On to Light Shaping is a new video series in which get to see 18 renowned portrait and wedding photographer create magic with Profoto Off-Camera Flash. In this video we join photographer Mike Allebach for a shoot at the former prison, Eastern State Penitentiary. When you are done watching, click here to see the rest of the series.
One of the secrets of building a successful business is finding a niche that sets you apart from the crowd. In the case of Philadelphia-based Mike Allebach, aka ‘the tattooed bride photographer’, his specialty is, as you might have guessed, photographing tattooed wedding parties.
One of Mike’s favorite shooting venues is the Eastern State Penitentiary. Unlike your typical crystal chandeliered catering facility, Eastern State is a former prison on the northeast edge of Center City that dates back to 1829. In Mike’s words, “I love shooting there. The place defines my brand, not to mention my clients brand”. To date he’s shot two weddings and over a dozen engagement parties there.
This photograph, which was shot at Eastern State, is one of a series of portraits Mike has taken for various projects benefiting (and featuring) cancer patients and survivors. As Mike puts it, “Cancer is like a prison, and the whole concept is about breaking out of prison”.
The day they were scheduled to shoot it was overcast and temperature-wise, rather cold. Though he has shot using available light in this location before, the light on this particular day was dull and as cold looking as the air temperature. In a bid to make the shot happen, Allebach and his assistants cracked open the lighting cases and got to work.
The main light in Allebach’s portrait was a B2 Off-Camera Flash with an OCF Softbox 2’ Octa attached to it. Because the B2 Head is as small and light as a typical speedlight, Mike’s assistant was able to quickly remove the head from the light stand and handhold it in order to respond to changes in the camera position in a quick fashion. Considering the circumstances, this was a welcome attribute.
A second B2 Head with a OCF Grid 30° mounted onto it was mounted off to the side on a stand as a backlight to better separate the subject from the background and add a greater sense of dimensionality. To better focus the viewer’s eye, the background was slightly underexposed and a dash of split toning was added post-capture.
For remote triggering of his lighting system with full TTL and manual override controls, Allebach mounted a Profoto Air Remote TTL-N onto his Nikon D3S. The lens used to capture this bold image is a Sigma 35mm/f1.4 ART lens.
Location: Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia Pa