I pretty much know how the light from a soft box is going to look, and the same goes for a light in an umbrella, but sometimes you end up in a location where you are shooting against windows and there's all kinds of light bouncing around outside (and inside) and you really need to make sure there's not going to be a big reflection staring back at you in the glass....
After I get my lights roughed in I like to ask someone to stand in just so I can see how everything is working out. And I like to do that before the star of the photo session walks in so I don't have to waste his or her time resetting errant lights. It's also good to know just how much depth of field you are going to end up with at a given subject-to-camera distance and also how it will affect the background. Right?
So, I was setting up to photograph the CEO of a hedge fund late last year and when I finished my set up I found that everyone in the office was either in a meeting or out for lunch. My assistant for the shoot was me. So I grabbed my assistant and demanded he stand in for some test shots. He grumbled a bit, told me he didn't get paid enough to do this, but I finally got the guy to cooperate while I set the self-timer on the camera and walked back to stand on the mark I'd made with white gaffer's tape, on the floor.
I was then able to assure myself that we'd have a fighting chance of getting a decent shot of the CEO as soon as the cast came back from meetings and lunch. It all worked out fine but even though I've done this sort of shoot for decades it's nice to have the extra layer of assurance that comes from a decent test shot.
I now realize that self-timers on cameras were invented specifically so photographers could do a one-man set up and test for on-location portraits. Anything else they tell you about self-timers is B.S.
I don't always look so stern but when I have to switch roles and become the stand-in/assistant I want to make sure the photographer knows I'm taking my job seriously. Those photographers are demanding bastards; that for sure!
No assistants were harmed in the making of this self portrait.
(Damn. I should have retouched......).