Saturday, August 30, 2008

Environmental Portraits

Many times during my career, I have been sent to photograph someone for a story. I went to homes, hotels, restaurant, empty fields, offices, construction sites you name it and I have done the environmental portrait (EP) a thousand times.

I want to illustrate two ways of doing something. By putting forth the effort you will get professional results and your portraits will endure the test of time.

The first set is with Hugh Downs and former Chandler Mayor Coy Payne (verticals). With both assignments they were expecting me and I was without a reporter. Downs was photographed in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Phoenix and Payne was at his home. In both cases, I decided to set up one light.

I used a Norman 200 B with a small soft box 32" X 24". The reason I chose to use my light was the available light was terrible in 3 of the 4 locations. Sometimes you have to think how is this going to reproduce in print. I elected to use my lights. With Hugh Downs the Ritz Carlton management objected to me photographing in a common area so I had to work fast before they kicked me out. Downs is a TV pro and very good in front of the camera so he gave me several poses that were excellent and the shoot went very fast.

With Coy Payne, we talked to for quit a while. I was hoping to get a moment of reflection since the story was about his personal history. I asked him questions that would force him to think back and bingo I eventually got the contemplative moment. In both images the tonal quality is excellent and they reproduced well.

The second set (horizontals) is with Rev. Howard Rice Interim President of Cook College Theological School Tempe, Arizona on the left and a former retired admiral on the right (sorry his caption did not stick to the original file). With both of these assignments, I was with a reporter. The portraits are taken during the interview process. The Reverend is window light and the admiral is light with my single Norman 200 B and soft box.

In both of these images I worked with a good reporter who asked questions that revealed deep thought from these intellectuals. What they all have in common is the classic pose one by practiced TV celebrity and the others by virtue of thoughtful story telling.

In all of the photos the environment was not important to the story. It was totally about the men not the place. If the environment was important to the story, I would have approached the portrait from a different mind set.

I hope this information is helpful to those who read this blog and could use a little help with portraits.

Tip: The closer the light is the softer it is. The farther away it is the harsher it is.

Tip: Off camera strobe photography 101 / if the light meter says your strobe output is f-11. It remains f-11 if your shooting at a 15th of a second or 500th of a second. The f-11 reading is a constant and it does not change. The only way to change it, is to physically move the light closer or farther away, or increase or decrease the power output.


deannadent said...

This is helpful Brad, thanks for posting and when are we shooting 8by10???

Heidi Huber said...

These are amazing portraits. You should think about photographing people for their prosperity and your vision of them appears to be real, not overly shadowed by what you are perceiving, seems to show the real them. I would continue this type of portraiture.