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Archive for the Photo articles Category

Best photo umbrella for a home-studio & indoor headshots

When I recently discovered (**) the rectangular photo umbrellas, my first reaction was, “so what’s the point”, but then someone explained to me that it allows you to get the center of axis closer to the ceiling (or a wall). Brilliant! It instantly made sense why a rectangular photo umbrella might be more useful indoors than the traditional, round umbrella. I would even go so far as to say that a rectangular photo umbrella is the best umbrella for a home-studio & indoor headshots.

I now bring along Angler Parsail 60″ Umbrellas (affiliate) to every photo shoot, along with my usual array of light modifiers, just in case I find myself in a bit of a squeeze for space. Their winged shape make them ideal for low-ceilinged rooms. This makes them equally useful for home studios. They can be used either horizontally, or vertically for when you find yourself squeezed up against a wall. The fiber-glass construction to the ribs and rods make them fairly durable too.

In the discussion on a home-studio setup with speedlites, this kind of umbrella would make a lot of sense. The photo below, similarly to the video, will show the difference in height that is achieved. While seemingly not that much of a difference, I’ve found that that 4 inches difference in height actually helps me getting the light to come in from a proper angle!

(**) About this being something that I recently discovered, I need to add that I am more often than not out of the loop when it comes to new gear and new technology, so this could very well be old news for everyone else.

 

You can purchase these umbrellas from B&H via these affiliate links

 

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The post Best photo umbrella for a home-studio & indoor headshots appeared first on Tangents.

Six days till homecoming. (Image: Ben from many years ago). 

I've just spent the last few days redesigning my website and I'm in the arduous process of uploading it to my internet service provider. It contains new images, a dynamic interface and a gallery page with 13 videos on it. I'm watching the small progress graphic ( a slowly connecting circle) with much anticipation. If I were in S. Korea, home of the world's fastest broadband connections, this all would have been loaded before I even started. I can only hope we don't regress back a decade to the time when I would get 95% of an upload stuffed up onto the web only to have everything crash. Then we'd start all over again. 

Note: The upload went fine and the site is now live at: www.kirktuck.com. As with most websites it is a work in progress and exists mostly as a resource to show clients what I do. The update was motivated by my need to add video to my galleries.

Older readers will hate the large text type but probably read it thoroughly, looking for typos. Younger readers will love the large headlines and read only the largest type on the pages, opting to look at the photos and video instead.

If you have suggestions please offer them in the contents. I guess this amounts to crowdsourcing valuable feedback but, of course, there is no guarantee that I'll follow through with changes. There is emotional inertia that keeps me as far from website production as I can get. 

The Benjamin countdown continues. He is scheduled to get back sometime on Thurs. evening and we're making all kinds of plans for his welcome back. I can't decide if the banner should be discreet and elegant or if we should just go ahead and wrap the entire house. I am also considering painting a welcome sign on the roof; just in case he is able to see it from the air. We've kept his scheduled arrival a secret from Studio Dog because she is hazy about "future tense" and will start looking all over for him if we tell her "Ben is Coming Home." I don't want to see her going from door to door and window to window looking hopeful and yet confused for the next five days. 

External recorders. I wanted to also report on the use of the Atomos Ninja Flame. As I expected, the improvement in the files depends to a large extent on how much you push the files coming from the camera. If you are filming at ISO200, in good light, with little camera movement, good color balance and careful exposure I am going to tell you that an external recorder won't magically and radically improve the video image. You will not hear angels singing. You won't have upgraded your shooting rig to match the files coming off your friend's $60K professional video camera because you will already be operating in a universal sweet spot. 

It's a different picture if you need to work at high ISOs, make big color or tonality corrections/modifications and if you routinely underexpose. Then, in post production, you'll probably see what I see: More detail, an easier to correct file, less noise and a greater range of color separation. 

