2018-06-27

Testing Rotolight's portable studio lighting kit on location

Studio lights allow you to master your lighting - but what happens when you want to recreate that studio-lit effect on location?

At Park Cameras, we've teamed up with Rotolight to bring you the exclusive launch of the Rotolight 3 Light Location Kit - a portable photography studio kit. We've road tested it at 4 very different locations, at different times of day. Here's our overview:

Rotolight location shoot - Mark Larry Band- Ashley Laurence
The Sony a7R II's Eye AF feature is incredibly useful when shooting at f/1.4 line


PORTABLE LIGHTING KIT – TAKE THE STUDIO to your location!


We’ve waxed lyrical about the virtues of using LED lights before in our blog - we went to Rotolight’s home at Pinewood Studios to attend a workshop by their very own master of light, Jason Lanier.

We were inspired by how portable the lights were - and wanted to see how we could enhance our ambient light photography with some studio lights.

It was at that Rotolight event that the seeds were sown to put together a ‘location kit’ – we’re proud to say that we’re the only retailer offering the location kit at launch. This exclusive kit is made up of:

- AEOS as the key light,
- 2x Neos(1 fill light, 1 back light)
- 2x stands
- Rotopod
- Carry case

Full kit list used for this shoot and video available at the bottom of this article.

Rotoloight location kit

Portable Studio Lighting – practical test on 4 locations


We wanted to demonstrate how versatile the kit was, while putting it through its paces to meet our own vigorous, wear-&-tear-inducing demands!

What better way to do this than shoot a bunch of musicians, at 4 different locations, at different times of day, with drastically different ambient light levels?

Location Number 1: Liemba, Hove Lagoon

Where & when: A north facing wall on Hove lagoon. 9:00-9:30pm – Bright sunlight / golden hour (shot on Summer Solstice)

Rotoloight location shoot - Liemba - Ashley Laurence

Rotoloight location shoot - Liemba - Ashley Laurence


About the shoot: Shot at the end of golden hour, the ambient light was initially so bright that using HSS was more effective at isolating the band from the background.

Once the light started to drop, switching to continuous lighting offered the benefit of being able to adjust exposure in-camera, removing any guesswork. Although it did also attract a large number of Mayflies to our shoot!

About the kit: The ball-head attachment for the AEOS allowed the light to be pushed high and angled down. Not only perfect for creating your classic ‘beauty lighting’, it also allowed me to change my angle I was shooting from – above the band, looking down, to add some extra dynamism to the final shot.

Location Number 2: Liemba, St Anne’s Wells Gardens

Where & when: St Anne’s Wells Gardens, 10:00-10:30pm –  low light, under cover from trees

About the shoot: As this was on a bench in a wooded park, the initial plan was to have layers of trees in the background to portray depth.

Rotoloight location shoot - Liemba - Ashley Laurence - St Anne's Well

Rotoloight location shoot - Liemba - Ashley Laurence


Given how dark it had become (despite an exceptionally late sunset due to it being summer solstice), the conditions lent themselves for creating isolated lighting on the band members faces.

About the kit: The kit’s versatility shone here – easy to set up (& dismantle) even in dark conditions, the Neo placed on a Rotopod was discreet enough to create back-lighting without getting the kit itself in-shot.

In these conditions, we didn’t need to have the power on any of the lights higher than 5% - plenty of power left over to play with here.

Location Number 3: Mark Larry Band, Portslade Dock

Where & when: Concrete brutalist style stairs & dock-side at Portslade Dock, 5-7pm - bright but with cloud cover

About the shoot: A brutalist concrete staircase that offered some strong lead-in lines for creative compositions, with dock-side interest for additional portraits. Shot on a bright day, but with fairly even cloud cover.

About the Kit: Both the AEOS and NEOs are light enough to be hand-held, offering great flexibility – leaning across steps and shooting on a steep gradient was no problem.

Because the lights have multiple light sources from the high number of LEDs on each light, we could hold the light close to the subject’s face without needing to use unwieldy light modifiers. It’s hard to see how we could have shot on this location with a traditional modifier.


Rotoloight location shoot - Mark Larry Band - Ashley Laurence

Rotolight location shoot - Mark Larry Band- Ashley Laurence

Rotolight location shoot - Mark Larry Band- Ashley Laurence


Note – The Neo’s started to run out of juice on this set, so we lost some of the power in our fill lights. This was their third shoot, running on 6 AA batteries (cheap branded, not particularly suited for high energy consumption products) – impressive!


Location Number 4: Mark Larry Band, indoor shoot 

Where & when: Interior (Living Room), 8:30pm – 9:30pm


Rotolight location shoot - Mark Larry Band- Ashley Laurence



About the shoot: Shot in Larry’s front room, to bring some individuality to the shoot via location.

About the kit: The ability to change colour temperature at the flick of a button allowed us to get creative. Once again, having the third Neo on the Rotopod offered great versatility as either the fill or the back-light.

Our Verdict on the Rotolight 3 Light Location Kit

What we found really set this kit apart was the versatility, and ability to switch between continuous and High Speed Sync (HSS) all from one light.

The kit has plenty of tricks up its sleeve – the Elinchrom skyport transmitters (compatible with Nikon, Canon, Sony & Olympus, with a Fujifilm compatible version available later in 2018) can be used as a master control for a group of lights. So you can change the colour temperature and power from your camera – great for adjusting mid-shoot.



High Speed Sync – a perfect marriage with mirrorless

Rotolight’s real USP is that the lack of recycle time on the LED HSS means that the lights will match fast frame rates on your camera. Why is this important?

Let’s say you are shooting at 10fps to capture motion – for example, freezing water droplets with flash as water is thrown over someone’s face (think ‘hydration’ adverts - or revenge!).

A traditional light / recycle time combination may only allow the first couple of frames to be captured (for the length of the flash duration) – with the remaining frames seriously underexposed while the light is ‘recycling’. With the Rotolights you don't miss these shots.

So, in short – more frames recorded, more usable images – better choice of final image. And while this applies to any camera with high fps capacity, it is clearly a perfect match for the current wave of mirrorless cameras that excel at high speed shooting.

There are a host of other features we’ve not delved into – if you are shooting on video there are in-light special effects such as lightning and fire, as well as fades in/out that is perfect for filming transitions.

Sadly, space in the blog is limited, so let’s wrap this up. We were hoping that the kit would be:

Portable & lightweight
Easy to set up
Adaptable (easily hand-held)
Instinctive to use.

And it was.


Many thanks to Liemba & Mark Larry Band.

Pics by Ashley Laurence, ably assisted by Matt Dugard

If you have any questions, add them below and we'll get back to you! We'd also love to hear the most challenging location you've attempted to 'turn into a studio' - comment below!

Read more about the benefits of LED lighting in our blog.

*Park Cameras Exclusive* View the Rotolight 3 Light Location Kit - available for £1,599.99 – saving £194.94 on individual SRPs

FREE NEO II when purchased with selected Sony mirrorless Alpha bodies (for a limited time only!)

Kit we used for our location shoot

Rotolight 3 Light Location Kit:
  • Rotolight AEOS 
  • AEOS Battery pack
  • Rotolight Neo II x2 
  • Light Stands x2
  • Rotopod x1 
  • 1x ball head adapter 
We also used:

Shooting Kit (Stills)
Shooting Kit (Video):