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Nikon and Profoto B1 flashes - Starting to feel aggravated

PDH7981PDH7981 Member
edited November 2016 in flash & lighting
For as wonderful as the Profoto B1's are as a remote off camera flash system, they have a quirk that I really am starting to not like. If you try and use a Profoto B1 in HSS mode with Nikon, and you happen to want camera settings, for example, in the 1/500, f1.8, ISO200 range, the Profoto will drop to 8.0 on the readout (because that's as low as it can go while in HSS) and provide so much light, you are then required to physically move the light back creating distance from your subject.  You lose the softening of the softbox you're trying to use.  Yes, I know I could resort to using ND filters, but that defeats the purpose of having HSS doesn't it?  Not only do you have to move the light back, but in a sense, you've also lost your TTL...at least until you move the light so far enough back that 8.0 finally moves to 8.1.  At that point, you know TTL has started working again.  Until then, you're over driving the TTL. 

When I shoot outdoor portraiture, I've noticed if my shutter speed falls in the 1/320 to about 1/800 range (maybe even to 1/1000), the B1 output is soooooo bright, you lose all TTL control at this point.  Why Profoto isn't smart enough or willing enough to fix this, I just have no idea.  It's a huge limiting issue with their system.

I'm starting to look for an alternative to the B1 that has TTL and HSS that won't exhibit this issue.  I want the entire range to work in TTL mode.  Does anyone have any suggestions on what lighting system to purchase in the 500-600 Ws power range that will meet my needs?  I'm still very interested in portability.  That is one very nice feature of the B1's is their relatively lightweight, no cords and move fairly easy.  If Profoto could fix this issue, I'd stop looking for an alternative.  But right now, this limitation is driving me crazy on photoshoots. 



  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    It is a quirk that occasionally snags me ... but it's not often a problem. 
    When working in bright light, the camera settings are such that I'm usually in the upper regions of what the flash can deliver ... for example, 1/2000 @ f/2 @ 100 ISO

    The settings you mention here:  1/500, f1.8, ISO200
    You could as easily go to 1/250 @ f/1.8 @ 100 ISO and then you'd have the proper range again. 

    I've seen enough people complain about this restriction that Profoto must be aware it is a flaw of some kind.

    Interestingly, as far as I remember now, with Canon, the power is limited at 7 (not 8) 
  • Thanks Neil.  Yes, I just decided to work with the limitation.  You are correct, that there is usually a good camera combination (ISO, Aperture, Shutter) I can work to to get me out of that range.  Nice thing about the D810, you can go as low as ISO 32, which gives even more flexibility for this.  I don't like pushing the D810 over about ISO 800, so somewhere in that range for ISO.  
  • I wanted to provide a quick update. I had a photoshoot today with my B1 and like always, encountered a situation in HSS where the flash was too bright. Well, I have no idea why this didn't come to my mind before, but instead of messing around with my camera settings to get me out of the "zone".... or instead of moving the light back and far away, I decided this time to just feather the light. I literally turned the light a few degrees off of my subject, took a test shot... ok, not enough, feather some more... another test shot, I ended up in a couple of cases feathering the light almost 90 degrees away from my subject, but in the end, got the light perfect! So, forget ND filters for the lens or ND's for the flash. Just feather the light off until you get the right balance and you'll be good.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2016

    I do that also a lot, not because I don't have Ambient/Flash correct, but sometimes I want it on their faces and fall-off below, instead of a big pool of light at their feet, especially when I am shooting sunset and want them to pop out from background but want them to blend into the foreground near the feet.

    I often get comments like "why is your flash pointing up to the sky" from bridal party so a quick explanation, but a picture is worth a 1000 words then a quick glance at the LCD and it's "oh, I see."

    Also doing a 'feather' will soften the shadows a bit sometimes, depending of course on the angle and what you are trying to achieve.

