Profoto Desktop App Review: Controlling $100,000 Lights from Your Laptop: An Old Classic Reviewed

Profoto Desktop App Review: Controlling $100,000 Lights from Your Laptop: An Old Classic Reviewed

Connectivity is something that can't be overlooked in professional photography. A lot of the work that photographers do relies on one form or another of connectivity, whether it's capturing an image tethered or controlling a 6-light setup from your remote. Now there is a better way to control your lights: the Profoto Desktop App.

I enjoy both simple and complex light setups. Sometimes all you need is the sun, but other times, you may be using multiple lights across several sets. This was the case when I was reviewing the Profoto Desktop app. I had over $100,000 worth of equipment on set. It was a reasonably large shoot that involved a lot of light and constant changes in setup.

This is an old classic reviewed. Not so long ago, Profoto had their famous Air USB, a little USB stick that you could plug into your computer and then be able to control all of your lights from the computer. I remember how much I wanted that product when I found out about it. It seemed like the ability to control lights from the computer was a dream, and I was not wrong.

With so many lights on set, it is very easy to lose track of what controls what. While groups are useful, let's all be honest, it would be much better to know that your key light is a beauty dish set to group C, while your fill is a Giant 300 set to D, and so on. Labels are something photographers like myself have been asking for a long time. This, and many more features, got me excited about the new Profoto Desktop App.


This app is made for photographers who see their camera as one of the many tools involved in creating a photograph. It is primarily for those of us who shoot tethered and need a way to control their lights from a laptop. After all, if you can control your camera from software such as Capture One, you should be able to control your lights from your computer as well.

Labels: I used to have a piece of paper on which I would write down what each group stood for. After a while, I developed a system where the key light is always A, fill is always B, and so on. Being able to give my lights a clear name sped up the process of setting up by a lot. Just that one feature allowed me to simply stand at my computer and set up a complex scene with ease, all while knowing where each light was. The same can be said about my assistant on that day; I could simply tell him to bring the beauty dish down by half a stop, and he could do that immediately without fuss and the need for an extra remote. One thing that could be improved is the ability to display these labels on the Connect Pro itself.

Presets: While this is not a feature I would use in my own workflow, it is nonetheless very useful in situations where the light setup has to be replicated with precision. That, obviously, includes the world of e-commerce. Let's imagine a quick scenario: you are photographing for two brands with different aesthetics. As with most e-commerce studios, your lights are fixed in place. One brand demands a more high-key look, while the other wants something edgier. You can program your setups to exact requirements, and then simply turn them on and off, saving time and speeding up your workflow.

Full Control: Just like with other AirX-enabled devices, you can be sure to have full control of individual devices' settings, be able to update them from your computer, and much more. While it is fairly easy to individually update a few lights, it can become quite an ordeal when you have dozens of units that all need an update. Being able to do it wirelessly saves time and the need for a cable. So much so, I recently found myself updating the A2 on the go before starting a shoot. Of course, this eliminated the need to walk and do anything. Photoshoots are tiring as they are, both mentally and physically. If I don't have to walk over to a light to change its power, I become a very happy man.

What I Want to See Added

Capture One Plugin: This is a standalone app, which is great, but for many users, this is a part of their digital workflow setup. It would be great to see Profoto collaborate with Capture One to create a version of this app that comes installed natively in Capture One and can be a tab within the software. Just like Phase One cameras have an Air Remote built-in, Capture One should have the Profoto Control App built-in.

Make It Free: This is not so much an improvement as it is criticism. I simply don't understand why this app isn't free. The people using it already need to have invested a lot of their money into Profoto equipment, most importantly the Connect or Connect Pro, which cost $200 or $400 respectively. While subscription models bring in a lot of profit for companies, which could explain the reason to make it so, this app really should not cost anything, considering that the mobile version, albeit with less but similar core functionality, is free.

What I Liked

  • Labels
  • Presets
  • Ease Of use

What Could Be Improved

  • Price is unjustified
  • Turn into a Plugin

Images Shot Using Profoto Desktop Control App

Closing Thoughts

Profoto Desktop App is a good and welcomed product, which I am happy and excited to see. While certainly not for every photographer working with Profoto lights out there, this is a product that people working with large sets will appreciate the most. A lot of modern productions are centered around the computer and not the camera. The camera is simply there to capture the image, but the digital processing station is where the magic happens. As a photographer, I spend a lot of time shooting, but also some time looking over at the tethering station and making sure that the images are the way I want them to be. If only Profoto would make this into a free app, which can also be a plugin for Capture One, it would be perfect.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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1 Comment

I agree about this being a C1 plug in. I remember the old profoto control USB stick and attempting to use it in a production studio. We had it on demo loan from Profoto and it was a total disaster. We quit using it after about 3 hours.