Transformation and versatility with the Soft Zoom Reflector and AB+DM | Profoto

Transformation and versatility with the Soft Zoom Reflector and AB+DM

23 August, 2023

Written by: Shannon Sharpe

The first step of any transformation is realizing there is a need for one. Ahmad Barber and Donté Maurice did just that with the creation of their photography studio AB+DM. They recently brought this concept of rebirth to a fashion shoot, and shared how they used the versatile Soft Zoom Reflector 120 and 180 to bring their ideas to life.

For Ahmad Barber and Donté Maurice, the two halves of photography studio AB+DM, transformation is part of their ethos—beginning with their business itself. In 2018, after working together occasionally in their separate successful careers—Barber in fashion photography and Maurice in portraiture—the pair realized that their complementary talents brought their work to the next level. “We saw there was a lack of black photography duos,” Barber says. “Let alone photography duos in general.” From there AB+DM was born.

A deeper look at fashion

The studio is a new interpretation of fashion photography. “Fashion is often without emotion,” Barber says. “Portraiture is the inverse of that. You're looking at the emotion, you're looking at the mood, you're looking at how the lighting hits the model’s face. In our studio we’re not treating clothes as just a canvas.”

This reimagining of what fashion photography can be, reflects their own personal thoughts. “The idea of transformation and rebirth has been something that we’ve been thinking about for quite some time,” Barber explains, noting that over the past six months it’s been even more front of mind for both of them.

So, when given the opportunity to do a shoot with Profoto’s Soft Zoom Reflector 120 and 180, it made sense that metamorphosis would be the theme. “The ‘Rebirth’ shoot is about going from a seedling to blossoming into a new being,” Barber says. “We broke that idea down into different stages, telling the story of a flower being born.”

Setting the mood

The new light shaping tool enabled them to create unique and different lighting styles to weave this tale. “We love Profoto lighting tools. We love creating different setups and love trying things that work.” To this end, the pair often used the 120 and 180 simultaneously, playing with which one was the key and which was the fill, dependent upon the amount of diffusion they wanted in the image. “The position of the light helps us identify the different moods that we want to give,” Barber says. “The Soft Zoom Reflector helped us enhance and customize the mood for each photo.”

The transformation narrative is expressed in a multitude of ways. The photos inspire thoughts of birds about to take flight, peonies in bloom, women awakening and frozen moments in time. Some photographs feel fluid. Others architectural. Bold color plays center stage in some, while black and white creates the drama in others; the mood determined by the lighting angle.

“Light is a way to bring everything to life,” Maurice muses. “I look at the range that we can get and the richness and the saturation that light can bring.”

The ease of use of the Soft Zoom Reflector, thanks in part to its adjustable rod, was pertinent to the shoot. “The 180 in particular, because of how large and broad it is, really takes the place of a scrim where we’d have to set up two or three lights to cover that wide area,” explains Barber. “With the 180, you're able to have that similar coverage as well as enhance the harshness and softness.”

Capturing a moment

Playing with diffusion allows Barber and Maurice to infuse the photographs with emotion, capturing not just the clothes, but the subjects’ movements, facial expressions, and skin tones. “We’re connecting within the fashion moment, not just using the fashion of the moment,” Barber says.

Whether they’re using light to make skin glow or cast a shadow across the eye, it is an integral part of Barber and Maurice’s story telling. “We need a modifier that allows us to increase our efficiency on set while also keeping a high-quality output of light. The Soft Zoom Reflector is the perfect example of that,” Barber says. “We can get hard light, we can get soft light, we can get something broad, we can use it as a fill, we can use it as a key, we can use it to light up a whole background.”

No matter what mood Barber and Maurice were looking to create, the Soft Zoom Reflectors allowed them to find the right balance between hard and soft illumination.

To see more about Ahmad Barber + Donté Maurice's work, visit Share the Light profile.

Photography AB+DM 
Makeup Hailey Trifiro
Hair Nasetia Artistry
Styling Fatiyha Johnson
Model Jailan of Select Models Atlanta
Videography Shawn Michael Craig

Written by: Shannon Sharpe

Products used in this story

ProHead Plus

A classic head delivered with a Zoom Reflector

Soft Zoom Reflector

Creates soft and hard light, and everything in between

Soft Zoom Grid

Controls stray light and reduces light spread from your Soft Zoom Reflector.

Profoto Connect Pro

Trigger ultimate connectivity

Zoom Reflector

A classic among our light shaping tools