Lights, camera, fashion!
Fashion photographer Andy Hoang reveals why simple lighting set-ups and powerful, easy-to-use gear is at the heart of what he does
SPONSORED BY PROFOTO
“Great lighting is key to a successful shoot,” says Andy Hoang, “and that goes for whatever you’re shooting, so understanding how to get it right is vital. It all comes down to practice, experience, taking the right approach and using the right gear.”
Although the fashion clothes he shoots can be intricate and complex, it’s better to keep things simple when it comes to lighting, explains Hoang.
“Flash shouldn’t look overdone, and shouldn’t even be noticeable if it takes away from what you’re trying to show. Simple set-ups are often the best solution. Having balanced lighting with a little touch of shadow and contrast is what elevates an image,” he says.
“For me,” he continues, “using Profoto gear really helps achieve great-quality light in a short amount of time. If a client shows me reference images in regards to lighting, then I’m confident I can achieve it quickly and accurately with Profoto’s heads and its vast selection of light shaping tools.”
Hoang often uses the Profoto ProHead Plus heads, saying that “the 2400 watts of the 8As really mean I can light large areas and shoot all day with ease”. He also uses Profoto’s highly mobile and powerful B1X heads for his location work.
When it comes to picking modifiers for commercial shoots, Hoang places more of an emphasis on the soft light from octa boxes and strips. However, for fashion editorial with “more creative freedom”, Hoang will tend to use hard light via barn doors, snoots or just the general reflectors for the flash units.
But when shooting with flash, says Hoang, you can use what’s around you, too, and when shooting in sets with white walls, he often uses these to his advantage, avoiding pointing the lighting directly on to the models, which would be too harsh and “firing directly into the walls, which act as a huge reflector”. He explains: “Add translucent scrims between the light and model, and it softens even more. In some cases, I’d then include large black polyboards to lock in the light and stop spill, but also create nice shadow detail on the subject.”
For lighting inspiration, he often looks online as well as in fashion magazines. “There’s a great Instagram page called @famousbtsmagazine, which features lighting set-ups for top commercial shoots, so you can use that as a reference for what you’d like to achieve. And practice is important,” he continues, “even if it’s just testing, as you’ll learn an incredible amount, not just in terms of lighting, but how to direct, composition and interact with other creatives.”
“I’ve made mistakes and will probably keep making them, but don’t be afraid of failures as they teach us valuable lessons. Lighting doesn’t have to be complicated, you can do a lot with one light and a great modifier – you’d be surprised how many commercial shoots only use one or two lights, so anything is possible with research and practice to make it as a working photographer,” concludes Hoang.
Shooting from the top
In this first set-up, on a Sisters of Nature shoot, the models lay on the ground and were shot from above. The styling took inspiration from people’s relationship with the wilderness and Mother Earth to create a fashion-driven series of portraits.
“With this shot,” says Hoang, “I used a three light set-up: two Profoto ProHeads aimed into a white wall and bouncing back through a translucent scrim to give incredibly soft and even light. From the left centre, a beauty dish on a boom at a higher power setting gave a little more punch and contrast. With this look, I shot at f/11 to f/16 to achieve sharpness across the board and show off the great garments that were being featured.” Following shooting from above, Hoang used a similar set-up to capture full body shots, while adding in a White Deep Umbrella XL to fill in additional shadows.
Another set-up from the Sisters of Nature series required some traditional head-and-shoulders framing. Hoang wanted to capture some close-up and intimate portraits with an effortless but powerful feel to them. He says these portraits “are some of my favourite shots to date, so simple yet powerful”. He adds: “I used a beauty dish from the light and pulled the scrim close from the right. But rather than bounce light off the wall, I used two silver umbrellas to bounce back light through the scrim instead, which added that crispness.”
“This editorial was titled California Dreaming,” says Hoang, “but we didn’t have the budget to fly the whole team out to the States!” The alternative was to shoot on a clear day in the south of England and they chose the Portishead Lido. “The sharpness of the light, combined with the strength of the subtle posing, styling and colour palette all came together. People who view the image still can’t believe it’s in the UK, so we achieved what we set out to do,” says Hoang. “The sun was our key light and I used a Profoto B1 with OCF octa box as the fill light, which was handheld by my assistant. The sun provided that hard light and we balanced it with a soft Profoto light shaping tool. The flash was set to a lower power setting so that it complemented the sun, but didn’t overpower it. Getting the balance right, especially on location, was important, but was tricky as it was a less controlled environment than a studio. To help, I made sure the subject knew where the light was coming from so they avoided blocking it while posing. Having a wide range of light shaping tools – like those Profoto offers – is vital.”
Finding photography in his mid-20s, Hoang started out shooting for an events and nightlife photography company, but echoing his early years’ interest in fashion magazines and documentaries, he migrated to shooting fashion full-time. Deeply versed in all things lighting related, he also ran the Bristol branch for Calumet for five years. Now he shoots fashion editorials and commercial images between Bristol, London and beyond.
If you need the ultimate in power and performance on location, the Profoto B1X is the light for you. A battery-powered monolight with a 500-watt output – ten times higher than the average speedlight – but finely controllable over 1/10ths of a stop. The B1X also has super fast recycle times, as fast as 1.9secs at full power. And as a location light, its big battery will provide well over 300 full-power flashes and many thousands at lower settings.
Its wireless Air TTL and 1/8000sec High Speed Sync options also make the Profoto B1X an ideal location partner. This means you can fire the light in challenging light and with precise control at up to 300m away. Not only that, you can fire up to 20 flashes per second, and with flash durations of as little as 1/19,000sec in its Freeze mode, you can look forward to razor-sharp action shots.
Superb control also comes from the Profoto B1X’s dedicated system of lightweight OCF light shaping tools, which are designed to be mobile and easy to use, fitting right in with its adventurous outlook. And last but by no means least, there’s a strong, dimmable LED modelling light, which makes it very easy to visualise lighting effects.
|Power||500 watts across 9 f/stops|
|Modelling light||24 watt LED (Output equivalent to 130 watt Halogen), dimmable 100-5%|
|Wireless||Yes, up to 300m|
|HSS/TTL||Yes, up to 100m|
|Weight (inc batteries)||3kg|