Emily Blincoe on creating a natural look using the Profoto C1
“Fancy” bathtubs have shown up in my work several times over the past few years. In late 2016, during a particularly overwhelming period in my life, I was looking for new ways to carve out moments for myself and find a sense of peace. I started creating these elaborate bathtubs. I would grab some herbs, citrus fruit or flowers from the discount bin at the grocery store, light candles, throw on music and soak in a beautiful space I had created.
I wasn’t documenting the experience most of the time. But slowly, I started to bring the tubs into my work. I felt inspired to shoot a portrait of someone else in one. When my friend Lyon Porter started working on The Dive Motel,
down the street from where I live in Nashville, I knew immediately that I wanted to shoot there. The motel is ‘70s-inspired, and every room is decorated differently. I loved the retro feel of the space and was drawn to its “honeymoon suite,” which has two huge tubs side by side: one pink and one tangerine.
I keep a collection of notes in my phone full of ideas for shoots (although some of them are half-baked). I’ll revisit the ideas during times when I’m feeling less creative or I’m eager to create something new. I’d purchased a pink, vintage floral swim cap a couple years back and the motel setting felt like the perfect opportunity to use it as a prop.
I’m often on set with an entire team for the traditional ads I shoot, but my favorite shoots are when I can concept, scout locations, creative- direct, produce and shoot on my own. This was the perfect opportunity for this. Plus, I wanted an excuse to test out Profoto’s new C1 Plus handheld studio light. After I decided to host a photo walk at the motel, I posted an open call to the public on Instagram and ten strangers signed up to participate. I was a little nervous about working with people I didn’t know, but everyone who came ended up being so kind and genuine. I asked my friend Hayley to model for me, and because I love incorporating nature into as much of my work as possible, I brought flowers as props. I sourced a light-pink swimsuit to match the cap. I brought a few bags of props for attendees and passed around the lights for them to try. We all got to play with the equipment in the rooms and around the property. The whole shoot came together as if it was destined to happen this way.
To get this shot, I stood over the tub with my camera in my right hand and the C1 Plus in my left. Holding a small light in your hand makes it easy to experiment with pointing it in many different directions, or turning the brightness up and down with your thumb, in order to find the exact light you’re looking for. I usually shoot with natural light, but I love incorporating subtle created lighting into my images. This room didn’t have any west-facing windows, and it was just after sunset when we were shooting. It ended up being impossible to work with natural light. I used the C1 Plus to fill the deep shadows cast from the tub walls and illuminate my model, the flowers and the water. The C1 Plus lights were the perfect solution, since we were walking around the property and shooting in several rooms. It would have been difficult to use a fixed lighting setup.
I used to shoot exclusively with natural light for my personal work, but now I find myself filling shadows with the C1 Plus wherever my pets are lounging around my house (they’re my muses!). I also travel often for work; I find myself increasingly throwing the light in my bag for whatever might inspire me along the road. It’s so light and the battery lasts so long between charges. They’re the opposite of bulky and fussy, and amazing for anything on-the-go. At the end of the day, they help me maintain peace of mind along the way.
Tips & Tricks
TURNING CHALLENGES INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES
- Avoid creating hot spots on reflective surfaces (like water). The viewer’s eye will be drawn to these hot spots, taking away from the overall composition.
- To make your light feel as natural and even as possible, don’t be afraid to move around with the light source. For this image, I kept the light in my hand and moved with the water.
- For a subtle and natural-looking fill light, make sure you align the color temperature with the ambient light in the space and adjust brightness to only slightly exceed (and fill) the light that’s already in the space. With the C1 Plus light, I changed the temperature and brightness from the app.
- If you’re a photographer who’s often on- the-go, mobility with lighting gear is key. Make sure you’re using lights that allow you to be flexible in your environment and don’t weight you down.
- Carve out time to experiment with your light source! Personal projects can be the best way to find your lighting style.