Fashion and commercial photographer Andy Hoang had a special vision when embarking on his recent shoot with Profoto gear and his Phase One camera. He explains that this was to explore the age of ever-growing technological advancement, adding a cyber punk feel. Bringing out that “something inside” in an era where people hide behind technology.
Tell us more about yourself, who is Andy Hoang?
I am a British-born Vietnamese fashion and commercial photographer/producer based in London. I would say my photography style is inspired by British 90s subversive counter culture and unconventional beauty.
How did you get into flash, and when did you decide to start using it?
I was a late bloomer to photography in general. I needed a job in my early twenties and stumbled into event photography which relied heavily on well-lit imagery taken in dark or badly lit nightclubs. After a while of working late weekend evenings, I wanted to try shooting for fun, so I asked a family member if I could borrow their photography kit plus speed lights to shoot a friend on location. I quickly realized you can’t rely on TTL on averaged priced speedlights when combining with natural light. It taught me positioning, light types (hard & soft) and power ratios. This ignited my passion for photography and was the first of my experiments with lighting.
Do you have any tips for people who want to get started with flash? How did your journey start?
When I started playing with flash properly, there was no one around to guide me, so I had to figure out why images were over or underexposed, what a fill light and key light were, but it doesn’t have to be complex. You only make it as hard as you want it to be. I used to stare at images in magazines and wonder how they applied the lighting, was it hard light or soft light, what light shaping tools etc. To get a good grasp of it, I would say that you should study what hard and soft light is, for example clear skies with no clouds and a beaming sun is hard light, whereas if a little cloud goes past it, then it becomes soft light, the same applies to artificial light. Knowing these details as well as the basic compensating with the exposure triangle (aperture, ISO, shutter speed) goes a long way.
Saying that, have a look at magazines, photographs on advertising when you go shopping and any imagery to see how the working creatives do it. Also the Profoto Academy online courses are a handy tool of course, I didn’t have such a thing when I started, but I wish I did!
What is the best, and worst thing about working with a big team in a studio? Tell us something from “behind the scenes”
The best thing about working in a big team is that you can work and create amazing imagery with many top creatives. You build relationships and solid foundations which in the long term can only better yourself as a creative too. I used to tackle many roles on set when I started shooting, but you can’t always do it all, you just have to stick to your strengths. Having an imaginative set designer, incredible hair and makeup artists or talented stylist can really elevate your work.
I guess the downside is that sometimes not everyone pulls their weight, there are creative differences and it’s a case of either no chemistry or egos clashing, which thankfully I don’t witness often. Perhaps at the beginning I was very naive, but with age I pick the people I trust to work with and who I know will have a very similar vision as regards the end goal.
What gear did you use? And how did it go?
The gear we used on the day was a mix of Profoto B10’s and B10 Plus’ with a selection of OCF modifiers, RFi Softboxes and Umbrellas. With no need for power cables, there were less risks of trips and safety hazards which made my life easier when producing a shoot with a big team. The intuitive design and menu system allowed for great ease of use and cut out unnecessary time spent on figuring out how to navigate its controls. The Phase One XF body worked seamlessly with the lights with the inbuilt Profoto Air Remote in its handle.
Setup 1 - The Ice Breaker
This was our first set of the day. The first look is always the ice breaker since most times, you may not have met the model before so therefore you have to build chemistry and ease them into the photoshoot. Thankfully our models quickly adapted to the environment.
I placed a B10 and a B10 plus heads with an OCF Softbox Octa from the left and a Umbrella Deep Silver XL on the right with diffuser. They were positioned close to the subject which gave a harder shadow on the background. The key light was an OCF gel pointed away towards several broken mirrors to give scattered gelled light effect on the face and background.
Setup 2 - Creative photography in the moment
I saw this shot whilst my set designer was playing with the gravity backdrop. The models were aware I was looking down the camera and quickly struck a pose.
There was a 4 light set up in this shot. With a B10 and OCF Softbox Octa pointing 45 degrees down on the left, B10 plus with OCF gel bouncing back off mirrors just off center, one B10 with RFI Softbox Strip and B10 Plus in Umbrella Deep Silver XL and diffuser on the right.
Setup 3 & 4 - Highlighting special features
Both of these below setups are very similar to last setup but I wanted to give more even lighting to highlight Coco’s silver leaf foot work, so a B10 Plus with RFI Softbox Strip 1x4 was brought to the center on a low boy just to give that fill. Again the OCF gel was the key light, giving scattered red light from bouncing mirrors just off center.
Finally, which are your 3 most essential tips for aspiring fashion photographers?
1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
One of the main pieces of advice I can give, which doesn’t just apply to this question but photography as a whole is keep practicing and don’t worry about making mistakes. It’s better to make mistakes when you’re practicing as opposed to when faced with a client. Mistakes help us learn and grow.
Network and mingle with like minded creatives, not only will it boost your confidence and open your creative mind, but it may lead to future career prospects. For me, some of the work I receive is through meeting someone at an event or maybe sending someone a message on Instagram, the worst they can say is no and you can carry on living.
3. Work with others
You are not alone. You have to work with others to better yourself. Find the team that handles aspects such as styling and makeup to raise the standard of your work. You’re not a one man army and the more people you work with, the more likely a wider audience will see your work.