COOL TO TOUCH

continuous lighting

VICKI HUCKLE, a newborn photographer based in Norfolk, introduces a relatively new contender in the continuous lighting market. She explains why it might just be the lighting solution she has been looking for.

Whilst I am now in the fortunate position to be working from a studio space with an abundance of wonderful natural light, this is rare for newborn photographers. Most are mobile and visit new families in their own homes. This poses many problems, especially with set ups and lighting. Since September 2011 I have been working with other newborn photographers, training them to handle and work with babies safely and effectively. I found that at every single training session and workshop the same question arose from participants, can I better control the lighting in client s homes? You can never tell what natural light there is going to be and there just isnroom for a studio set up!"

Being a photographer on the road means your kit needs to be portable and robust. Working with infants in their ow n homes means that you need a cool to touch, safe light source, one that will fit in what is sometimes the smallest of spaces. One that gives off a nicely diffused, soft light that flatters babies’new and opaque skin, and finally one that is flexible in positioning because you never know where you are going to end up working.

When I first started out three years ago I invested in a Interfit Coolite 9; it ticked several boxes being affordable at ?199 for a single head and Octobox light modifier. It was daylight balanced and the giant softbox gave a nice diffused light. However, it was big and not very portable to say the least! The size and delicate nature of the nine bulbs meant getting it in and out of my little car was a challenge, and I often arrived at clienthomes and found there wasnenough space to set it up. At my first few training sessions I recommended it as I could not find anything else that was cool, daylight balanced and nicely diffused at a price suited to start ups.

I set about trying to find a solution for my trainees and others working in the field, searching the internet for continuous lighting set ups. I found LED lights and started to investigate them further, they seemed to fill the cool and safe criteria, but the light given off was fairly direct so you still needed diffusers of some kind. Then I spotted the Rosco LitePad being mentioned in an online forum; the user had been using it for product photography so, intrigued, I did a little bit more digging.

The LitePads were initially designed for theatre and video use and due to their lightweight and flexibility are still massively popular in these fields.

It is only relatively recently though that myself and other stills photographers have discovered their value.

LET THERE BE SOFT, DAYLIGHT BALANCED LIGHT

The HO+ LitePad is different to the other LED lights I found; the LEDs arc situated on the four edges of the pad and they point into the rather than outwards, the light they give off is therefore reflected and diffused across the white surface and onto the subject-perfect for newborn photography!

The come in many sizes: the 305mm x 305mm gives off a good amount of light and is the size I use myself if needed. Howrcvcr, the smaller sizes would be ideal for placing in areas such as inside props or on the posing beanbag as a highlight.

So the LitePad ticks the boxes for size and the lovely diffused light it gives off, it is also cool to touch so is not only safe, but it can be hand held by yourself or by an assistant (in my case usually the babyparent). The can also be attached to lighting stands using something like a superclamp, or Rosco offer many different fittings for different purposes; they are so lightweight it isnout of the question that they could even be velcroor blutacto a surface too! The light fittings and stands are not supplied with the individual lights or the kits, but you do get the mounts which then connect to the stand.

ACCESSORISE

 daylight balanced

The lights are supplied with a mains adapter lead and work well, add in the dimmer switch accessory (available separately or with the kit) and you can adjust the brightness very easily. Amongst the other accessories available is an AA battery pack, making the light even more portable. It is worth noting, however, the batteries I tried did drain pretty quickly so you might want to have a stock of rechargeables handy.

As already mentioned I have the 305mm square light as part of the Gold kit. Probably the biggest plus point is that the entire kit of three lights, mains lead, battery pack, dimmer and leads all fits into a small flat bag. When you compare this to just the single Coolite head I was transporting in a small car, and you can see why this is such a selling point for me and other mobile photographers.

SEEKING A SECOND OPINION

Wanting to check I am not alone in my instincts about the LitePad, I spoke to Elli Cassidy, another UK-based newborn photographer, about her experiences: a LitcPad is one of the wisest business decisions I have made. I work on location in peoples’homes so I never know beforehand how much room I will have or what the lighting conditions will be like. The LitePad has become my perfect solution; itlike my own portable window, giving a gentle and even light to my set-ups and doesndisturb my newborns at all. The fact it is so small and doesnget hot is a definite added bonus, thereno waiting around for equipment to cool and it packs away taking up no space in my over-crowded car boot! I would even say that it has reduced my editing time, getting a better lit original means less tweaking is needed in post-production. I canimagine being without it now.”

CLUMSY? THEY HAVE A LITEPAD FOR THAT

There is one downside that I discovered when using the LitePad HO+ on a training workshop, that is it isnthe most robust piece of kit with knocks and bangs, which, when you arc as clumsy as I am this can be problematic! I managed to break the comer off mine when it slid off the beanbag and so now have switched to the LitePad Axiom-exactly the same light but housed in a metal casing-Vicki proof! The Axiom is more expensive (Currently ?520 versus ?487 for the HO+ at WEX) and it is more than double the weight of the light without the housing, but for me it is worth it if the lights are going to be transported lots.

The cost is another factor that can be off-putting for my trainees who are starting out. The Interfit Coolite is quite a lot cheaper and, yes, there arc other continuous lighting kits and LED lights out there that care much cheaper. However, in my search I discovered they all required compromises, none ticked all the boxes for a mobile newborn photographer like the LitePad does.

VERSATILE?

Whilst the LitePad is the perfect solution for newborn photographers I would say it isnideal for general studio photography or weddings etc. I sent the LitePad out with James Rouse for the day, he was photographing deserts for one of his wedding venues and I felt the LitePad might be up to the job, seeing as it stays cool it might prevent the ice creams from melting too quickly!

James, used to working with off-camera flash, indeed confirmed that the LitePad worked really well for the job: dimmer switch gave excellent control over the light and it was nice to see results instantly and be able to adjust the power when needed for a different feel to the image. The only downside was that it performed much better on the mains lead. The batteries drained at a rate which reduced the power of the light and I didnreally notice until I plugged it in.”

All in all then the LitePads are a great piece of kit and tick every box that I was looking for. They are lightweight, portable and fit into a small bag for transporting. The light they give off is daylight balanced (a tungsten version is also available) and nicely diffused. Add in the dimmer switch and you have full control. They are safe to use and remain cool to touch; the small lights can be placed right beside supervised baby with no dangers. There are many accessories which make the light even more flexible for your needs too and I am looking forward to having a look at the new LitePad Loop, an alternative to the ring flash, an on-camera LitePad.

In my opinion the LitePad is suitable not only for new born photographers but also product photography, food photography and still life-as well as the video uses for which they were originally designed. Whilst it may be a stretch financially for start ups, any baby photographers looking for a lighting solution with no compromises you really cango wrong.

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