25th February 2016

jared purfield

An experimental light test shoot


Photography is a Greek word that means "Light drawing". Unlike the portrait painters from our past we can create our own light and manipulate it in ways that they would envy. With technology we can even create devices that can give us even more scope to play with.

One of these tools is called an Ice Light (look it up). It is, in the simplest of terms, a portable strip light. It is a little more sophisticated than than e.g. the light is daylight balanced. However, they are pretty expensive. The Ice Light is £280 (at the time of writing) with the Ice Light 2 at £490! There are cheaper knock-off versions, but some of these have inherent flaws that I will expand later. However, the kind of portraits you create with this kind of lighting device opens up new and interesting possibilities.

Whilst doing a bit of research on these devices, I found a link of someone who had made his own version on YouTube. I checked it out and decided to have a go myself because the parts were pretty easy to source. His one did have a flaw, the tube was lit from one end so the light from one end of the tube to the other dropped off. What you want is a consistent intensity from one end to the other. I figured that this could be done if you placed identical torches at both ends.

Upon testing the first mock-up I found the middle of the light was only 1/3 of a stop dimmer than just either side. If you look at the photograph it is pretty consistent. I can live and work with that.

light beam

If shot at 1/125th second, f/4 and ISO 800, the light is pretty even.

The next stage was to secure the torches to the end of the tube. This was done using a couple of rubber sleaves with hose grips.

jared purfield

The light was placed above Jared's head to create what photographers call "butterfly" lighting because of the small butterfly shaped shadow beneath his nose. We did place a reflector under his chin, but the reflected light made very little difference. I think the light needs to drop down a little and further forward so there are catch lights in his eyes.

jared purfield

This is what we did in photograph. You can see the reflection of the light in Jared's eyes and his eye socks are not so dark. The shadows beneath his cheek bones help to narrow the shape of the face. I think there is something very haunting about this photograph. Perhaps it is the lighting, just his expression or a bit of both.

jared purfield

The tube light was placed in a horizontal position and I tried to light Jared's face so both sides of it were lit and you can see peaks and dips along the side of his face. The narrow strip catchlights in his eyes give the photograph life and draw you in. Also note the shadow on the right makes his face look slimmer because of this.

jared purfield

A slightly different version of the previous photograph. I darkened the skin tone a little during post production. He is almost smiling.

Technical details

A full-frame camera with one lens was used throughout the shoot. The lens was an 85mm f/1.8. All the shots were taken in manual mode. The shutter speed was 1/250s, aperture f/2.5 and ISO 800. The camera was mounted a tripod so I could compose the shot, make any adjustments and not have to make any major changes to the camera's position.

Post production

I used Lightroom to apply a film emulation and tilted Jared's head so his eyes were not on the horizontal. I would have done this at the time of shooting, but we were a bit pushed for time. Photoshop was used to slightly blur the skin and enhance details around the eyes and hair.


I was happy with the results using the light. I need to keep working on the design of it. I have various ideas in my head on how to improve it so it is lighter and more robust. Putting an array of LED bulbs down the tube is an option, but as one veteran photographer pointed out, each LED casts its own shadow. Instead of one you have lots shadows. That will not do and hence why I have not considered cheaper options. However, having adaqute diffusion should solve this. Creating this light cost me under £50. The torches were the most expensive component.

Because of the design of this light (the source is long and narrow), the quality of light it creates is hard i.e. the shadows are very distinct. You can see where there is light and its absence. I am not afraid of using hard light and shadows. You just need to know when to use it and how so you still end up with a flattering image.

Your thoughts

Please leave any thoughts, comments, questions or just say, "Hi!" (not literally) below. I really do appreciate feedback especially if you one of the performers. E.g. What is your favourite photograph and why?

Your thoughts


Please leave any thoughts, comments, questions or just say, "Hi!" (not literally) below. I really do appreciate feedback. E.g. What is your favourite photograph and why?

A few more photos on Facebook.

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