In my last shoot to test the Profoto B2, I wanted to go it alone. I met up with Sammie to see how easy it would be to move between multiple locations and set up without an assistant.
Working alone with the Profoto B2
In this half day shoot, I worked through four different locations, each with their own lighting set up. I hadn’t specifically scouted the locations, but instead went for an “exploration” in an area that I knew would have some options.
We moved between areas of full sunlight and full shade. This meant that I was using different techniques and modifiers in each situation to get the look I wanted.
Setting up, choosing an approach, tweaking and breaking down the gear in each location allowed me to see how well the Profoto B2 is suited to working alone.
Larger set ups
In our last location that you see in the set up above, I started off with a simple single light set up with the Octa (with grid) to get this shot:
Here’s a look at the set-up:
But then I figured I’d give a more complex lighting set up a try. I got out a second Profoto B2 head and plugged it in with the longer extension. You can see that set up at the top of this post.
Being able to use two heads in the same battery pack is one of the advantages of the B2 compared to it’s OCF brother the Profoto B1.
Fighting the sun
A big question I had about the Profoto B2 system was how well would it work in sunlight. Would it be able to overpower the sun?
The first location that we stopped at was in bright sunlight. I set up the B2 with the Umbrella Deep Silver Small to give me a softer quality of light. In this first shot, I used it to fill in some of the shadows while keeping the sun as the key light.
In this second shot, I used it as a key light while the sun highlighted Sammie’s hair.
In both of these shots I used the Profoto High-Speed sync system that I’ve already reviewed.
As you can see, you can work with the B2 in bright sunlight. That said, because it’s only 250 Ws you don’t have as much leeway to use different settings like you would with a more powerful strobe.
In these shots I had to work at an aperture of f/11 to balance things the way I wanted.
Natural light reflections
In the second spot we went to, I really liked how the natural light was reflecting off a shiny concrete wall coming from behind Sammie. I then set up the B2 with the Octa (with grid) near the wall to act as a key light.
Here’s what the set up looked like:
I was using a shutter speed that didn’t need HSS so that I would have more options when it came to the power output of the Profoto B2. Using HSS means you’re limited to only the higher power settings.
What that does mean is when there is fast movement – like where I captured a moment where Sammie was having a laugh (below) – there’s actually some motion blur in the shot. I could have avoided this by using HSS.
We then moved to another location where I used reflected natural light again to help with scene.
I tried a couple different set ups for this, as I wanted to see if I could make it look natural.
What I’ve found is that when I shoot with the strobe coming from the same side of the frame as the natural light I get a more realistic looking results than shooting with the light on the opposite side. If you do shoot with the light coming from the other side it will look more three-dimensional (which some people like) but will quite often look artificially lit.
Although I suppose that last shot looks artificially lit anyways…
Thoughts on going solo
The Profoto B2 is a great solution for a photographer who likes to shoot solo. I was able to do a set of 4 location shoots with different lighting set-ups with no additional help.
Here’s where I think it shines (no pun intended):
- The pack is lightweight and has a decent amount of power (much more powerful than a regular flash/speedlight)
- All of the new OCF modifiers are quick and easy to set up
- The quality of light you can produce using this system is excellent and you can control the power using any of the Profoto Air Remotes
But before you rush out and get one, here’s some things to consider:
- Every photographer has different needs. My best advice is for you to get to your local Profoto dealer and rent one for yourself to see if it works with your methods. Here in Melbourne I can recommend both Michaels and Specular.
- Pick your modifiers wisely. The kit that I got had a lot of options. Thing is, each additional thing you bring adds to the overall weight. Although the Profoto B2 set up with a single head and modifier can be quite light, once you add a second head and a bunch of other gear it’s actually not as light as I’d like it.
- There are pros and cons of having an assistant on set. Specifically when it comes to the B2, having someone that can quickly tweak the angle of a light, or act as a voice-activated light stand can be invaluable. It also means that you may be able to get away without carrying a 5-10kg sand bang which quickly adds weight to your set.
Women’s Fashion & Lifestyle Scenario
Talent: Sammie from Vicious Models
Location: South Yarra, Australia
Conditions: Full sun with some shade
Assistant: None – it’s was time to try the Profoto B2 solo
Gear: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM, Profoto B2 Off-Camera Flash (1 & 2 heads), Air Remote TTL-C, OCF Softbox 2′ Octa with and without a grid, OCF Softbox 1×3′ with Grid, Profoto Umbrella Deep Silver Small