I love a challenge. When the DLR Group called about having me do their Seattle corporate photography, they had one for me! They wanted to update their employee photographs, but they did not want the typical business headshots. They wanted each person in the Seattle office to have individualized environmental portraits. They also wanted each person to have a more formal and more informal outfit. And the final bit was that all the images had to be horizontal (landscape) in shape with the subject on the left and space on the right. The wrinkle I added for myself was that I wanted them to have a couple different options for each outfit. So we worked it out that I would start by taking two people every half hour. With each person having two outfits and two locations in each outfit, that makes for eight different portraits every half hour, or a new environmental portrait in just under four minutes for six hours a day for three days. When I broke it down like that, it sounded like a very daunting task. I was excited!
My next step, once I got the job, was to make a plan. That would include the equipment that I was planning on using, how I was going to use it, how I was going to modify my kit to be able to get the results I wanted in the time I had available, and how I was going to get it done and still be able to walk on the next day for the shoot.
The camera choice was a no-brainer. I have a Canon 5DIII. It really is just about the perfect photographic tool. For lenses, I knew that I was going to use primes. They had told me that they liked how my portraits had the soft, out-of-focus backgrounds in the environmental portraits. Prime lenses give you more control over the depth of field than zooms. I also generally prefer a shorter working distance between me and my subject. That means that I was primarily going to use a 85 f1.8, but also take my 50 1.4 and 35 2.0. For wide angles, I usually go with a 16-35 2.8 zoom, but I knew that I wasn't going to use anything wider than 35, and the 16-35 is quite heavy, so I lost a pound of weight and chose the 35.
I knew that for my lighting, I was going to use small flashes. I have used Canon 550EX flashes with RadioPopper PX units as my slaves for years. I also have Alien Bees, but I knew that I didn't have time to haul those around for each shot. Small flashes are so much quicker to carry and move around that it was really easy to make that decision.
The problem that I had with lighting is that none of my current lighting modifiers were exactly what I wanted. I wanted something fairly small (I was going to put the flash close to the subject for a waist-up at the widest, so a huge size wasn't really necessary), light, quick to collapse for walking through doors and elevator rides, but with a fairly narrow angle of light so that I could light my subject separately from the way the room was lit. What I ended up buying was this little softbox, the SMDV DIFF60 Speedbox Diffuser-60. It is an interesting shape with the hex front and deep seated flash position that I though would work well to give a more focused light with less spray to the sides. I also pulled out the gels I have had for years to be able to control the background colors a bit a few images.
The other items I took with me (besides backup gear) was a large white reflector and a short stepladder.
This was taken at the front desk.
This is the same space with a flash with a blue gel substituted for the available light.
On this one I shot a flash into the back of bar they had in the waiting area.
Shooting from above to use the floor as the background.
This is same bar as above, but with a red gel on the flash in the background. A little cheesy, but I was having fun.
Using the same space as a few of the others, but looking up to use the ceiling as the background.
With this one, I found an old bank vault in the office. I lit it up with a blue gelled flash in the background.
For this one, we took an elevator ride to a little courtyard area. This is also using the same flash and softbox as the indoor images.
For this one, the weather finally allowed us to go outside for a few images.
For this image, I lit the background with a warming filter and a Rogue Large Soft Box.
When the sun started to go down, it created lines on the floor that I used as part of the composition to create a line leading toward the subject.
I used the large white reflector to fill in the subject's face.
This portrait was taken in the elevator hallway.
I loved this project. I can't wait to see the website when it is released!