Why You Should Think Twice Before Investing in Pro Lighting Gear

Rotolight Neo

I know how it feels to be frozen in your tracks at B&H staring at some Profoto, Wescott, or Dedolight gear, dreaming of a bank account that could afford your wildest dreams.  It's hard to look away, and it will haunt your every waking moment... alright, I'm being melodramatic, but you get my point.  Here's the thing though, as a guy who has some of that very gear, there are many instances where (despite how you may desperately try to justify it to yourself) it's not necessary whatsoever.

Don't get me wrong, there are legitimate justifiable reasons for purchasing high-end lighting gear, things like high-speed sync, adjustable color temperature, and sheer power come immediately to mind.  However, unless you're shooting covers for Sports Illustrated or some other very niche market, there's a good chance you can get great results without taking a second (or third) mortgage.

For instance take this shot I took for an equipment review I did a few weeks ago:


Though I'm not primarily a product photographer, it's a fairly well lit photo that serves its purposes.  Yes, I could have pulled out my Profoto gear, but that gear costs thousands of dollars and for results like this it's completely unnecessary.  Lighting equipment is off-screen, so it really doesn't matter HOW it gets lit well, but just THAT it gets lit well.  Guys like Joey L, David Hobby, and many other photographers routinely cut costs by making their own light modifiers because they recognize precisely this fact.

Personally, what I've found is easier in many instances is to use a Mastercraft (Canadian Tire) LED worklight or two with some cheap ebay reflectors from China.  The work lights are on sale ALL THE TIME marked down from $34 to $14, so just keep an eye on the flyers and buy a few of them like I did.  Not only do they tuck away behind things just as easy as a Wescott Ice Light, but they're literally on sale for 1/33 of the price of a Wescott Ice Light.  Sure, you forfeit the functionality of dimming, Bluetooth, etc., but you could buy literally dozens of work lights for the cost of one of the Wescott Ice Light, and just move them closer and further away to adjust the levels, banking off of the reflectors to adapt for harder or softer light.  You get the idea.

For the above photo I used a Rotolight Neo as my primary (which I think is a WAY better investment than the Ice Light), and I used two of the Canadian Tire lights with cheap reflectors from China.  Check it out:


Plus I get the added bonus of having some super convenient worklights to do my oil changes on. ;)  I obviously can't say it will make the most sense for you and your personal demands as a photographer, I'm just suggesting you be open to the idea of saving a few dollars because ultimately light is light.  Ask yourself honestly if you can save yourself a few bucks by buying off-brand, or making it yourself.  Yes, you may not look, "as professional," but when you're on a budget sometimes professional results are more important than how fancy your gear looks and what extra features it has.  Plus, all the extra money you save you can turn around and invest in one of THESE.

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