Profoto B2 AirTTL Off-Camera Flash Review

Posted June 17th, 2015 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography, Uncategorized  |  Permalink
Profoto B2 Air TTL

The Profoto B2 250 AirTTL Location Kit

Profoto asked me to review the new Profoto B2 off-camera flash system so I put the B2 AirTTL system through its paces shooting some outdoor portraits and photographing kids playing on a trampoline. For this test, I used the Profoto B2 250 AirTTL Location kit, Profoto OCF light shapers, a Nikon D750, the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, and the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8.

Here’s a video I put together for the Profoto B2 AirTTL OCF system.

I currently own a set of Profoto D1 Air studio strobes and think that Profoto makes some of the best studio lights on the market today. The B2 flashes take the Profoto technology and shrink it down into a small, battery-powered location kit that you can take just about anywhere. Like everything else in the Profoto lineup, the build quality of the B2 system is top-notch. Also, the quality of light is excellent when used with the OCF (off camera flash) light shapers.

Profoto trampoline

I used the Profoto B2 250 AirTTL heads to photograph these kids jumping on the trampoline. The flashes worked great with the outdoor location and packed enough punch to work with the bright sun.

The OCF system uses a battery pack to power the heads. This battery is small in comparison to other location power-pack systems and weighs just a few pounds. It is small enough that you can easily wear the pack with a shoulder strap while shooting events and outdoor action sports.

The heads are 250 watt-seconds each, so they pack about four times more power than a Nikon or Canon speedlight. They also recycle much faster than dedicated flashes, making it easier to photograph action with the B2 system.

Profoto trampoline BTS

Here you can see the two B2 heads in the lower right and upper left. I used the extension cable to move the background hair light about 15 feet away from the battery pack.

The B2 battery pack is designed to hang from a light stand or over your shoulder with a longer strap. Power runs from the battery pack through cables to the B2 heads. These heads are small, lightweight and compact and mount to just about any light stand. The heads work with any of the Profoto OCF light shapers. They also work with the traditional speedrings from other Profoto systems like the D1, D2, etc.

Profoto sells a wide variety of OCF accessories including softboxes, octas, umbrellas, snoots, grids and extension cables so you can move the heads farther distances away from the battery pack. The OCF light shapers are lighter weight than Profoto’s studio light shapers. The OCF material is made out of a reflective silver-coated rip-stop nylon and is constructed very well. It is all designed to go out on the road and perform in any environment.

The AirTTL system allows full remote control of two B2 heads. It mounts on the camera’s hot shoe just like a dedicated flash. The difference is that it communicates with the B2 battery pack while allowing for full TTL control or full manual control of the flash heads. You can control the flash power from the battery pack itself or from the remote control.

B2 on flash bracket

The B2 OCF heads are small enough and light enough to place on a flash bracket.

The B2 system has built-in modeling lights. These are useful for studio work indoors, but the modeling lights aren’t quite bright enough to use outdoors. The modeling lights could also be used for video lighting in a pinch.

The B2 flashes are powerful enough to use outside on a sunny day. I used them with bright sun in the background and was able to shoot at f/8 and ISO 400 with a rapid recycle rate. Not bad for a small flash system.

Jumping on trampoline

For this photo I used two B2 heads; one with a softbox and the other as a direct flash.

Since the B2s are really lightweight, they can be mounted on a flash bracket attached to your camera. You’ll still use the supplied B2 battery with cable, but instead of mounting a typical Nikon dedicated flash like a SB-910, you’ll mount the B2 head to the bracket. Additionally, you can use any of the OCF light shapers while the B2 head is mounted on the flash bracket. The advantage of using the B2 this way is that you can shoot events while getting lots of power, fast recycle rates and lots of shots before the batteries run out.

The entire B2 location kit fits in a small bag about the size of a classic Domke F-2 shoulder camera bag. This means that you can take the B2 OCF system on location just about anywhere in the world and produce high-end results.

B2 carry bag

The location kit fits in a small shoulder bag making it easy to carry around the world.

My hat is off to Profoto for innovating yet another killer product. The B2 AirTTL Off-camera Flash system definitely gets two thumbs up from me.

