Will Profoto B1 500 really work for high volume shooting

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by john_e|2, Aug 7, 2014.

  1. Hi,
    I have no experience with TTL, however, the Profoto B1 looks amazing and would really cut down on post time if it works as well as they say.
    I shoot school portraits and shoot up to 1000 kids in a setting. I have always shot with studio lights on manual and have dealt with washed out white kids and underexposed darker kids in post. Fortunately, most of the students are hispanic with similar skin tone, however, there are enough lighter and darker kids that a lot of time is spent adjusting in post.
    The Profoto B1 as described looks like it will take care of this problem by adjusting itself to deal with the changing skin tone. Does anyone know if the B1 TTL would really work for this application?
    I'm ready to purchase 6 of them is they're as good as the claims.
  2. How are you metering your existing equipment?
    If the answer is "I'm not," that's your problem right there. Several thousand dollars of brand new equipment is a poor solution when you can pick up a used incident meter for all of $150.
    Assuming the setup isn't changing, one meter reading and one adjustment on your lights should cover a good 98% of your subjects.
  3. The B1 is terrific but if you are going to be shooting that many kids get extra batteries and chargers as well. You'll also
    find that since the B1 power source is incorporated into the unit your set up and take down time will be a lot shorter. If
    your background is consistent you should have pretty good success with it. I used the Canon version while reviewing it for
    Professional Photographer and was pretty impressed with it and after reviewing lighting for ten years I'm both jaded and
    cynical about the stuff, I used the Canon version with a 1Ds Mark III because at the time (early this year) Profoto's AirTTL
    system didn't work with my main Canon camera, the 1D X. I also tested it with every other recent Canon EOS DSLR and had no problems.

    If you are buying six of them I suspect you have a few associates shooting for you and training them to use a meter will be more painful than teaching them to use the camera's TTL meter and chimping to make sure you are getting reliable exposures. However using a meter and manual flash will, if it used consistently, keep your exposures more consistent in static set ups.
  4. I've used a meter and manual mode ever since I got into photogray 15 years ago.
    However, when dark skinned Hispanic kids and fair skinned Caucasian kids
    Come through the dark kids are too dark and the Caucasian kids are over exposed. This
    Leads the photographer to adjust the aperture to compensate which leads
    To the photographer forgetting he changed the aperture resulting in a whole group
    Not being properly exposed. The b1 if as good they say would take care of this
    Problem and be one less thing to worry about.
  5. Ellis. The profoto b1 doesn't work with the 1dx? We're using 1dx's.
    Perhaps this is moot.
  6. They may have updated the firmware for the AirTTL system. The gear I was reviewing was on loan from Profoto USA and
    I returned it months ago. I know Profoto published an update for the 1D X and then withdrew it to rewrite it. The issue is
    the 1DX's built-in wireless system for use with the EX 600-RT Speedlites.
  7. Here is a good comprehensive review on it. I don't think it's intended to be a studio strobe though based on its power
    source being batteries.

  8. Hi John, I've had pretty substantial experience with this sort of thing, and I have not yet seen TTL systems that can come anywhere close to the exposure repeatability of a manually set flash system.
    If you're shooting with a fixed setup, meaning that light-to-subject distance stays nearly constant, I'd recommend staying with manual lighting. Even so, with steady light output, you'll probably still want to make slight printing adjustments for different skin complexions. In my opinion, your best course of action is to focus on ways to improve the post-processing step. If you're not already doing it, I'd suggest working out a handful of preset adjustments in moderate increments; instead of hand-adjusting each subject, you select one of the presets. These ought to get you really close, plenty good for school photos. Since I don't have a bio on photo.net, maybe I shold tell you that I am very much understating things when I say I have "substantial experience."
    If you're still enamoured of this flash unit, keep in mind that the TTL magic is in the camera, not in the flash unit. If a camera's TTL is good enough to nail exposure variation due to skin complexion, it should work equally well with a hot-shoe flash. This would give you a way to test the TTL effectiveness without needing to pay $$ for the Profoto unit. I don't have much confidence that TTL will get you close enough for portraits, though.
  9. I have several issues with that Sophastudio review.

    Starting with the idea that TTL controlled flash system, (except for the B1) don't really work or work reliably. I've been
    using TTL controlled flashes since at least the early 1990s, starting with shooting slide film with the Nikon F4 and the SB-
    24 combination, and currently both current Canon and Nikon cameras and smart hot shoe mount flashes, with the flash n
    the hotshoe, at the end of a cable, and wirelessly with the PocketWizard ControlTL system, and with both single and
    multiple TTL controlled flashes, and in situations where there is lots of ambient light, and virtually none.

