Making portraits on location...
As ever I have been getting booked for a good variety of photography, and now video work. One day I could be shooting an interview piece, the next a science video and then the next day some environmental portraits for editorial. Variety offers great challenges and keeps me on my toes, just how I like it.
This week I would like to talk about environmental portraits. These are portraits shot on location, usually in the environment that the subject works in, hence environmental portraits. I have been making portraits of Chief Executive Officers (CEO's) for editorial stories. The subjects are always under time constraints so I have to be as efficient as possible, I make this extra tricky by setting myself the task of trying to set up and shoot in three different sets for each subject, this can vary either way, but three is my target. Doing this creates options for the client (magazine), and also the subject.
When it is possible I make an arrangement for a recce of the location so I can get a good idea of how I will make the portraits, and the specific spaces I will use. Preparation is key, the more you can do prior to the shoot day the better. There will always be variables to contend with, so arming yourself with as much knowledge as you can helps minimize the stress that changes can make.
This preparation extends to understanding the tools you have, your kit. It sounds obvious doesn't it, but how well do you really know your kit. One of the first things I impress on any aspiring photographer is to spend many hours with their camera in hand, you should be absolutely familiar with the dials, menu and functions at hand. Do this and free your mind to be aware of the light, how it is changing and you can adjust naturally and without so much distraction and thought. My main camera for this kind of work is now a Sony A7RIII with a growing selection of lenses. I will do a more specific blog relating to the kit I use soon.
Once you have learned your camera, then you need to learn about your lighting options. We have natural light, strobe light (flash), and of course the ambient light produced by interior lighting in the environment you are shooting in, should you be indoors. For almost every environmental portrait I find myself using a combination of available light (natural or ambient) and strobe. My strobes consist of Bowens monoblocks and Cactus RF60X speedlights, I use Cactus speedlights because I use Cactus V6II and V6IIs radio triggers. I have a selection of modifiers, scrims, umbrellas, softboxes and reflecters, learning how best to use these comes as the arsenal grows.
When starting out it is often the case that you are a one man band, this is ok but as the jobs get bigger and the pressure greater I find it absolutely essential to employ at least one assistant. Doing this and taking the time to work with them to the point they know you well and can anticipate makes working so much smoother. I spent time assisting and learned so much which is still very relevant to my work now. If you are interested in commercial photography or film making then I can't recommend getting assisting experience enough. With an assistant working with me I can concentrate on my subject, I can look at how to light them best and then instruct my assistant to make the adjustments I want to the lights, help make quick lens changes and generally be smoother and cleaner on set.
I work with the available light and then add a key light (Bowens Gemini 500 Pro monoblocs with a large softbox), a kicker (Cactus RF60X speedlight with a softbox and grid), if required I will also light the environment, generally I will use Cactus RF60X speedlights for this with or without modifiers.
That's it from me this time, I hope that you enjoyed the few minutes reading this and having a little look at the portrait work I make. Looking at my diary, I have some editing to do on an interview video piece, some post as usual and then get into my studio to shoot some jewelry still lifes.
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Until next time, keep challenging yourselves, keep learning and enjoy your achievements along the way.