Is the expense of $1200 or so worth it for people making video with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras? Only you can really decide if the units fit your value equation positively, but for me  there are three or four aspects that make a great external video recorder/monitor well worth the expense. The first is the ability to use vector scopes, wave form monitors and false color to fine tune (and nail) exposure and color balance. Meters solve a lot of issues. Second reason is the much enhanced ease of use for focus peaking and just plain focus evaluation. Having a high resolution screen that's multiple times bigger than the LCD on the back of your camera is a  godsend for achieving consistent and accurate focus. Punch in on a sharp, seven inch screen and you can see precisely where fine focus exists. Even with smaller sensor cameras that have the mixed blessing of deeper depth of focus/depth of field. 

Finally, having the video files already converted to a less compressed and very standard editing format means you don't waste time transcoding your video material before you can start your editing process. Plus, the transfer from the SSDs is remarkably fast. All in all, a good productivity tool. 

Speaking of video...I have to say that I've been shooting some video with the Panasonic G85 and I wish I was more impressed. It's not bad in 4K; not bad at all, but it's not as crisp as the fz2500 or the Sony RX10iii and doesn't come close to the high ISO performance of the  A7Rii in crop mode. It's a good enough camera but even the image stabilization is a bit disappointing because it's not at all stable if you are handheld and changing direction with a pan. There are artifacts. For a sustained, handheld shot with little camera movement it's fine but when the camera starts to move the issues come into focus. I'm disappointed but I'm still, on the whole, a fan of the camera because it does a very, very nice job with still photography and the video on a tripod (in 4K) is just fine. There is no free lunch. This camera is just a discounted lunch. 

Lenses. I want to call out two lenses that are more or less obscure, have been on the market for a while and have, in the minds of most consumers, been superseded for attention by the subsequent, relentless product introductions in the lens market. They are the Rokinon 100mm f2.8 macro and the Rokinon 135mm t2.2 (cine version) lenses. Both are manual focusing and neither has any electronic connection to any camera but both are exquisitely sharp, even wide open. I had occasion to use both recently and came away with a new appreciation for them. The 135mm is especially interesting as it gives a very sharp core image wide open and, on a full frame camera gives an exquisitely narrow depth of field when used there. Look around for used copies, cast off by people with short attention spans, and buy them cheap. They are well worth it if you are casting around for a certain sort of look from your full frame cameras. 

Weather. As I understand it California, and places west of Texas, are being pounded with heat from an intransigent high pressure dome that's propelling the heat up into the 110-120 (f) range. It's expected that the temps will stay there through the next week. Here in Austin we've had a period of high humidity with actual high temperatures near the 100 mark which makes for a dangerous heat index. Not good weather for exterior shooting. Thank goodness I've been inside, working on the darn website. 

Swim Practice. We've had some great swims lately. The coaches are getting more inventive as we go along, and all of them must be frustrated engineers since everything they write on the board has complex patterns of increasing and decreasing distance coupled with negative splits and descending interval times. Good times. If you aren't exercising you might want to consider doing so as an investment in your long term ability to be mobile with your camera. No fun trying to do street photography from the couch....

A Final Note. I am have contracted to be a photography instructor for a travel company. We are on track to begin in 2018 with a fun trip (in the Fall) to Iceland followed by a December adventure in England. More details as they become available. As a warm up I'm planning a trip in late Summer to Mexico City and in the Fall to Tokyo. As the kid finishes up his senior year by May of 2018 more and more funds seem to become available for the kinds of travel we used to do before those dreaded years of parental responsibility. Stay tuned.

Feedback on the website is welcome but really, try to be nice...





We've entered an alternate universe here in my corner of Austin. It's a universe filled with wild life. There is a skunk (or perhaps a herd of skunks) who makes the rounds though our yard every week or so. For a while it was attempting to burrow down and build a nest in my back yard. With the clever use of high intensity light, and the application of water, I think I was able to thwart those attempts. But it's still making the rounds. Which means I have to be careful when I take Studio Dog out at night. She got sprayed once when she was young and it was a dismal experience for everyone in the family...

