Andrea Belluso is an experienced photographer with more than three decades in the business. He has shot everything from fashion and beauty to portraits and products. He has shot super models and super brands. Every now and then, Andrea takes us behind the scenes of a recent shoot to share some of the knowledge he has gained over the years.
A few weeks ago, my dear friend My Södergren asked me if I could take some pictures of her for advertising her coaching events and for use as promotional material. This is something totally different than what I normally do in photography since I mainly shoot high-end fashion and beauty for commercial purposes.
My is a very bubbly person who holds different types of classes on all sorts of subjects so she was out to get different types of images and feelings in her pictures. She also wanted to get in as many shots as we could a single day.
It was a weekend and I was going to travel again in the next few days so there was no time to start calling assistants and preparing a complex shoot as I normally do. Plus, I really wanted to keep a spontaneous feeling in the pictures and really capture My’s effervescent spirit while using some different locations in Stockholm.
The obvious choice was one that most people are not used to seeing me use, although I use it a lot in many different situations. The Profoto B2 Off Camera Flash would keep me mobile and make my life easy, even without assistants, and it would help me get as many pictures as I wanted in the shortest amount of time.
A race against time
It was a really beautiful and sunny winter day, but extremely cold. The problem with winter days in Stockholm is that daylight does not last very long, which meant that we were very pressed for time.
We started off on Strandvägen, one of the most beautiful streets in central Stockholm, right by the water. The sun was still quite low and it gave me a very nice back light and beautiful reflections on the sea. But I also wanted to have a nice front light on My that would not be a harsh flash feeling, so I used a Profoto B2 with an OCF Beauty Dish White, holding the flash head in one hand and the camera in the other hand. The B2 flash head is so light that I hardly felt its weight and it allowed me to really place the light wherever I wanted it in complete ease.
The quality of light from the white OCF Beauty Dish is wonderful and excellent for portraits, giving a focused neutral light but with soft shadow definition.
After that, we moved to the center of the wide boulevard to take some more playful and happy shots with the same set-up.
Once those pictures where taken, in just under 5 minutes, we moved on to the other side of the street. I used the same set-up to shoot some other pictures with our wonderful dog Juffe, who is by now used to standing in front of the camera and enjoying it, outside one of the many beautiful doors on Strandvägen. That shot also took around 5 minutes.
Get the shot fast with TTL
After that we decided to make our way to Dramaten, one of the most beautiful theaters in Stockholm, where I wanted yet another feeling – overpowering the sun to get a very dense blue sky in the background, a focused light on My and some of the gold statues outside the building. For this, the only way to work was using the HSS function of the B2 to be able to shoot at ISO 200, f/4 for a shallow depth of field and 1/2000 s to darken the blue sky.
Also working with TTL as in every shot that day, I was able to shoot fast and focus on getting the desired feeling in the pictures, feeding mainly on the energy between My and myself. I just love how these amazing tools make my life as a photographer so much simpler and how I don’t need to concentrate on the technical aspect of things – just the feelings and emotions I want to evoke both with the models and especially with the light in my pictures, since that is the real essence behind creating any specific mood in an image.
From urban to rural
After yet another shot that took about 5 minutes, we decided to go to Sickla, an area just south of central Stockholm, with a very beautiful, large forest and a lake.
We took several other pictures in Sickla. One of the first ones was a shot of My in front of the frozen lake, and, once again, I had the sun as a back light. As these pictures were going to be used with much more definition in terms of details and a larger colour spectrum to capture the very small tone shifts of the nature around us, I used my Phase One XF. It works wonderfully even in TTL with the Profoto equipment, meaning that even using a medium format camera I was able to avoid measuring the light before taking a shot and it allowed me to move around with My and capture different angles of the scene in total freedom.
The sun was already starting to set at this point so it was crucial to work fast and focus on the mood and feeling of the shots. The lighting set-up here was the OCF 2’ Octa with a Softgrid that I placed on a lightweight stand.
The next set was some shots of My and my fiancée Amanda, who also work together sometimes, and we wanted to have some shots of the two of them walking together along the lake. I turned back to my DSLR so that I could once again have my B2 generator hanging from my belt and the B2 flash head held in one hand, with the OCF Beauty Dish White, so that I could move around and follow My and Amanda walking, talking and laughing at each other’s jokes
Jewelry shoot on location
The last shots outdoors where some still-life shots of jewelry to illustrate an inspirational class that My has on the luxury of living. For this I used the beautiful leaves on the ground, structured tree trunks and other elements of the nature around me to create the contrast between the man-made elements of the jewelry with the wilderness of nature. Here I used the OCF Beauty Dish White in some shots and the OCF Grid Kit in others, depending on whether I wanted a very focused light with more contrast and a very narrow light spread (using the OCF Grid Kit) or a more neutral light using the OCF Beauty Dish White with a Softgrid to restrict the light spread from the Beauty Dish and increase the contrast.
Keeping out of the way at the café
We finished our shooting day at a café to create some shots of My at work on her phone, as she often does in between meetings, coaching and classes, as well as some lifestyle shots to illustrate the same image.
Even here the B2 saved me and made my life easier and more fun because there was not much space around us at the café and we had not made previous arrangements to shoot there. We had to be as fast as possible and as discreetly as possible so as not to disturb the other guests at the café.
In total we took 12 completely different shots in a single and very short day, having lots of fun and working with total ease, with no assistants and a very mobile and portable set-up.