As a rescue photographer, lighting is very important in terms of producing high quality images that will get dogs noticed and adopted. Shooting in small, dark corner areas of the shelter is usually the only free space – so natural lighting is not an option for an indoor shoot. I already use Savage Seamless paper, and was not initially aware that they now have lights. They’re a great brand so I was exciting to give their lights a go! By combining the lights with a roll of Savage Seamless Paper, I’ve been able to create my own studio on the go – providing consistency with each dog I photograph.
I was thrilled when I received my Savage Universal LED Portrait Kit. Straight out of the box, the kit includes:
- Two dimmable 176 chip on board LED lights
- Two quick-open softboxes with detachable baffles
- Two 6′ light stands
- Two protective pouches for LED lights
- One padded carry bag
There is not a manual in the bag – but the kit is user friendly enough that you don’t need any additional explanation in putting it all together. And you can have your entire setup put together in a matter of minutes.
The light stands are solid enough to work well with the gear in this kit, although if you use a heavier softbox in the feature, or other accessories, you may want to invest in a front weight – like a sandbag – to help sturdy them.
You can control the lights easily with the dimmer. It starts at 10% and goes all the way up to 100%. I tend to use them at full power if using them individually, which is sometimes best due to the spaces I shoot in – but in an environment with more light or using both lights together, it is easy to shoot with them at lower percentages.
The LED lights were brighter than I expected – definitely a plus, since sometimes there is only space for one light. You may want to use a diffuser in the softbox, although I have not found that I need to do so.
One light at 50%:
One light at 100%:
Another plus – they run quietly, so I feel like I could also use them for short videos to help show off the personality of the dogs I shoot.
I think my favorite thing about the LED lights versus the studio flashes I have used is that they do not overheat. When your shoot involves animals and leashes, which can get tangled around your equipment, it is nice to know that there isn’t a chance of a hot light thrown into the mix. The warmth of non-LED lights can also make your furrier subjects overheat more easily.
The continuous light also helps keep the animals calm, without bright flashes every time you take a shot. It also distributes the light evenly, so there is not one area brighter than another when you are using one light. This has been helpful for me in terms of post-production; I’m not spending a lot of time adjusting color/tone/contrast of my images in Photoshop due to issues with lighting.
It’s nice for the lights to be a daylight light source, since I prefer the illusion of natural light, instead of a more yellow-y effect. This is really helpful for me when I’m shooting dogs with white fur. I’ve used cheaper lighting alternatives in the past, which have also rendered black fur to have a blueish tinge – this is no longer an issue.
I also used these lights on a shoot with a newborn, who was calm and comfortable under the glow of the softbox.
Using the lights, I’ve been able to get crisp details in the dogs’ eyes and noses, which make all of the difference in the overall quality of the photos. The continuous light works well with Savage Seamless paper backdrops, since using an on camera or triggered flash can create unpleasant flare-like visual effects on the backdrop.
The softboxes are 20” wide, and are easy enough to put together.
Carrying around my gear – camera and lenses, Savage Seamless paper rolls, background stand, bags of bandannas and other props for photo shoots – can be a balancing act. The padded carry bag is so convenient – now all of the lighting gear is easy to transport, and as a kit it is all very lightweight. The bags for the individual pieces of the kit are helpful. Plus there is room for me to store additional gear.
Overall, you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck with this lighting kit. It gives you enough to really get the results you need, without lots of heavy and unnecessary gear. You’ll see a big difference immediately in the quality of your shots.