Photographer Emelie Ohlsson used to think flashes created a harsh, unnatural and ugly light. For years, she would cancel or postpone shoots if the natural light wasn’t what she hoped it would be. When she got to try out the new Profoto A1 for the first time, she had a complete change of heart.
Beautifully backlit bridal couples and pregnant women have long been photographer Emelie Ohlsson’s specialty. Many customers request this style – and many photographers want to learn it. That may be why Emelie has been fully booked in recent years, including customers as well as hercourses and workshops, where she trains other photographers in everything from camera techniques to running a business and work flows. But one thing she had never been comfortable with or able to present information about was the use of flashes.
“I’ve spent years thinking that flashes just weren’t for me. I thought that flashes made photos worse, not better. I used a flash at the beginning of my photography career, and those photos are far from something I would ever want to be associated with, I have to say,” explains Emelie.
In fall 2017, together with a selected number of photographers, Emelie was invited to a launch event for the Profoto A1. The event would be the beginning of a brand-new way to take pictures. “Honestly, all I thought when I got the invitation was, ‘Fun – but flashes aren’t for me,’” she says.
“But talk about eating my words! I was in absolute ecstasy throughout the event when we got to learn how flashes can be soft and beautiful, rather than plasticky and unnatural. After that, I started shooting more with my A1 and as my followers got more curious, we decided to make a post for the Golden Hour series.”
“For me, it was very reassuring to take a course with David Bicho to learn how to think about how I should direct the light somewhere and what difference my flash placement makes. It emboldened me to use a Profoto A1 at actual shoots, too.”
Canon EOS 5D mk IV + Canon 50mm f.1.2 L USM & a Profoto A1 (Flash with Dome Diffuser bounced in a big reflector on the side to softly light the entire model).
In the video above, Emelie demonstrates how she has taken her knowledge of light and found two different ways to use the Profoto A1 – two favorites that suit her style and take her photos to the next level.
“When I shot in darker environments before without a flash, I spent a lot of time in Photoshop lightening up the background and the model. But with the flash, it’s almost like I’ve already edited the pictures on-site,” she says.
Option 1 – Profoto A1 on the camera together with a Soft Bounce
“This method for using a flash is perfect when I don’t have an assistant with me. I can shoot straight on and still end up with soft lighting. It’s very useful when I already have a little light on-site,” explains Emelie.
Option 2 – Profoto A1 as an off-camera flash bounced in a large white reflector
“My second favorite is to have the flash off-camera by using a wireless trigger and then bouncing the flash (with a Dome Diffuser on it) in a big reflector. Preferably a large full-body reflector that produces a soft reflection on the entire model. This option is perfect for sunset shots, for example, when I want to avoid having to edit the background and model separately, or if I need extra light.”
With Emelie’s knowledge of light, not only does she no longer postpone photo shoots if the light isn’t right; she also saves a lot of time on post processing.
“Before, at sunset photo shoots, I had to prioritize either the model or the sunset. Usually I would have to make the model really dark to be able to bring out the colors of the sunset later. That resulted in dark skin tones (and legs!) that I had to edit manually, and all the dark areas were really noisy when I had to lighten them. The flash provides natural light which allows me to get both the background and the model in the right light, without having to edit afterwards anymore. This is truly mind-blowing for me, having spent so much time manually editing skin tones and lightening up areas of every single photo. With a Profoto A1, I don’t have to do that anymore!”
Before Profoto A1: The image at left was shot in ambient light and exposed for the sky. The image at right was adjusted in Photoshop through careful photo processing to eliminate noise and darkness on the model’s legs. Emelie saved processing time on the photos shot with a Profoto A1 by achieving good exposure from the model on-site.
“I’ve only just begun my journey of using a flash more, and I think it’s incredibly fun to find something that can elevate my photos and that allows me to grow,” she explains.
Emelie Ohlsson’s top tips for anyone new to a flash
- Set your camera to the desired settings so the light looks good (ambient light)
- Take a picture with the flash set to TTL. Then adjust the power of the flash in the TTL setting to lighten the subject the desired amount.
- If it’s still too strong, set to manual mode and reduce the power.
To buy a Profoto A1 and the light shaping tools that Emelie uses – click here.
Do you want to learn more about shaping light, as well as tips on how to use a Profoto A1? Visit Profoto Academy here