I am mostly a natural light photographer. I love to shoot in locations that inspire me, but clouds and sun aren’t always keen to cooperate. Cool things don’t always happen at the right light-time of the day either.

I shoot models and portraits of clients mainly outdoors. I try to schedule the shoots right before sunset when the light is awesome, but when they arrive too late it becomes almost impossible to get an impressive shot.

About a year ago I found out that small portable lights actually exist! When things get a bit dark, I don’t need to keep my model waiting while I open tripods or set up flashes; I just slide a little device out of my pocket, and it’s ready to use in 3 seconds! Why this information has been withheld from me for 30 years will forever remain a mystery.

Was it necessary to shoot this shaman at his pitch black house in the mountains of Nepal lighting him with the 2 only mobile phones available in the village? Turns out it wasn’t. If I had known back then that for as little as 199kr you can get an ultra-light portable light that actually works, my life would have been so much easier, and this guy’s eyes way shinier and dreamier!

Since this new world was revealed to me, this is what I look for in a portable light: small size, light weight, as potent as possible, very easy and fast to set up, and a battery duration of at least 1h in continuous mode. Keeping that in mind, I have carefully selected and tried some of the portable lights available in Kaffebrus, and I have been pleasantly surprised. I love and want them all, so now my bank account is going to be surprised too.

Since we now live in a viral apocalypse, models are scarce, so I have used myself as a model. Be kind.

I would usually use these lights outdoors, for travel photography, street photography, or on-location portraits. But for this blog post I decided to shoot indoors, in complete darkness, in order to be able to evaluate the real power of every little light. The results you’d get using them outdoors would usually be way brighter, since there are often many different sources of light around (street lights, shop windows, cars… even the moon can add light to a shot!)

For this little comparison I placed the lights in the ultra-portable stand you can find at the bottom of this post. I always use it when I need to hold a little light or a microphone while shooting outdoors.

These have been my self-imposed rules for this photoshoot:

The lights have been placed at about 1.5-3m distance from me, slightly to the side.

I have only retouched the skin.

I haven’t changed the exposure in any of the shots.

It’s all shot at 50mm 1.8, and I have kept the ISO between 100 and 200.

Camera: Canon EOSR. Lens: Canon 50mm 1.8

 

The first light I tried is the Ulanzi mini led-panel:

AKA the lightest and cheapest portable light available in Sweden, often used for vlogging. I was quite skeptic in the beginning but am quite pleased with the results.

You can regulate the intensity, but it’s the one where I’ve had to place myself closer to the source of light. Yet, I found it too intense at full power / 1,2m distance.

It’s a daylight (5500W). I would like it better if the light was a bit warmer, but that’s my personal preference.

It works with two AA batteries. I try to choose devices I can plug and recharge, to avoid creating waste, but for that price it’s quite a good deal!

 

This is the Aputure Amaran AL-MW:

I had been wanting to have it my hands since I first heard of it. This is like The Jewel of the Crown of all portable lights. It’s hand-size, but very potent, comes with colour gels, and it’s waterproof!! A light that you can bring to create videos scuba-diving up to 10m, or to shoot models underwater in a swimming pool!!! The battery can last up to 24h, and all in 290gm. Can’t wait to go scare the scales out of some fish next summer!

I also like how it works for moody studio light portraits! I want to try it as a hair light too.

I used it without the diffuser cause I was hungry (looks like those two things may not be related, but they are), so the harsh shadows could have easily been avoided. Don’t blame the pretty light, blame me, and blame the hunger.

I am not a big fan of gels (cause I’d probably lose them all in the first 2 minutes), but the second they release this light in RGB I am totally buying it!

 

 

Yes, as you guessed, at this point I was struggling to find new “posing-alone-in-the-dark ideas”. Then luckily I remembered how my dad always said: you’ll find all answers in the books.

So I covered my brains with a book, screwed the light to my stand, and voila!

This is a sable light that comes with all the paraphernalia you need to hang and plug it in your car, and vlog while you drive: a very safe activity to do with the family on a Sunday.

