This year, 2001,
marks the 75th year that F.J. Westcott has been doing business. Known
today as a leader in manufacturing light modification equipment, the company
started out as an umbrella company, wholesaling to dry goods stores throughout
the US. At first, the sister company to F.J. Westcott, Haas-Jordan Company,
would manufacture the umbrellas and sell them to Westcott, which then
resold them to various stores. When the dry goods stores began disappearing
the product line evolved toward golf umbrellas and photographic light
umbrellas that were used by studios to reflect or diffuse light.
Twenty-five years ago the now president of the company, Tom Waltz, joined
and began developing relations with photographic lighting companies and,
more importantly, photographers themselves. He invented and developed
products that form the company's line-up today. Originally, Westcott
made umbrellas and other accessories for major flash manufacturers to
sell under their own brand name. The company then decided to market under
their own name, Westcott.
Waltz credits much of the company's success to working with pro
photographers who lecture on and use the products. Their ideas, evaluations,
comments, and needs have defined the Westcott evolution and has resulted
in the company offering more than 300 products today.
Waltz said, "As we developed our line of photographic products we
realized that we were in the light modification business, and that we
were not locked into any fixed idea about how a photographer could use
and would use their lighting. We offer products with a great deal of flexibility.
Our Halo modifier, followed by the Apollo, showed the many ways in which
a photographer could work with light. Our aim is to always deliver products
that offer speed of setup, that are flexible in how the light can be modified
and that are efficient in terms of operation. They can use soft or specular
diffusion or reflection. That's what we mean by light modifier--one
that gives control to the photographer and how he or she likes to work."
Waltz clearly recognizes the important contribution that photographers
have made to the development of products. "We ask photographers
to tell us what they need and always bring them in when we are about to
develop a product. We also listen very closely to their needs and develop
products that the market requires. Indeed, our Micro Apollo was developed
from a product development thesis done by a student at Bowling Green University
as a marketing thesis. He walked through the door with the product 75
percent there. We took it from there and created a brand-new offering."
Westcott's growth has also come from acquisition, most notably the
Scrim Jim line. Waltz said, "Philip Nash was a location and fashion
supplier down in Miami and he often was called upon to be second assistant
on certain jobs. Both still and video photographers use his light screen
assemblages for both diffusion and bounce on location. When he decided
that it would be better for him to not be involved with sales he contacted
us, and now we license and sell the products worldwide."
To illustrate how Westcott has founded their success on the cooperation
between end user and manufacturer we thank the photographers who agreed
to speak about their work with the Westcott line-up.
Eric Eggly is a Toledo based professional photographer whose studio, PointSeven
Studios, delivers quality people, product, food, location, and annual
report photography. Their 4500 square foot studio serves a broad range
of clients, with an emphasis on advertising agencies. The photographers
include Eggly and his business partner Jeff Franklin.
Eggly said, "I currently use pretty much the full fine of Westcott
products, with my favorites being the Octabank and the Scrim Jims. The
Octabank gives an incredible quality to the light when shooting people,
producing a very soft light with a large source. The Scrim Jim series
offers me the versatility in lighting that I need, especially on location.
This is one piece of equipment that I never leave the studio without.
Because of the different fabrics available and the rugged construction
I know that it will stand up to the beating I give it in the field.
"I also use the full line of Westcott Light Boxes in my everyday
studio and location work, both with hot lights and strobes. I travel a
great deal and the breakdown and set up is quick and easy, an essential
matter in situations when timing is essential."
Eggly also feels that the relationship he has established with Westcott
has proven invaluable to his studio, and to studio photographers in general.
"I have worked directly with F.J. Westcott and President Tom Waltz
for the past nine years. This has been a great relationship in trying
to bring products to the photo industry that are designed by photographers,
for photographers. They work with a number of photographers to create
new products that would be beneficial to their particular fields, whether
it's for commercial, portrait, or wedding photography. I believe
that this approach brings both a better-designed product and one that
will stand up to the rigors of the commercial photo studio.
"When F.J. Westcott brings a product to me I do not hesitate to
tell them exactly what my thoughts and feelings are about it. I am very
direct and honest with my observations and I don't worry about hurt
feelings or a damaged ego, because F.J. Westcott knows we are all working
together to bring the best product we can to market. In the past nine
years I have seen great changes in the design of their products. They
listen to their customers and upgrade their products accordingly. I have
talked to other people in this industry and have never seen such an openness
to ideas and upgrades than I have seen at Westcott."
Master photographer Monte Zucker has been working with Westcott for many
years and also has high praise for the company's responsiveness
to ideas and product development. Among the products that Zucker uses
regularly are, of course, the Monte Illuminator, their Tri-Flector (a
triple reflector that goes on a stand), and the Mini Apollos. You can
catch Zucker in action with Westcott products every month in Shutterbug.
Zucker said, "I have been continually working with Tom Waltz to
come up with new ideas and to improve on what they offer. They are the
best for listening to the needs of professional photographers and coming
up with solutions. They're one of the few manufacturers who follow
up on their product and ask for constructive comments.
"Westcott products seem to be ahead of their field in every way.
The materials they use are superior in durability to anything that I've
seen anywhere. They are adaptable to just about every lighting product
and they actually teach their clients how to use their products. Their
advanced designs are attractive to everyone, from the amateur to the most
sophisticated professional photographer."
Clay Blackmore is one of the leading wedding and portrait photographers
working today. Based in Rockville, Maryland, Blackmore also leads seminars
and workshops that have inspired photographers to greater quality and
craftsmanship. Blackmore describes his work with Westcott in glowing terms.
"Bright sun, overcast shade or in the studio, F.J. Westcott light
modifiers are on every shoot we do. Over the past 15 years I have had
a great relationship with just about every product made by the company.
While working with Monte (Zucker) in the mid 1980s we always used the
28" recessed Apollo together with the Monte Illuminator silver black
reflector. The beauty of that light modifier is that when the light is
passing directly through the panel you get the affect of having two lights
in one. The first light is crisp, direct light that gives you a defined
shadow pattern under the nose. The second light is a bounce around light
that creates a soft fill and wraparound light. Together they combine to
give a natural crisp and soft light at the same time."
Blackmore describes his first encounter with F.J. Westcott products. "During
a wedding in Beverly Hills, Monte and I watched Gary Bernstein working
with very small light sources on boom arms. As soon as Monte could get
to a phone he called Tom Waltz to order a set of Mini Apollos together
with a set of boom arms, all facilitating the Photogenic PM-08 lighting
outfit. We have grown to love that arrangement with the main and the hairlight
each passing directly through the Mini Apollos.
"Another reflector that we have just started using is the Tri-Flector
for a beautiful fashion feel under the subject's face. It creates
close to the shadowless lighting that we see on the covers of many of
today's top magazines. And the translucent scrims that cut down
on the overhead light on sunny days are always within arms reach on every
assignment. In bright sun we place the scrim close to the subject, creating
an overcast look perfect for our portraits."