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profoto-b2-on-location-with-kids Time Out With Tanya

How the Profoto B2 Photography Lighting Kit Changed My On-location Shoots Forever

By Tanya Goodall Smith on June 23rd 2015

Welcome to Time Out with Tanya, where I’ve put my fast paced graphic design career on hold in favor of adventures in motherhood. I’m capturing every moment on camera, and you can come along if you’d like. Sign up for my weekly email here, so you’ll never miss a Time Out.

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When it comes to on-location photo shoots, especially with kids, I like to keep it simple. Dragging a bunch of heavy lighting gear including huge battery packs, light stands, fragile, expensive strobes, modifiers and extension cords does not interest me. I generally rely on natural light on-location, with the occasional addition of a reflector or Speedlite. Until I saw the Profoto B2 AirTTL Photography Lighting Kit at WPPI this spring, that is.

This pint-sized, rugged little strobe kit, including a small battery pack, two lights, remote, extension cords and compact umbrella style modifiers, fits in a handy little carrying case. It’s lightweight, portable and easy to set up in minutes without an assistant. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s what I thought. But, after watching Pye’s initial review of the kit, I had to get my hands on it for myself.

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profoto-b2-review

The Profoto B2 AirTTL seemed like the perfect kit to take with me on a recent trampoline shoot with my favorite models. We had some perfect stormy clouds rolling in on this day. I wanted to expose my images in a way that would allow the detail and shadows in those clouds to stand out. In order to do this and still have my subjects exposed properly, I would need to use an artificial light source.

My favorite thing about this kit is how easy it was to carry and set up. I had my camera bag on one shoulder, lighting kit bag over the other shoulder and light stands in another bag slung across my back. Being able to carry my entire kit in one trip from the car without killing myself is super important to me. I was able to set up the one light on a stand, including the battery pack, in a couple minutes. I opted for no modifier since I was ok with some harsher shadows and wanted to test the quality of light these produced while absolutely bare.

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Without flash, clouds are overexposed and missing detail.

Without a flash, exposing for the faces of my subjects would leave the clouds blown out, losing all that wonderful moody detail. Plus, the lighting on their faces and bodies looks a little flat. I actually don’t mind flat lighting, in fact, it’s a trend for portraits that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but for this particular shoot I wanted more dramatic lighting and shadows.

Exposing for the clouds without adding any light onto my subjects results in an underexposed or silhouetted subject. Here’s my shot without the flash:

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Exposing for the clouds without flash results in an underexposed subject.

And here’s a shot using the Profoto B2 set on TTL mode. This is straight out-of-camera without any retouching. The great thing about the TTL, especially when working with kids, is that once I dialed in my initial settings using the on-camera remote, I didn’t have to think about the lighting anymore at all. If the kids moved forward or backward slightly, the flash adjusted accordingly. Awesome!

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Straight out of camera, exposing for the clouds and adding fill light on the subject with the Profoto B2.

And here’s my shot after using the SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset System and a little Photoshop on the background. Here’s my preset recipe, in case you are wondering: 31b Color + Blue/Green Kick, 13d Neutral Punch + Cross Pop, 11b Light Film Grain. So fast and easy!

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The final edited image.

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So, why not just use Speedlites, you might ask. Well, in this kind of lighting condition, when you need to overpower the sun, Speedlites generally don’t have enough power, unless you use several at the same time. Plus, the recycle time is pretty slow so you can’t fire off a bunch of shots in a row without the flash failing you. And, the batteries die quickly, so you have to change them out in the middle of the shoot.

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Probably the biggest advantage of using the Profoto B2 over a Speedlite is the remote that allows you to change all the light settings right from your camera. In this particular case, adjusting the lights while high up on that Light stand would have been a major time consuming pain if I had been forced to lower and raise the Light stand every time I needed to make an adjustment on the back of the light, or change the batteries.

Plus, the controls on the battery and the remote are so intuitive. Even though I highly recommend you take a course in order to understand the principles of flash photography (like our Lighting 101 DVD Workshop) these were so easy to use I bet anyone could pull them out of the box and figure out how to use them.

