Why Profoto B2 portable flashes instead of speedlight’s?

Why Profoto B2 portable flashes instead of speedlight’s?

My first studio flashes that were still portable were a pair of Profoto B2. I had long used Canon’s speedlite’s as my portable flashes that I set up on light stands wherever I went. But then I took the step to invest in a couple of Profoto B2 portable flashes. What happiness I felt!

3 reasons why you should use portable flashes instead of speedlight's

      1. They can give you more brightness (they have more power in them) 250W
      2. They recharge faster than speedlight's which have regular batteries (maybe not compared to Profoto's own A1, I haven't tested them against each other but it also has Lithium batteries which is usually faster to recharge)
      3. Reliable that they will fire every time (that problem I had when I had to take several relatively fast photos in succession)

These portable studio flashes are easy to use and get started with even to those who are not used to studio flashes. I personally had no experience myself but ran a lot of trial and error ie tested a lot.

Attach the flash head to the camera

I also bought a Boomerang that helps you attach the little flash head on the camera just like I could do with my old Canon speedlite's. It felt less smooth but it worked! 

Canon 5 d mark 4 kamera

Works well when you are out shooting and does not have any assistant with you who can help keep things going and if you want to be more mobile ie not use a light stand for the flashes.

Företagsfotograf Helen Shippey i Västerås

Profoto B2 Location kit

Now what is a Profoto B2 location kit? There are two flashlights and a battery pack included. I also invested in an extension cord so that I could move my two flashes a little further apart. Both flashes come together to the same battery pack, so you share one and don’t have one for each.

The thing to be aware of when using an extension cord is that you lose about 1 stop in strength, a Profoto employee told me. It's just good to know and nothing that limits you, but something to keep in mind when you put the different strengths on the two different flash heads is that if you want exactly the same strength on both flashes then they have to differentiate with 1 stop if you are using an extension cord.

Profoto B2 blixtar

Where should I press?

The battery unit itself is super simple to use. It doesn't have many buttons and knobs, so you can't do that much wrong. But I'll go through it with you so you can keep up.

The electrical contacts on the battery pack have a lid so that dirt does not come in when the lamps are not switched on. You can also twist your flash cable when you insert it into the unit so that it locks and does not pull out. However, I personally am a bit lazy with locking the cable I usually just put it in the electrical outlet and then I start shooting.

There are two knobs you can turn, with them you change the power of your flash. If you hold the button down while turning, the numbers jump forward faster if you think it takes too long to change if you don’t press it down it only changes one hundredth at a time.

Make sure you know which of the flashes you have connected to which power outlet on the unit so you change the strength of the right flash.

You can also choose to have the flashes communicate on different groups. It is handy for when you are not close to your unit and want to change the light, you can change the strength on your transmitter that you have sitting on the camera hot shoe. Just need to remember which flash belongs to which group :)

You can change from beep sound with a simple push of a button when the flash is ready to use or the light dims or nothing at all. You just push the different variants and stay where you want to be, it says in the display, Beep, Dim . I usually don't have any of them, neither the beeping noise that annoys me the most or that the flash dims because I feel no need for it when I'm out. I see the need for it but not for me most of the time they way I photograph. A beep sound is great to have when photographing models because then they know when to change position and they can do it at every beep sound.

Model light 

You can use the model light which is a LED light while shooting if you wish, but it obviously drains your battery so you may not always want it on but its all up to you. I usually use it in the beginning when I measure where the light should be so that I see where it falls and is aimed at. Then I turn it off to save battery. I keep the model light on if I shoot in dark conditions partly for all of us to see but also for the camera to focus. It's just a simple push of a button to get the model light button on and off the unit. 

I think the batteries unfortunately dies relatively quickly. But an extra battery is a great solution (I have that, we also have car battery chargers which are good when we are out on location and need to charge the batteries).

They load up quickly so I usually load one while the other is being used. You can even use the flashes while they are being charged if you have access to a power outlet. It says in the manual that you should not have the unit in its small bag when it is being charged so I was super-careful at first with it until I met a guy who works at Profoto, who said that "well it wasn't that important here in Sweden". It was more important when I lived in Dubai where it was much warmer. So now I have started to neglect it and keep the unit in its bag while I charge it. There is even a hole in the bag for you to do so.

To replace the battery on your unit you have to take it out of its small bag because the battery is located at the bottom of the unit, a bit of a pain I think but also good because then the battery is a little bit more protected I guess ...?

Portable bag

The battery pack comes with its own portable carrying case, it has loops so your assistant can attach it to his/her belt and carry it around his waist, or have it over his shoulder. If you don’t have an assistant, you can hang it on your light stand or put it on the ground. It may not always reach the ground it depends on how high you want your light to sit. It does not reach down because the lightning cable itself is not long enough.

We who photograph a lot in nature like the fabric on the underside of the bag it looks and feels weatherproof - that's a big thumbs up from us for it.

Profoto b2 blixtar

Lightweight flash heads

The weight of the flash heads themselves is very light which makes them very mobile and easy to hold if you have an assistant and no light stand.

