Kenneth Volpe On Mixing Ambient Light With Strobes

NYC-based commercial photographer Kenneth Volpe sat down with the good folks over at Profoto to give some insight on the way he lights his images and a bit of his philosophy when it comes to his photography business, Transposure. With Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Engineering, Kenneth is a guy that definitely understands fine light and exhibits it in the way he makes his photos. Check out the full write up over at the Profoto Blog.

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33 Comments

Not trying to be the typical negative poster here (says the guy right before he goes negative) -- but by this guys standards my uncle with his Nikon D4 is better than I am with my D600. He is more of a professional because of his camera body. Last I looked light is light is light. I didn't see one element of his shoot that I cannot do with either my alien bee setup (still not as pro as he is) or my sb600 setup with pretty much same exact modifiers. Not knocking his final results at all. I just don't like the ego that comes with it --- but I guess thats the same in many industries.

This is a ProFoto advertising after all

Corey Melton's picture

I agree with you on this. I think that using a MF camera would make much more of a statement, BUT you still need to be using quality lights with a camera like that. That would be awesome to show up with a Phase and 5 sb-900s. And it really isn't about ego (not with everyone at least) it really is about industry standard.

Joe McNally. 'Nuff said.

Zero percent useful, 100% infomercial.

So the investment I have in 8a airs, the investment in E640's which both create light. One being more accessible to the 'average shooter', makes me less valuable if I choose to use my E640s at a commercial shoot ?

This guy needs to unplug and reset himself. This is like being in a room of shooters and everyone looking at how fast a lens the guy has next to him, or the body type...

So I get it. He's a "PRO", he has some dosh to flip around, and he's gone ProFoto. The rest of us mere mortals can't compare to him..

Corey Melton's picture

KV has a very valid point in saying that. Have you ever been the photographer shooting for a client with an art director? If you haven't yet, then know this. Your main job obviously is to get the shots they need, but you need to instill confidence in the client from beginning to end. You cant show up to a legit set with ABs or speedlights without raising some concern from the AD (unless of course the job calls for speedlights because of certain constraints of larger systems). Not all light is created equal. Not everyone needs Profoto, some people are fine with speedlights and ABs, and thats totally fine. Not all photographers are the same, everyone doesnt use or need the same stuff. Use what you need for each shoot you and AND your client's sake

When someone hires me. The hire ME. Not for the kit I bring out to a job. I've shot for major software companies, jewelry design firms, Silicon Valley corporate, team photos, some with ad/art depts.. I've never had anyone comment as to what I've used or brought. Does it happen? I'm sure it does. But more the exception than the rule. By the way, would you like to see my Rolex Daytona ? Just silly.

Corey Melton's picture

John, assuming this is you, http://www.hiltonheadincolor.com/ I don't see a need for you to use any Profoto lighting. It seems you do a lot of architectural stuff and "landscape" photography that is absent of an AD. So keep doing what you're doing, that statement wasn't geared toward what you do.

Well, actually. it's not. My work is in tear sheets and seldom credited. This is the life and work I've done for over 30 years. I don't need a website to promote the work/clients I have, it's just a steady gig as it has been since 1982. But thanks for the critique on the other guys work though.

Corey Melton's picture

thats what happens when one assumes

Interesting. Ive done a few shoots for Clients, that were Ad Campaigns for Hotels and Restaurants. I agree that you need to instill confidence in the client and that they know you are going to get them exactly what they need. Every photographer is different and everyone uses different gear. In the end of the day getting good usable quality images that the client is happy with and can use, is all that matters. Also Ive used my White Lightnings (Same company that makes ABs) for certain setups at all of these "legit" shoots. There was an AD at all of them.. and there was No concern raised..Not sure how your shoots are, but at mine, Under the client, I'm in charge and the AD doesn't question what gear I'm using.

Last commercial job I shot, the client liked that my strobe was called an Alien Bees and was hot pink. My customers don't know what my equipment cost and don't really care. I think Profoto is a lot of fluff. Joe McNalley anyone???

Corey Melton's picture

Joe McNally shoots Elinchrom with his commercial studio gigs. Pretty sure he wouldn't show up with pink ABs lol

You're right. He'd show up with speedlights.