    What's my secret? Practice and experience obviously help, so does figuring out for myself the limits of my equipment, but
    mostly I thnks it's having the mindset that the TTL flash system, just like any metering method needs to be part of my
    thinkng about light, instead of a substitute for me putting on my thinking cap on. I think about subject and intent. By intent
    I mean "what do I want this photograph to look like?" Technically I almost always work with the camera in either aperture
    priority exposure mode or completely in manual control (focus, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. I very rarely work in
    shutter priority mode, never ever in Program mode, and never ever ever in Auto ISO mode. As I said said before I want
    my "smart" equipment thinking with me, not for me.

    Battery powered TTL flashes (whether we are talking about relatively low powered hot shoe flashes or the 500 w-s
    Profoto B1) are no substitute for higher powered AC lights. The latter usually have a (brighter) modeling light, and recycle
    much faster between shots even at much higher power settings. But the same can be said in reverse: there are times
    when small battery powered TTL controlled flashes are a much better choice than an AC powered flash.

    Rather than argue with words, here are links to nine very different photos I've made made using various TTL controlled flashes in different configurations:










  10. Those are great photos Ellis. I'm not defending or recommending the b1 as I don't have one or plan on getting one. Just
    sending out a link I found with some practice experience.

    I agree, with you though that TTL is just another tool in your arsenal. I use it when I think it's going to work better for me.

    Though I'm in Bill C's camp for johns problem I think that it would be harder to control variability between shots in a mass
    production setting like school photos if you use TTL. Things like controlling backdrop exposure will make you go nuts.
  11. I don't think examples of singular portraits is what John is talking about. He is dealing with up to 1,000 images at a crack … where even 1, 2 or 5 minutes in post, even with presets (which do not work all the time, and sometimes not at all), can add days to the labor. An average of 2 minutes in post per image equals 2000 minutes or 33 hours … without even a pee break : -)
    I face that type of post math doing weddings all the time.
    So, I hear him when he is looking for any edge to reduce post time. Whether, TTL is the answer is the question, and a worthy one if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he does already know a few things about manual work.
    What was interesting in the sophastudio article, was the revelation that the TTL was quite accurate on the first shot, then he flipped over to manual and the strobe kept the same setting on the B1. The question that begs is can John organize his shoots to bunch all similar skin types into groups so he can do one quick TTL shot and then bang out all the rest (which would help even in manual)? Or would that trigger some form of racial issue? Only he can answer that.
    I disagree with the article when he says the modifiers for this Profoto light are so expensive … most every make of soft box is available with Profoto speed-rings. I use Elinchrom Rotalux modifiers on my Profoto lights more than Profoto versions.
    If I shot Canon, (and had the money), I'd be very interested in this strobe as a roaming solution for my wedding photography and location portrait sessions. BTW, Profoto has announced that the Nikon version will be available on September 15 and they are looking for "Test Pilots" right now.
    - Marc
  12. STephen: "I think that it would be harder to control variability between shots in a mass production setting like school photos if you use TTL. Things like controlling backdrop exposure will make you go nuts."
    We stopped using backdrops years ago and went to green screen. one of the reason's we went to green screen was so the background would be consistent. I photographed all my denny backdrops and sold them. The B1 seems like it would help in our situation if it does what I've read it can do. it drives me crazy when a photographer changes the aperture to compensate for a pale white kid or a darker kid and forgets to reset the aperture. It creates more problems than it solves, so if the B! works it' would be a God send.
  13. Marc: thanks for your response, you get where I'm coming from.
    to answer your question, Can I group the kids based on skin color? in short , NO. there's no way i'd touch that with a ten foot pole. I shudder to think what the reaction would be if, I as a white guy in a predominately Hispanic area, suggesting to the principal to instruct the teachers to line up the kids based on skin color. OUCH. that would get messy. It would solve the problem but it's not doable.
  14. The B1 seems like it would help in our situation if it does what I've read it can do.​
    John, as I said, the B1 isn't the magic - the camera is in charge of TTL. If you're set on trying TTL, you could try a hot-shoe flash (assuming you have any); my money says it's not consistent enough.
    I've done this sort of work with an outfit large enough to print equivalent volume to your 1000-student job in 10 to 20 minutes of production time. With professional color correctors who would make the exposure-correction adjustment in 5 or 10 seconds per image, as long as it's only the subject complexion that varies.
    Ellis can get by with TTL because his type of work doesn't require the tight color/density control yours does. (Look at the variability of skin tone color in his examples, and imagine if yours floated that much within an individual customer's prints.)
    Marc speaks of presets "that do not work all the time." What I have in mind are presets that you make yourself, that DO work all the time. One way you can do this is to shoot a short exposure series, normal, then minus a few quarter f-stops. Adjust the "normal" the way you like it, then individually adjust the others to match it. Save each of the "recipes" and use as your presets. If you've been satisfied with the result of slight exposure adjustments, these'll do just about as well. All you do is see which preset you like the best.
    Best wishes with whatever route you go.

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