We also have a recurring itinerate armadillo who likes to make little cone shaped divits in the front yard. I don't mind it quite as much.

Then there was recent, four foot long rat snake that climbed down the tree next to the kitchen window in a baldfaced attempt to scare Belinda half to death. I won't go into detail about our trials and tribulations with the squirrels; they clearly have no regard for boundaries and no respect for poor Studio Dog who is hellbent on catching one for dissection...

No, the capper this week is the feral deer. Apparently a doe gave birth to a fawn behind the house on the corner. The residents of the house are out of the country so the deer apparently found a yard with a bit of ongoing privacy. But the house is on a corner and the street is busy in the morning with people walking their dogs or, in the case of Studio Dog, dogs walking their people. At any rate, the deer is amazingly protective of the area she now considers her territory and is singling out dog walkers and their dogs for active harassment. Aggressive harassment.

She has mapped out a six house area and, within those confines she charges at dogs and humans in a menacing way, telling them to move along and get the hell away from her space. When I came home from swim practice Studio Dog and Belinda took turns telling harrowing tales of their latest deer confrontation. The deer was following them so aggressively that a police car causing by stopped and the officer interceded, to the extent that he could.

Now, I get parental protectiveness, and I get that the deer were (ostensibly) here first. Bur really, can't we all just share the space now?

I'll remember that thought as I go after the four or five growing wasp's nests gathering in various spots under the eaves of the house...  How wonderful to live amongst nature.

This is why I am happy to be celebrating the more urbane pleasures of Wacky Portrait Appreciation Day here. I know it's considered rude to appropriate from other cultures but the requirement that we all drink Champagne and then nap through the hot parts of the afternoon (ALL afternoon) sold me on the need for more authentic holidays such as this one.

Wacky portrait supplied above. Done with a recent model of down market digital camera.

portraits for Texas Appleseed.

I've been working on ways to downsize and lighten my load recently. It must be a contagious thought as Michael Johnston at TheOnlinePhotographer has been discussing the same trend on his world famous blog lately. It always sounds like a good idea to jettison excess weight (and complexity) wherever possible. The idea, currently, is that the progress of technology enables we photographers to choose smaller, lighter cameras that deliver "good enough" performance, and that's performance that's at least as good performance as we experienced in the most expensive cameras available only five or so years ago.

I've been doing my part, at least as well as I can. I've jettisoned all the big, heavy Nikon and Canon cameras I once used and replaced them with smaller, lighter, Sony A7 series cameras. Where interchangeable lenses and big sensors aren't needed I am able to downsize again by choosing one of two superzoom cameras, such as the Panasonic fz2500 or the Sony RX10iii.

In most cases it's a strategy that works. Well, it works for most of my hobby work but the minute the focus changes to controlled, commercial photography assignments my flirtation with small and light meets the reality of total production.

Here's how it played out today. I was asked to drop by a foundation I work with and take four portraits that will be used, mostly, on their website. We've done the same kind of assignment for this group several times in the past; shooting outside and creating images in which the background of trees and sky are put quite out of focus while the person in the foreground is well lit. There's a small area adjacent to the client's building that is set aside for smokers (haven't seen one there...) and it's both accessible and well situated in terms of background.

Of course, there's always a catch. It's Summer in Austin and I heard on the radio that we're expecting heat indexes of 105 or 106 in the afternoons, this week. That means we definitely need to do our shoots in the morning. Portraits rarely work well when the subjects are a sweaty mess... But this creates a secondary issue in that each portrait subject must face east, into the rising sun (we actually started shooting at 10 a.m.). The same sun also shines, in a dapply way, through the branches and leaves of the tree just to the right of the frame. This means we need some sort of diffusion over head and to the front of our person. Which then means that we'll need to pop some modified flash into the shot to balance everything out and provide clean, happy flesh tones. And good, directional light.

