Slightly different style of portrait commission, than I would normally undertake. A Cambridge based musician asked me to produce a range of stylised images he could use online and for self promotion material.
Simple corporate headshot diagram. The is a typical lighting set up I use when space is limited and I need to travel with minimal equipment. The back light usually a lastolite umbrella softbox allows for the choice of either a rim highlight with lighting on the background as well or just a rim light if the umbrella is swivelled 180 degrees and feathered away from the subject and background.
Creating natural lighting on location with speed lights.
During the recent snowy spell in Cambridge I went out with a warm flask of tea and some small Nikon speed lights to try and capture a natural looking environmental portrait.
The sun was low and behind my subject and was casting sun beams through the pine foliage, I wanted to shoot my subject as though some of this sun light penetrating through the forest was providing the illumination on my subject. I also wanted to keep the background low key so that the dark depth of the forest was retained while keeping detail in the areas light by the ambient light.
Two Nikon SB800′s were used off camera and synced with pocket wizards. I used a white umbrella and soft box umbrella both placed camera right about 45 degrees in front and behind the subject. My working aperture of f/11 determined the final camera settings: iso 400 1/80s @ f/11 I wanted to have a reasonable depth of field to retain depth and clarity of the sun beams in the background. In hindsight a third light placed high up and without a modifier to create the effect of sunlight falling on the surrounding forest floor would have have added more realism perhaps or possibly placing my subject nearer to where light was hitting the forest floor could have added something. However at the time I wanted a muted, low contrast image with a broody tone and the focus to be on the subject and background. The whole effect is aided by the snowy conditions acting like a giant fill reflector. In the end this was achieved. Lighting diagram below.
I recently had the pleasure of photographing the watercolour artist Alvaro Castagnet for a feature in Artists and Illustrators Magazine. It was great fun photographing a very flamboyant and charismatic personality who took the whole process in his stride. The shoot took place at Dedham Hall, Essex. In the heart of ‘Constable Country’ I used available light and 2 SB800 Speedlights off camera, one with a white brolly and the other bare.
The brief was simple, capture a striking portrait of a staff member with their award for leadership, for an internal company publication. The person in question worked across a department involved in creating maps from geological data. I settled on creating two different images. The first a simple headshot of the subject with award and the second a portrait involving other staff members and some action. For the purposes of this post I am using the example of the basic headshot portrait with award to show how using lighting and background can create an effective and engaging image, of what is usually a fairly standard shot of someone holding an award.
With this type of assignment it is preferable to be able set up without causing to much disruption and to be able to do this quickly, especially if planning multiple shots. As such I travelled light for this assignment I had with me x3 SB800 flash guns, x 2 stands, 1 softbox brolly, 1 translucent brolly
For the first shot, the headshot I new I needed a background which I could either blur using a long focus lens wide open to isolate the subject or I could create a backdrop which was tied in a little more to the story of where the subject worked and could also serve as a background to the second shot involving some action. After a quick scout of the open plan office I settled on the option to create a colourful and striking backdrop using the many maps found in the office. The map we selected was pinned up over other maps already covering the wall to create a large area of map and colour which would provide a large enough background to fill the frame.
I made sure that the space I was going to use would provide enough depth to allow me to light for both the background and the subject as well as allowing me to throw the background out of focus slightly. I set up 2 lights on stands one with the Softbox and the other with a shoot through brolly. The softbox was placed high and close to the subject on camera left so that light would fall on background, as well as creating quite hard shadows on the subjects face. I took the first test shot to see how this looked.
This has created quite a punchy image, but I felt that the shadow created on the subject’s left side was little dark and needed fill. I also noticed the background seemed a little dull. To overcome these issues, I placed a light with shoot through brolly on camera right, close to my position and high. For the background I placed a 3rd light on a box low down behind the subject on camera right. I left this third flash bare without a gel or any light modifier. The other 2 had green and orange gels, the purpose of which was to match the flash light with the white balance setting on camera and the ambient overhead flourcesnt of the office and also contrast with the bare background light. Shooting with my chosen white balance setting with the bare SB800 meant the background took on a subtle bluish colour. After some tweaking by aiming the light away from the background slightly the light fall off was enough not to be distracting and gave the maps more life.
Sawston Fun Run images available now! View Gallery Wonderful weather in Cambridgeshire today for an excellent and Fun Run through Sawston village.
- Try to fill the frame – Remember the avatar will most likely be displayed very small, especially on Twitter where it is very hard to see details.
- Use a neutral, out of focus or high contrast background.
- Use light to your advantage by standing next to a window
- Try different angles and expressions.
- Keep it simple, don’t try to include to much in the frame
Mark Kleanthous has competed in over 1000 races worldwide including 400 triathlons, 20 ironmans, 2 double ironmans, 1 triple ironman and 70+ marathons. He was one of the first to start competing as a triathlete and in 1985 entered the Hawaii Ironman event. He his hoping to beat his own time this year again at the Hawaii ironman. Mark has a fantastic website www.ironmate.co.uk the site is an incredible resource for training tips and advice for novice and professional triathletes.
Strobist: Nikon D3s, 80 – 200mm lens x2 SB800, x1 SB80 x3 PW triggers
The constant online presence that companies are now adopting means that the need for staff to appear friendly and approachable is more desirable than the old style stuffy boardroom corporate image. Making a first and lasting impression is vital in keeping your clients up to date. The ever present website and staff profile page means that the corporate image is now more important than ever before; we see company employees enjoying themselves on Facebook often at charity events, or making new connection on LinkedIn and Twitter. Companies are no longer seen as a single entity but as a group of individuals taking their place online. The representation and use of avatars is very important in that role, no one wants to see the profile image with an anonymous silhouette.
For the past 2 years I have been asked increasingly to provide images suitable for social media websites when undertaking corporate headshot photography. This has meant fulfilling briefs which ask for approachable, friendly and eye catching images of staff. Understanding how Avatars are used is part of this process. An Avatar is an image used to represent yourself on the internet, typically it is used on social media websites such as facebook, twitter etc. Gamers also use them to represent themselves inside a game environment. It is an image which uses simple compositions, bold colours, and good lighting to represent the subjects personality. It also an image which is adaptable to the different sizes allowed by social media sites, and it helps to break the ice to begin online conversations.
The avatar image is usually cropped to a square and some sites will allow you to position the crop where you want and others will do this automatically. So its best to choose an image which works well as a square initially. If you are going to crop the image yourself, its usually also best to crop to an image size no less than at about 180px x180px, most sites will reduce this size. So at least you can start with a better quality size and then let the site reduce the dimesions without loosing any quality. You will also have a file which uploads very quickly. For reference I have provided a some typical avatar sizes used by the common social media websites. Read More >
A professional photographer will be able to create a well lit and composed image which will jump out of the screen. Images need to have a lot of punch. This can be achieved with careful lighting and a good choice of background. If you intend to take the image yourself the best approach is find a location with colour and no confusing clutter. Make sure you face any available light source and then think about how you want your personality to be reflected.
The changing nature of corporate photography is still bound by restraints such as time and budget, but there is a greater amount of flexibility and creativity due to the need for a strong, corporate online presence. Boundaries are being broken through due to the informality of social networking sites, creating a more individualised and friendly corporate face.