  • Thanks Trev... you mention sunset pics... do you gel your flash for sunset pics? I have a swimsuit session on Friday and she wants a sunset. I'm not sure if I should gel with CTO and set White Balance to around 3200. Wouldn't that lessen the impact of the colors of a setting sun? I'm not real sure what to do.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    ahh, depends on 'which' way you are facing... when I talk about sunset pics, I have the sun behind them, so you need to have a normal WB of around 5600K (+/- 200K depending on your camera, with my Nikon I like 5600 as that's the WB of the off camera flash I also use), and just a flash (not gelled) in a softbox.

    That then gives you your warm sunset, but couple are normal WB.

    If you have sun behind/side of you and their faces are in the sun, it will be very warm so yes, your WB would be around 3800K generally, and if using flash you may like to gel with 1/2 CTS (I don't use CTO - too orange for my taste) and they will bring the flash's WB to your camera WB to give a nice even effect. The background, especially water, will turn really blue because of the WB down to around 3800K, so anything light not lit by flash will also have a bluish tint. just something to think about.

    Sample shot here, my grandson playing in very bright sunlight conditions in water, but, it was fairly late afternoon, so I dropped the K to around 3800, no flash, ISO 200, 3200th, f2.8; and as you can see the water is really blue, to the naked eye it was not that blue, but if I got the water right (to my eye) the little fella would have been way too warm, orange almost.


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Also I will get 'creative' with my WB in post, especially on a silhouette shot like below.

    ISO 200, 500th f3.5 no flash.

    Now in post I pumped up the Temp from normal 5600 to 13,495 and Tint to +50, and dropped exposure by 1/2 stop, and it was done...

  • Thanks Trev... Nice looking young grandson you have there!!

    So, let me ask you this question. If you were to light the bottom image with the sunset sky so orange, would you gel your flash to match or not gel? I don't fully understand the gelling part of all this, but if you gel'd, wouldn't that take away some of the brilliance of the orange sky....basically neutralize it?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2016

    Yes, it would, that's why I do not gel when I have the couple with their backs to the sun, I set WB to around 5600 normal temp, and light them up with a flash and the flash I have gives out light around the 5600K mark, so it's a perfect match, you do not need to gel then.

    If you wanted a really strong warm background like the silhouette, but still wanted the couple lit up with flash to look normal temp, but you've already pumped up the WB to a super high setting in camera, then you need to gel with a blue gel, to bring back the temp on their faces, but I've never done that, I just have a normal warm temp for sunset, with flash on them no gel.

    Now, if the couple are facing the sun and it's on their faces, it's really warm in the late afternoon, and you need to bring the temp down as I said to around 3800K but then here is where you may need to gel with a 1/2 CTS if you want to use flash to light them up, because by dropping the K to around that 3800 and if you are a bit under ambient, well you will have a bluish tint on their skin, so that's where the 1/2 CTS comes in, it lifts the WB back to a nice warm, but not overpowering.

    It takes a bit to get your head around it, putting the WB down, but then adding warmth with gel seems counter-intuitive.

    However, if you are not using flash like the shot above, just late afternoon light, then around the 3800K and correct exposure will be fine.

    I am only saying 3800K because that's what I find to be a good starting point, you can adjust up/down in post.

    Here in OZ during summer late afternoon it gets really super warm and I only have to look at the trunks of my trees to see how much warmth the sun pumps out from around 5.00 pm on until dark. A couple of times I have dropped the temp to 3200K or even lower with 2 1/2 CTS gels and under-exposed by 1 stop, to get that darkish feel especially with the sky opposite to the sun and it turns into a deep blue, gorgeous.

    If you use a tungsten video light, you need to drop to around 2800K as it's super warm, so you have a great warm skin tones, and a nice blue rest of image not lit by the light.


  • Ok... I think I understand.  Based on what I'm hearing from you for my swimsuit shoot, I'll have the setting sun behind her, set my WB to around 5600K, because that's about what the Profoto B1 color temp is... and let 'er rip.  
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Yep, no more, no less in ease of use, but you can try some different WB settings, around 5800/6000K, depends on how the model looks, all can be adjusted in post anyway.