I want to believe that they created it thinking about a lighting solution to illuminate and shoot videos of people driving: a movie scene with a taxi driver being chased by aliens, or a scene with a sweaty first-time dad driving his rather dilated wife to the delivery room at the hospital, mafia conversations in a car… the usual stuff that happens in all of our cars.

I like sword lights in general, and this one is the lightest I have been able to find. It’s a bit over 900gm, and ideally I don’t want to carry more than 300gm, but it’s a fun and useful enough light, so I thought it’s worth mentioning it here.

It can also be used with AA batteries.

One of the things I like about this little light is that since it has a handle, the model can hold and point it, so you don’t need to carry a stand, and it also becomes a cheap light painting gear!

It goes from 3200K to 5600K.

 

This is the Ulanzi L1 pro. This spotlight has been, literally, in my pocket since 2019 when someone gifted it to me. 60gm only, and 3 levels of intensity!

I use it a lot when I go to explore and take pictures of old abandoned buildings, and also with clients when I just need a little light bump in their face. It’s waterproof, so you could create cool light effects with water when shooting products. These are some examples of how I used it in a very dark old building in Transnistria last summer:

      

 

It comes with colour gels, so I love it too as a secondary light, to add a little splash of colour. I have used it also for funky colourful light painting.

 

This is the Jinbei EFP50. Totally out of ideas, I decided that tying my shirt to my head was obviously gonna be the coolest thing ever. I look like a pirate-smurf:

This led panel can run on NP-F970 batteries, or be plugged to the wall. It’s not a light I would personally bring to my solo travels, but with a weight of 1.35kg, being really fast and easy to handle and a price of only 2800kr, I would be more than happy to carry it to an outdoor photoshoot or a wedding.

For my surprise, I loved it as studio light too! If I ever stop thinking about it and turn a room at home into a little studio, I would definitely consider getting a couple of this for half-body portraits! They take so little space but give you so much power!

 

Let me introduce you to my friend Vijim VL-1:

I have used it since April last year. I don’t go anywhere without it, and it’s saved my you-know-what like a hundred times when the light unexpectedly switches while shooting outdoors.

It weighs about the same as a phone (147g), fits in my pocket, charges via USB from anywhere, and a full charge can last up to 1h when used non-stop at full potency (which I rarely do).

I love how simple it is to use: just one wheel. Roll it up or down to choose the right brightness (from 0% to 100%). Press, and roll up and down to choose the colour temperature (from 3000K to 6500K). It tells you at all times the percentage of light you have left with those settings. IT’S THAT SIMPLE! 

(Yeah, just like it may have happened to you, I also got tired of seeing my face.)

 

The Vijim VL-2 is an upgraded, RGB version of the VL-1. It lasts more than twice as long, weights 300grams and it’s a bit brighter (12w instead of the 8w of the first version), almost the same size, and equally stole my heart. Boasts extremely accurate colour reproduction, as well as a full-colour temperature range of 2500k-8500k.

It also has special effects lighting built-in, such as TV light, ambulance lights, lightning, and candlelight, so it can be pretty useful in low budget video productions.

Both Vijims can be used as a power bank too.

If I had to choose one and only one portable light right now, I would choose this one (don’t tell the Vijim VL-1, she’ll get all jelly).

Between the features that remain a mystery to me in These Vijim, there is the fact that the whole light is a magnet: you can hold it in a metallic surface. I have used this feature a total of zero times, but if you’ve always wanted to livestream from your freezer, I may just have made your day.

This is all I had for today! Enough of my face! I hope you found some useful info to decide on your next portable lights! As usual, if you have any question or need guidance choosing a light, give us a call, we’re always happy to chat with you!

These are photo-links to all the lights and the portable light stand I have used in this blogpost. Happy clicking! 🙂

mini-led panel

Aputure Amaran AL-MW

Ljussabel

 

Vijim VL-1

Jinbei EFP-50

Ulanzi L1 pro spotlight

Ulanzi VL-2