Fiveray F100 & M40: Creative portrait photography with LED lights

The opportunities we have as photographers to use LED lighting are huge these days. Where a few years ago it was only emerging and still innovative to use an LED panel for a portrait shoot, it is now almost commonplace and there are situations to think of where LED lighting makes you a lot more flexible than using flash. There are, of course, a number of advantages of LED lighting over using flash.

This way, you don't have to take test photos and you can immediately see what the photo result is and whether the mood of the light is right. It feels like playing with light and, as far as I am concerned, makes photography even more enjoyable. For example, the Zhiyun Fiveray F100 and M40 have an awful lot to offer for a people photographer; an evening playing with these lights immediately gets you excited. It makes you want more!

Written by Thomas Kersten

As a freelance people photographer, Thomas' main aim with his wedding and portrait photography is to offer beautiful memories. Trying things out, creativity and the social aspect of photography are most important to him.

Using continuous light for portrait photography

I have enjoyed photographing for many years. The emphasis is on portrait and people photography. It is never my intention to take photos in a fashion style, I just photograph people as they are. I have set myself the goal of doing a photo shoot every month, just for fun and social contact and to keep improving my technique. In that sense, the finished photos from this photo shoot are not (have to be) perfect as far as I am concerned.

"The aim was to take photos for his website and the venue where he often runs."

For me it was mainly about discovering the F100 and M40 and it is nice that in the process we were able to deliver a nice photo series for my friend Robin, who was a model and works as a DJ. The goal was also to take photos for his website and the venue where he often plays. The colors in the photos had to be preferably warm, for example color temperature 2700K, as this fits the style of the website on which the photos will be taken. You set the color temperature very easily on both lamps from Zhiyun.

Zhiyun Fiveray F100
Portrait of DJ Dr Robinson
DJ Dr Robinson on stage

Fiveray F100 and M40 by Zhiyun

The possibilities of the latest LED solutions are often endless. In the blink of an eye, for example, you can set any color or color temperature. And the potential power of light today is enormous. With Zhiyun's FiveRay F100 and M40, which I tested, you even have 100 watts and 40 watts at your disposal, respectively. Not that you need this in all situations, but still! In the photos I took during this photo shoot, we often used no more than 10% of the total power.

Both lamps have a special patented (DynaVort) cooling system that prevents the lamps from getting too hot when in use. But that cooling system was not turned on when trying them out, because it was not necessary at the (low) light intensity I was using.

Zhiyun RGB led-light
Zhiyun M40 led light

Have fun with affordable LED lights

LED lights have a great appeal to me. You can do so much with them and the purchase price is usually relatively low. With the F100 and M40, this becomes especially clear. The M40 costs just £103.99 and the F100 has a recommended retail price of just £235.99. For that money, you can have so much fun with these two lights. What is also special is the fact that the lamps are becoming more compact and therefore easier to carry around. For me, this is an important point, because photography should be fun and lugging equipment around is one of the least fun aspects for me.

Compared to other LED lamps

Now it so happens that years ago I bought a Forza 60 and two pieces of Pavotube 30C from Nanlite, but honestly I don't use them very often, because of their size. The tubes measure about 117 centimeters in length. The Forza 60 is otherwise quite compact in size, but needs to be placed on a fairly sturdy light stand. Together, it is still quite a weight and size.

"At least I take the M40 with me easily."

Whereas the Pavotube has an output of 30 watts, I was really amazed that Zhiyun's FiveRay F100 goes up to a whopping 100 watts. And that in a housing of only 50 centimeters. Of course, Zhiyun's M40 has a lot less capability than the Forza 60, but it's still special that the M40 conceals a whopping 40 watts, where the Forza 60 only has 20 watts more. And that for only about a third of the price. And as the saying goes, "the best camera is the camera you have with you," the same applies to light: at least the M40 I take with me easily. The Forza 60 doesn't.

Behind the scenes - Taking a portrait photo
DJ Dr. Robinson

Photography at Café P79

Then the photos, because that's what matters in the end. The area around location P79 in 's-Hertogenbosch was quite dark, so quite challenging. Just to be sure, I had brought a tripod, but we didn't use it much because it didn't work as smoothly in this situation and we didn't have very much time. We started with some portraits. For these, the F100 came in handy. The lamp could stand at a considerable distance and still shine its warm light on Robin. With the barndoors that came with it, it was easy to direct the light.

DJ in P79 Den Bosch
DJ in P79 Den Bosch

Then the M40, what a cool thing that is! At only 1% power, it offers enough output in this situation and the light in the photo can therefore be nicely balanced with the ambient light. So you can use the M40 well as a fill light, but also as a main light. 

Because both light sources are small in size, you would say that the light is not always very flattering. However, if you move the light source a bit further away, it becomes softer and you can use it to create excellent atmosphere like in this portrait photo.

Portrait DJ Dr. Robinson
Zhiyun M40 led light

Many more options for portrait photography

So far we had only turned on the F100 and M40 and set the intensity and color temperature. But the Fiveray F100 in particular has much more to offer. For example, the lamp has an awful lot of settings that are especially interesting for videographers. But also for photography there is even more to get out of it. I have never tried light painting before, but I thought it would be fun to do. So spontaneously we got to work.

We set the F100 to the color blue. The camera went to ISO 100, aperture between F5.6 and F11, shutter speed varied between 4 and 6 seconds. Robin stood as still as possible and after pressing the shutter I ran behind him with the F100 while waving the lamp. The result was surprising!

playing with LED lamp
playing with LED lamp
Lightpainting with Zhiyun F100


I know that, among other things, the F100 can also be set in a kind of "Rainbow mode," this again gives a totally different lightpainting effect. But we will try that next time.

Now I am aware that certainly the lightpainting picture can be improved a lot. The shutter speed was just a bit too long for the model to stand still. Also, the aperture was too small for my liking, making the red lights in the background a bit too star-shaped. Nevertheless, it was a great pleasure to try light painting with the Zhiyun lamps. It certainly tastes like more!

portrait coloured background
portrait coloured background
portrait coloured background
portrait coloured background
portrait coloured background
portrait coloured background

Six DJs

After the photo shoot with Robin, I also photographed six DJs from P79 in Den Bosch on location. The idea was to give the DJs each their own colour and that went perfectly with the Fiveray F100. If you see the photos side by side, you can see the little concept. Again, the lightsticks did a good job. One Led stick on tripod on the right and one lying on a bar stool on the left. Light intensity at 50 or 60%, to dose it properly. Colour saturation at 100% for nice bright colours.

portrait with stage in background
portrait with stage in background
portrait with stage in background
portrait with stage in background
portrait with stage in background
portrait with stage in background

In conclusion - on to the next shoot

With the Fiveray F100 and M40 I am ready for the next photo shoot. The battery of both lamps did the whole shoot and are still full enough for the next time. A quick recharge with my USB-C Macbook adapter (because of the high capacity of the charger, charging goes extra fast), and go! The next shoot with these lights is already planned. 


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