    And if you are comfortable enough and have PS CC, you can even have your "I am happy with my image, but I want a tad more", dupe the flattened background layer, then Filter/Camera Raw Filter.... and it will open back up in ACR, you can crank up the temp more for the background by using a gradient from the top then using a brush on her face erase it, but that's really tweaking.

    Maybe good for a few shots, but starts to get to be 'work' after 10 shots.

    Personally you can even just shoot anyway and as long as the face/clothes look in balance, bring up the temp/tint more in post.

    It will also depend on the 'sunset' of course, you cannot control nature, you may have nothing but a plain sky and 'sunset' will just be yellow, but if you have cloudy, you can get amazing different skies, also, 'sunset' is 99% of the time best shot around 5-30 minutes after the sun has dropped from horizon, as I have seen some very brilliant looking skies in the last of the dying sun. Yellows/Orange/Reds/Purples.

    Finally, it's what is 'pleasing to the eye' as Neil always says.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2016
    Here is one of the best 'sunsets' I have ever captured as far as sunset and stormy dark/moody goes.

    Sunset on camera left, dark stormy clouds rolling in from camera right looking out over a bay. This was shot around 20 mins after sun had dropped below horizon. Because of the overcast conditions, sunset dropped a bit earlier then normal and this was shot 5.43 pm.

    This shot I took using just a normal reflector on off camera flash, no time setting up a large softbox with threat of rain looming, and a few mins back to car.

    I did darken the image down more, but kept the central couple lit, and I did add a lot of contrast only to the blue/black clouds to give them lift.

    She also loved 'tilt' images, hence the composition. Click Image to see it nice and large.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2016
    Dave, the reason I am posting these 'sunset' shots are so you can see it's not really that difficult, as 'sunset' can come in all types/shades/angles to give you inspiration mate.

    This shot, sunset quite late, around 5.50 pm but you can see I positioned them to take advantage of the background, the bay, yachts, and with a really warm sun coming in camera left but I left it at normal K, I did not mind the extra warmth on her hair (being blonde it really helped) so I was happy with 'pleasing skin tones' which added to the 'sunset' image in this case.

    I had 3 light sources.

    Sun cam left obviously, off cam flash far right and parallel to the groom (see how his back and bottom right foreground is lit up) and main light virtually just above behind me.

    I did have to lighten the bottom of the image up a bit as fall-off was a little too much for my taste on this particular shot. Small 19" Octagon Softbox on main light. Again, click image to enlarge it for a better look, then zoom in.

  • Stunning work Trev.  These are just beautiful.  Especially the darker moody (tilted) image.  Thank you for all the feedback.  I think I have a game plan.  I know this time of year, the sun sets quickly and I just don't have a lot of time to make too many large changes.  So, I just wanted to be ready.  

    Thanks again Trev for all the assistance. 
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2016
    Just one more tip.

    Make sure you set a high enough shutter speed (unless you are going full HSS with the Profoto) @ 250th and rest settings to get the ambient, that way, to keep the background where you want it as it gets darker, all you need to do is drop the shutter speed every say 5 mins until you reach where you are comfortable handholding.

    I normally start out at 250th, then will drop to 1/80 where I am comfortable, then if I need more ambient, I just open Aperture and adjust flash by the same number of clicks and it's virtually spot on as I go, as Aperture drops by 1/3rd stop each click, and each drop value in my flash is also by 1/3rd step increments, as long as you can count up to 6 you are good to go (6 clicks = 2 full stops hah!)

    Oh, I want to see some of those swimsuit model shots, you have my email.... :)

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2016

    Thanks for the trust in sending me the pics, they are stunning.

    Gorgeous girl, stunning location, great composition/poses, lighting is absolutely superb, and editing spot-on, could not have shot/edited any better than you did. :)

  • Thank you Trev... much appreciated.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    I had a look as well ... solid work! Nice. 
  • Thank you so much Neil...
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