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.
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.
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.
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.