So, I've followed the current style and downsized my cameras, ready to realize all the benefits of current technology and scale. I have an A7ii, and it's small and light, but when I look through my equipment drawer for a 135mm focal length lens option I have only two choices: The Rokinon 135mm f2.0 Cine Lens or the Sony 70-200mm f4.0. Both are at least as heavy as their competitors' versions of these focal lengths. I chose the 70/200 for its flexibility but I note that it must weigh at least three times what the camera body does...

I've also downsized my lights, radically. In years past I might have used the enormous Elinchrom Ranger RX AS pack and head  electronic flash system since it had its own lead-acid battery but I long since sold off the 18 pound unit and today wanted to rely upon the new Godox AD200 portable flash unit. I figured the weight savings at something like 9:1, and that's including the accessories for the Godox! Of course, as I was packing I remembered that one of the things that was good about the 18 pound power pack from Elincrhom was that I could attach it to my light stand and use it as a de facto sandbag to keep the flash head and softbox from smashing to the ground with every wayward puff of wind.

Always erring on the side of safety I grab one of the 30 pound, orange sandbags from a pile of sandbags in the corner of the studio and add it to the collection of gear I'm packing. Now the advantages aren't looking quite so obvious.

I'll also need to pack a 50 inch diffusion disk to block the sun as well as an arm to hold it, and a stand to hold them both. This assemblage will also require a sandbag so I select another orange 30 pounder and add it to the stack.

The composition needs to be pretty static so I can concentrate on pose and expression so I make sure to pack a good tripod. All of mine are rock solid which means they all weigh about the same. I choose the Gitzo because I like the Manfrotto ball head I currently have on that one.

So, I get to my location and start setting up. It's not really a big deal since I found a parking space just four spaces from the actual location. I line up the shot first and then start building the lighting and diffusion. I know I was smart to pack the sand bags because every once in a while the wind picks up and pushes on the small soft box, and on the diffuser. The higher I raise up the diffusion panel the happier I am that each sand bag weighs 30 pounds.

I estimate that in my attempt to downsize my exterior portrait shooting rig I've added a net of about 10 pounds. Not quite the result I had in mind when I started down this path.

In all seriousness, though, moving from mirrored to mirror-free in the camera selection saved me maybe one pound. And since the camera spent the morning mounted on a stout tripod it's a pound of difference I never would have felt.

So why did I bother to transition technologies? I'll say this again. It's not any sort of attempt to radically downsize my kit it's just that EVFs are vastly superior for the way I like to work. And the Sony cameras are far more flexible as tools to use across two disciplines (video and stills).

The cold, hard reality for me is that most of the weight I deal with on locations is dictated by the lighting, not the camera gear. Even in the lighting it's not really the lighting instruments themselves that are the burden but all the associated support gear: light stands, sand bags, tripods, diffusion frames, etc. Heck, I could still be using a Linhof Technica view camera and it would not be the thing that tips the scale between weight and excess weight.

So, that's the point of view from a commercial photographer but when I come home and change hats it's a different story that's more in line with that conveyed by Michael and his readers. When I put on the flip-flops and and the silly (but sun-proof) hat, stick $20 in my pocket and go walking downtown, in the heat, the relative weight of my camera and lens do matter. They matter a lot.

And any time I am going "hand held" with my camera I have to acknowledge that "ultimate quality" is not my primary aim.

In these situations I like to stick to the A7ii body (over the A7rii) but the biggest lens I ever want to carry around (versus: drive around with in the car) is the Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f4.0. The combo is manageable. If I'm channeling a 1950's Life Magazine/Henri Cartier Bresson existence I ditch the zoom and grab the new Sony FE 50mm f1.8. It's light and sharp. Altogether, the lens and camera make a nice, small and easy to handle package that delivers really good images.

And I get to use a good EVF all day long.

Once you lose those light stands and 60 pounds of sand things settle down nicely. Leave the heavy lenses at home and it all comes together. Downsizing depends on what you need to do. If you need to control or make light you need the right tools and it's really hard to make that support gear any smaller or lighter without compromising the necessary reality of support.

