Michael Anthony is no stranger to challenging lighting scenarios when shooting portraits on location, which is something he does on a regular basis. He tells us he first became a Profoto convert when the Profoto B1 Off-Camera Flash was first introduced.
There were other battery-powered flashes available at the time, but according to Michael Profoto’s B1 was the first manageably-sized portable flash that was powerful, easy-to-master, and consistently reliable enough to serve his needs when shooting on location. The fact that it had fewer buttons compared to battery-powered flash units from other manufacturers was a plus. Being an integrable part of the Profoto family did not hurt matters either.
As a portrait photographer, Michael strongly believes that it is imperative that you should be able to connect with your subject visually, if not emotionally. Every time you break concentration to peek at the ready light, you risk missing what might be the best moment of the session. Essentially, the more you trust your gear, the less you have to interact with it, leaving you more time to connect with your subjects and to come away with a high number of “keepers” for your client to choose from.
“One of the things that I love about Profoto and that has attracted me to their products for a long time is the ease of use. I absolutely love the TTL to manual function. It allows us to get dialed into our shot faster than we ever have been able to before while using other equipment, and then it allows us to keep the consistency because we're able to lock in our exposure in a manual setting without having to mess around with a lot of different buttons on the back of our lights. So, rather than playing around with our gear, we are interacting with our clients, and that helps to convey that story-telling element in all of our images.”
Being equally adept when it comes to studio lighting, Michael often mixes components of his Profoto D2 TTL studio monolights with components from his Profoto B1X TTL, Profoto B2, and Profoto A1 TTL location lighting kits in order to light his subject precisely the way he sees the final image in his mind’s eye. Mixing and matching lighting components can prove dicey.
Not so with Profoto lighting products, which communicate with one another fluidly without compromising the performance integrity of any of the components in the greater system. This is an attribute Michael often takes advantage of when planning lighting schematics.
To better understand Michael’s thought and work process when shooting portraits in and out of the studio, we came along when he photographed clients Leo and Jeremy on their engagement session, the more formal portraits in the studio and the shoot to capture their wedding images.
The first part of the assignment was a fashion-style engagement portrait. The location was Vasquez Rocks, which is a 932-acre park located in northern Los Angeles county that is known for its amazing rock formations, textured landscapes, and if you are lucky, dramatic cloud formations.
The main props were a motorcycle and a crimson dress with an impossibly long train. Frequent gusts of wind required them to work quickly and nimbly. As soon as the folds of the dress were in place they had to bang off a quick succession of exposures before the winds kicked in and undid their efforts.
The main light was a Profoto B1X flash equipped with a Profoto OCF Softbox 2x3’ camera right and in front of the subject, which cast a soft, even light on the couple. In addition, Michael used a Profoto B1X with a OCF Magnum Reflector camera left and behind the subject to highlight a rim light in her hair and texture in her dress. The results are as bold and dramatic as it gets without having to resort to extreme post-capture editing and image processing.
The second part of the session consisted of formal portraits against a background in a studio setting under controlled lighting conditions. For this part of the project, Michael used a Profoto B1X with a Profoto RFi Softbox Octa 5’ as his main light and a Profoto B1X with a grid. His Profoto Air Remote TTL-F triggered the lights without a hitch.
The third shoot took Michael’s crew to El Matador Beach, which is located along the Pacific coast, north of Los Angeles. To light the bride and groom against what they hoped would turn out to be a dramatic setting sun, Michael brought his Profoto B1X Location Kit and a couple of Profoto A1s.
The location, a good 20-minute hike along sand and rocks, made the light weight and ease of portability of these small-yet-powerful flashes welcome attributes that enabled them to pull off a trio of stunning, visually dynamic studio and location portraits.
“I am not ruled by the circumstances”
“I am not ruled by the circumstances,” says Michael. He continues: “The ability to have reliably consistent performance from a flash is terrific. Having this level of reliability from a family of studio and location flash systems that communicate fluidly with one another and share many of the same light modifiers is beyond terrific.” These are the reasons Michael relies on Profoto for all of his lighting needs.