Buy your own B2 AirTTL OCF system here:

B&H Photo Video: Profoto B2 AirTTL Location Kit

Adorama: Profoto B2 AirTTL Location Kit

Ice-cream portrait

Fun summertime ice-cream portraits with the Profoto B2 Location Kit.

Ladder portrait

For this portrait, I shot in TTL mode. The Nikon D750 camera and AirTTL controller nailed the exposure!

 





Setting Up a Portable Location Studio

Posted March 16th, 2015 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography  |  Permalink

This week I’m shooting about 250 portraits for Harbor Covenant Church. I’ll share more of the results of the photo shoot in a future blog post, but in the meantime, I wanted to show how I set up the studio with this time-lapse video. My goal for the photo shoot is to produce a bright white background for each of the portraits. To do this, I used a white muslin backdrop and lit it with four slave flashes in umbrellas. These background flashes are set to produce about 1.0 to 1.5 stops more light than the Profoto D1 monolights I’m using for the people in the foreground.

 

I’m triggering everything optically, which is another way to say that all the flashes are set to fire when they see a flash pulse from the main camera. For the Profoto D1 monolights, I’ve set them to trigger using the IR mode. For the Nikon flashes, they are all set to trigger in SU-4 mode. On my Nikon D800 camera, I’m triggering everything with a Nikon SB-700 flash set to manual output so that when it fires, everything else fires. All slave flashes are set for manual output and I metered everything using my trusty old Sekonic L-358 (no longer sold).

Location studio portraits

Some of the early shots from the location studio. Nice white backgrounds and lots of happy people!

Here’s all the gear I used to create the location studio.

Profoto D1 Monolights

Tether Tools Aero Tether Table for 15″ MacBook Pro

Gitzo GT3542L Mountaineer Carbon Fiber Tripod

Manfrotto and Creative Light light stands

Creative Light Back Light Stand

Nikon SB-910

Nikon SB-900

Nikon SB-700

Impact Background Studio Stand

White muslin backdrop 10’x24′

Apple MacBook Pro 15.4″ Retina

Adobe Lightroom 5

Location studio

An overview of the on-location studio I set up at Harbor Covenant Church using six flashes to produce a white background.





White Balance – Manual Settings, Fine Tuning and Kelvin

Posted April 30th, 2014 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

We’ve just posted two new white balance instructional videos to our YouTube channel. If you are looking for ways to make your colors look great in your photographs, then spending a bit of time understanding white balance is important.

The first video describes setting white balance values manually. These include values such as cloudy, flash, incandescent, fluorescent and sunny. It also talks about how to fine tune the white balance settings to make them slightly warmer or cooler.

hagen_140317-063

The second video discusses White balance Kelvin values. It shows how to adjust the white balance settings if you know the actual color temperature value for a specific scene. For example, setting 5330 K for a sunny day photo, Or 3280 K for an indoor shot.

hagen_140317-068

 





Event Photography With Flash

Posted May 18th, 2011 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography  |  Permalink

Great questions today from a photographer (W. Kwan) who attended my recent workshops in Los Angeles. Here are his questions and my answers below.

Mike,

First off, I’d really like to take this opportunity to thank you for your hard work and dedication to the Nikonians community.  Your workshop was the best class/workshop I’ve ever been to including my undergraduate work.  I truly felt like I’ve learned a lot from your class and made me really want to experiment for with my flash.  I’ve been practicing greatly by just keeping my flash on my body.  I rarely try to take any pictures without my flash now.

I wanted to ask you for some advice since I’ve been asked to photograph someone’s graduation party inside a banquet hall by the beach with a patio overlooking the beach at sunset.  I’ll have my friend who will be helping throughout the banquet.  The gear that we own is (2) d7000s, (2) sb-600, 85mm 1.8, 35mm 1.8, 50mm 1.4, 11-20mm 2.8, 18-105mm 3.5-5.6, and two continuous soft boxes.  I have several questions and it would be greatly appreciated if you could help me out by answering some questions.

Question: I was wondering if our equipment is good enough for an event like this.  If not, what are some equipment I should rent.  I was thinking about renting a 24-70mm 2.8.

Answer: Yes. Your equipment is fine. Honestly, it is less important to have the “gear” than it is to have the “technique.” I strongly encourage you to practice shooting in a couple of scenarios before the big event. Try shooting at sunset. Try shooting in the dark inside a banquet hall. You’ll learn an incredible amount by doing this before hand.