Profoto Air Remote TTL

To get these to fire you obviously need a transmitter that communicates with your flashes, I use a Profoto Air Remote TTL-C (C stands for it fits Canon cameras) There is also N for Nikon . Profoto are working to get the TTL to work for all the camera brands that are on the market that professionals use, the remote work with other camera brands today on Manual mode but not on the TTL function (I personally never use the TTL anyway only use Manual mode).

You mount the air remote on your camera's hot shoe, press On and start shooting. You need to make sure they have the same channel on both your air-remote and the battery pack, otherwise your camera and flash will never be able to communicate with each other. It was on this transmitter that I meant that you can stand a bit from your flashes and still change its power by knowing which group the different flashes belong to. You can also change channels if there is another photographer near you who also shoots and has the same channel as you, if you use different channels, your and the other photographer's flashes will not affect each other. This is not a problem I have encountered, especially not when we are so much out in the woods and photograph because we are often quite alone :) Which is great.

Företagsfotograf Helen Shippey i Västerås

Light shaper

The nice thing about Profoto's flashes is that their flash heads have the same diameter, so you can easily use most of their light shapers on all their flashes except Profoto A1. It is much smaller and is not a studio flash but a speedlight that you attach to the camera's hot shoe.

The light from this flash is quite nice as it is so you sometimes, when it suits you, may not even have to use a light shaper. I vary a bit between what I do depending on what I photograph.

OCF (Off Camera Flash)

I personally love how easy and simple it is to use Profoto's OCF (Off Camera Flash) system. They are easy to carry, which is important to us, because we always photograph out on location somewhere, sometimes in nature and sometimes at a company. It’s simple to carry, light weight and easy to put together are factors that are important to us. We personally often use different umbrellas both with white inside and with silvery inside and sometimes one that is translucent. The size of the umbrella we use varies a little on what we photograph and how much of the area we want to light up. Profoto's OCF grids I think are neat to use so please try them out, I use grids more often than I use their OCF barn doors and OCF snoot. Mostly, I think I get more control of the light through grids than I get through barn doors and their snoot, even though they have many good qualities and photo opportunities in different contexts. We always carry OCF gels in all the different colors Profoto has, but I honestly do not use them very often, but will probably start doing it to create the right color straight away on the location rather than in Photoshop or Lightroom later. If I can get my image just the way I want it on location I speed up my workflow a lot.

Profoto B2 Foto blixtrar

Profoto B2 vs. Speedlights

Now can you compare Profoto B2 vs. Speedlights

Well maybe not totally is my answer there. Personally, I couldn't stop using my Canon Speedlite's when I bought my Profoto B2, which I might have thought from the beginning. I could put B2 on my camera, but it wasn't smooth. The B2 flash heads are light compared to studio flashes, but they are not light and agile compared to speedlight's. With a B2 mounted on your camera with the help of a Boomerang stand you are a bit clumbsy its doable but not a great solution. As maybe Profoto thought when tehy first made it.

So my workflow when I photographed events did not change, but I still favoured Canon's speedlight's on such occasions.

I tried to have my B2 on the camera at a wedding so it does work but I wouldn't do it if I didn't have to, but rather ask a friend to come along and act as an assistant and hold the flash instead of putting it on on the camera. Which also makes a better light, because the light is not on the camera! You should try to never put a flash on the camera's hot shoe. But yes, I know sometimes it is inevitable so then it is important to know how to direct your flash and know how to bounce it. </ P>

I like the Profoto B2 for its portability but they couldn't replace the speedlights for me, but if you buy a Profoto A1 then you can sell your speedlights - they are equivalent. Read more about Profoto A1 here.

For me, the choice was between Profoto B2 against Profoto B1 and then Profoto B2 won, because the flash heads were smaller and lighter for me to take with me on location and because I thought it would be easy to use it on the camera. I had clearly fallen victim to their advertising, which they targeted hard towards wedding photographers. Much like they now do with their Profoto A1!

This is how we work today!

Today when Roger and I are out photographing we use Profoto B1 more and more compared to the B2s. We often bring both with us because we like to be ready to light up exactly as we want when we are in place and it is difficult to know before you are there what you want to use.

You may have some idea of ​​how you think you want to light your photograph before you are there, but you have to be ready to change that because once you are there, maybe the conditions are completely different from when you were there last. Is the sun shining, is it raining are you in a small space where big umbrellas can't fit? Yes there is a lot that can be changed from one day to another even if you have planned and think you have thought everything through so be prepared to rethink and see what you need when you arrive.

Have fun with your photography. Hope I didn't make it too difficult for you to understand. If you have any questions, just ask them in the comments and I will try to answer as best I can.

/ Helen 

Corporate photographer in Västerås, Sweden!

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Företagsfotograf Helen Shippey

About me

My name is Helen and I love to create and happily share what I create with my cameras / drones.

Join me on my photography assignments.

You can call me Shippey, my friends does!


Has; Apprentice Letter in Photography