Light Shaping Tool of the Month: HR Lantern

Written by Fredrik Franzén on . Posted in Portrait photography

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Helena Bergström | ©Knut Koivisto

Helena Bergström | ©Knut Koivisto

Each month we highlight a certain item in Profoto’s rich assortment of Light Shaping Tools. Last month we wrote about our brand new Umbrella XL. This time we will take a closer look at the HR Lantern.

Someone who frequently uses the HR Lantern is Swedish portrait photographer Knut Koivisto. A photographic magazine recently described Knut as the man who photographs ordinary people as if they were celebrities, and celebrities as if they were ordinary people. What the publication essentially meant was that Knut has a talent for revealing the unique and the innermost human aspects in each of his subjects.

“I like to keep it simple,” says Knut. “I’m not very fond of messing around with a lot of equipment or creating highly advanced lighting set ups. I’d rather remove than add.”

How come?

“I think it’s because I come from a film background. One thing you learn when working with movies is the importance of setting the lights so that the subject can move freely. If you have a complicated set up, you’re locking down the person. But if you keep it simple, they can move around, which makes them more relaxed, responsive and focused on the image you’re creating. Another reason is that I don’t like it when it feels as if there was a lot of work behind the image. I prefer it when it feels like a quick snapshot of a real person.”

Helena Bergström and the HR Lantern | ©Knut Koivisto

Knut’s portrait of renowned Swedish actress Helena Bergström is a result of this philosophy. He used only one light and one tool when creating the image: the HR Lantern, powered by a Profoto D4 Air generator.

Why did you use the HR Lantern for this shoot?

“Although I like to keep it simple, I still need to be able to control the light. The Lantern is great in situations like this, when you need to have the light close to the subject, without getting stray light all over the place. The Lantern has a very local light, so to speak. It keeps the light where you want it. It’s almost like a sophisticated ceiling lamp. In fact, it’s often used just like that in the movie industry. But the movie guys call it a pancake.”

“You also have to remind yourself that the human body is a shape, and that your lighting should reveal this shape. And how do you do that? Well, personally, I often do this by using a pretty straightforward light in the front, almost in the middle of the face, which falls off to the sides. The Lantern is useful for this purpose, since it creates a local light that quickly falls off the further away from the center you come. In doing so, it reveals the form, the shape of the face.”

“Finally, I think the Lantern creates a really nice tone on the background. I almost always shoot against a clean, grey backdrop, and this tone really emphasizes the impression that it’s not just a face against a background, but a real person in a real room.”

Any recommendations to those using the HR Lantern for the very first time?

“No, not really. Just play with it. For instance, the Lantern has these curtains on the sides, which you can use to control the light falloff. Experiment with them and figure out what feels and looks best for what you’re trying to do. I’m a portrait photographer so what’s most important for me is to find the light that best reveals the person I’m shooting. There are no two people in the world who look exactly the same, so it follows that there’s a unique light that best suits each and everyone. In short: just keep trying out different settings. Play with it.”


Knut’s website

Last month’s Light Shaping Tool of the Month: Umbrella XL

Written by Fredrik Franzén

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