Ben Chrisman creates beauty and abstraction with the Profoto B10
This was a special wedding for me to photograph. The groom, Ryan, is one of our associate photographers and best friends, so shooting his big day was a real joy. Knowing Ryan’s aesthetic, I wanted to give him and his bride, Bonnie, images in an abstract style because I knew that’s what they would prefer.
During their reception in Lake Tahoe, California, we went outside to capture portraits under the sky while it was still a pretty blue color. We’d already taken some conventional portraits earlier in the day, so during this twilight session we were just trying to get as weird as possible as fast as possible so the couple could go back to their party. Shooting couples on docks is not unusual in our business. I wanted to experiment during this session and see if I could find a new way to frame the expected for Ryan and Bonnie.
One way we accomplished this is by adding rainbow fragments to the frame, and I have Profoto to thank for that. The week before, we’d taken a trip to Alaska for the release of the Profoto B10. In addition to the B10, Profoto gave us a prism. I don’t usually keep prisms with me while I’m shooting because I always lose or break them. This was my first wedding with this one and it definitely came in handy. I held the prism in front of my lens with my left hand to produce the fragmenting effect, and we added the B10 behind Ryan and Bonnie to give them some rim light. Our friend, Aaron Morris, was a guest at the wedding and helped me with the lights on the dock. (He also used to work at Chrisman Studios.) Aaron is amazing at using flash, so he knew exactly where to stand and where to direct the light. He was able to operate the B10 intuitively without any direction.
In the end, the hardest part about putting this photo together had nothing to do with the setup. It was—as it is for many weddings—finding the right time to intrude on the couple when they’re having a good time for the sake of a portrait. Luckily, Ryan is a pro and knew we really needed to go outside during that last bit of light, and Bonnie was a great sport. We had a lot of things working for us. The setup itself and getting the right exposure was pretty easy since the B10 has an incredible video light. It’s also very powerful and small—it has everything I need to photograph almost anything.
This photo has a lot of the elements that we always look for, like strong primary colors with a dark, moody edge, and abstraction. The fact that we were able to give Ryan a photograph that’s similar to what he provides for his clients all year long is what makes this image so meaningful for me. Now he knows what it feels like to be in photographs that end up meaning so much for other people.
Tips & Tricks
TURNING CHALLENGES INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES.
- FIND THE LIGHT YOU WANT TO WORK WITH. For us, we’re more often looking for the absence of light over the abundance of light.
- EXPOSE FOR THE HIGHLIGHTS. This will create drama and feeling to your photograph.
- DON'T BE AFRAID OF SHOOTING IN DARK PLACES. Crank up the ISO and see how the camera reflects the scene.
- FIND ONE THING YOU LIKE IN A SCENE AND BUILD ON THAT. Most photos don’t happen in one click. They are built on ideas. Start with one idea and keep adding to it. A lot of our photos have five to ten different elements that we never saw at the beginning of the scene.
- LEARN TO SEE AS YOUR CAMERA SEES. Even as cameras increase their ability for dynamic range, it doesn’t mean you always have to use it. Crush those blacks. Blow out those backgrounds. Push your camera to its limit.