Photo: Sue Bryce

Sue Bryce


Los Angeles, US

Sue Bryce creates her own natural light with the Profoto B1

Los Angeles-based portrait photographer Sue Bryce has spent decades creating contemporary fashion-inspired portraiture that makes everyday women look like Vanity Fair fashion models. And she built an international reputation using natural light almost exclusively. Recently, though, she has fallen in love with the Profoto B1.

“When I first started shooting portraits 27 years ago, I used softboxes and vaseline on the lens and soft vignettes,” Sue recalls. “But the modern turn was removing the old style studio lights leaving the 80s behind and developing a natural light look.”

“Then, for more than 20 years, my whole business has been built around shooting portraits inside but around a window and around window light,” she explains.

Contemporary, fashion-style images

Sue says that clients are not necessarily trying to look like fashion models, but they do want to experience what it feels like to be pampered and have a celebrity-styled day or have contemporary, fashion-style images. “My clients are not models,” she says. “But I want them to look and feel like they are in a Vanity Fair photoshoot. And, at the end of the day, I want people to see my work and say, ‘She’s a fashion and contemporary photographer and I want to experience that.’”

After 27 years of building her entire business on natural light, Sue saw fashion photographer Lindsay Adler taking pictures with Profoto lights at a trade show and decided she had to try them herself. “I started seeing studio lights the way I see, use and master natural light,” she says.

“Then it was Felix Kunze who opened my eyes to what I could really do with them. It’s ironic that after leaving old-style studio lights and the 1980s behind and developing a natural light look, my new love is to return to strobes and reinvent my style with them.”

In a recent shoot, Sue used Profoto B1 Off-Camera Flashes with two of her favorite light shaping tools, an Umbrella Deep White XL and a RFi Softbox 5’ Octa. With one light directly above the subject, the octabox was positioned so it was just touching the backdrop, making the light flow down the backdrop.

Lighting a crucial element for contemporary look

“It was critical to have the light directly overhead and coming down the backdrop,” she explains, adding that the light was set at 5.5. “I tried multiple angles, but they kept making the shot look too much like a traditional portrait. Extending the light right over her gave it a more contemporary and fashion-style look.”

The second light, with the umbrella, was set at 2.8, which was just enough to bounce in and take away the shadows under the subject’s eyes. Most of the photos in this set were shot at F5.6, 1/125 and ISO 100. “I have been obsessed for over 20 years with creating contemporary portraiture that lets women look and feel like a celebrity for a day.”

Like falling in love

After working with B1s for a year, experimenting with them and mastering the light she can create with them, Sue says she felt really accomplished, opened her mind and discovered something new for herself and her work.
“I fell in love with the way they shoot and what they are capable of,” she says. “And they’ve changed the way I’m shooting. I can shoot pretty much any time of the day and I can control the light. It’s incredible to learn something new after 27 years! When you’ve been a photographer for so long, learning something new is one of the coolest experiences. It’s like falling in love with photography all over again.”