Stockholm, the scenic home of the Nobel Prize, is often called the Venice of the North. There, the natural, beautiful light of the Profoto A1, the world’s smallest studio light, combined with its portability and ease of use, helped Japanese wedding photographer Shun take full advantage of all the picturesque settings that the city offers.
A nine-year veteran of wedding photography, who has trained more than 400 photographers at Japan’s La-VIE Factory, Shun photographs weddings on location all over the world. On this day, Shun was doing a test shoot with two models for La-VIE Factory to promote Stockholm to Japanese clients as a site for on-location wedding photography. With a dozen set-ups across town planned for a single day, Shun needed gear that was reliable and light. So Profoto lent him a Profoto A1.
The shoot began at Stockholm City Hall, widely known as the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet. It was early morning, but the sun was shining bright, creating harsh and dark shadows across the subjects. In order to lighten up the shadows, Shun used a Profoto A1 off-camera at full power from the rear right of the bride in order to balance shadows with the highlights and to add an accent. He mounted an Air Remote TTL-C on the hot shoe of his camera as a trigger.
Bringing the light off camera opens up creative possibilities and is, contrary to what some might think, very easy to do. “I really like the Profoto A1 and the Air Remote TTL together, since they are so easy to use that I can use them without reading the manuals,” he says. “All I have to do to operate the A1 off camera is to choose a channel, and I am ready to shoot.”
This image captures a groom standing beside a pillar in the corridor. For the shot, Shun set a Profoto A1 off camera on the right side as a main light and used it to lift the shadow.
Concentrating on creativity
For the next shot, Shun captured the couple walking in the courtyard of the building with a beautiful brick wall in the background, using a Profoto A1 off camera with a Dome Diffuser from the rear right.
“I had never used TTL before but I tried it this time and found it very reliable,” Shun says. “As TTL automatically manages the light, I could focus on the composition, deciding the lighting direction and communication with the couple in an easy, flowing way while TTL automatically gave the precise exposure.”
Smooth, natural gradation
For a close-up of the bride with the brick wall in the background, Shun used one A1 with its Dome Diffuser from the back left of the bride as a short light. Another A1 was set on the ground to separate her from the background. A collapsible reflector lifted the shadow on her back.
“This image really showcases the quality of light that the Profoto A1 creates. The highlights are beautiful,” he says. “The gradation from the highlight to the shadow is so smooth and natural. The quality of light is just amazing.”
Next, the team moved to Stockholm’s Old Town. For the first shot, Shun set one A1 on the cobblestone street as a backlight and a second one on camera to provide fill.
“The Profoto A1 creates beautiful backlight, naturally defining the subject’s outline,” he says. “I’m sure that the high-quality light of the A1 can take most wedding photographers to another level.”
A few steps away, Shun used the sun for the main light source, with a Profoto A1 off camera as fill and another A1 on camera as a trigger. Here, Shun found that the ease of use was a huge advantage. “You can adjust the output quickly using the dial on the A1,” he reports. “Also, I appreciate how you can use it as a simple trigger.”
For the final sequence of images, the team went to a hill called Skinnarviksberget, which allows for a 180-degree view over Stockholm. With the sun dropping below the horizon, Shun realized he had little time to spare. It was an advantage that he could set up quickly. “Because of the speed, I could enjoy the shoot,” he says.
In this image, Shun took advantage of a puddle and used it like a mirror. The City Hall, where the day started, can be seen in the background. “To create a short light on the subject, I often set a flash at an angle of 110°,” he notes.
For one of the last images, the waning sun was barely illuminating the clouds. Two A1s were used off camera and the other used on camera to provide fill. “I could adjust the output of these lights individually by dividing them into different groups – A, B and C in the menu – which saved a lot of time and effort.”
“I was amazed at the quality of the light”
Shun says he would never use a speedlight on camera because speedlights create an unnatural look. “But I found I could use an A1 on camera for fill. I was amazed by the quality of the light. The A1 on camera can even take the place of a collapsible reflector when I don’t have an assistant with me. That will help me a lot.”
Shun also found the modeling light extremely useful for both focusing and checking the lighting. “When I’ve used speedlights in the dark, I’ve sometimes had to use my iPhone light to get the focus,” he says. “However, the A1 is equipped with an LED modeling light, which is of great help during low light conditions.”
Overall, Shun says the biggest advantages of the A1 are its beautiful, natural light and ease of use. “I did not truly understand the difference until I tried the A1 myself,” he says. “It gives me the beautiful light that I love. And since I am not disturbed by setting the flashes, I can focus more on the composition, reading the light, and communication with the couple. It is definitely a good partner for me. I can shoot better images faster and easier with it.”
“Anyone interested in the product should try it – they will feel the difference. The A1 will be of great help to wedding photographers who do on-location shoots. I know the A1 would help me shoot images that would make my clients happier, wherever they are in the world.”
BTS photographer: Christoffer Dalkarls
Models: Aiko Yamada & Constantine Ioannidis
Hair & Makeup artist: Miu
With a nine-year career in wedding photography, Shun is one of the top photographers in LA-VIE factory, which provides wedding photography services for more than 30,000 wedding couples annually. While he is in charge of training 400 photographers at the company, he also works as an active photographer, conducting on-location wedding shoots all around the world.