LA-based celebrity, portrait and editorial shooter Matt Sayles has for the last years been photographing the three days of the Oscar pre-show rehearsals and all the events leading up to the big night. What was unique this year was that he was the first photographer at the Oscars with the brand new B2 Off-Camera Flash in his hands.
Long before opening night, Broadway shows are typically rehearsed and previewed out-of-town in order to work the bugs out of the in cities that social and mass media aside, are well beyond the eyes, ears, and lights of Broadway. Wedding ceremonies and similar social venues are also often rehearsed in advance of the big day.
Same holds true for the Academy Awards despite the fact they invariably run overtime. During the three days leading up to the evening of the award ceremonies, every word and body movement is rehearsed and camera positions are figured out for among other things, where each of the possible winners in each category are seated in the audience.
Before Profoto officially introduced its new compact B2 Off-Camera Flash system, they offered a group of wedding, portrait, and location photographers an opportunity to try the new flash system out and see how it performs out in the real-world.
Matt Sayles, an LA-based celebrity, portrait, and editorial shooter was one of Profoto’s chosen B2 test pilots. For several years running Sayles has photographed the three days of Oscar pre-show rehearsals and all of the related events leading up to the big night. This year he used the opportunity to put Profoto’s B2 Off-Camera Flash, the smallest-ever off-camera flash, through its paces before and during the Oscar ceremonies.
Just as professional wedding and press event shooters understand they have a small window of time to grab the shot and get out of the way, same goes for shooting on the red carpet at the Academy Awards ceremonies. It’s basically shoot and retreat.
On Oscar night Sayles job is to capture images of the stars and assorted celebrities as they arrive, smile, and wave to all of the fans and flashing lights as they walk the red carpet into the theater. Having full-access to the event, Sayles captures some of his best images while shooting backstage the attendees as they schmooze with one another in a less-guarded manner compared to the assault-like cacophony of shouting and flashing lights that goes on when they walk the carpet.
Understandably, tripods aren’t allowed anywhere they can prove hazardous, which is pretty much everywhere. This makes on-camera flash the default route for lighting the action before and during Oscar night.
Seizing upon the size and weight factor of the B2 flash heads, Matt decided to shoot two-fisted by holding one of two Canon EOS 5D Mk III’s in one hand and a B2 flash head in the other. Matt hung the B2 flash head holster-style from his belt on a carabiner that he wore alongside the B2 battery pack. Whenever he needed flash, all he had to do was reach for it, hold it aloft and start shooting.
Unlike the harsh, dead-on look of on-camera flash common to on-camera flash – which is what everybody else was using, Sayles was able to model his light by holding it off-camera, slightly off to the side. By shooting off-camera he also had the option of selectively lighting specific individuals in a group, which is far more difficult to do with an on-camera flash.
Though he often refers to TTL readings when establishing flash exposures (and in Sayles opinion the accuracy of the B2’s TTL system is far better than other off-camera flash systems he’s used in the past), Sayles prefers minimal fill-flash and typically keeps his power settings as low as 1/64th-power in Manual mode once the action begins.
Shooting movie stars and celebrities can be a blast. For Matt Sayles, Profoto’s new B2 Off-Camera Flash system not only made his job that much easier, but as he puts it – “… the b2 gave me an advantage that took my pictures to another level”.
Learn more about the B2 Off-Camera Flash here: