Hawaii-based photographer Jeremy Snell travels the world taking portraits on location, dividing his time equally between commercial and non-profit work. Recently, he traveled to Ethiopia, where he found the OCF Beauty Dish indispensable for the portraits he was taking for a water charity.
“I’m particularly drawn to portraits — portraits of faces and people in their environments. I believe strong portraits often tell more of the story and mystery of a person than anything else,” Jeremy says. “I also love getting into really unusual environments and backgrounds and finding ways to integrate my subjects into those spaces.”
Traveling in remote locations around the world, it’s crucial for Jeremy that his gear is portable and practical, but also powerful. “The Profoto B1 Off-Camera Flash is absolutely essential to my workflow on all my jobs. I’m still blown away by the amount of power it packs through its portable batteries, and how well it can overpower the sun.”
OCF Beauty Dish “a must-have on every shoot”
On his most recent assignments he has been traveling with two B1 Off-Camera Flashes, a 5′ RFI Octobox and an OCF Beauty Dish White. On many locations, he has not had an assistant on hand at all times, so he has found the OCF Beauty Dish perfect for run-and-gun situations.
“I often walk around villages with my camera in my right hand and my light stand in the left, so having a strobe and light shaping tool that are not too large, helps when transporting or in high wind scenarios—I’ve lost count on how many reflective umbrellas I’ve lost to the wind. The OCF Beauty Dish has to be my new favorite item from Profoto. It’s a must-have on every shoot I’m on now.”
Jeremy says that he has always been a fan of the beauty dish because the mood and look it evokes is one-of-a-kind, but that standard beauty dishes have disadvantages when traveling. “The OCF Beauty Dish is perfect for me since it folds down completely flat and still produces the same amazing look I expect from the regular product. Set up and disassembling is simple and done in minutes. It is also ideal for indoor locations where I want a generally soft source on a face, but there is no room for a larger modifier.”
Consistent quality of light is crucial
Beyond what the subject is, Jeremy says that how he captures the light ultimately determines what the photograph will look like and the mood it will evoke. “Since my work is more similar to commercial-documentary than to photojournalism, I tend to approach creating scenes or portraits with a more stylized eye,” he explains. “The process starts with me analyzing the scene and building the photograph visually before I ask my subjects to do a certain thing or go a certain place. It is all about actively knowing what I want in the frame and placing or removing things until it is just right. Profoto lighting helps me to fine tune what I am visualizing and make every situation appear with the exact mood I am looking for.”
Having a consistent quality of light throughout the shooting day is also crucial, since he is not always able to shoot in ideal lighting conditions or locations. “Last month, while shooting in Ethiopia for Charity: water, I had the challenge of photographing individual portraits for an entire village—more than 400 people,” he recalls. “I was allotted around 5-10 minute per person, and needed the images to all have a similar and cohesive feel, despite shooting in different locations and time of day.
The solution was to use a B1 with the OCF Color Correction Gels (1/4 CTO) and the OCF Beauty Dish White for every portrait. “I don’t think I even opened another modifier!” he says. “These tools allowed me to be flexible with my environment and gave me a polished, consistent look with every photo. Changing power settings of the B1 while shooting with the Air Remote was a huge life-saver as well.”
A split-second of trust and vulnerability
Overall, Jeremy says that he picks projects that promote helping others and that showcase the humanity in us all. “Whether I’m working for a non-profit organization or a for-profit company, the story themes tend to be similar in my travel work,” he says. “Ultimately, I’m hoping to give a glimpse into who the person I am photographing is. It’s important to me that they show a level of trust and vulnerability to the camera, even if for just a split second.”