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Alyn Stafford

Corporate Portraits

By Alyn Stafford
Published by Amherst Media

Working with overscheduled business people can be a challenge for any portrait photographer. Alyn Stafford explains how to set up and meter your lighting to make even the most time-deprived executives look good in this excerpt from his Amherst Media book Flash Techniques for Location Portraiture.

This excerpt from Flash Techniques for Location Portraiture is provided courtesy of Amherst Media. To purchase the book and learn more about the publisher, visit the Amherst Media Web site.

Working with professionals in a corporate environment is very different than taking photos of individuals for their personal portraits. The corporate professional is typically a busy individual who doesn’t have a lot of time to spend during their portrait session. So, getting your lighting correct and fast is essential.

When I’m hired to take corporate photos, I almost always take more than one assistant with me. My corporate clients do not have the time to waste while I get my gear ready and test my flashguns for the correct settings. I generally arrive anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes early to scout the location where I will be shooting and set up my lighting. I use one assistant to stand in the position where I will be photographing so that I can set up my lighting and make certain that all of my flashguns are positioned properly and powered according to my meter readings. I do this so that when it comes time to call the subject to the set, I can take the portraits without wasting the individual’s time. By taking the time to test the lighting with the assistant, I know that when I am photographing my subject, any lighting modifications that may be necessary would be minor.

Image 7-23. My assistant stands in the place where the businessperson will be photographed. Configuring and testing the setup before the shoot prevents me from wasting the businessperson’s time.

Working with Busy Professionals

Each location portrait session is different, so your lighting setup may vary from shoot to shoot. For this particular session, I could have set up a shoot-through umbrella to camera left, added my backlight, and called it a day. However, I wanted to demonstrate working with a light panel, which is nice if you have the time to set it up. If you don’t, then I recommend that you just go with the shoot-through umbrella—it’s quick and easy to use. 

Image 7-24. A setup shot showing the subject with various light modifiers, flash units, and my assistant holding a reflective bounce.

For this corporate session, the businesswoman I was photographing was a busy individual and didn’t have a lot of time to waste, so I used my assistant to stand in as I set up my lighting (image 7-23). Once I had my lighting configuration set up (images 7-24 through 7-27) I was able to call her from her office and place her in position to take the portrait. My decision to work with the light panels rather than a shoot-through umbrella came about because I was originally hired to photograph two individuals together. The light panel offered a wider surface area where I could set up two flashguns, not because I needed the power, but because I needed good light coverage across the area where the subjects would be standing. However, after I had set up my lighting, I ended up only having to photograph one individual, so I didn’t add the second flashgun. 

Image 7-25. A setup shot with a reverse view. Notice my assistant to the left holding a reflective bounce. This is a 2-in-1 bounce with a white surface on one side and a gold reflective surface on the other side.

Image 7-26. Detail shot of a Nikon SB800 flash unit mounted on a cold shoe flash/umbrella bracket, positioned above a shoot-through light panel. Notice the 45-degree angle, which is common in portrait lighting setups.

Image 7-27. A flashgun mounted on a tripod, gelled with a full CTO filter to warm up the background. Cinefoil was added to help create a pattern on the background wall when the flash was tripped. 

I took one photo using a bounce (image 7-28) and one without (image 7-29). If a client has time to spend with me during a photo shoot, I like to experiment with different lighting setups and see what works best. This isn’t to say that I don’t go in with a plan to begin with, because I do—however, each environment is different and brings new challenges and oppportunities to explore with lighting.

Image 7-28 and diagram 7-8 (left). Portrait made with bounce. Technical data: Nikon 80–200mm lens, 1/250 second at f/5.6, ISO 200. Two Nikon SB-800s, manual mode. 
Image 7-29 and diagram 7-9 (right). Portrait made without bounce. Technical data: Nikon 80–200mm lens, 1/250 second at f/5.6, ISO 200. Two Nikon SB-800s, manual mode.



Category: How-To
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