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The only bad thing about having had the opportunity to test the Profoto B2 AirTTL photography lighting kit is that now I’ve had a taste of its awesomeness, and I want to buy one. I was so, so sad when I had to box up the kit and send it back to Profoto! I’ll be adding one to my kit for sure and using lighting more and more out on location, even with kids…

Links you might like:

EVERYTHING PROFOTO

5 TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING TODDLERS WITHOUT LOSING YOUR COOL

PHOTOGRAPHY LIGHTING TIPS FOR SHOOTING IN TIGHT SPACES

CREDITS: Photographs by Tanya Smith are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at workstoryphotography.com.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Mary Long

    hi there –
    i have the b1 and like it but it is heavy – would you mind relaying the stand bag and lighting bag you use. I too like one trip from car to location. thanks so much.

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  2. Janna Slaback

    I was excited until I saw the pricetag of that system! Now I understand why you didn’t buy it right away. Well, I’m going to have to play with the equipment I already have. ;-)

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    • Tanya Goodall Smith

      Totally! I’m making do with my speedlites right now but they seriously pale in comparison. I can’t wait until I’ve saved up enough for this system.

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  3. Stephen Velasquez

    I love these images. This a cool concept for child or any portrait photography. I think I could achieved this with a speedlite/HSS. Profoto make some really cool and robust lights that are worth the money. You are buying into a great system with excellent modifiers. I use speed lights and walimex VC 500w strobes for indoor work. They make an afordable system similar to these awsome B2 from profoto. I’ve been taking my strobes on indoor locations lately and I want a protable flash kit with a lithium battery pack.

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    • Stan Rogers

      Well, yes and no. You could easily (?) take any of these *shots* with a speedlight, but you couldn’t easily do the *shoot*. You do need HSS unless you’re using a leaf shutter (or a global electronic shutter, but those haven’t been around since the 6MP days) to avoid the “punch out” of the sky, and a speedlight will give you that. But to get the power you’d need and the fall-off you want at a high-enough shutter speed, you’d have to have the speedlight zoomed in. (Remember, effective flash power goes down as shutter speed goes up, and you lose nearly two stops of effective power just going into HSS mode.)

      So you’d have to count on your subject “hitting the mark” consistently (not a problem with serious athletes, but with “just kids”…), having a subject who’d patient enough to do it over and over again to get everything right (again, kids), or have somebody aiming the speedlight for you as you shoot. The B2 (or something in the same class) has enough power — about 5 speedlights’ worth — to be a little wide/sloppy and always have the subject covered without aiming.

      Between having the power to cover a wide field in HSS and TTL to cover the subject moving closer to or further from the light, a TTL “big light” takes a shoot like this one from “wouldn’t it be cool if…” to “let’s do it”. With kids. And without assistants or a lot of gear to carry around. Yes, it’s eye-wateringly expensive, but when it lets you do the things that your imagination says you should do without anybody getting bored, impatient or upset — especially if you’re working with kids — then you win. Things that pay for themselves may be hard to get initially, but they’re not hard to justify if there’s room in the budget. But yes, you can get by with less until you can afford stuff like this; it’s just a little (or sometimes a lot) harder.

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  4. J D

    Cool idea but I’d like to see more of this type of thing done with equipment the average photographer, who does this as a hobby, can afford. Not everyone can afford $2000 for a single strobe.

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    • Konrad Sarnowski

      True – I’ve checked and in Poland this two-strobe kit costs around five average wages… hope Yongnuo comes up with a clone soon :D

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    • Tanya Goodall Smith

      I absolutely agree with you guys on the price. I’ll be saving up for awhile before I can actually afford these. If you use flash often on-location I think they are totally worth it though.

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  5. Chelsea Higgins

    I love trampoline shots! I’ve been tweaking what I can in post, and I’ve yet to add flash but now I see I need to!

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  6. Lissette Garcia

    Nice light but overpriced.

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  7. Konrad Sarnowski

    I really wish to earn more… price is just cosmic :P

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  8. Timothy Going

    As someone looking to upgrade from speedlights to a kit, this is definitely an intriguing option. Thanks for the great look at the gear!

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  9. Julie Boyd

    Love these photos Tanya! So fun! :)

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  10. Brandon Dewey

    great photos

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  11. Jesper Ek

    A bit heavy on the light there – tone it down a notch for a more natural look.

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    • Stan Rogers

      A “natural look” would have had the trampoline in the frame, and would have been, well, *ordinary*. Completely unremarkable. Snap-shotty. These are superhero shots; they should look larger than life and illustrative.

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  12. Tom Johnson

    Very cool.

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  13. Cha

    these are great photos! really makes me want to purchase a b2, and a trampoline, and impulsively adopt some kids…

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  14. Tosh Cuellar

    Great shots and great review of the kit, profoto makes some great stuff

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