Shun has travelled the world as a wedding photographer, but for him there is nowhere quite like the city in which he is based. “Tokyo is special and unlike anywhere else, with a unique collision of old and new.” That’s why he and his team decided to take on Tokyo with the Profoto A1X and create wedding portraits in three of the city’s most beautiful places. “Because the A1X is small and lightweight, it’s my perfect partner when creating wedding images”.
1. The iconic wedding portrait
It was before dawn when Shun and his team assembled at the iconic Shibuya Scramble Crossing in Tokyo. Ordinarily this crossing would be filled with people, traffic, hustle and bustle - but at this hour it was unusually calm.
Shun used the Profoto A1X as a main light with Umbrella Shallow Translucent M attached. When positioned beside and slightly behind the model, it created a beautiful highlight on her face in the gloomy early morning ambient light. He calls it ‘short light’.
“I love it. Short light is a directional light gradually falling off from highlight to shadow. creating highlight to the back of the subject and subtle shadow to her front, Short light gives a three-dimensional feeling to the subject.”
At the Shibuya crossing, Shun had to think and act quickly because he had very little time before the traffic light turned green again. “About one minute or less, per scene.” This is where the Profoto A1X comes into its own because of its small size and light weight - as a result Shun was able to move and work quickly in TTL (auto mode) by simply twisting the Profoto Connect remote.
“I love TTL especially in these situations. First, I go with TTL, letting a good flash exposure be set for me automatically. Then I switch to manual mode, lock in the settings and I’m done. With TTL, everything is so quick and smooth. I can focus more on communicating with the models and thinking creatively, because I’m spending less time working with the flash settings.”
2. Mixing flash and sunlight to capture tradition and beauty
After Shibuya, Shun and his team made for a place evocative of traditional Japanese culture, the Koshigaya Noh Theater.
Close to the entrance, there is a peaceful place surrounded by trees. As the warm sunlight hits the bride's skin, it throws shadows of the leaves on her face. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful scene, but with the natural sunlight alone, the shadows were too deep and dark, making very strong contrast of brightness and darkness. So, Shun set up Profoto A1X to fire in the same direction as the sun, just to soften the shadows.
“When I mix flash and ambient light, I use the Profoto A1X off camera at a high angle pointing in the same direction as the sun. This is because two light sources coming from different directions can sometimes feel strange. So, I try to go with the sun to create a more natural look.”
With the sun getting higher, the team moved to the Noh stage, a beautiful old building made of Japanese natural cypress. Here, the intense natural light was illuminating the bride’s face. But Shun needed to soften the strong shadow cast on her wedding dress, so the Profoto A1X was hand-held by his assistant, firing towards the bride.
“The Profoto A1X is incredibly useful even when the sun is strong. By complementing the sunlight with light from the A1X, I was able to avoid a white-out on her dress”.
Shun chose to create another scene in the traditional wooden structure, this time in front of a painted bamboo wall. But this presented an issue; the roof was blocking out the natural light, leaving her in darkness.
So, he placed the Profoto A1X on stand, attached Profoto Umbrella Translucent M, and fired the flash from her right-hand side. That way he could create a natural-looking light with more depth than the sunlight alone would do.
"As you can see in this image, the Profoto A1X creates a really natural fall-off from light to shadow. It’s just beautiful."
Centre-stage at the Noh theatre and Shun has the bride and groom romantically gazing at each other. However, the sun is over head and the harsh light is casting a strong shadow across both their faces. To balance out the light he placed the Profoto A1X on camera and fired the flash directly at them.
The even light, thanks to the A1X on camera, drew out their faces and expressions and softened the shadow cast on wedding dress and suit.
3. The eternal wedding portraits in sunset
The final Tokyo location was Toyosu Gururi Park at sunset – where you can see the beautiful evening view of the city of Tokyo. "It’s my favorite place.” Shun adds.
The usual approach in a sunset situation would be to match the exposure to the background and light the model from the front but Shun chose to do something different; here he focused on the natural light and its direction. “It’s kind of like adding the light from flash to the sunset light.”
From the left-hand side, the same direction as the sun, Shun positioned the Profoto A1X off-camera, from a high angle with the Umbrella Shallow Translucent M attached. That way he achieves harmony between the dwindling sunset light and the flash, creating dramatic yet natural looking light.
“There are moments that only exist in the now and will never come again. So, having to wait for a flash to recycle kills me. That’s why I really like the Profoto A1X, because it recycles so fast that I never miss the right moment, it always flashes exactly when I want it to.
Shun’s thoughts on wedding photography lighting
“Natural light is fantastic, but with Profoto A1X, you can take even more beautiful and dramatic images. You can create highlights to enhance the details and focus the viewer’s eyes on whatever you choose.
It can also help you create sensational scenery - the day I captured these images we had great weather, but even on a cloudy day you can create warm sunshine by adding the light from the Profoto A1X, for example with a Clic Gel full CTO.
And thanks to the fast recycling time, you can have beautiful light exactly at the moment you want it, without missing a shot. Profoto A1X is a flash I will always have with me to capture images that will last long in the memory of my clients.”
Model: Hiroki Kato (MA-Spanky), Yukiko Kawabe
Hair & Makeup artist: Hitomi Honma
BTS Video Director: Michitoshi Nambu
BTS Videographer: Ryo Muramatsu
BTS Video Recording & Technology: Hiroyuki Yamada
BTS Video Production: EIZOH LABORATORY INC.
Coordinator: Jun Tanikawa
BTS Photographer: Taira Tairadate
Writer: Erika Ito
In collaboration with:
Wedding Dress: innocently TOKYO
Noh Theater: Koshigaya Film Commission, House of preserving Japanese culture in Koshigaya city Koshigaya Nougakudo