Vanessa Joy on How to Create Light with Off-Camera Flash

June 12, 2014

By Laura Brauer

Every wedding photographer strives to create that “WOW” image for clients. One way Vanessa Joy accomplishes this is by using available light…or at least that’s what she used to do, until she got her hands on a Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery-powered off-camera flash.

“My clients hire me for my dreamy, available light looks,” the Freehold, New Jersey-based photographer explains, “and while I can still obtain that natural light look with the B1, it just takes my images up to another level and helps me deliver a more dramatic final image. It’s like an off-camera flash on crack,” she jokes. “It’s super powerful and super fast, there are no cords or battery attachments and once you try it, it changes everything.”

Joy and her clients ventured out on a bright, sunny day to the 9/11 Memorial in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park. She positioned the bride between the two memorial columns, with the sun just behind them. “I knew it would be a great location for a stunning bridal portrait—the sun was forming a really cool ring and I wanted to capture that. I first tried shooting the bride and groom together with natural light but that shot went completely white behind them so the effect of the sun and that ‘ring of fire’ around them is blown out white, and not yellow, because I couldn’t balance the exposure all by myself. 

Vanessa Joy used the Profoto B1 off-camera flash and set her Canon 5D Mark II’s ISO to 100 to capture the sun’s “ring of fire” effect. Both photos © Vanessa Joy

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 24mm 1.4
ISO: 100
Aperture: f/14
Shutter speed: 1/200 of a sec.
Lighting: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL
Retouching: Lightroom Retouching Toolkit

Joy found that the background completely blew out white when she snapped shots using just natural light, before grabbing the Profoto B1 to help balance the exposure.

“So I was taking those photos thinking, ‘We can get something way better here,’ and that’s when I had my assistant grab the B1 from my backpack and fire it off; it only took two shots to get what I wanted because the B1 does the exposure automatically.” Joy’s assistant was standing just off-camera, pointing a B1 light on TTL, right at the bride’s face.

What’s important to note here, says Joy, is that there are so many photographers who are shooting with available light because by and large, that’s the easiest, most straightforward method of shooting. “The way I’ve decided to start differentiating myself,” she continues, “is to do shots that are impossible to do without these lights. So, for instance, Uncle Bob standing next to me with his camera at a wedding is not going to get the same picture; mine will look incredible while his will look expected. When I showed my clients this shot, their jaws dropped.”

In terms of post-production on this image and others that she creates, Joy says she doesn’t do a whole lot beyond adding contrast or toning down the blacks. This image was a same-day edit, adjusted slightly in Lightroom (with the Lightroom Retouching Toolkit) to brighten the bride’s skin and face up a bit, as well as reduce redness. “Red skin tones drive me bonkers,” she confesses. “I zoomed in to paint over the bride’s skin and reduce the redness just a bit. That’s all it takes.”

In terms of using the B1 for various wedding day scenarios, Joy utilizes them during most parts of the wedding day, mixing it with her natural light photography flow. “I’ve even done family formals with them inside the church, when allowed, and it gives me a nice, even light across all my subjects every time.”

See this story in the Digital Edition.

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