When working on a new style of portraits it's really nice to have good models to work with.

this is an image of Carrie C.  

Over the course of my recent vacation from blogging I asked people I'd met over the last few years to come into the studio and have their portrait done.  I'd seen Carrie present at a Ted Conference, live, and was blown away by her calmness and her ability to connect with an audience. When she accepted my invitation to come by for a portrait I was really happy.  I asked her to dress in something dark and with long sleeves.  That seems to help focus the camera's attention to a subject's face.  At the least it keeps a bright, white blouse from blowing out the highlights.

I'd been experimenting with LED lighting panels and Hasselblad film camera but I gave that whole methodology a break too and reverted to using two monolight flashes and a digital camera.  I figured I needed to master the camera anyway.  The flashes are the same type of light I've used for two decades so I figured it was a quick way to remove variables.

When Carrie arrived the studio was set up and ready to go.  I offered her a beverage and chocolate. We got started.  Which really means that we took a few test shots and talked and talked. She was one of the most interesting people I'd met and in the space of half an hour we were as comfortable as old friends.  The entire session lasted about two hours.  I can't speak for Carrie but I was sad when it ended, she left and I moved on to the task of taking the images off the memory card and creating a folder in Lightroom.

The image was shot with a Sony a77 camera in RAW.  I used the 55-200mm SAL zoom lens.  Which will set you back about $200.  It's a great lens.  I used one Elinchrom D-Lite 4 IT in a Creative Light Softbox Octa 150RF which is a 5 foot diameter Octabank.  I used another of the same kind of monolight, in a Chimera Mini softbox to add light onto the background from the floor level.

I used a white Westscott FastFlag (24 by 36 inches) on a C-stand on the opposite side of the light, for fill.

I like the portrait very much.  I hope Carrie will too.  But I made two mistakes.  I know if I were marketing my ass off as a "great" photographer I would never mention an actual mistake but it would make the whole post seem a bit shallow not to.

First, I should have taken time to powder Carrie's forehead to prevent shine.  If I had diligently taken care of that detail I would have had more editing options in post.  Secondly, I should have added one more layer of diffusion in front of the Octabank.  Even if it was just a 48 by 48 inch Chimera Panel with a 3/4 stop white diffuser.  It would have made the light just a little softer.  I'd forgotten that the silver interior of that particular box tends to give me a hotter contrast level even though the modifier has an interior diffuser and a front diffuser.  My fault for letting myself get out of practice with a modifier and then pressing it into use.

Had I been more diligent I would have had a softer transition from the highlights to the shadows which is how I want my style to look.

What did I do right?  I chose the right subject and the right background for my subject and I spent some quality time listening to her and learning about her.  It really added value to the process. It made taking the portrait more of a genuine collaboration rather than a mechanical process.  More like art and less like technical wizardry.

I did shoot some film as well.  I'll show you that next.

Need basic studio lighting knowledge?  I wrote a book about that....




  1. The very first portrait shoot I did after I read "LED Lighting" was lit with...Canon speedlights. Familiarity supercedes novelty when time and consistency are of the essence. Or when it's just plain better for the job.

  2. LEDs work very well and, in fact, just previous to this portrait I had done a long session for another person with the LEDs.

  3. Hello Kirk, since you brought up mistakes I thought for sure that you were going to mention the smearing of her necklace or was that intentional?


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