If you never want to walk around all day in the crazy heat you probably don't need to downsize whatever you currently shoot with. But it might be nice if you did. If you do this photography thing as a business then having the right tools at hand always (or nearly always) trumps the comfort of having less to wrangle.

I miss my previous existence as a copywriter; the only thing I required to do my job was a laptop, a pen and a notebook. Such a streamlined existence.

B&B at Sweetish Hill Bakery. 
Ancient image from the archives.

My son has been away at college for the last three years. He comes home for the Summers, and for the end of year break, and I can generally convince him, during his stays at home, to lend a hand in the business as a video editor and on set director. This Spring semester was quite different. Ben applied to and was accepted at Yonsei University in Seoul, S. Korea for a semester abroad. 

He has taken several years of Korean language and has a deep interest in the culture, politics and history of Korea. He headed out in early February and has been dividing his time between (hopefully) diligent studies and much site seeing. He's eaten interesting foods and lived to write home about it. He's traveled almost weekly across Korea and made many good friends. 

I am happy we were able to provide this experience for him but I am even happier at the prospect that he'll be back near the end of next week. 

If you've been holding off on hiring me to do some glorious and ample-budgeted video project because you missed Ben's skill in the editing bay you'll want to reserve your company's place in line to make sure we can work your project in sometime this Summer. It's a limited engagement; he's back to school in Saratoga Springs, NY in the Fall. One more academic year and then ..... ?

I smell graduate school lurking in the wings... 

(camera note: What camera did he take? I opened up the equipment cabinets in the studio and invited him to take whatever he wanted. If he didn't see something there I would gladly have bought him whatever he required. He demurred and chose to go only with his iPhone 5s. He's sent back dozens of photos. They're all pretty good. PHONE, the camera choice of the millennials. 



I started working with Renae nearly 21 years ago. I remember because during the first few months of working together we were still over in the old (enormous) studio just east of IH35; the "other" side of town. She helped with the move to my new location and we worked together for another three or four years before she moved to NYC, and then on to Los Angeles.

We worked a lot back then. That was the nature of commercial photography in the 1990's. The work was pretty predictable; whether it was an architectural shoot for a home builder, a corporate headshot "cattle call" on location or a product shoot in the studio, they all pretty much proceeded in the same way.

If the assignment was on location we probably sorted and packed everything the evening before. The new studio is right across the walkway from my house so many times Belinda would throw together a nice dinner and we'd break from assembling all the crap that goes along with a photographer to create images in the wild to sit around the dining room table to relax and eat with Belinda and toddler, Ben.

On the shoot day we'd get back into the studio and start hauling the gear cases out to the car around 7:00 am in the morning, hit the local Starbucks around 7:30, and then pull into the client's parking lot just before 8. It takes longer now. We're no longer a sleepy, little town so we double or triple the travel time.

We'd spend the first hour or so setting up lights and light stands, and taping down extension cords so no one would trip over them. Then we'd start working through either a list of shots or a list of people who needed to be photographed, and we'd get into the rhythm of the shoot. We'd break for a late lunch in the company cafeteria or someplace quick and close by and then get back to the process.

We'd wrap up around 4:30 pm and start packing up. If we were up in Round Rock, with the folks from Dell, we might have a forty-five minute or one hour commute back home to Westlake Hills. If we were south, at Motorola, we could do it in half the time. We'd get to the studio and unpack the car.
If we had another shoot the next day we'd take a little break, have a glass of wine, and then re-pack everything for the next day. We'd unload the film and get it ready for the lab and Renae would drop it by the lab, in the night drop, on her way home.

When jobs all bunched together we'd hire a second assistant whose main job was to ferry shot film to the lab for processing and then bring processed film back to the shoot so we could review it as we worked on the next job. If we had a full week of shooting booked then editing, packaging for delivery to clients, and then billing all got done on Saturdays and Sundays.

If we were lucky enough to have a down day; one without a client assignment, we'd organize the studio, file the negatives and transparencies, clean stuff and then take a little time to do our own photography. This (above) is from a series I did to test a look for a particular gray canvas as a backdrop.