Corey Melton's picture

i am very tight with the mcnally crew. I assure you, a commercial gig would call for studio strobes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8jPSgcszvo

all cool if he just ommited the patternalist menion to speedlites, wich some can use with better results than others with much expensives lights, but them as expressed here brand are used in big ad jobs in orer to "impress" the clients. i didnt think Progoto need it to go with his kind of comparison. Me i would prefer to get a medium format camera and einsteins ... well i already have this ligths.

FStoppers, come on. Your title for this post should have been "Here's a blatant Profoto infomercial. Watch it now." When you start selling out your platform (that's us, your audience), you start losing your platform. Get it?

Mark Dub's picture

Yup.. I agree! this would have been much better if they tittled this as "Here is an infomercial for Profoto with KV, but check out the lighting the guy did on this shot, which could be done with any lighting equipment"

Determining the difference between the more expensive and less expensive lighting brands is qualitative (based on experience and subjective relationships) rather than quantitative (objective facts, data charts, feature comparisons etc). The only way to really know the difference is to experience it. Over and over again, successful working photographers are seen working with expensive gear. They are not suckers, they certainly know it's possible to use low end gear too. So if they're not suckers, then maybe there's a reason for their decision that can only be understood through shooting experience and not by amateur dominated online lighting discussions.

There are a lot of popular bloggers and workshop teachers claiming that gear doesn't matter and that certainly makes them popular with the DIY crowd that wants to hear that kind of message. But as soon as most of these gurus become popular, start making money and getting endorsements then all of a sudden they're sporting the high end gear too.

Seems most of the people claiming this expensive equipment is better are being paid to say so, which no matter what they say, means they are biased.

Pixyst's picture

It would be interesting to see this gear snobbery introduced into post. Everyone uses Photoshop - from the clown who uses the blur tool to destroy every last bit of skin detail to the special effects wizards in Hollywood. Same tool - very different results and no one complains about the tool.

Andrew Houser's picture

Oh, how we miss the days of Corel Paint Shop Pro :P

Software is democratic, but hardware is elitist.

Everybody from the guy-next-door to the wizards in Hollywood may be using Photoshop, but they certainly aren't all operating on the same computer systems.

There are enough tears (complaints) here to drown us all.

Balancing strobes with daylight is a decent lesson. The transition scene with the ambient light, adding strobes one by one is a powerful visual aid. Maybe not for seasoned photographers, but they'll stick their noses up at 90% of content ;).

The importance of perceived value (bringing profoto gear to impress a client) is a valid point. Customers often do not judge values and costs accurately or objectively.

This ad, which may have offended you, servers its purpose. It places Profoto at the upper echelon. It reminds you that it is exclusive.

How many clients know the lighting and equipment brands? Or care really?

This sounds like when people used to ask if I had a Mac, as if that would make my photo editing different in some way. They simply have no idea. They heard it from somebody else.

Jason Ranalli's picture

Looks like an infommercial to me. And while I see the need to instill confidence in the client and the need for the strength of light that Profoto gear provides; this is a poor example of that. Shooting with those modeling lights takes all the guessing out...really. If I didn't have to waste 15-20 min just lining up a three light setup with my strobes I could look like a pro too. Modeling lights make it 100 times easier.

Hank's picture

You ask the client on the budget for the shoot. Your base price for your 'time' doesn't change necessarily. If they want to pay 20k for the shoot, you can bet they will get more production value (studio strobes, multiple assistants, catering, etc) than if they only wanted to pay 2k, in which case they will only get my speedlights and maybe 1 assistant. You simply get what you pay for in any production. You guys all need to check your egos at the door.

Corey Melton's picture

or you do what I do and buy the lights and then include lighting rental in the price of your production cost. I made back the money for 2x Profoto D1 (1,000ws), a Profoto Acute 2B with head and ring flash and a slew of modifiers within the next 2 months. Now I make money on the renting out of the lights, so it MORE than pays itself off. Using the industry standard has it's perks.

The guy has so skill but go to his site and look at his other work. A good indicator of a commercial or fashion photographers level is the quality of the models. Ad agencies and the client spend good money on not only the photographer and clothing but also the models. I'm guessing he makes his money on maybe weddings and other stuff but his advertising portfolio was pretty light. Then again this is for profoo so maybe it's not even really about him and they could have used almost anyone. I didn't like his comment about speedlites and one upping the client.

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