Audrey Woulard discovers how easy the Profoto Connect trigger makes it for her to work with the natural and beautiful light of Profoto flash in the constantly changing light conditions of Barcelona.
Chicago-based Audrey Woulard is known for her portraits of teens and tweens, usually using that great Illinois city as the backdrop. Originally, Audrey is a natural-light shooter making use of ambient light to create her atmospheric images, and while natural light is beautiful, it also has its frustrations.
In order to maximize the natural sunlight that is available, Audrey would tie herself to certain locations and times of day where she could shoot and that meant she was limited where she could photograph. The obvious solution then, was to embrace flash; but, there was a ‘but’.
Suspicious of flash
"When you’re using natural light, you have the luxury of just picking up your camera and shooting. But in the past, if you were using off-camera flash, you had to find a way to trigger the light. Most triggers were pretty complicated, and I needed to figure out how to get it to work before I began to shoot - it slowed me down.”
Which is why Profoto challenged Audrey to spend a day shooting teens Berkeley and Marina in the vibrant Catalan city of Barcelona with one Profoto A1 flash and the Profoto Connect - Profoto's button-free trigger.
One of the advantages of natural light shooting is you're not weighed down with equipment, it's just the photographer and the camera. So, Audrey was delighted to find that the Profoto Connect, which is tiny, and the Profoto A1 both fitted into her regular bag comfortably.
Overcoming midday brightness
Audrey made her way to the beautiful park at the imposing Arc de Triomf. Because she was shooting in the midday sun, Audrey decided to use the light from the Profoto A1 to put a little fill into the faces of the teens she was shooting, to avoid harsh shadows that would be unavoidable without flash. And to fire the Profoto A1, which she was using off camera, high and slightly to the left of her shooting position, Audrey popped the Profoto Connect on to the hot shoe of her camera.
"The Profoto Connect is so easy to use, because there are only three settings, auto, manual and off. I wanted to shoot with movement, and because the distance between the girls and I would be constantly changing, I decided to shoot in Auto mode."
A walk in the park
Setting the Profoto Connect to ‘auto’ meant all Audrey had to do was point-and-shoot, because as the models got closer to the camera, the exposure changed automatically.
"I was surprised at how quick and easy it was to capture my first image, so even though I had a full day I decided to grab a quick extra shot with Berkeley, again using the Profoto A1 as a fill to compensate for the harsh midday light."
Moving fast in Golden hour
To capture the next image Audrey made the short journey to the Barcelona beachfront; Barceloneta. Here she wanted to create a golden hour image where she combined ambient light and flash and she had to move quickly because the sun was setting fast. So she placed the Profoto A1 high on a stand in front and slightly to the right of the model. To create a softer light, she used the Profoto A1 with a Dome Diffuser snapped on to the magnetic mount in the flash head.
“With available-light photography, you are restricted to certain aspects of light, and the position of the sun is most important. Because it’s constantly moving, you only have a short window to work in – so you need to make sure you arrive and are all set when the sun is at its optimal position. Now with the Profoto Connect and the Profoto A1, I can balance out any lighting issues that may arise.”
To balance Marina with the sun falling in the background, Audrey first set the Profoto Connect to ‘auto’ to establish a starting exposure, then slid it across to ‘manual’ so she could fine-tune as she was shooting, via the Profoto app. The problem with shooting in golden hour is the light is constantly changing as the sun sinks, so being able to fine-tune in ‘manual’ meant Audrey could just keep pushing the exposure slightly to compensate for the fading light.
"I simply couldn't get this shot without using flash to light my model from the front, because she'd be pretty much in silhouette against the setting sun."
A blue world
With the sun now having dropped below the horizon, Audrey and Berkeley moved into the streets and alleyways behind Barceloneta to create a blue-hour image. The alleyway Audrey chose was quite claustrophobic with apartment buildings rising high on either side, but the perfect location to create the effect she was looking for with light.
Audrey began by changing the white-balance setting in her camera to create a cooler blue tone in the image. She then set the Profoto Connect to ‘auto’, so whether Audrey herself was moving while shooting, or whether Berkeley was moving, she knew the light from the Profoto A1 would give a perfect exposure in her image.
Again, Audrey placed the Profoto A1 on a stand high and to the left of her shooting position, with an orange CTO gel snapped on to the flash head to preserve Berkeley's natural skin tone, and a Dome Diffuser to soften the light snapped on to that. This allows the light from the flash to look like daylight on the subject, while the ambient light develops that cool blue feeling evocative of the time of day in the background.
"Having the ability to light my subject like this gives me so many more creative possibilities."
The final image of the day was right out of the Audrey Woulard playbook. Berkeley spinning and dancing in the heart of the city at night-time with the streetlights and the lights from passing cars flashing by on either side of the wide boulevard.
Audrey was handholding the Profoto A1 with the Dome Diffuser high above her head to push light and brightness into the model to separate her from the muted orange tones from the streetlights in the background.
"The Profoto Connect makes shooting with flash like the Profoto A1 so simple – I can just pick up my camera and shoot with the Profoto A1 off camera without having to figure out any extra settings before I begin. That means I'm free to focus on the same things I'd focus on when shooting with natural light - getting a great shot.
The difference is now, I always have natural and beautiful light with me anytime, anywhere."