An Editorial Portrait Assignment on a Short Schedule
There are occasions when you need to work very, very fast and still deliver a shot that makes both client and subject happy. These types of shoots can be frustrating and challenging, but it keeps the adrenaline going and when it results in an image that everyone likes, it can be very satisfying.
I was called at the last minute to shoot an interior designer in his studio / workshop. Because of schedules I would have about an hour to get what they wanted. Assignment was three shots and a lead… that means I had to do 4 shots total with one of the shots being a full page vertical. You want to make sure you know what they need before going out on the assignment, especially one where the timing is short and there are no realistic time slots for a reshoot.
Coni Bourin was the art director for the magazine, and although she rarely involves herself in the shooting, she does like to be there when it is happening. We met at the studio at 8:30am to get some ideas for the shoot that would take place about 9am. We were told that the subject had to be out of there at 10 for an appointment.
One of the things I always do is get to a place early enough to start to plan the shoot. I also get some equipment out and at the ready. A couple of stands, fill cards, lights and modifiers are at the ready. I don’t want to take precious time running to the car to get a stand. This gives me time to look at the place we are shooting and begin to plan out the shots.
Before we make the jump to the next page, a reminder that next weeks Tech Sheet goes up tomorrow afternoon… it’s a good one and something quite different for Lighting Essentials. You will have to let me know what you think of it. We have desktops for this month here, an article about shooting with clamshell lighting and an article on shooting with two speedlights on the beach that you may have missed. And as always, visit the LEMagazine site – link on left – for some interviews of photographers and other articles.
Now on to the shoot…
The studio / showroom was in a very cool building on North Central and Coni and I met there early with Starbucks in hand. A quick walk through of the space revealed a very large two story window facing West, and lots of skylights. Knowing that the magazine likes a more natural style of images, I immediately formulated a simple lighting scheme in my head. We would go with natural light augmented with some stobes to keep the light open and the subject lit even if he were in a darker area under the skylights.
Natural light augmented with a little speedlight calls for finesse, not heavy handed lighting. I worked at about 1/16 – 1/8 power into umbrellas.
Our first shot is one of the first ones we did. He came into the shoot with some plans in hand and was talking with his assistant. I quickly placed a medium umbrella to camera left, high and asked him to stand in the spot where his head was against the flat backround wall. This ‘frame’ seems to make him even more the ‘subject’. His choice of a white shirt was great, and I knew he would pop out of the dark background pretty well.
I got up on a little ladder to shoot down on him and show more of his showroom behind him. Placing him where there was a nice amount of skylight gave a nice separation and was fast.
I had already tested my lights and knew that at the distance of the umbrella from him, the light would merely wink in the shadows, filling the shot slightly and adding some soft speculars. I was able to get about 6 shots before his cell rang and we had to move on to another shoot.
The next shot is one Coni and I had a moment to set up. It was going to be our lead shot so we wanted a nice vertical and Coni wanted some space at the top for the headline / intro. I set up a shoot thru (rare, yeah… but in this case perfect) to light the top of the wall and placed it on the foyer above and to camera right. Camera left was a medium umbrella with a speedlight up high to open the shadows and keep him evenly lit. Light from behind me was a two story window and there is a skylight directly above. He walked into position and I was able to get about 20 shots before another emergency brought his assistant running.
I did some post on the picture for my portfolio and am using it instead of the more natural look the magazine went with. That is the luxury of digital and it is, after all, my shot. Heh.
We did a few grab shots of him on the phone and such and were wrapped about 10 minutes early. We headed outside and he was talking to us about his building and the plans he had for it. He leaned against the column and I knew I had another shot. Coni held a reflector in close from camera right and I shot natural light… previsualizing the post as more illustrative. The magazine loved the shot but decided not to use it because the post was too stylistically different. I included the ‘normal’ shot that they loved as well, but in the end went with the stairs shot for the magazine. The client ordered a large print so that was cool.
Being ready for what happens and having your gear at the ready makes the challenge of a short time frame at least better. I keep the gear I need close and at the ready so we can do what we need to do as fast as possible. I can see the light better when looking at it instead of looking in my bag for batteries. Working fast means working smart.
Tomorrow is the next Tech Sheet. See you then.