Electronic shutters and LED lights issue?

I had to shoot a concert the other night and I ran across an issue that i’ve never encountered before.  I was getting banding from the artificial lights.  I’m sure i’m not the first to deal with this…but maybe it has just never crossed my radar.  Now before you jump up and down and tell me that’s what fluorescent lights can do…listen to my scenario.   I was in a concert setting…so fully dark, and only stage lights were on.  The stage lights were typical modern LED par lights.  Kind of like this one. (Not that exact model, and I certainly do not endorse the product…but that was the easiest link to show an example photo.)

The lights were changing colors based on the song and music as usual.  In my viewfinder I was seeing banding that moved across the screen.  I adjusted my shutter speed to try and find a speed that removed it and nothing.  I tried shooting the different shutter speeds and it always photographed the banding.  The catch… ONLY with electronic shutter!  If I used even a standard shutter with electronic first curtain (anti-shock zero) the banding would disappear!  I still saw the issue in the viewfinder, but the pictures would be clear.  Only fully electronic shutter modes captured the banding.

electronic shutter banding under LED

Banding when horizontal – Fully electronic shutter

electronic shutter banding issues with LED light

Banding when vertical – Fully electronic shutter

Why is this ONLY with electronic shutter?  Can someone explain this?  I lost a few good shots experimenting and trying to figure out what was going on since this did not respond like usual fluorescent.  I’ve never had LED lights do this before.  In fact, I shoot with LED lights all the time in still and video work.  Often I use electronic shutter in the studio as well and i’ve never had this before.  Very weird.  Any one have experience with this??

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7 thoughts on “Electronic shutters and LED lights issue?

  1. Two things:

    Can you double check the type of led lights from the stage? Maybe you can ask the band/manager where the ligt comes from and get technical info. Maybe the lights are using double frequency 100/120Hz ?

    Can you check your pictures in the rgb channel? It would be interesting if the banding is visible in all channels

    1. Hi Reinhard,
      The stripes are in all three channels. The lights are “house lights” for the venue, they stay there. Just the bands and sound technicians change. It was a smaller venue. Neither the band nor the tech will know what lights they were. I would have to contact the venue directly or hope to visit on a night early enough to check myself. Double frequency…hmm… hadn’t though of that.

  2. Hi Tony,

    I think the best way is to go back to the venue and check the lights. We can make a lot assumptions, but to get this information would be the only way to know what happend.

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