Photo: Sal Cincotta

Portrait

Testing the Profoto A1 on camera as a single light source

19 September, 2017

Written by: Seth Chandler

An important part of the photographer's art is knowing the exact capabilities of the equipment. One of the world's leading portrait and wedding photographers, Sal Cincotta, had already tested the Profoto A1 in combination with other lights. Now it was time to try the Profoto A1 by itself on camera.

For Sal, the Profoto A1 had already proven itself as a source of natural, beautiful light when used off camera or combined with other lights as part of a system in four scenarios in New York City. But how well would it work by itself on camera?

We asked Sal to give it a try, and he agreed. “When I get something new to work with, I want to test everything about it,” Sal says. “I have to have confidence in my equipment and know how it will perform in various situations. In the case of a new light, I want to see recycle time, quality of light, shape of light, et cetera. 

“Profoto has promised big things from this small light, but will it work in the same environment I work in every single day? The last thing I want to do is roll into a real client shoot with untested equipment.”

A1 on camera with light shaping tools

Together with a pair of models dressed as a bride and groom, Sal went out on the streets of St. Louis. Shooting in a public area means that people are out and about and could get curious about what's going on, so the small footprint of the A1 was a big plus—as it would also be for a photographer mingling with guests at a wedding reception.

“It was an advantage to be able to move fast,” Sal says. “In essence, get in, get the shot and get out.” 

Turning a corner in an industrial area downtown, Sal suddenly found a backdrop for a portrait on an unassuming back street. There were no harsh shadows to deal with, and the cloudy sky was acting like a huge soft box.

Being able to work with light is the key to creating better, more creative images. In this case, Sal clicked a half CTO warming gel onto the Profot A1’s magnetic mount to bring warmth to the portrait. He also added the Profoto A1’s Dome Di­ffuser to further smooth and softens the light and to make the skin tones nice and natural.

“For this shot, I wanted shallow depth of field and a warmer portrait – so I needed High Speed Sync,” Sal says. “With the A1 – it couldn’t be easier. Two clicks in the easy to navigate menu and we were locked and loaded.”

In the final image, the Profoto A1 brought out all the subtle details in the bride’s hair while providing a good level of contrast on her face and below her jawline. It also added a sparkle to the bride’s eyes.

“When your flash is on camera, it tends to have a very artificial look and feel to it,” Sal says. “But with the A1’s round head, the light is soft, natural, and really flattering to skin tones. 

Never miss a shot

The A1 has its own exchangeable Li-Ion high capacity battery pack that lasts up to four times longer than AA batteries with no performance fade. Its recycle time four times faster than any AA battery light.

Sal says that the A1 is a game changer for any photographer looking for a small light source to produce soft, natural looking light in the field. “When getting the shot matters and you can’t afford to miss a shot – the A1 is the only light for me,” he says.

Written by: Seth Chandler

Products used in this story

Profoto A1

Gel Kit

Dome Diffuser