As part of my new series of ‘Photography How?’ I present one of my pictures and break it down! Hopefully giving you insight to my approach and technique. Welcome to Photography How? Corporate photo!
So this is a standard looking corporate portrait for one of my colleagues in the office. The room I used is a typical long boardroom featuring a large window at one side providing a good source of natural light. The back wall was plain white and worked fine as a backdrop.
- Nikon D7100
- Nikkor 85mm F1.8G Lens
- Camera Tripod
- SB-900 Flash (Key Light)
- SB-700 (Rim Light)
- 52″ Softbox and Light Stand
- Flash Snoot
- Large Light Reflector
- Grey Card
To get that traditional “portrait look”, I had the subject is sit upon a chair with his shoulders facing towards the 52″ softbox and the window directly behind it. I asked him to turn his head slightly past the softbox with eyes glancing at the camera.
I find for a traditional corporate photo like this, having your subject seated “staggering” the shoulders, head, and eyes can add a little dimension to the portrait.
At times I had to advise the subject to sit “at the edge of the chair” to promote a better posture and get them sitting “upright”. Some people tend to “slouch” when sat upon a chair with their shoulders forward which doesn’t really promote a positive demeanour.
If your subject starts to “slouch” in the chair, then try not to critique them! I try and put the emphasis on myself instead by saying, “when I was testing the shot I found I was hunched over”, rather than tell the subject outright that they’re slouching!
Tactful Supportive Empathy
Remember that the person you’re photographing may not be comfortable in front of a camera, so you must exercise a little tactful empathy when directing them! Always be enthusiastic for every shot. Even when glancing at the camera and you’re thinking “oooh that’s not a good picture”, you don’t want to critique your subject and make them feel even more self-conscious!
If you capture a bad shot, either through your own fault or the subject who maybe blinked as the shutter was pressed, just say “yes that’s great, I just want to try one more”.
“Always be positive and nurture the confidence of your subject.”
As I’m using flashes to control the light painting the subject, the quality of ambient light in the room is very important. There’s a huge window to the subjects right, with some decent enough daylight coming in. I’ll use this ambient light as general “fill”, and turn off all overhead lights to stop any white balance issues.
- Nikon SB-900
- TTL Mode
- Nikon plastic clear light diffuser attached
- Firing through a 52″ softbox
- -1.3 power output on camera
The “key light” is the main source of flash light to paint the subject. I place my 52″ softbox fitted with my Nikon SB-900 in front of the window, and pointing “just away” from the subjects face. Why this slight angle? When controlling the output of the flash power, a flash even going through a softbox can still be a little harsh and bright. The center of the softbox is where the light is most powerful, and so by angling the softbox “just away” from the subjects face, perhaps only a corner of the box hitting them, you get a more subtle and “wrapping” light. Instead of a bright blanket of light hitting them, you get a gentle “wrap” of light around the face.
- Nikon SB-700
- TTL Mode
- Flash “Snoot” attached
- No diffuser attached
- 1.0 power output on camera
My second flash, a slightly smaller SB-700 is positioned behind the subject with a snoot attached which focuses the light into a sharp beam. Otherwise the flash would blanket the back of the subject and also illuminate the wall behind.
The flash is level with their shoulders, acting as a “rim light” or “hair light”. This harsh undiffused light simply hits the back of them, and separates the subject from the background by putting a tiny “rim” of light around their shoulders.
When photographing the guys I tend to point this flash more at their shoulders, and when photographing the girls, I “raise the direction” of the flash to highlight and accentuate the hair.
Flash Firing Mode
Both flashes are set to TTL (Through The Lens) firing mode, which lets the camera determine the best “ballpark” flash power output based on the ambient light in the scene, and the distance/location of the subject. Clever stuff!
Now as amazing as TTL is, I always need to “fine-tune” the flash power output by using the menu in my D7100. This menu allows me to increase and decrease flash power within a few clicks, without having to touch the flashes themselves! Magic!
TTL or Manual Mode?
Now you can slip the flashes into Manual Mode, and literally control the exact power output, again using the flash control menu in the camera. However in this instance TTL was providing a good exposure so I was happy running in TTL Mode. Don’t be afraid to let the camera manage the flash power outputs!
- Shooting Mode: Manual
- Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
- Aperture: F4.5
- ISO: 100
I’m using my 85mm F1.8G Nikkor lens which offers a fantastic portrait focal length. The subject is just the right distance from the camera without the lens warping or distorting the persons features. I sometimes use a 50mm if going for a more “full body” shot, but 85mm is my preferred portrait focal length.
I’m shooting in Manual Mode. This allows me to control shutter speed and aperture, and therefore “how much ambient light” goes in through the lens. Flash photography is a game of finding the right balance of ambient light and flash for the photo you want. Run a really high shutter speed, and very little ambient light will make it into the exposure. Slow the shutter down, and more ambient light will appear and give a balanced image. In this instance I went for a nice blend of ambient light using a shutter speed of 1/80sec.
My aperture is set to F4.5 which provides enough focal length to capture the subject in detail and also allow enough light coming in. You can of course use a higher Aperture for a safer plane of focus, but this will restrict the light and force the flashes to work harder.
I’m using an ISO of 100 which will give me the highest amount of image detail. If there was less natural light coming through the window, say for example it was really cloudy outside, then I would be tempted to push the ISO up to 200, or even 400. For a traditional portrait like this, try and find a nice blend of flash light, ambient light, and a safe aperture.
If you have a remote shutter release, then don’t be afraid to take some test shots on yourself! If you’re working in a designated room like this one where you’re “bringing clients in for their picture”, take a few minutes before it all starts to take some test photos of yourself to fine-tune your exposure settings.
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