My Two Favorite Portable Lights

I love to use both the Westcott Icelight and the Lowel GL-1 on my shoots. They have their strengths and weaknesses, but the big question is, which one is better? Check out the video and article below to see my verdict.

[Rewind: Westcott Icelight Review]

[Rewind: Lowel GL-1 Review]

Westcott Icelight vs. Lowel GL-1 Video Review

Westcott Icelight

The Westcott Icelight was made for portrait photography, and I love using it on my couples portrait sessions. The light is soft, and it wraps beautiful around the features on our couple and I don’t get too harsh of shadows. The unique shape of the Icelight also gives me a nice spread of light over my couple when I’m taking full body portraits.

Canon 5DM3 with Canon 50mm f/1.2 L at 1/125 sec f/1.2 ISO 1600

The Icelight is also great for detail shots for the same reasons it’s great for portraits. It’s soft light and the shape of the Icelight produces a beautiful wrap of light the centerpieces and details in the shots below.

Canon 5DM3 with Canon 85mm f/1.2 L at 1/100 sec f/2 ISO 800
Canon 5DM3 with Canon 85mm f/1.2 L at 1/100 sec f/1.2 ISO 400

The Achilles heel of the Westcott Icelight is it’s range. You have to stand very close to your subjects for the light to be effective because the light falls off extremely quick. In the detail shots above our lighting assistant is standing just outside of frame with the Icelight, and in the image below you can see just how close our assistant had to be to the cake.

Canon 5DM3 with Canon 50mm f/1.2 L at 1/100 sec f/2.8 ISO 400


Lowel GL-1

I use the Icelight for my tighter portraits and detail shots, but for everything else I’m typically using the Lowel GL-1. The GL-1 is a more powerful and overall just a bit more versatile of a light. In the image below I was shooting a long exposure and I was able to paint in light on the walls and on the center pieces using the GL-1 standing from around 40 feet away.


Here’s another example of using the Lowel GL-1 with a long exposure technique. Here I’m shooting an environmental portrait and my assistant is able to shine the light directly onto my couple without getting any light spill using the GL-1’s zoom function. Again, the assistant is probably around 20-30 feet from the couple.

Canon 5DM3 with Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II L at 1 sec f/5.6 ISO 100

The Verdict

I love using both these lights. They’re quality portable lights that push the boundaries of my creativity as well as produce stunning images. It’s difficult for me to choose one, because after using both I can’t imagine not having either in my kit. The Westcott Icelight is perfect for portraits but lacks power, and the GL-1 is versatile but the light is a bit harsher. In addition, to switch from tungsten to daylight balance with the GL-1 with a filter, the amount of light loss is quite significant at around 2-3 stops darker.

If I absolutely had to pick one, I would choose the Lowel GL-1. The versatility and power fits into my workflow and style of photography better than the Westcott Icelight. The GL-1 is not without it’s problems (as you can see from our review) but Lowel stands behind their product, and every issue we’ve had with the GL-1 they’ve resolved.

gl-1 and icelight

Although I’d say the GL-1 is a bit more versatile than the Icelight, the Icelight still comes with me on every portrait session, because as far as portable continuous lights for portraiture, the Icelight is unmatched. However, if you are primarily choosing the light simply for close up low-light portraiture, then the Icelight will be the better bet.

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