For the Love of Reptiles: Zac Herr photographs snakes with Litra and Platypod

Macro reptile photography set up

By Zac Herr, Reptile Photographer @iammakingart

 I have been a long time fan and Platypod user so I am always excited to find new ways to use mine. I have used it previously to hold speedlites as a more solid foundation, but recently found a new light pairing with Litra products. Simply put, Litra is the Platypod of light products. They aren’t hard to use, you can put them anywhere, and they just work.

Right out of the box, the Litra products have everything you need to attach them to anything and a great diffuser. The diffuser is also perfectly designed. As a macro photographer I am extremely picky about catchlights so I was thrilled that the diffusers on both the small and larger models are nicely curved and look very natural. Furthermore, there is no central hotspot to the lights and the temperature control on the LitraPro lets you replicate or match any light source you need. The smaller Litra Torch 2.0 is magnetic as well and can attach almost anywhere with the included stick-on metal discs.

After I got over appreciating what was in the box, it was time to start using them. My go to studio lights are a set of Profoto D2 strobes so, to be honest, I was initially skeptical there was anything else I needed for lighting my photos. It turned out, these are the perfect compliment and actually do things my strobes can’t. 

My first and favorite use was realizing that I can use the LitraTorch and have it not show in my photos. That sounds counterintuitive so let me explain. I often find myself shooting in fairly dark or dimly lit spaces which makes it very hard for my camera to find focus on auto-focus or even me to find it when manually focusing. Even my focus assist light on my camera body doesn’t do much for me. The logical choice is to turn on the modeling lights for my strobes but they get too hot and they also aren’t super bright. I often call my Platypod my extra hand, and now the LitraTorch has become my second set of eyes. They are plenty bright enough to illuminate the subject and drastically improve focusing speed. Yet they are adjustable to where I can have them not impact the final image at all and be overpowered by the flash. This is especially useful when shooting on black acrylic where any light reflection becomes an issue. The photo below was taken using the LitraTorch 2.0 as a focus assist for a fast moving isopod on a black background. Although this use case is probably not as intended, it is seriously a life saver for myself and any macro photographer.

Isopod on black background macro insect phogoraphy

So what if I don’t want to use strobes? That is where the Platypod comes in handy. I am generally not a fan of hot shoe mounted lights but always need a free hand so I have to put the light on something. Using Platypod with Litra, the Platypod becomes your lightstand replacement; no sandbags required. The Platypod Max makes the perfect base to hold the light and with an articulating arm, you have endless flexibility to place your light anywhere without fear of it falling over. Using a gooseneck allowing me to perfectly place the light with ease. Another thing to consider is that the Platypod provides a huge advantage of being able to shoot at low angles, but it can be hard to get a light on the same plane as the camera so using a Platypod for a camera and lights is helpful.

Although this green tree python wouldn’t sit still for a photo, at least it couldn’t destroy anything or hurt itself.

Although this green tree python wouldn’t sit still for a photo, at least it couldn’t destroy anything or hurt itself.

The LitraPro isn’t as bright as a studio strobe, but plenty bright enough to create interesting and moody photos while still keeping your ISO down to avoid noise. Finally, although no accidents this time, I have full confidence these lights can take a beating. With how water and drop proof they are, I don’t have to worry about an animal destroying them.

In the end, these Litras are the perfect compliment to my Platypod for those times I need a little extra help. I am thankful I don’t have to make room in my bag to add these lights because of how compact they are. With a Platypod and a LitraPro, you can fit a studio light set up in your back pocket for solid macro photos anywhere you go.

Reptile macro photography

About the Photographer: Zac Herr has a strong passion for reptiles and amphibians and uses his work as a method to raise awareness for and educate others about these incredible animals. While he loves working with both, amphibians will always be his first interest. Current estimates are that one third to one half of all amphibians are currently faced with extinction and it is his hope that he can show people animals they may never have seen or heard of and learn more about them. Support Zac by following his work on Instagram and purchasing his pins and prints from his ETSY store.

Noah Christensen