Looking back I can't honestly say that if I were to do it all over again I'd prefer being an accountant or I.T. professional. I can say that I resent the fact that progress has made the need for a daily assistant unnecessary.

It's probably all for the best since I was never able to find someone as brilliant as Renae to take her place.
©kirk tuck.

Funny to think that, in 2009, we were still shooting black and white film 
in our big, square cameras, for everything that we thought 
was personal and important. Funny how some of the work
still bubbles up to the top. 



When Patricia ruled her bakery domain everything was magical and delicious. It was inevitable that she would retire some day. I didn't know it then; before she sold the business, but it was a dark day for coffee and pastries lovers of a certain kind in central Austin. 

Under the new management the quality didn't change.....just the magic. 




Shot in the studio. Available light. Rollei 6008. 150mm. 

We had so much time back in our youth. Time to sit on wooden floors and watch the light flow through big windows and still be amazed by the weightlessness of the dust floating through the shafts of sun.

I was hanging out with dancers and snapping away with an ancient Canon SLR and a 50mm f1.4. Everything was on Tri-X then and I never had to make decisions about which lens to shoot with since it was the only one I owned.

I still love the work from back then. It was propelled only by my curiosity and my attraction to beautiful people.

Funny how easy everything is when your biggest responsibility is to remember to lift the toilet seat lid.

This was taken sometime in 1983. I had recently left the welcoming but soporific bosom of academia; shortsightedly leaving the stability of a steady job for the insanity of the advertising industry. But it was fun. Fun in a way that academia really could never be.

This was taken at the successful end of our very first photo shoot as Avanti Advertising and Design. We had a retail client who sold high end chocolate, Champagne, flowers and cards. The shoot required opening several (or more) bottles of Champagne so we could capture that magic moment when the cork pops and the bottle overflows. Honestly, it was vital to the creative concept....

But once open the bottles couldn't be returned and so it fell to the marketing team on the account to liquidate the luscious liquid. There may also have been some "prop" chocolates that couldn't be resold so we made short work of those as well.

The important thing we learned early on in the business was the importance of really celebrating our victories in the industry. We commemorated every successful television commercial and print campaign with a toast, a happy hour or a "all hands" friday lunch at our favorite, sloppy Tex-Mex restaurant (which, at the time, was Nuevo Leon, on East 7th St.).

This job was shot on a Pentax 6x7 camera and, as was typical for the times, ran in black and white in the local newspapers. I strongly suspect it was shot on Tri-X film and I remember making the 11x14 inch fiber based prints in my darkroom. Good times.

These days I've gotten a bit jaded about the process, and, truth be told, if I celebrated every successful job with a bottle of Champagne I would have died long ago of some liver disease.

Still, it's good to remind oneself, from time to time, that this is a tough business and sustaining success for decades at a time is a worthy thing to celebrate. I think I'll head into the house and see if there's any wine left in the fridge from the last dinner party.....

other notes: hard at work on a very insouciant and strange new website for Kirk Tuck Photography and Video. I'm using a program called, Sparkle. It's fun but so, so time consuming. Now where is that Sauvignon Blanc I remember re-corking....
http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2011/12/kirks-take-kirk-tuck-2.html#more

I needed this reminder TODAY. I was diving too deep into the minutia of video. I think I just pulled myself back from the edge of the abyss.....
Sara B. ©Kirk Tuck

As most of my blog readers know I've been more or less immersed in the use of continuous lighting for portrait work over the last few years. It's a practice I started back when I was working on a book about LED lighting back in 2009-2010. Recently, I've had to travel more often to light and shoot both video and photographs and it's been a challenge to figure out how to pack to get the most bang per ounce across both media.

