As a London based portrait photographer I have quite wide experience when dealing with all sorts of strange requests from clients, and in this blog post I will be covering about one of them.
Few months back I received a phone call, while having breakfast with my wife, at Covent Garden, and looking forward for a family day out. The call I received was from a London based Chinese business lady, who was asking if I could go to her place and capture business portraits as she was about to be featured in a prestigious Chinese magazine as a young entrepreneur of the year.
So far so god, the interesting part was that this same day my wife had a day off and she also got us tickets for the new “Solo: A Star Wars Story” movie. For some reason my client was desperate to have her portrait photography done the same day. Because of this I end up leaving the cinema in the middle of the movie, allowing for enough time to get back to my place, prepare my equipment and make my way to her place – in South West London.
This, also, was one of this requests where the client wasn’t sure what exactly she wanted – in terms of visual style and look. This put a bit of pressure on me, as at first I was thinking that this will be an easy and quick job and not having to drag lots of equipment with me. However, while I was on my way back from the cinema, I had enough time to think over the challenges I may face of photographing in a location I never visited before – if not having the appropriate set of tools with me.
My selection of portable equipment for photographing this location portrait session:
As the job was booked on extremely short notice, at first I thought that I shouldn’t bother much and take with me only very basic equipment. However, the desire to create stunning portrait photography always takes the best of me. I needed to optimize my options in the best and most practical way, by selecting efficient set of tools.
For the purpose of capturing a portrait of one person in a large flat (which I haven’t been visiting before) – I decided to equip myself with three Canon speedlites, two umbrellas, photography lighting stands, a reflector and my Godox flash triggering system.
One of the main problem, when deciding what equipment to take on a job, is to find the best optimal solution between how much the job was quoted for and if it is worth, upon distance an logistic, taking high volume of tools and equipment. On the other hand – the very fact that I’m going to photograph at a place, I never been before and don’t know even how it looks like or what sort of ambient light may be available there, in situation like this you’d always would feel like on taking as much of equipment as possible; just to be ready and face any challenges upon the specifics of the location.
This is one of the tricky bits in photography, as photographers we like to take lots of equipment and tools, just to make sure that everything will go smooth and the job is done, with us on a job but use only one or two peaces (depends on the particular day, situation and location). From clients perspective this may look like overdoing, but of course they do not account for backup equipment (if anything goes wrong and faulty) and the very fact that on most locations there are so many unpredictable factors to account for.
How I photographed the portraits with the blue tinted background:
When I arrived at my clients place it turned out that she just came back from a meeting and the whole place wasn’t very well organised. So I started setting my very basic setup and start taking some test shots, so I could adjust my lighting.
I started exploring different locations and compositions within the flat, but somehow the direction I was heading certainly wasn’t satisfying my artistic merits. After an our of shooting and struggling to contain and control the lighting, I asked my client that we take a brake so I can gather my thoughts and rethink everything. She was find with the idea I proposed and I was offered some drink, while she was preparing my drink I had the chance to look around and noticed a very nice and useful, for me, feature in her apartment; a feature which latter on was going to turn into my savior and help me capture the portraits I was happy with.
All rooms doors were constructed with very richly ornamented tinted glass, I guess this is something common for the typical Victorian London flats. Immediately I visualised how my strobe light will behave if I was to fire one of my flashes through the glass and illuminate the room behind my model/client. So I re-positioned all of my lighting and re-composed the scene, so we ended up with what can be seeing on the images above.
And this is how my lighting setup looked like: (I have cut the front part of the black, outer, material of my umbrella (main light); so I can used it as a mask, helping me to control the light in smaller spaces)
Funny fact here, while capturing this portraits, was that I ended playing some tunes on my client’s piano with my butt!
Yes, there wasn’t much room available behind me, while backing up for optimum framing and focal range, so I, literally – without realizing, sat on her piano keys. What can I say – such are the “hazards” of our profession as portrait photographers.