A quick chef photo for a magazine in Madrid.

chef: Juan José Gomez

I got a call late Tues. afternoon from one of my favorite advertising executives who has a chain of high end Mexican food restaurants as a client.  They needed to have a portrait made for an international gourmet festival coming up in Madrid.  Could I help them out?  Absolutely.  The first question I had was: Location or studio?  The advertising person huddled with the client and decided on a classic studio shot.  The ad guy and I traded several illustrated e-mails and decided on a treatment that would work for everyone and I headed off to Precision Camera to buy "just the right" color of seamless background paper.  

I set up the shot one step at a time, starting with the background.  It's pretty simple.  It's an Elinchrom monolight with a standard reflector, fitted with a 20 degree grid.  Then I added the main light.  It's an Elinchrom monolight with a 28 inch beauty dish firing through a white diffusion cover.  Finally, I added a third light bouncing off the white wall behind the camera for a little fill.  Chef Juan José Gomez showed up with the client and the agency in tow, carrying two different white jackets and a black one.  We tried one of each but it was the consensus that the black jacket made for the most dramatic overall presentation.

Lately, I've been shooting most of my portrait work tethered to a 15 inch Apple MacBook Pro.  Not because I particularly like shooting tethered but because I'm working around a camera shortcoming.  Recently I test all of the cameras with which I like to shoot portraits.  I was trying to decide which one has the best skin tones and the best colors, even when the files are blown up to larger sizes.  The final battle royale came down to the Canon 5Dmk2 versus the "much" older Canon 1DS mk2.  You are entitled to your own opinions and you can do your own tests but I found that, at ISO 100, I much preferred the older camera.  The only thing is that the antiquated screen on the back is miserable.  I'm amazed to think that screen technology has come so far so quick.  I wish I could cobble the Nikon V1 LCD screen onto the old pro camera......

But the way I do portraits is pretty controllable so I started tethering.  Then I decided I liked to shoot that way.  It slows me down and makes me pay much greater attention to small details before  I click the shutter instead of the usual pound of cure after the fact.

The photo shoot was fun and lighthearted.  Chef Juan can be hilarious.  The art direction was good, coherent and smart and the client had the grace to collaborate in the process instead of trying to dominate it.  When we finished I asked about schedule and was told that we had ample time.  Two hours later I got a phone call telling me that we were trying to make a "next morning" deadline for inclusion into a Spanish magazine out of Madrid.  Selections were made, the file was retouched and the blessed miracle of FTP pressed into service once more.  I like the image.  It's different than my usual style...but not by much.

Today, Amy and I left the headquarters of the Visual Science Lab early in the morning.  I'd been up most of the night implementing our new lab safeguards against EMP damage but duty called.  We headed off to the Renaissance Hotel and spent the morning doing individual portraits of fifteen different executives for an insurance company.  We used the same tethering technique but with a more subdued, gray background and a bigger, softer main light.   Now we're back in the studio doing all the back end processing and unpacking.  Just another couple days in the life of a photographer working a cool but small metro market.  Hope you're having fun.


  1. Very informative post Kirk. You kept the lighting simple and got a nice dramatic portrait. I like using the 60 inch softlighter in place of the beauty dish more these days for female subjects. Do the clients like seeing the instant results when shooting tethered?

  2. Agency people thrive on control so, of course, they love to see the images. Managing how many and how often is an important undertaking...

  3. Giving the walls the lead treatment are ya.

    Great lighting!

  4. You might want to look at one of these external monitors for that kind of work http://www.smallhd.com/site/home.html. No, I have no affiliatoin but I thought they looked like a cool solution to the older tiny screens.

  5. Nice portrait. Love the lighting - especially the near "rim-light" glow around the torso. Would never have picked out this particular background but it works exceptionally well.

    1. Frank, the agency dictated the background. Thanks for the "thumbs up."


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