Off camera flash



I met Margarita Cantó on the occasion of a music contest at the Caixa Forum. She lives in Valencia and when I had the opportunity to be in town for a few days, I contacted her for a photo shoot.

canto profoto chelista off camera flash

The idea was to hold the session at the Professional Conservatory of Music of Valencia, since it has a magnificent concert hall. The headquarters of the conservatory is located in a small square in the old part of the city, facing one of the facades of the San Esteban parish church. The cobblestone street and the facade of the parish, coupled with the narrowness of the neighborhood streets and the evening light convinced me to start the session on the street.
It was an impromptu challenge as we could not stop the traffic of cars, motorcycles and bicycles or make the sunset light last longer. It was a good opportunity to see how the Profoto B1 flash worked on the street, with no access to mains power and very little time to work with.

Canto, Valencian cellist

We place on the left an Umbrella Deep Silver XL with a diffuser cloth in front and on the right a white reflector. In this way we quickly obtained a soft and enveloping light. We placed Margarita in the middle of the street with her cello and got to work very quickly. The varnish on the instrument was a problem as it was too shiny and could distract attention from the portrait. For this it was important to position the cello in such a way as to avoid excessive reflections. On the other hand, I had to work with a tripod because the natural light was fading fast and the exposure time was getting longer and longer. Taking a pianist’s chair to the street helped us to maintain the stability of the body and instrument.
Every moment cars were passing by on the street and we had to move the flash and the chair out of the way. Working with a Profoto B1 made the shoot much easier for us. Its battery attaches like a backpack and moving the stand with the flash and umbrella was very easy as you didn’t even have to move a corded battery. Ten minutes later, we were already in the concert hall.

Valencian cellist singing in session for profoto with Marcelo Isarrualde

Great artists have performed in this Italian-style salon since 1882, the year in which the Conservatory was installed in the old Valencian mansion. I decided to start with a simple photograph with the backdrop. Its maroon color, the reddish soil and the wood of the instrument “matched” Margarita’s skin and hair tones very well.
The lighting set was the same as the one I used on the street as I wanted to keep the lighting contrast in both series of photos. In the street the background was illuminated with ambient light and in this case I added a second light source for the background. I used another B1 with a Zoom Reflector aimed at the area of the curtain that from the camera matched the silhouette of the curtain. This reflector is arguably one of the most versatile reflectors available, capable of providing the light of a normal reflector, a wide-angle reflector and the angles in between, thanks to the unique zoom function.

The idea was to hold the session at the Professional Conservatory of Music of Valencia with Margarita Canto.

In the last photograph you should have seen the room. To do this I started by shooting without flash to decide how I wanted the atmosphere of the room to look. It was necessary to use a tripod, slow shutter speed and Margarita’s collaboration in making slow arm movements.

I always work in Raw and with daylight white balance, in order to be able to visualize the color dominants of the scene. In this case, large quartz photos illuminated the room by bouncing their light off the ceiling, making the dominant light very yellow.

In the last photograph, the room was to be seen. For this I started by shooting without flash to decide how I wanted the atmosphere of the room to look.

It was necessary to use a tripod, slow shutter speed and Margarita's collaboration in making slow arm movements.

Once I obtained the right diaphragm/speed pair for the room environment, I placed the B1. Following the original idea of keeping the character of the main light throughout the session, I used again the silver XL umbrella with front diffuser directed towards Margarita and as close as possible to her, without being seen in the frame.

Once I got the aperture/speed pair right for the room environment, I set up the Profoto Off-camera flash B1. margarita sang and posed beautifully.

This position of the light, oblique to the subject, is what is called a “Rembrandt light”. Its name comes from the fact that the great Dutch painter used to portray himself throughout his life and always did it with a light that reached his face from that position. This forms a subtle triangle of light under the eye that is on the shadow side of the face. I knew that this type of light was the right one for Margarita’s portrait but as it turned out that a group of students from the conservatory came to the photo session, I decided to show them another type of light that is common in portraiture. This is the “Paramount light”, a harder, more direct light placed in an oblique frontal position.

lighting scheme for Margarita Cantó's photo shoot in Valencia, Spain.


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