©Betsy Finn

Review: StellaPro Portrait Plus Kit

Light & Motion has been in the lighting business for 30 years, but it’s only recently that its product lineup included options for photographers working above water. I visited the company’s booth at Imaging USA 2021 and was intrigued by the weatherproof and ultra-portable properties of their lights. Originally designed for underwater photography, the lights had to be redesigned to work out of the water without overheating (since water is better than air at keeping things cool).

I tested the Portrait Plus Kit (StellaPro CLx10 and CL 2000 lights and various modifiers) and RF remote.

The StellaPro CLx10 is quick to deploy, lightweight, compact, and delivers beautiful light for video and stills alike. The light beam angle is 120 degrees, with no flickering at up to 1,000 frames per second. The StellaPro CLx10 is great for photographers used to using natural light because it’s daylight balanced, and what you see is what you get. The maximum output is 10,000 lumens with a battery-only run time of 45 minutes, but you can extend the battery life significantly by working at lower output (e.g. 15 hours at 500 lumens). If you’re willing to work with the StellaPro CLx10 plugged into a power source, there’s no limit to run time, but the battery will not charge simultaneously.

A StellaPro 2000 light with barn doors lights a still life of a waffle on a plate.
©Betsy Finn
Close up of a waffle with chocolate drizzle on a white plate
©Betsy Finn
A StellaPro CL 2000 monolight against a white background
Courtesy Light & Motion

The second light in the kit is the StellaPro CL 2000. It has the same beam angle, but the unit is more compact. At its maximum output of 2,000 lumens you get 50 minutes of run time.

Both lights are drop resistant to 1 meter and can handle rain, snow, and sleet. The StellaPro CLx10 is not dive rated due to its fan; the CL 2000 is rated to 1 meter.

StellaPro lights run hot, so the StellaPro CLx10 has a lock-out feature that prevents it from turning on accidentally, which could melt its carrying case. Another word of warning: Don’t store them fully discharged, as it’s hard for the batteries to come back.

The Portrait Plus kit includes a case and a generous selection of modifiers: a 25-degree Fresnel lens, a three CTO set, a 3-inch speed gel ring holder, a 50-degree optic, 82mm barn doors, a Profoto adapter for OCF speed rings, and more. The RF remote control—not included—lets you dial in the power remotely.

Matcha tea on a wooden spoon with other tea related items in the background, out of focus
©Betsy Finn
A StellaPro CL 2000 light with translucent white umbrella lights a still life on a kitchen counter
©Betsy Finn

I tested the Bowens mount adapter with a soft box and umbrellas in some of my sessions. Be careful not to get fabric too close to these lights. After one test, I stowed the light in the crook of my arm as I removed it from the light stand (a habit from working with strobes). I didn’t get burned, but I’m now familiar with the smell of melting fleece.

Working with hot lights is different from working with strobes or speedlights. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons yourself to determine if they would benefit you and the types of photography you do. The StellaPro lights allow you to work with video and still cameras simultaneously and are great for weddings and events where you don’t want the distraction of flash. Though I didn’t test it personally, I think the constant light might be a good option if you’re working with animals who may be scared by sudden light and pops of flash. News and editorial photographers who want something small and portable to carry as a backup for natural light could make use of the StellaPro lights, as would food and product photographers, for whom a continuous source simplifies the lighting process. I don’t see Light & Motion’s products replacing my strobe lights anytime soon for family portraiture. I work with a lot of kids and families and would be concerned about what could happen if a hot light was knocked over.

For indoor work, StellaPro lights are great. Being able to see the products I was going to photograph in the light they’d be photographed in allowed me to focus on the creative aspects of my work. I loved using both the StellaPro CLx10 and the CL 2000 for product shots and working in tight quarters.

Portrait of a couple in front of trees with pink blossoms
©Betsy Finn
A couple stands in front of a light stand with StellaPro light mounted on it. The location is outdoors in front of a stone building with blossoming trees in the background.
©Betsy Finn
Couple in front of trees with pink blossoms
©Betsy Finn

Working outdoors with these lights is a bit tricker. I had to plan my sessions for times of day when there was a possibility of overpowering the ambient light. If you schedule midday sessions, don’t plan on seeing much aside from shadows filled in. In one of my sessions the light was only several feet away from the subjects. The StellaPro fared much better in the evening when I scheduled a session just before dark. Even then, the ambient light kept me from achieving a dramatic look until I went under a bridge to simulate darkness without waiting for the sun to set completely.

I enjoyed experimenting with the lights and it was fun to work outside my norm of strobe lighting.

The StellaPro Portrait Plus Kit retails for $1,999.99, the RF remote control for CL/CLX retails for $129.99, and the StellaPro CLx C-stand adapters for Bowens or Profoto retail for $99.99 each. 

Betsy Finn has a portrait studio, Betsy’s Photography, in Michigan.

Tags: lighting