Ever heard of a Priolite? See how we used it to light a fantasy warrior princess

The Priolite is a new studio light from Germany. The cool thing about it is that it has a built-in removable internal battery so it can be used wirelessly just about anywhere. It's powerful, accurate, and easy to control and adjust. Could this be your all-in-one studio and location light? Read on to find out...

Miranda, the warrior princess!

We just finished a shoot for a new educational video, produced by Wiley for their brand spanking new website, DigitalClassroom.com. My commercial lighting video will be released in September and covers our 3-day adventure of lighting in the studio and on location in a secret elvin forest ;-) You won't want to miss it!

Until then, here's a sneak peak in to some of the things we did, including putting the Priolite MBX500 to the test with a couple of our models in the studio. The Priolite kit that I got included 2 lights, stands, an umbrella, wireless remote, and a soft box with optional grid attachment. You can run the lights via the battery alone for quite a while, or plug in the charger to keep it running all day while in the studio. It really is nice to eliminate your wires completely – without fear of tripping yourself or your clients while sending the lights crashing to the ground. The feeling of freedom is liberating, like going "commando" in the summer time. 

The dedicated wireless remote attaches to your camera hot shoe and controls every aspect of the flash – from modeling lights to power levels. You can control all your lights together or adjust them individually if they are on separate channels. I really love controlling everything from camera position as it makes the shoot come together quicker with less back and forth to adjust your lights. If you have hair lights in un-reachable positions, this REALLY saves time and is safer than climbing on stools to tweak your power settings. 

The first part of our course included some essential gear and lighting information. We covered a LOT of stuff! For a dramatic portrait, the Priolite soft box with the grid attachment turned out to be ideal. A grid attachment will constrain the spill of your light source. Essentially you have the soft, wrapping light quality of a soft box, but it is limited to a central area – like the models face and shoulders. The following images were created with this setup and an additional speedlight with RogueGrid attached to a pole for the edge light/hair light. I then converted the images to B&W using my Lightroom preset, "BW XXX" from the Workflow Collection Presets.

Our next image was a glamorous headshot of our "princess", using beauty lighting made from the Priolite softbox with grid, a reflector, and a fluorescent ring light for twinkling eyes. Oh wait, didn't I tell you about the princess? Our theme for the location shoot was: "A fantasy warrior princess, floating in a lush Elvin forest, looking for peace to make or butts to kick". Miranda, the daughter of one of our staff members, fit the part perfectly and her amazing athleticism gave credibility to the airborne images we would later make. But more about that later.

The ring light was a constant fluorescent light that was used primarily to add the circular catchlights in Miranda's eyes. The overall soft lighting comes from the box and white fill reflector under her face – forming a clam shell of luscious light. ("clam shell" and "luscious" don't really seem to go together, do they). We used a dark backdrop from WHCC to add subtle richness and keep it dramatic. For the glow around her head and the flare in to the lens we used 2 speedlights and a Photoflex Triton  In the setup shot you see all three lights behind her, although they were used for various lighting options. For the final images shown, you would only need one of the lights, strategically positioned.

Before heading out to our secret Elvin forest location, we wanted to give Miranda a test ride on our mini trampoline and make sure she was comfortable with what we needed her to do. It also gave us an opportunity to do some high-key bad-ass warrior princess portraits. I love my job.

We attached the Priolite to a Wescott 7' Octabank for the main light. I L-O-V-E this setup! When I say, "O.M.G." I mean Oh, My, Gorgeous! The giant Octabank creates smooth, even lighting that wraps and beautifies anything it touches. The Priolite speedring from the soft box attached perfectly to the Octabank modifier and the resulting light output was amazing. For the high-key white background I used two Photoflex 77"x77" LightPanels, covered with diffusion material, and spaced about 2 feet apart. My second Priolite was aimed directly in to the back of them using the included wide-spread reflector. I didn't have to move the light very far back because the reflector quickly and evenly disperses the light. I used two LitePanels as "double diffusion" to avoid any potential hot spots or unevenness in the background behind our model.

All that was left was to cut Miranda loose on the trampoline and feather her hair with a portable leaf blower.

It became immediately apparent that the Priolite is a sweet setup. Although the internal battery pack would seem to be ideal for outside location shoots where power isn't readily available, I really loved going cordless in the studio as well. If you were doing extended shooting throughout the day, then plugging it in might be necessary, but we never came close to exhausting the batteries during our daily sessions. The build quality is impressive in the lights as well as the accessories. Their softbox with grid attachment is becoming one of my favorite light modifiers.

Most battery-powered monolights either do not have modeling lights, or they run for a very limited time (like 10 seconds) and at a relatively low brightness level. The Priolite has an efficient LED modeling light that is bright and will run for an extended period on battery power alone. This can be very helpful in setting up your shots, although it will obviously drain your battery faster when you use it.

My main concern with the system is the overall weight of the head with the included battery, which is about 8 lbs. (their specs say 7 lbs, but my luggage scale said 8). You'll want to make sure and use a heavy duty light stand with this thing. Comparably, you could use a lighter A/C monolight with an external battery pack, like the White Lightning Vagabond Mini and it would be similar in total weight. The Photoflex Triton or Impact LiteTrek are also interesting battery-powered alternatives – although the power output and consistency may not match the Priolite. Having everything self-contained, however, is simple and convenient.

A Priolite setup is not going to be your cheapest lighting option, but not everyone wants cheap. If you're looking for a solid, dependable, feature-rich setup that will last most of your photographic career, then this is one to consider. I loved using it in the studio as it was reliable, convenient to use, and quick to adjust via the wireless remote. The pricing is on par with other systems offering similar quality, flash accuracy, repeatability, and flash duration. The full-enchilada Priolite kit with 2 lights, stands, umbrella, softbox, and heavy duty case is about $3409. The basic single MBX500 light is about $1650. A quality comparison would be the Profoto D1 Air 500w/s light at $1219 – but to go mobile you'd still need the BatPac battery at an additional $1832 and 25lbs. (The Vagabond Mini is not designed to work with the Profoto light).

Tune in next time and I'll share some images and the lighting setups from our Secret Elvin Forest shoot!