I recently bought bunch of Godox small flashes because they pack down so well and require fewer light stands on which to hang light modifiers, etc. I think the traditional flash equipment that I used for decades (mono lights, pack and head strobes) are now mostly obsolete for most working photographers (with exceptions) who need
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Photographing semi-candid portraits out on the street

Not quite “street photography”, but rather a semi-candid portrait out on the streets, I love the resulting photograph. It encapsulates a few of the typical New York elements for me – colorful vibrancy and attitude.

Late this afternoon, as usual when I had finished with a corporate headshot photo session in the Wall St area of New York, I waited out the peak time traffic by roaming around the streets with my camera. This young woman graciously waited a few seconds for me while she took selfies with the Fearless Girl – there were other people walking past in the background, and I wanted a cleaner shot. I held up my hand to ask her non-verbally with this gesture (and a smile) to hold her natural pose for me. And she did – and with that, I have a photograph where everything gelled. It’s one of those rare moments that make the semi-aimless wandering around looking for photographs, worth it!

One of the toughest things I had to overcome when I first picked up a camera, was engaging people I didn’t know. Just like many other newer photographers starting out with their first camera, I felt too awkward about making any kind of contact- ending up  photographing people from the side or from behind. If the resulting photograph works, then that’s fine – but I would say that capturing expressions make for far more interesting photographs than the back of someone’s head.

And that’s it – you could engage in a quick conversation, or even with a nod or a smile or a hand-gesture, ask permission to take a photograph. I’m never pushy with it – if I sense someone would rather not, I just nod to show that I understand, and I move on. But people do often respond favorably, so it’s worth overcoming that fear!

Share with us how you go about approaching strangers when you want to take a photograph of them.

 

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Luke. ©Kirk Tuck 2017

I first photographed Luke a number of years ago when he commissioned a local advertising agency to create a new website for his law practice. We both liked the images we generated in that first encounter and when the time came to update the website design Luke moved on to a different design firm but called on me directly to do new portraits. 

I knew that he was looking for images the that would project a calm competence and that's what I aimed for. Our session was scheduled for 10:30 one morning but I started the basic lighting design and set up during the afternoon the day before. I knew I wanted to use a cool, steely gray background because it creates a nice color contrast for flesh tone. I wanted to use continuous lighting because I wanted to work with wide apertures and also wanted to leverage some of the daylight coming into the studio for very subtle fill light. 

My main light was an LED panel pushed through a Westcott diffusion flag (2x3 feet) positioned about four feet from his face, 45 degrees off axis, and up high enough to create a flattering shadow under his chin. Just behind the main light and a bit more to the center I put up another LED panel and pushed it through a 4x4 foot Chimera diffusion panel with the power all the way down at 20%. The purpose was to add fill light overall. 

I used a smaller LED panel as a hair light. It came from the right rear of the set and created some interesting separation in Luke's hair. I used another LED panel pushed through another Chimera panel from the back left side of the set. Its effect is almost invisible but it shows up as more even lighting on the right hand side of his face and is more noticeable in bigger enlargements. 

The final light was a vertically arranged LED panel with one sheet of translucent material clipped on to soften the beam; aimed directly at the seamless paper background. This light was positioned directly behind Luke and carefully metered to get a halo effect around him without having to resort to post production vignetting or manipulation. 

I took a couple of test shots and then we spent time just chatting and catching up. The session lasted long enough to generate several hundred shots, which may sound excessive to retail portrait takers but is part of our advertising tradition. We're looking for small but important changes in pose, gesture and expression. Even small adjustments to expression can change the impression of the subject being photographed. 

I included three different expressions here so you can see what I'm talking about. Each is very similar but, to my eye, each has a very different demeanor. Luke selected 12 final shots and I spent an afternoon getting the flesh tones exactly the way I wanted them to look for web use. The files were delivered as large, layered Tiffs as well as "ready to use" Jpegs in two sizes. 

Luke and I were both quite happy with the results. It's a straightforward project but, as usually is the case, knowing the final use is important. Knowing the subject well enough to have a good rapport is priceless.



Camera: Sony A7ii
Lens: Sony FE 85mm f1.8
Lights: Aputure LightStorm LEDs