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The same passion that drives our Staff Pros to create stunning images as photographers and videographers also makes for exciting projects when they step out from behind the camera. A great example of this is Staff Pro Eleonora Raggi from Italy, who has just launched a new lighting solution, ghostLED.
We caught up with Eleonora to get the hear about how this project came to life, and how her passion to create and take risks has lead her through action sports photographer to becoming tech start up developer.
Hi Eleonora! Before we get into your new project, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into photography and your career path behind the camera?
At age 14, I started attending an Art school where I discovered photography and the dark room. I just got addicted and couldn’t stop anymore! I then moved to Milan thanks to a photo scholarship. Deciding to combine this obsession and my other passion, for snowboarding, I made it work until 2014 as my main profession in the field of sports and lifestyle. Since then I changed a few things in my list of priorities and decided to go back to university and get my hands dirty starting once again from scratch…
Can you tell us about your new project? What is the ghostLED?
Let’s say that this project is still about photography, still about passion but from a different angle. ghostLED is a new way to experience off-camera lighting on location. I would like to describe it as a problem-solving device that makes lighting available to everyone looking for that different POV.
Do you remember what triggered the idea to make this? How was this idea born?
In over a decade as a freelancer I’ve tested about as much equipment as it’s possible to test outdoors and I got to a point where I stood there looking at my equipment and started questioning it. Looking at my phone, my camera, my main light, why can’t I have seamless interaction among all my devices? And what about that hell of a nightmare when it starts raining?
At the same time, I started studying again and this was the perfect environment to take some time off and start sketching those ideas that soon became an obsession. If I have to be honest, the ideation phase followed a kind of a photography freeze moment where I couldn’t pick up my camera and feel completely fulfilled. I was missing something, I didn’t feel challenged anymore, I don’t know if you guys ever experienced that, it sucks! It then felt as creativity could translate into something different than images… but still feel related to my own world, Snap-Bits was born.
Why did you want to make a new lighting solution?
Aside from psychological stuff, I genuinely enjoy solving problems. I make it a personal thing until its done. So, I reverse-engineered my questions, listing each problem that came to mind as I looked across my entire photo equipment. Weight, price, versatility, sustainability, and functionality were the main ones. I then started to connect dots, and from a first idea of a sync between strobe and smartphone (This was back in 2012 so at that time this was still unseen, ok?!) I got myself lost in translation. In 2014, I took that sketch book back in my hands and started doing some research… and more research, and then I saw the light, literally! “Wait! LED can do way more stuff than a tungsten bulb because you can program it… EUREKA!” At that point, I started to get my first team mate involved, Matteo, because I needed some technical support, and then Mattia because I needed outstanding design.
Would you like to introduce your team? Who has helped to bring this project to life?
I wanted to surround myself with people that brought together passion and talent to share and support each other during the good and the bad moments happening in a startup. As previously mentioned Matteo Broggi was the first mate that decided to jump on board, in the mean time Mattia Sarti joined the team and gave an actual shape to the idea and ghostLED’s MVP was born. Stepping up the game meant getting further technical partners involved. I would like to thank everyone involved, including my supportive family, for making it happen together!
Having an idea for a cool new product is one thing, but bridging the gap from idea to reality is a big step. How did you bring this idea to life?
Work, work, work, coffee, repeat. As I mentioned earlier the team is key because it brings energy, competency, exchange, and motivation. People, in fact, are the most valuable asset of any project. While asking myself how to solve the already mentioned problems I also asked myself where I wanted to be heading to?! The answer was a clear vision that went beyond a single product. That goal kept me going, and from the first huge partially 3D printed MVP got to an engineered and new version, and another one. It’s like a pizza, you pile as much as you can on it and then somehow you hope it tastes good. Then you test it, and try it until you’ll find the perfect receipt. I hope the Kickstarter community will agree that we found
How has it been leading an technical engineering start up as a young photographer?
As any new project one finds himself to start from scratch, being curious and willing to hustle is the base. What you build on top of that is mostly made out of sweat and tears, and the people you choose to surround yourself with are key to support you on many levels. I’m not saying that the human component is always easy, but when you all work towards the same vision things might feel better, and when they don’t … you just go to sleep and solve it the next day!
Continuous LED lighting has been adopted by the video world, but speedlights and studio flashes are still the standard in the photography world. How is shooting photos with LED flash?
Good question. Shooting with LED in flash mode is something relatively new. It allows you to shoot in continuous mode, for instance 9fps with my camera, because it doesn’t have recharging time between pulses. This made it possible to include the High Speed Sync (HSS) feature, highly appreciated in a portable light allowing you to shoot with open aperture and up to 1/2000 in our case.
The quality of the light depends entirely on the type of LED, ghostLED’s CRI of 90 has color points developed specifically for the entertainment industry, and with 6000 lumens of output performance. The 5600K equivalent to daylight makes it perfect while shooting outdoors. You would expect a hard light instead even without a soft-box you can already reach a pleasant and soft portrait effect.
Flash mode on a climbing shoot in a cave: f/3,2 . 1/1250 . ISO 3200
What’s next for you and Ghost LED?
In the short term, I’ll be leaving for a road trip visiting a bunch of colleagues – fellow photographers and visual creatives – around the Alps taking portraits for the series HWC (Human With Camera) and will be streaming some behind-the-scenes footage to show this baby working! Just pop me a message on insta @snap_bits if you are in those areas. In the longer term; push through this startup phase and ramp up the ghostLED production to get it out there for you guys.
Do you have any final words? Any goals that have been on hold during this project?
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Nothing more cliche but true than this. After this period of hustling behind the scenes I feel like I’m really missing traveling with my gear loaded backpack so badly! I feel like I want to tell some stories about those that create, those that dream. I hear too many complaints about how it’s everyone else fault for not being able to change routine and so on. I would like to portrait humans who instead dare.
f-stop folks, thank you for supporting me since 2013!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. We’re looking forward to seeing what creative uses this is taken to!
To find out more about Eleonora’s ghostLED project, it is now live on Kickstarter here.
Disclaimer: This product is in no way connected to f-stop gear - we are just impressed with our Staff Pro team member's creation!