Why trying to save a few pennies as a photographer cost me a fortune.

I have learnt many lessons in my years as a professional photographer but if there is one that really sticks out it is that every time I have gone for the cheaper option is has cost far more than I have saved in the long run.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Purchased generic batteries rather than Nikon originals for my D700 saving £30.
    • Net result – Even though it was showing as fully charged the battery died half way through a wedding ceremony. Luckily I had spares in my bag but I lost key shots while changing it. 
  • Purchased bulk Duracell AA’s for my flash from eBay saving £2-3 per pack.
    • Net result – Batteries were fakes and leaked in my flash. Cost of a new SB910 £318.89. Not covered on insurance as it is ‘contamination’. 
  • Purchased 3rd party grip for my D700 saving £200.
    • Net result – The cheaper grip was not properly regulated and fried my camera mid wedding. Cost of repair £400 as it invalidated my warranty.
  • Purchased a 3rd party battery pack for my SB910 saving £120.
    • Net result – this ALSO wasn’t properly regulated and fried my flash. Net cost another £318.89 (although my insurance did pay for this minus my excess).
  • Purchased a D700 from a supplier that were the cheapest locally saving £50.
    • Net result – Turns out it was a grey import and had no UK warranty. When it developed a fault on the hot shoe I had to cover the repair. Cost £150.

Sure, you could just say I was unlucky. Repeatedly. But I now only buy Nikon original gear, I only buy direct from Amazon (NOT resellers on their site) and I don’t touch eBay with a barge pole. On a side note I now used the excellent Sanyo 2450 mAh Eneloop rechargeables for my flash. High capacity, last longer than non-rechargeables and much better for the environment.

Westcott Ice Light Review

My purchase of my Westcott Ice Light was a bit of an impulse decision. I had heard other photographers talk about them like they were nothing short of miraculous, a source of perfect light available at the flick of a switch. It sounded too good to be true and, sadly, it is. That said once you have figured out its limitations it is a rather special piece of gear that has proven itself astonishingly useful.

Westcott Ice Light Review

Shot in a very dim bathroom with little natural light the Ice Light did a great job bringing out this brides beauty with its soft feel.

First of all it is important to know if you are considering buying one that it is not a magic bullet. Although bright the Ice Light is useless in daylight, even when heavily overcast, as it lacks the  guts to over power the sun by a wide margin. This is shown by the fact that nearly all the demo videos of it in the field are shot in near total darkness! (You can see them here, here and here) . Where it really comes into its own is when the light is poor. Got a bride getting ready in a dim hotel room? Bam, the Ice Light gives fantastic soft flattering light that is far superior to any flash. Shooting a portrait session and need to over power tungsten light? The Ice Light can even out the exposure and ambient light temperature.

WHW_5472

Used here to balance out the light between the dim foreground and the lights of Manchester.

The light is surprisingly easy to handle and is not at all weighty. It is entirely possible to shoot holding your camera in one hand and the light in another or alternatively to get someone to hold it for you as there is always a spare bridesmaid or two nearby. When it comes to the mechanics of shooting with the light I find the easiest way is to cheat a little and spot meter on the subject. Normally I would dial in the exposure manually but for shooting on the fly spot metering does a great job and the Ice Light highlights the subject beautifully with a stunning drop off.

The main question is, of course, is it worth the money? The answer depends hugely on how it fits your work flow and style. For 99% of amateurs I would guess that the £400 price tag is a deal breaker as that money could be better spent on other gear or training but if you are faced with poor light on a regular basis (as all wedding photographers are!) and can justify the price tag then it is a must. It is much more flexible and convenient than a shoot through umbrella and much more dependable than a reflector.

Westcott Ice Light Review

Used here to uplight the bride the Ice Light creates gorgeous catch lights and illuminates a dim corner of the hotel room.

For me, despite my initial misgivings, the Ice Light has rapidly become indispensable. As a professional I wouldn’t leave home without it and would certainly recommend it to anyone thinking about taking the jump.