Photographer, entrepreneur, publisher, teacher, and fast-talking New Yorker with New York attitude, Sal Cincotta is a study in constant motion and rapid-fire opinions, explanations and insights. We captured him by phone for an hour to ask him about his approach to photography and about how the new Profoto A1, the world’s smallest studio light, “will change the way I photograph forever.”
Epic landscapes for an epic day
When Sal decided to become a professional wedding and portrait photographer after years of photographing landscapes as a hobbyist, his commercial insight was to combine his landscape experience with the dreams of brides staging the most epic performance of their lives. The result was wedding photographs with cinematic landscapes in which the couple—especially the bride—play a starring role.
“Brides come to us to tell the story of their day, in a big a dramatic way,” he says. They will point to my portfolio and say, ‘I want that shot of me.’ It’s always a big portrait.”
“It was an incredible moment”
When we approached Sal to ask him to try the A1, the world’s smallest studio light, he was intrigued by the concept. When it came to trying it on camera, had doubts, because to Sal (and many other photographers), on-camera flash often looks and feels artificial, flat, and unflattering. “We’ve been teaching people to take the flash off the camera for years,” he says.
But from his very first test shot on a Chinatown street, he was sold. “I literally could not find someone fast enough to show the shot to. It was an incredible moment. I’d never seen anything like it from an on-camera flash. I saw beautiful, soft, light. And this was not even a set-up. It wasn’t dialed in. It was a test shot.”
The addition of dragon dancers made the scene even more colorful and dynamic. And with the A1 on camera, Sal was able to move around easily, framing and reframing the shot to make the most of the kaleidoscopic scene. A Chinatown street had become Sal’s studio.
“I wanted this to be vibrant, with colors and energy, with a big, wide shot and a close-up shot. Not everything can be big and dramatic, but this was,” Sal says.
“The A1 gave me the versatility and power I needed to work in this dynamic and quickly changing environment. Without that versatility, I definitely would have missed some of the best shots.”
Straight from the box to the street
What happened next was a journey at breakneck speed along the same path as anyone might experience with a new piece of equipment. Without even reading the manual, Sal shot portraits in three more iconic New York City settings: A rooftop surrounded by skyscrapers, Grand Central Station, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
“I took it out of the box and went out and shot, learning as I went,” he says. “There are literally only two menus compared to an unbelievable number on most on camera flashes. You don’t just take them out of the box, put them on your camera and start shooting. But with the A1, you do.”
If it’s hard to imagine getting great results from any on-camera flash the first time, straight out of the box, without reading the manual, it’s even harder to imagine doing that while combining it with other lights, working fast, on the move, in public places where you might have only a few moments before being told by the NYPD to move along.
Yet in the four locations, Sal did just that, experimenting with the Profoto A1 on camera, off camera and as part of a system. With great mobility and a long-lasting lithium-ion battery pack that recycles much faster than AA batteries, he never missed a shot.
And at the end of a long day, the greatest city in the world had become Sal’s personal studio, thanks to the Profoto A1. “The A1 will change the way I photograph forever,” he says. “If it can make it in New York, it can make it anywhere.”