Packing for tomorrow's shoot. Working in an historic house; photographing attorneys for a website.

Tomorrow Ben and I are booked to go on location and make photographs for a law firm's website. It's different than recent portrait-oriented projects because the main graphics for the website are very horizontal banners with a main element; a single person or a group of people, placed to the right of the frame with some free space to the left of center to use for headlines, pull quotes and other content.

The look is very informal. We'll have mixed light sources and informal groups of people at work. We have a good list of shots to work from and we're pretty confident we can get what's needed in an eight hour day. Since the location is rich with ambient light we've made a conscious decision to travel light on lights. I'm bringing three fairly powerful LED lights to use as fill lights and, in spots that don't get exterior light, we'll use these lights with soft boxes as our main light sources. There is inevitably a color mismatch when using constant, one temperature light sources mixed with daylight; mostly because the daylight is constantly changing. Direct light bouncing into the space (at least from 10am to 4pm) will usually be around 5500K, while open shade or indirect sun can be as cool as 6500K to 7200K. All bets are off if it's heavily overcast like the weather outside just now. The light could be warm or it could be even cooler than 7200K. No matter what the outside light is our fixtures are constantly 5600K.

In a shooting situation like this one I like to start out making a custom white balance with the target at the main subject position before we start shooting. We don't bracket exposures so an upfront measurement of the white balance and the exposure (in that order) is the preferred method.

My soft boxes are a bit warm and will probably bring the color temperature of the LEDs down by 200 degrees or so. It should work in my favor...

The lighting kit is simple: Three LED fixtures that plug into the wall. Two 25 foot extension cords with multiple connectors on the end. Two 24x36 inch soft boxes (internal baffles removed) and one polished reflector for direct application of hard light (for effect). Three light stands complete the set.

We're bringing a tripod that goes up about a foot taller than the top of my head so we'll also pack along a two step ladder. The tripod is like a security blanket for me. I'm sure we could actually do without it the way I have the shoot planned, but I just feel naked if I don't bring one....

I'll be predominantly shooting with one camera and one lens. My camera of choice is the Sony A7Rii and I'm using it because the 42 megapixel resolution will help with any tight top to bottom cropping the agency making the website might wish to try. I'm also happy to use it because I am throwing my usual shooting style to the wind and cranking the ISO up to 1600 as my base setting. I'll come down if I have to but I am also ready to go up to 6400 if the situation warrants. For someone who has always stuck with lower ISOs and a pursuit for ultimate quality this is a big departure. But I'm confident with this camera and my raw post processing skills and I really want to be able to shoot high shutter speeds and medium apertures for a lot of what I'm capturing. That way I can freeze most movement and still have adequate depth of field. We'll see if it works.

But the technique does play to the strengths of the lens I'll (mostly) be using. The Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f4.0 is a very good normal zoom and I like the overall look of the photographs I've made with it. Since the frames are so wide I don't really see myself shooting any longer than 70mm (although I will bring a 70-200mm zoom along, just in case) but I may need to shoot shorter so I am also packing a 14mm lens. I'll think of it as a wide angle zoom since the camera's prodigious resolution allows for lots of cropping after the fact. In effect, the 14mm is really my 14-21mm zoom.

Of course I am brining along an A7ii as a back-up camera, along with some prime lenses that cover the focal lengths I think I'll be using most often. It would be simpler, I know, just to leave all the other cameras at home and bring the all purpose Sony RX10iii instead but ---- I really want some focus drop off in most of the images and we have no need for anything with that kind of range tomorrow.

Everything but the stands, soft boxes and the tripod fits into two roller cases. One for Ben and one for me. I'll give Ben an a6300 with the 18-105mm just in case he sees stuff that looks good while I am busy elsewhere; that, and a bit of behind the scenes documentation....

That's what we're doing for fun around here today ---- packing for tomorrow. 


  1. That is just simply a delicious portrait at the top - a "Tri-X 1970s portrait" if I had to guess. I LOVE the look, which reminds me of so many wonderful places to shoot all kinds of people and things here in northern California. I think that's the only in-camera "scene" mode I would welcome - "Tri-X 35mm when properly exposed and processed."

  2. What a wonderful photo. Aaahh, youth...

  3. Didn't you at one point make use of bi-color LED panels which could be tuned to match the color temperature of ambient light? If so, did they prove problematic?

    On a wholly unrelated topic: is your recent utility company project available yet on the client's website or (preferably) Vimeo? I just revisited the Cantina video and it seems even more fascinating now, largely with regard to the stability of handheld moves and tight shots seen throughout. It will be interesting to see if there is even more visual quality apparent thanks to the newer Sony gear and access to 4K.

  4. Hi Michael, the panels I have that are bi-color are good but not powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with a location lit partially by daylight. The CooLEDs use the new SMD tech but are not bi-color. Fine with me as they are a good match with the daylight we had from 9-5 today.

    Soon on the release of the video.

  5. Kirk,
    While I loved the thinking behind the shoot and gear selection. What I loved most is that you are doing it with your son.
    This week my father passed away. Almost 40 years ago my father introduced me to the wonderful world of photography, he helped me buy my first camera, taught me the basics of exposure and composition and introduced me to the dark arts of developing, dodging and burning etc.
    I hope you and Ben can cherish this time together.


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