Evoking inner emotions with light shaping tools | Profoto (CA)

Evoking inner emotions with light shaping tools

31 July, 2017

Written by: Mariko Hirari

Tomoko Hidaki is an avid stage and portrait photographer based in Tokyo and Yokohama, known for her gripping performance artist photography. Recently she did a shoot with the Profoto D2, Air Remote TTL-O and an array of Profoto Light Shaping Tools. We tagged along behind the scenes to get a glimpse of her in action.


Hidaki shoots live performances of all kinds of music. She covers genres like classical music, jazz, rock and Japanese traditional music as well as musicals, operas and other theatrical stage performances. In fact, it was her personal passion for music that did draw her into her career as a photographer.

The mission is to shoot promotional portraits for a stage performer. To succeed she uses the Profoto D2 Monolight. To trigger and control the settings she has mounted the Air Remote TTL-O in the hot shoe of her Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.



Aside from stage photography, Hidaki often shoots promotional portraits and album covers using a range of Profoto Light Shaping Tools: “More than 150 Profoto Light Shaping Tools gives you the ultimate diversity to create multiple combinations of the most sensitive lights,” says Hidaki.



She is thrilled to work with her two indispensable companions to freeze moving artists: Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II and Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II, with features that are perfect for shooting stage artists, such as silent shutter, exceptional auto-focus and optical image stabilizer, and bright yet compact and lightweight lenses.



Today, she is shooting a brochure for a Japanese-style theatrical play. As a performance artist photographer, her goal is to make full use of Profoto modifiers to convey the world of the drama and depict the innermost emotions of the character in a serene touch.



Having spent her childhood years in the US, Hidaki has an innate urge to introduce cool Japanese culture to the world. In this shoot, she casted the creative team to shoot in a traditional Japanese style, yet doing so in a fashionable way that transcends conventional boundaries.



Wardrobe stylist Kisaburo was born into a family of a very traditional Japanese kimono tailor. While treasuring the Japanese tradition, he also dares into disciplines that are non-Japanese. In this shoot, he unveils a brand new work, a haori coat, for the first time.



Hair and makeup artist was the up-and-coming Haruna Koyama. She created alluring expressions based on crimson, a color traditionally cherished by Japanese.



Hints of crimson were used as keynotes in the wardrobe, sward knot, paper umbrella, and flower pedals to express the intimate and unearthly sensuality of the model.



Ryuhei Kominami, today’s model, is an actor who regularly performs on musical and theatrical stages. He is known for leveraging dance and martial arts to demonstration beautifully controlled graceful body movements, and in this shoot, Hidaki captured a wide range of rich and sensitive emotions, such as joy, sorrow, strength, and vanity.



“The beauty that lays inside is more evident through the lens than seeing it with your naked eyes” says Hidaki. There is an old Japanese saying that “photography drains the soul” of the model. Perhaps this is because photography is an art of capturing the model’s expressions of his most inner self.



For this shoot, Hidaki used three D2 1000 AirTTLs in three different light settings.



Hidaki started with the Softlight Reflector White, also known a Beauty Dish, as the main light. For highlights, she used an Umbrella Silver Deep S (with diffuser), with a slight angle, as a backlight. A D1 Monolight with 10 degrees Grid was added from the right side to light the hair. 


Capturing solitude and sorrow hidden in serene expressions were also an important part of this shoot.



In the second shoot, Hidaki used a Softlight Reflector White, this time with a Grid 25°, as the top light.

OCF Magnum Reflector (rear left) and OCF Zoom Reflector (front right) were added as key lights. Both OCF Hard Reflectors are optimized for flat front flashes like Profoto monolights and Off-camera flashes.



Using the zoom scale on the monolight, Hidaki fine-tuned the OCF Magnum Reflector until she got the exact position to bring out the beauty of the sword. The OCF Zoom Reflector to creates beautiful highlights in the collar of the haori coat and the model’s hair.



Hidaki was intrigued by the infinite possibilities that Profoto’s wide range of consistent light shaping tools offer, allowing the photographer to paint with light, just as an artist paints with his or her brushes. She was especially amazed at the hard and sharp light of the new OCF Hard Reflectors.

“Using indirect light for soft expression is preferred in Japan, but I also think it is equally important to create expressions with high quality, razor-sharp lights and shadows.”



The Softlight Reflector falls on the model from the top like a spotlight in stage lighting. The texture of the leather that spans from the collar to the model’s knees is beautifully portrayed. The model responds with soft and refined expressions that are not confined to the traditional poses when shooting with Japanese kimonos.



For the final shoot, Hidaki went with Umbrella Deep Silver XL (right), Umbrella Deep White XL (left), and the direct light of a D2 from the back of the model.

“Combining the different textures of lights reflected by silver and white give you very interesting expressions”



Hidaki asked the model to dance freely in the big space created between the two umbrellas.



Hidaki captures the model just as he takes off high up into the air.

“Recycle time for D2 is extremely fast. Photographers have the confidence to keep shooting, knowing that D2 will capture that ‘right moment’ when it comes.”



While the model is moving dynamically and constantly changing the distance between him and the light source, TTL, provided by the Air Remote TTL-O, allows the photographer to shoot in correct exposure without interrupting the flow to adjust the lighting.



According to Hidaki, the shoot went seamlessly thanks to Profoto D2’s exceptionally fast recycle charge time and burst performance, and Air Remote TTL-O that helped to create high affinity with the camera.



Promotional portraits for dramas are usually shot in a very limited space and time, such as in the corner of a rehearsal space during short breaks. While she needs to work with many restrictions, Hidaki is excited with the recent addition of the OCF Hard Reflectors. She loves the lucid yet punchy light quality.



To end the interview, we asked Hidaki what her next challenge would be. “I would like to create something completely new with Japanese and non-Japanese models while cherishing the unique expressiveness based on the shades and dampness seen only in Japanese culture,” says Hidaki. “With Profoto Light Shaping Tools, I can continue to delve into the art of adding layers of sensitive shades and focus not only on the external appearance of the model, but more importantly, that what lays within that makes the model attractive.”


Hidaki reaches out to new audiences in unconventional ways, such as shooting a traditional enka (Japanese ballade) singer like a rocker. She continues to push for new challenges and we will certainly follow her future success.



Group shot with the creative team, team Olympus, and team Profoto.


Creative team

Photographer: Tomoko Hidaki  http://hidaki.weebly.com/
Model: Ryuhei Kominami  http://orchard-net.com/wordpress/?page_id=1310
Wardrobe Stylist: Kisaburo  http://kisaburo.xyz/
Hair & Makeup Artist: Haruna Koyama
Assistants: Seiya Fujii, Kaede Hara
BTS Photographer: Jun Tanikawa  http://juntanikawa.jp/
Studio: Studio Ebisu  http://www.ebis.co.jp/

Written by: Mariko Hirari

Products used in this story

Profoto D2

The world’s fastest monolight with TTL
From $3,095.00 CAD

OCF Magnum Reflector

Adds maximum power to our flat fronted lights
$299.00 CAD

OCF Zoom Reflector

Adds power to our flat fronted lights
$214.00 CAD

Umbrella Deep White

A versatile and zoomable umbrella for a softer light
From $289.00 CAD

Umbrella Diffuser

Turns your White or Silver Umbrella into a softbox
From $69.00 CAD

Softlight Reflector White

Our classic beauty dish
From $669.00 CAD

Grid 515 mm

Grid for the Softlight Reflectors
$549.00 CAD