It wasn’t that long ago that I proudly declared myself an “exclusively natural light photographer” to anyone who was listening. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The sun is beautiful and I am glad it exists!

But the problem here wasn’t that I only wanted to use natural light. The problem was that I was intimidated by the prospect of creating my own light. It seemed confusing and expensive and overwhelming. While I could see where it would be helpful during the long gray days of Ohio winters, I couldn’t wrap my mind around how I would add it to my workflow.

Then one day, I met the Profoto A1. And it changed everything. It was easy to use. It was versatile. And it created the kind of light that I was always seeking from the sun…at any time of day. My A1 and I have been inseparable ever since.

Watch me use the Profoto A1 to create a natural-light look.

In this video, I’m going to show you how I easily make artificial light look like natural light using the Profoto A1. You’ll see the subtle differences in my before and after photos (below), and how adding a bit of artificial light really makes a big difference.

When I was setting up this shot of cookie dough (because we all know cookie dough is superior to an actual baked cookie), I wanted light that was soft and directional, like the light that would be streaming through my window on a perfect sunny day. However, the skies at my house were filled with gloomy clouds and my kitchen has no windows close to the counter where I would prepare cookies. This is when the A1 becomes my best friend.

I set up the Profoto A1 to mimic natural window light.

To get that softer light, I bounce the A1 off of a large piece of white foam board. This creates a larger light source, which in turn creates a softer transition from the highlights to the shadows. You could also get a similar effect shooting through a piece of parchment paper or through a paper towel.

I positioned the foam board at a 90-degree angle to my cookie dough so that I could highlight the texture of the dough with side light. This created a more three dimensional effect that was decidedly missing from the available light image.

Behind the scenes using the Profoto A1
Here, I'm bouncing light from the Profoto A1 off a white V-flat to create what looks like natural window light.

Here’s the before and after: Natural light vs. Profoto A1 flash

As you can see, the available-light image is good, but lacking a bit of that dimension and depth I love. When I use the Profoto A1 to create directional light, all the details of the dough and baking tools really shine.

How to create a natural light look with flash using the Profoto A1
Shot with available light.
How to create a natural light look with flash using the Profoto A1
Shot with the Profoto A1 light.

I also use the Profoto B10 off-camera flash for food photography.

How to make artificial light look natural - The Profoto B10
Here I'm using the Profoto B10 with 2x3-foot Profoto Softbox.

After spending 5 hours creating a rustic tres leches cake with honey ricotta cream, strawberries, and edible flowers, I made my family wait an extra 10 minutes to dig in so I could take a few photos of my masterpiece. My goal was to showcase the texture of the cake and all of its layers. I kept my setting simple so the cake would take center stage. I used my flat-lay board as a backdrop, and to mimic light from a small window, outfitted my Profoto B10 off-camera flash with a 2×3-foot Profoto Softbox. I positioned the light at a 90-degree angle to get sidelight on the cake, creating shadows and highlights that made the crumb of the cake layers, the dollops of cream, and the curves of the fruit and flowers feel more three dimensional. It’s cozy and rich and yet fresh — just like springtime here on the farm!

How to make artificial light look natural - The Profoto B10
Shot with the Profoto B10.

I still love the sun. But when the sun isn’t cooperating with my artistic vision, I am so glad that I have my Profoto lighting tools to make my photos shine.

Kellie’s gear

Camera: Nikon Z7

Lenses: Nikon FTZ Adapter, Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G

Lighting: Profoto A1, Profoto B10, Profoto Air TTL Remote, Profoto 2×3-foot Softbox

Backdrops: Erickson Woodworks large custom surface, white V-flat

How to create a natural light look with flash using the Profoto A1

All photos and video by Kellie Bieser

Part of this article was originally published in the March/April 2019 issue of Click Magazine. To subscribe, click here

How to make artificial light look natural with the Profoto A1