I often get asked to produce portraits which are friendly and approachable especially corporate portraits. Traditionally these tended to be be very formal boardroom, desk type shots with very little character.
The need to have web profiles, avatars and press releases has contributed to the style of these portraits changing. There is often a limited amount of time to shoot many subjects in a variety of poses and with multiple backgrounds. My preferred method to make best use of limited time is to use the existing daylight when available and filing shadows with reflectors. This allows a fast turnaround of location background and subject poses. Below are examples of available and artificial light portraits all taken using interior office locations or nearby exterior locations, sometimes with many changes of location. Very often portraits are produced during conferences or between board meetings.
My first shoot for the Cambridgeshire Mencap project took place at St.Johns College, Cambridge University. Cambridgeshire Mencap provide a catering & hospitality training course in the college’s kitchens. Students meet for classroom activities and then more hands on work in the college kitchen and canteen. Both environments leave little room room for manoeuvre. Where possible I would choose a background which had either colour or interest, this sometimes meant rearranging and placing objects which were either relevant or added to the perspective and composition, not only in the background but also in the foreground as well. Lighting in working environments is also challenging. The kitchen environment could have been very difficult, with overhead fluorescent lights and stainless steel backgrounds. The kitchen was a busy place and so not somewhere lights could be placed easily, I used both on camera flash bounced and one small light on a stand placed at a right angle to subjects and slightly behind. The catering course tutor suggested a scenario with a student stirring a large vat of meat stock, this worked well as the student could interact with kitchen staff and both the colour and steam from the boiling vat made a dramatic composition. The students and kitchen staff were very co-operative to my instructions and made the shoot a very enjoyable experience.
Cantellday the designers for the new website and printed material were also present at the shoot to lend a hand and art direct. This was useful and helped with getting the right approach which would hopefully continue throughout the project.
The entire shoot encompassed many different environments and lighting considerations as well as developing trust and hopefully a rapport with the subjects which made for some spontaneity. Allowing a photographer in to your home is not always comfortable, keeping lighting to a minimum and using lights which are mobile while not requiring an extra pair of hands to set up, was essential. I used throughout Nikon SB800′s with the Nikon SU800 Commander unit and also pocket wizards. At present the SU800 cammander unit is not reliable enough in situations where the environment and subject changes very quickly and there is a very little control over the direction the shoot will take. Using small flashes triggered remotely with pocket wizards enabled me to position lights anywhere I could place a super clamp or light stand. Typically out of the way of young children but supplementing the existing light. In some cases I relied only on the available light due to requests by Cambridgeshire Mencap service users.
The final printed material produced can be seen below.
Spire Healthcare commissioned Alex to take photographs for a new image library. The photo shoot took place in Manchester, Leeds and Hull Hospitals on 3 consecutive days during October 2009. Resulting images are to be used across the Spire group for all corporate marketing and PR.
As well as shooting corporate commercial projects in Cambridge and beyond. I get the opportunity to photograph family portraits. This can be great fun for me and hopefully the recipient families. Working without the pressure of a commercial shoot and the weight of masses of equipment I can often photograph with just the available light. Making for relaxed and natural images. Below are examples of some wonderful families from Bristol and Cambridge. More can be seen here Family and Children’s portraits
Baby Portrait - Cambridge Series
Mother & Baby Portrait - Cambridge Series
Its always good to have an assistant when taking family portraits.
I have posted the examples below and in part 2 to give an idea of how a very simple and relaxed corporate portrait can be taken on location with minimum fuss but with lots of variety. Both examples use the exact same location and a lighting se tup which did not need to be moved. Using this set up enabled a variety of shots to be taken without taking to much time to reset lights and location. This was a necessity as I was confined to just one room.
Relaxed Corporate Portrait lighting examples
The first image on the left above was set up as follows:
One Bowens Gemini 500 with wafer softbox positioned on camera right close to subject and with a white reflector on the opposite side to provide fill. A second smaller light a Nikon Sb800 was placed on top of my lighting case low down behind the subject aimed up towards the wall behind. This provided a formal set up but with some separation with the background. The pose and lighting is quite standard but was a good starting point to work from. It also allowed the subject to begin to relax and get an idea how things were looking by seeing the image on the back of the camera.
The set up for the second image was a matter of turning the softbox used in the first image around so that it pointed towards the wall behind the subject, raising the level from a dark grey to almost white, no adjustment to the power output was needed. A second Gemini 500 with umbrella was used as the key light placed on camera left and feather slightly so that light would not fall onto the glass partition immediately on the subjects left side. The pose was adopted by the subject and I only asked her to turn slightly more both left and right.
The third image from the left was changed only by moving the subject to a different part of the room where I could use a glass partition wall as background. Using as my key light the soft available daylight through a window behind camera. I left the softbox in place but rotated it again so that this time it was aimed at the glass wall behind the subject. Even though the ambient daylight level was quite high the background remained flat and dark. I wanted to keep the high key level created by the daylight and so used the softbox to create some fall off behind the subject. The pose this time was set up only by asking the subject to stand and lean on one hand toward the camera. Although the pose felt a little awkward to begin with, this soon changed as we chatted and laughed. The pose begin to take a more intuitive and natural feel.
The fourth image was lit in the same way, except this time I asked the subject to sit (a different portion of the wall behind could be used as background now) again leaning on the table with one hand, the subject adopted a version of this position when she sat down and I could see she was comfortable with it and so I asked her to continue but I refined some the shapes and position of her hands. It is always enjoyable to be photographed when you are not aware of having to think to much about posing, allowing subjects to find an intuitive position always works well and means you can continue to keep a dialog flowing.
In total shooting time for one subject was between 20-30 minutes. There were more variations taken but not included in this example.