Traveling Light #2: Location portraits

Ben: Two-light portrait

Here’s another sample of the types of portraits we’ll be building with small lights during the upcoming Traveling Light workshop on May 24.
Location photographers find themselves in an incredible variety of environments. In the studio it’s easy to control all the variables. When you show up at a location, you’ve got to make some decisions to make regarding ambient light and background. Namely, how much of each do you want to include in the final image?

For me, location photography is kind of a reductive exercise—start with what you find, and then remove light, clean up background elements, modify your flash— until you end up with what you want. In the studio, it’s more of an additive approach: start with nothing and build up the lighting and elements to create the image.


In the case of these portraits, shot with the help of Matt and Ben of Single Source Staffing, we had about 15 minutes to do two different looks. The vivid green walls in the office were an interesting feature I knew I wanted to use, as was their cool, colorful logo—perfect for an environmental portrait.

No lighting diagrams on these—we”ll talk more about approach during the workshop—but here’s the basics: Ben (green background) is lit from camera left with an SB800 shooting through a white diffuser screen simulating window light. There’s an SB900 in a medium soft box (camera right with a 1/2 power CTO gel), placed to hit Ben slightly angled toward the back side of his head.   The shadow?  A happy accident.  Once I saw it, I liked it.

Matt is lit by the same soft box. There’s another SB800 with a diffusion dome just to camera left, pointing at the right side of Matt’s face. On camera right, there’s a third strobe with a snoot aimed at the SingleSource logo. In this case, we underexposed the background so that there’s very little ambient light (ugly flourescent lighting) in this image.

These are two quick-hit examples of location portraits that use their environment to create interest and drama.

Matt: three-light environmental portrait
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