I like your lenses, especially the 85mm, 35mm and 50mm. I don’t see any reason to rent the 24-70mm other than just having another backup.

Question: Also, it’s been difficult taking pictures with low light and flash because in the past I noticed in Aperture Priority mode, the shutter speed would be at 1/15 or 1/20 second making it too slow to shoot.  Also, my ISO would also be at like 1200.  In a situation like that, what are the different options I have?

Answer: The solution for long shutter speeds in low light with flash is … ISO and aperture. Don’t be afraid to bump up ISO to 1600 or 3200. The D7000 performs very well at these ISO values and I shoot up there all the time. For aperture, shooting at f2.8 or f1.8 will also help to bring in much more light. At these big apertures though, you’ll need to be careful about getting accurate focus since depth of field is so narrow.

Question: Any advice on shooting big group photos of like 10-20 people?

Answer: For big groups in a dark area, the key is to bounce the flash. If you aren’t careful, you’ll blast the front row with a lot of light and the back row will be dark. Therefore, using a bounce method to send the light up to the ceiling will be helpful. If this isn’t possible (i.e. ceiling is too high), then I recommend flattening the group and trying to keep them all about the same distance away from the camera. In other words, use two rows rather than 5 rows.





Using FV Lock for Flash Photography

Posted June 8th, 2009 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography  |  Permalink

Ever had people or pets blink when you take flash photographs of them? The Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) uses pulses of light to communicate to the remote flashes in your lighting arrangement. These pulses of light are sent out before the shutter opens, so if the subject has fast reflexes, they will often blink from the pre-flashes and your photographs will suffer from a terrible condition called “Preflash blinkosis”. The solution to Preflash blinkosis is to use the FV Lock function on your camera.

 

Here's a photo of someone blinking from the pre-flashes in the Nikon CLS. One solution to fix the problem is to use your camera's FV Lock function.

Here's a photo of someone blinking from the pre-flashes in the Nikon CLS. One solution to fix the problem is to use your camera's FV Lock function.

 

 

Before I get to the details, here’s an email I received a couple days ago from a reader of my recent book on the Nikon CLS.

Hi Mike.  I just bought your excellent book on “The Nikon Creative Lighting System” and have a question which I hope you can answer for me.  I use a D700 and D3, and 4 SB-800 strobes. In trying to photograph dogs, I have run into a “blinking eye” problem. Finally I figured it out:  the preflashes cause the blinking

Question: can I disable the preflash and use this set-up as the old time “TTL” metering?  Or if I hold the shutter at 1/2, will the preflash fire and not fire the main flash?  Then perhaps the dogs will reopen their eyes. 

Any help or ideas would be most appreciated. Thanks, Morton, Arizona, USA.

 

The answer to Morton’s question is to use the FV Lock function built into your Nikon dSLR. Everyone needs to know that using Nikon flashes in TTL or TTL BL or even Manual will always result in pre flashes if you are operating in the Nikon CLS. What I mean is that if you have an SB-800 Commander (or a camera’s pop-up Commander like the D90, D300, D700) communicating with the remote flashes in channels/groups, then the preflashes are used to communicate between Commander/Remotes and can’t be turned off.

However, there is a great workaround solution that is called FV Lock. You can program one of your camera’s buttons to activate the FV Lock function so that when you press the button, it causes all the flashes in the system to do the preflash at that moment. Then, the camera remembers the Flash Value (FV) and allows you to take the real shot without the preflashes. I do this when photographing pets or kids with fast reflexes who are prone to blinking. 

To program the FV-Lock capability into your camera, you’ll need to go to your Custom Settings Menu (the pencil icon) and find the FV Lock menu item. On some Nikon models like the D70/D80/D90 you can program the AE-L/AF-L button to activate FV Lock. On other Nikon models like the D300/D700/D3/D90, you can program the Func button or the AE-L/AF-L button to activate FV Lock. 

 

Here's where the Func button is located on the Nikon D300.

Here's where the Func button is located on the Nikon D300.

 

This is the AE-L/AF-L button on the Nikon D80.

This is the AE-L/AF-L button on the Nikon D80.

Most photographers don’t ever have a need to use FV Lock, but I find that pet photographers run into this issue more often than people photographers. 

 

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