These two shots were on different days, and at different locations. I’m going to start on the image with the guitar, since that was not only the earlier photo to be taken, but it was also the first shoot I did with my new portable lighting kit.
For me this session was equally as much about learning the capabilities of my new equipment as it was about getting the shot. For the location we picked a long and quiet patch of grass next to a street which provided easy access and parking. Dawna brought along some props that not only look interesting, but have great sentimental value to her, and tell about different facets of her life story.
After figuring out how to arrange the props and the subject, I started setting up my lights for the first time. Since it was early twilight, my lighting challenge was to find a pleasing balance between the ambient light, and the strobes. For the key light I used a Softlight Silver reflector, which has a crisp yet, as the name implies, soft light. I have since learned that this modifier doesn’t work in every scenario, but when used correctly it can be stunning. Fortunately, this was one of the times it worked, because it helped bring out the textures of the props, clothing and subject, from the otherwise flatly lit environment.
The hair light was equipped with another favorite modifier of mine: the Magnum Reflector. This modifier is like having the sun in a can. I simply ran it out as far back and up as I could get it, and pointed it straight at the back of our little scene. The backlight is important for separating the subject from the background. Here it is showing us the contours of the subject and props, juxtaposing them against the lower contrast background.
For the next image, we went in the early afternoon to a modern building with lots of steel, glass, and concrete. We decided that working along this particular wall had lots of potential. I didn’t want to shoot perpendicular to the wall, because I thought it would look too flat, and the high afternoon sun would have been cross lighting Dawna in a deleterious way. Fortunately, the wall was long enough to get the perspective we needed for the dynamic diagonal lines you see running through the entire width of the frame behind the subject.
The goal in lighting this portrait was to achieve a smooth and soft glow, because Dawna needed a new headshot for her talent agent, and we agreed that soft lighting would work best. To achieve that I positioned her so the sun would be behind her, and used two strobes with umbrellas next to the camera to light her from the front. As you can see from the catchlights in her eyes, the main light was camera-left, a little higher than her head, and the fill light was below the camera to the right. By having the main light be stronger it created a directionality for the light. The fill light’s job was to open up the shadows, so there wouldn’t be too much contrast, and we would achieve the soft glow we were looking for. Finally, the sun gives us a nice glow to her hair and shoulders, as well as revealing the texture of the concrete wall in the background.