Photographers have a weakness. Well, many of us do. I certainly do. I love gear. I always find a way to fit a piece of gear into a shot I’d want to do. But when I saw the Ice Light, I knew it was a piece of gear I needed, not simply wanted. With a wedding coming up on the 12th of January, I took the plunge, ordered in an Ice Light, and set up some tests to ensure I’d know how to use it before it really counted.
The Ice Light was designed by acclaimed wedding photographer Jerry Ghihonis and manufactured by Westcott. It is, in essence, a hand-held LED light. But it’s really much more than just that. The Ice Light offers the ability to shoot and light in tandem without the need of heavy light stands or additional mounting systems. It is self powered by an internal litium ion battery with a run-time over over an hour at full power and charge time of just over 2. It can also be used with the provided AC power cord that will enable you to run and charge the light simultaneously. It weighs roughly 1.3 pounds and is 22-inches long. It can be hand-held, mounted to a light-stand, Bogen magic arm, or anything else via a standard 1/4″ mounting hole on either end. Heck, you could even get multiple untis and connect them at the ends to create endless lighting.
Despite reading lots (and lots) of groups and boards micro-evaluating the light output and berating the product based mostly on the price, I decided as a professional wedding photographer that the benefits were worth the investment. And I’m happy I did!
The product is expensive, at $500. Especially considering other options on the market. I have some cheap – and I mean that in every interpretation of the word – 160 LED panels. They work, but their build quality is commensurate with what I paid for. I also have a couple 500 LED light panels in the studio. Very bright, and their cost is less than half the price of the Ice Light. So why take the plunge?
For me, the price of anything is factored into my business forecast – can I defer the cost of investment into the quality of your images and the increased business I can offer my clients? For me, this was a yes; no hesitation. This tool will allow me to create distinctive images with a very easy flow to my working style. I have studio lighting and battery packs. I have small flash strobes. I even have a variety of cheap LED lights (160 LED) units. None give me the portability and ease of set-up as this. Clients typically don’t like cords to trip over and especially at a wedding, you have to have a small footprint and be able to move quickly. The Ice Light does just that. And there are other “hardware store” options out there, but they sometimes require power and are never professional enough looking for client use. Nail in that coffin.
Here’s an example shot from a recent client shoot I did with Renata. For the technically inquiring, I had a Paul C. Buff Einstein with just the modeling lamp on (tungsten color temp) camera right, and the Ice Light at about half power and held vertically camera left. It was daytime when this was shot, but I blocked Renata in with black v-flats to eliminate as much ambient light as possible. This is a pretty stock standard trick of mixing tungsten with window light in order to create dynamic color in a photo, but in this case, the Ice Light is the window light. Look how spot on that daylight temperature balance is, for a natural, pretty look to Renata’s face, and an interesting warm color from the tungsten light in her hair. This was the first shot from the attempt. Not too bad out of the gate.
Based on the items I read about the light, questions, gripes, etc., here is my first-hand experience and thoughts on the Ice Light.
The unit is bright. Very bright. I can’t tell you how many lumens or lux, but it was much brighter than I expected it to be. As Jerry Ghihonis (designer of the light) said, you’re never going to beat God, so these would be useless during the sunlight (try a reflector), but they will add kick on overcast days, failing light, or as is often the case, a dark, cavernous church or reception hall. I’ve read some people complaining about having to increase ISO to get an exposure. Imagine how much you would have to increase your ISO without it. And again, I’m in the professional game. If you are complaining about your ISO, it may be time to consider an updated camera body.
I expected the unit to feel a bit “cheap”, figuring the manufacturers would have cut corners to increase profitability. I was wrong. Everything about the unit feels great. There is a little “play” between the black handle front and back (probably where the battery compartment would be serviced by a tech) but that’s a minor gripe. The buttons, the frosted light shield, the threaded coupling plates, all of it feels sturdy, well-built and durable.
I have some 500 LED video lights (very popular and sold under a number of different names) which produce a very green shifted image. Even my 160′s have a shift. The constant color on these is unlike any other light I’ve used. They are dead on daylight without any color cast. I’m guessing the higher quality LEDs and color temp control are part of the cost of these – and they are worth it. Imagine trying to color correct a number of images in post with a unit without color temp control. (+3 magenta, +6 magenta, +5 magenta, …)
At full power, I got about 70 minutes out of the light. Just as reported and expected. I had heard that the battery didn’t hold a charge for more than 48 hours. I just checked now and the light came on and the indicator showed full after more than a week since charging. Perhaps that claim came from an early production run or was defective. I would always check my gear the night prior to an event, but it appears to hold a charge.
Sorry. I realize that this sounds slightly like gear-fanning and less than objective, but I assure you it’s not. There is a coolness factor to hauling out this light. Clients are used to our strobes at a wedding, but how often do you see someone pulling out a light saber? There is definitely something to be said about having a non-corded, well designed and built piece of lighting on location that allows you to move here and there without picking up a light stand, or moving cords. If you have ever asked one of the bridal party to hold a reflector for you and seen their face go dull with what seems like a boring task, imagine how many of them are going to jump up to assist you when you are lighting with this. The square LED panels and Home Depot lighting options just aren’t this cool. And sometimes that cool factor is going to make your clients trust you with an idea for a shot. When it comes to getting great shots for a wedding album, I’ll take whatever advantage I can get.
I do wish there was a field serviceable battery, as we all do, but I work within the constraints as presented. Perhaps in the next version. There is supposed to be a battery add-on accessory coming. I only wonder how that will connect, the size of it, and whether it will make the product more cumbersome. Light, maneuverable, and portability are the main reasons I bought the Ice Light. There also is no indicator on the unit to show you the output level of the light, so reproducing a specific light set-up is a bit challenging.
So is it worth it? Should you buy one? I think so. Heck, I’m buying a second one soon. The advantages of the light far outweigh it’s shortcomings. And there is nothing quite like it on the market which will enable me to get the kind of shots the light will afford without additional, significant drawbacks.
You can learn more about the Ice Light at the product’s website: http://www.theicelight.com/
You can also find it online at the following retailers:
B & H Photo and Video