Monday, March 28, 2016

Matching the Portrait Style of Another Photographer a Continent Away

Photographers often dissect each other's work to see how a photograph is made. We look for subtle tell-tale signs that show the environment and the light sources for the scene. Trying to recreate another photographer's style can be very difficult, especially without all the facts. That is what I was asked to do when I was hired to shoot some pickup portraits.

I was tasked to photograph a few of the local Atlanta employees and match the style of the South American office portraits that were already completed. I have the utmost respect for the photographer who took the photos that I was supposed to match. This guy was good and had a wonderful look to his shots. Unfortunately, I do not know this gifted shooter's name, but his work can be seen in the three photos below.

I was tasked to match these wonderful portraits from another photographer
Try as I might, I could not recreate the scene in the very small office I was given to work in. I got the results below "after the fact" with some photoshop. It was the only way I could do it.

I took the portraits on a white background so that I could composite a background into the scene. The background was pieced together from several of the source photos plus some illustration to extend the blinds.

Later on, the client share a very important clue about the original portraits. A behind the scenes picture revealed the extent of the original photographer's portrait setup inside an office made of frosted glass. The photographer used the large glass wall as a humongous diffuser. Brilliant!

There was zero chance of me using the same techniques in the space I was given, but it all worked out regardless. Whew!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Photographing a Wild In-Home Discotheque for an Audio Visual Company in Atlanta

I was asked to take photos for a prominent Audio and Visual installation company working in the Atlanta area named Performance Audio and Video. The photographs were needed for an online industry article written about PAV.

If you are the type of person who gets excited about home automation and advanced control of the distributed A/V, heating, lighting, security and window blind components in your house, then you should consider giving them a call. All the information you need is located at, which is a web site I completed for them last year.

I got a glimpse into what PAV does by taking photos of various installations in a recently renovated mansion in north Atlanta. At first, this may just look like a regular living room. The great thing about the home automation products is that they work in the background, and are accessed using television screens, iPads, iPhones and wall control panels. You may never even know that they are there, until you need them.

The photograph was tricky because I was mixing several different colored light sources with my large  flashes. The room was tight and enclosed with rough hewn divider walls, which essentially determined my choice for viewpoint. Below you can see a little behind-the-scenes of the flashes.  

The other shot needed was for the daddy of all outdoor porches. There are a lot of hidden details here so I am going to mention a few. Along with inline heater units, there are speakers faux-painted to match the wood used in the ceiling. You can barely even see them even a few feet away. There is an outdoor television and fully automated floor to ceiling screens that close the porch off from Atlanta's famous mosquitoes. We lowered the screens to act darkness the brighter outside yard. They acted like neutral density filters allowing me to make the photograph in one shot.

Normally, several images might need to be composited together since the exposure of the darker porch and the lighter yard is beyond the latitude of my camera's sensor. I used a couple of flashes the light the foreground area. Below is what the camera would see if I just clicked the shutter.

Behind-the-Scenes: How the camera would see the terrace without my flashes
The last room was quite a challenge. Try to make a photograph of an in-home discotheque that has black walls, a fiber optic star ceiling, mirrored dance floor, DJ booth, VIP couch and a professional level of booming sound, lights, lasers and smoke machine. I had my work cut out for me as you can see in the disco video here.

 Play the video

This disco is intimate and everything can be seen in the wall mirrors. Using a wide angle lens meant that it was difficult to hide my light stands, the camera on a tripod and myself.  Smoke allowed the laser spots and lights to be seen. I might have breathed in a quart of the oil based smoke. Delicious!

If I cannot light something directly, then lighting the space behind it works even better. I added a remote flash that was gelled with pink behind the DJ booth. This gave a focal point to the room.

I asked Jason Caponi of PAV to program the disco lights to slow down and stay in one spot for as long as possible. This was needed because the long exposure combined with the constantly moving lights rendered the colors that you see in the image above practically invisible to the camera sensor. It was quite a balancing act and I am glad that I was able to get something before our time ran out.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Shooting a Variety of Male Portraits with Ronald was Like a Walk in the Park

I enjoy making portraits both in and out of the studio, but when Atlanta is in the full "bloom" of Fall, it pays to head outside and take advantage of the beautiful foliage, crisp morning air and lovely vistas.

I was contacted by Ronald to make a variety of photos for social media, business and personal use. We decided to meet in Piedmont Park and take advantage of the weather which was darn near perfect. My plan was to go with the flow and take as many different styles of photos as we could fit into our session. This was more informal than many portrait sessions that have a specific shot list in mind. I kinda like the looseness of it.

On the way to the park, I noticed an irresistible stairway that was being lit with sunlight bouncing off of a building across the street. That was our first stop.

I like to surround my subjects with framing elements like these defocused leaves.

Ronald wanted formal and informal photos so we shot in wearing just about everything he had in his wardrobe bag, including a snazzy tuxedo.

Once in the park, I used repeating architectural elements as a background. Something about columns and well-dressed people just go together. I call this pose "the knuckle sandwich".

The columns were attached to arches which make a perfect framing device.

And one more...

Changing the direction with me shooting from inside the building creates a whole new scene. I liked the canine passerby.

The sun was blaring bright by now but there was still some haze to diffuse it a bit... a very little bit.

Shooting with the sun to the subject's back makes a great rim light. Even shooting in harsh lighting conditions can produce good images, but it was challenging. Even the ivy and dead leaves were like little white mirrors pointing sunlight into my eyes.

A quiet moment and rest from the sun glare.

A quick swap of clothing and location in the park changed the feel of the portraits. I like to use natural landscapes to my advantage. Here, the hill was hiding a playground full of children.

I like the structure of the cement background and even the very intense contrast. It's okay to try different techniques in one photo session because it gives more variety to the client.

We took a break in the shade which allowed me to capture backlit color on the bushes and trees.

To shoot Ronald in front of the Atlanta skyline, I used the only source of shade available, which was a monument. He is literally standing on a shade sliver.

Locals know where this scene is, but to everyone else, it might look like a metropolis anywhere. This image just used available light.

To increase contrast, I used a flash to camera right, which is opposite of the background's light angle. I wonder how many people might have noticed this? It was the best way to control the light on his face. Regardless, I got the shot that I wanted.

And here is the setup I used...a single naked fill flash balanced with ambient light.

I am not sure who had more fun on this photo safari, but it was a wonderful adventure. Thanks Ronald!