How to Mix HMI and LED Lights for Portraits

Jay P. Morgan is well known for his awesome photography and lighting tutorials, and the video below is a good example of why. On a recent shoot at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in southern California, Morgan had the notion to mix HMI lights with LED lights and the results are fantastic:

Morgan was already a big fan of LED lights and given the expansive area–three train cars long–which needed to be lit for this particular photoshoot, adding the heavy duty HMI lights could only make things even better. Morgan rented an Arri M18 HMI and set it up at the end of the train cars, where it dutifully served as a backlight. Morgan did note that he wanted the Arri HMI to be positioned higher, but he did not have access to a lift, so he made do with what he had.

portrait lighting

The HMI was set in the far back to serve as a background light.

The rest of the set was filled in using Photoflex Northstar LED Lites. They were placed at various points around the set including inside of the train cars to give the windows a nice glowing look and provide a nice diffused light onto the subjects’ faces.

LED photography lights

LED lights were added as fill lights.


Morgan wanted some shots of the couples saying goodbye through the train windows.


Morgan converted some of the photos to black and white in Photoshop.

The combination of the LED and HMI lights was a great choice, since both are continuous light sources. This was necessary, because Morgan was taking both still photographs as well as video footage. All in all, the pairing worked out great and created just the right lighting for what Morgan was trying to accomplish.

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