How to Use Your Phone as a Tiny LED Panel for Light Painting and Portraits

Here’s a simple, maybe even obvious, run-and-gun lighting tip for beginners from the YouTube Channel Run N Gun. If you find yourself using your smartphone for portrait lighting in a pinch, don’t turn it around and use the flashlight—download an app or solid color image instead, and use your phone’s display as a small LED panel.

This isn’t a new idea, but as smartphone displays get better and better—and brighter and brighter—it’s wise to keep this in mind. The display on most flagship smartphones now are OLED, with max brightness that goes to 500, 600 or even 700 nits. Sure, even a cheap bi-color LED panel produces far more light, but we’re assuming you don’t have one of those handy.

JT mentions several potential uses in the video, including using the phone for light painting product photography, as a hair light, to give a pop of color to your low-light portraits, or even as a key light if you want some very moody split-lighting (don’t mind cranking your ISO a bit).

If you’re willing to spend $0.99, he also recommends the app Color Screen, because it allows you to change the hue, saturation, and brightness of the solid color on the screen individually. Of course, you can always download or export your own a solid color image instead, but this puts all the parameters at your fingertips.

Check out the full video up top to dive a bit deeper into this quick-tip and see how JT suggests using it, and if you have any additional tips or alternative apps you like to use for smartphone lighting in a pinch, drop them in the comments down below.

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