort, I got my plastic gorilla figurine and placed him inside the tent with the torch lying horizontal on the floor of the tent, only about 6 inches behind him. I was well chuffed (pleased) with the final result. It was even better than I had envisioned; especially as the gorilla is only 3.5 inches tall. I did have the camera on a tripod as it was dark. The settings were: ISO 800, aperture f/4, shutter speed 1/8th, and focal length was 40mm.


Fun with a toy gorilla inside a tent with a torch.


The gorilla is only 3 and half inches tall, small relative to the size of the tent.


To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this project to yield the results that it did. It has been the best $12.00USD that I’ve spent in a long time. It is now another must item to have in my camera bag.

What non-photography light sources have you used in your photography? Please share in the comments below.

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Sarah Hipwell is an independent professional photographer based in Dublin. She specialises in high-quality corporate, stock and portraiture photography. Her background is in Design. She received her BA in Hons Design from the University of Ulster, Belfast. She has many years commercial design experience working as a designer and as a trainer for large multimedia companies. See more of her work at or at 500px.


    Hi Sarah,
    I enjoyed your article. Yes, sometimes nice surprises come in the least expected and low priced packages.
    Some non-photog light sources I’ve used are Digital Projectors; Glo Sticks; Candles, Flashlights (torches); Smartphones and Tablets; Television Screens; Lasers; And even though it could be classified as a photographic light source, I use an old film enlarger light housings in a non-conventional way, not to enlarge negatives but to project light onto my subjects. Mine has color negative filters built-in which I can use to “dial-in” virtually thousands of color filter possibilities.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Hi, many thanks for your comment. Please show me an example of how you used your old film enlarger as a light source? It saddens me now, I had one when I was in College and I then got rid of it many years ago. I’d like it back now:-(

  • Samaira Khan
  • Rany

    Great idea with the paper snoot. Gotta try it myself!

  • Randolphtadams

    big deal.i-g-h-t-d-i-g–i— < Make It Easy


    Thanks for your question Sarah. It is kind of difficult to illustrate as my setup changes each time I use the enlarger light but basically I removed the lamp, lens and condenser housing from the vertical rack of the enlarger and position the light housing on a lighting stand called a C-Stand. this way I can adjust the lighting position to the best advantage for my subject. Setting the housing on the same surface of my subject and giving a low grazing light effect is the best look from this type of setup. I only use it to light still life subjects and have never had success with human subjects because the quality of the light is very linear and of high contrast. Diffusion helps but one is limited in its use because the enlarger’s light source is, by design, a relatively low lumen device. Regarding your point of getting rid of your enlarger. Here in the USA, I see a lot of enlargers in Yard Sales, Thrift Shops and Antique Stores. You may find the same in Ireland and be able to purchase one for very little money. Sellers are pretty motivated now that digital has overtaken film.


  • Robertoff

    <???.%@^@^@^!^!^!^!^.. ??????????+git+. < Read more info here='' ……..''

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Many thanks Bill for getting back. Brings back fond memories of working in the darkroom. Don’t miss the smell from the chemicals:-)

  • lbrilliant

    I soldered two 1 watt LEDs onto stiff solid par wire from my garage door opener. I hold them very close to small objects just outside of the field of view and power them from 4 D-cells. It give extremely bright lighting for macro and micro photography.

  • Jim Myers

    Excellent article. I have a ton of LED lights around ranging from 50 lumens to over 1000 lumens. Thanks to you I now have a whole new set of projects to play around with.

  • What about Gloxy Power Blade? Of course, it’s more expensive than your solution.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Many thanks Jim…look forward to seeing some project shots.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Hi David, I wasn’t aware of this product until you mentioned it. Looks good and the price is good too.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Thanks for your comment Rany.

  • Well yes, Westcott products have good reviews, but their prices are crazy. At least to me. For $500 or $600 or whatever the Ice Light costs, one can get a decent studio lighting kit, good lens or a camera body. I mainly work with strobes, so spending that amount of money on something I will seldom use is a bit of an overkill. I believe my whole lighting kit with stands, strobes and modifiers was maximum half that money…

  • evelyn.croft
  • Debbie Langer Borato

    Where can I find a LED light good for photographing? Are they flashlights or another product type?

  • Hardware store or

  • SteveR

    One word of caution: many LED lights (particularly the very inexpensive Communist Chinese models) have an odd color of light. I have used a few different lights for light painting and have noticed a great deal of difference between the lights.
    I have an old rechargeable Craftsman LED work light (model 73904) which has pretty good light.
    The ICE Lights are very expensive, but they are color balanced, rechargeable, and most important, dimmable. I probably will never spring that much money for one, but I like the concept.
    If you want to know the color of the LED lights you buy, light a white surface with little or no ambient light and take some pictures of the light. It will give you a relative color of light and also a light pattern. I have several different shapes that I have began using as auxiliary lights and for experimentation. I doubt I will ever replace my speedlights with LED lights, but the portability and ease of use may convince me otherwise.

  • frank

    led lenser makes some epic ones, i also have a Wurth or Narva mechanics torch with a beam at the end and an array of leds on the side. Its rechargeable.

  • Earn more money on weekly basis… This can be fantastic part-time job for everybody… The best part about it is that you can work from comfort of your house and start making from $100-$2k at the end of every week … Start today and get your first payment by the end of this week…>You can visit my disqus profile to find out more

  • SSRajan

    excellent and useful article…

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Many thx @ssrajan:disqus for your comment.

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