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Photography News | Issue 69 | photographynews.co.uk
About TomBarnes: Award-winning, self-taught and in constant demand for clients including theBBC, The Sunday TimesMagazine , Kerrang! and Q magazine, aswell as various global record companieswhowant himto shoot their star’s portrait, photographer TomBarnes knows plenty about using flashon location. tombarnes.co
Working quickly and working efficiently–that’swhatprofessionals like portrait specialist Tom Barnes rely on. When needing to work quickly on location, many rely on camera-mounted speedlights. But speedlights have their drawbacks. They’re small and light, yes, but they can also lack power and speed. Barnes,along-timeuserofProfoto location and studio flash systems like the B1, B1X and D2, had pretty much given up on speedlights. But that all changed when he started using the A1 – because, fortunately, the A1 isn’t a speedlight in anything more than form – it’s actually the world’s smallest studio light. “Traditional speedlights tend to have slower recycle times and AA batteries, both of which I hate,” explains Barnes. “You simply can’t rely on them for consistent power, as the batteries fade. For me, the advantage of the Profoto A1 was immediately obvious: speed. So in this shoot, where I only had a few minutes with the Foo Fighter’s frontman, Dave Grohl, the A1 recycled instantly and at no point was I waiting for it to catch up with me or Dave – it was so important that I could work quickly and not have to wait for my kit to catch up.” Barnes was sent on assignment by Kerrang! , the renowned rock magazine, to capture the Foo Fighters’ lead man at one of their stadium shows. Understandably, there were only a couple of minutes to get the portrait required. On- camera flash was therefore a necessity, and the A1 gave Barnes the chance to experiment away from his traditional off-camera lighting, and with much more lightweight andmobile equipment. "I’d takendelivery of theA1 to test a couple of days before the shoot, so I could get used to it,” recalls Barnes, “and I quickly realised it’s not quite like any other flashgun I’d used before – it’s way more powerful and has the air trigger system built right into the unit, so it’s just as versatile
as Profoto’s other systems. I was really impressedwith thepower and speed from this unit, so I knew it’d be perfect for the fast-paced job I was to face the day after.” Of course, as a pro, Barnes had shot with on-camera flash many times before. “But this was my first time using one that could keep up with how fast I was shooting,” he explains, “and recharge time was near instant. I also loved the zoom head and diffusion dome, as the magnetic system seems really efficient and quick to use.” Getting the shot “I needed a hard-light look for the shots of Dave, as that was the brief,” explains Barnes, “but I did also keep the dome on the A1, just to soften the look ever so slightly. The A1 is far smaller and more compact than the usual lighting I use, but the level of control is still there. So while I could have used the bounce head and relied on the power of the unit to reflect lots of softer light, the brief from my commissioner was very much for direct and bright light, so I kept the light source on the axis of the lens to get it.” Only having a few minutes to shoot a subject can be challenging, particularly when it comes to conversation, which is something that helps to relax the subject and bring out natural expressions. So, despite time restrictions meaning he had to work quickly, Barnes made sure to keep the small talk going, giving the shoot a good flow. It was this, as well as the impactful lighting from the A1, which gave him the pose and expression that ended up as ‘the shot’.
How Tom Barnes found the ultimate blend of power, speed and versatility in Profoto’s A1 "I always like to chat with my subjects,” explains Barnes, “and Dave, the band, the PR and their creware really friendly, andmadeus feel very at home. I think we’d been chatting about his favourite food, as I’d been there for the last part of the magazine interview, and so I asked himwhat his all-time favourite dish Striking Grohl’d
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