Learning the strobist stuff

Currently I have been working on business portraits and I have to say its becoming one of my favourite things to shoot. I pleased I have a few more coming up again soon. I’m not sure what it is about a portrait that is required for business other then the client turns up know they need a good shot of themselves to put out to the world and therefore has some expectations that you need to meet and when you do there is a great sense of achievement that that makes me a happy photographer.

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Read on for some details of some of my shoots.

Most of the time I need to shoot at the customers site, workplace or home, why? Because I don’t have a studio :-). However I think this is where I have an advantage before I even start. Firstly the client does not have to travel, be on time, forget something or have to become nervous before the event. Turning up with some kit over my shoulder I think really does help. The client is in familiar surrounds therefore much more comfortable, as the photographer you are on their ground so therefore subconsciously more in tune with making sure you are working professionally and portraying the write image, mood, you need to be able to project confidence. Arriving at the clients destination allows some time to break the ice, lets face it you have turned up with a bunch of gear that you now need to set up make work and make the right light for the portrait, and have a happy client. Hey no pressure there then!
Tip. 1
Don’t take to much gear. Your client is not going to want to sit and chat the breeze with you for an hour while you set up your gear. Not good. I typically only travel with two speed lights, one soft box, two shoot through mini umbrellas, two stands, wireless trigger, gels, and two reflectors. I used to take a background but I have become used using the immediate environment ad not don’t bother.
Tip 2.
Use the setting time to chat and break the ice while you work, you need to get to know you kit well so that it can be almost instinctive. During this time take a look around and work out a suitable subject position, backdrop and lighting position. I often just use the one light particularly if I have windows to help me light the scene.
Buy now you and the client have broken the ice and starting to relax and feel much more comfortable. This will show in end results.

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You will catch some shots that will be genius by not being stressed or forced and this is the key. Relaxation, lets face it virtually everyone I meet hates having their picture taken and hates seeing themselves in a picture. ( the exception to this rule are models they tend to love it and quite right too) so having a relaxed client is going to make your pictures better and them happier.
So as always the first few shots are test. You now really need to be good at what you do, the client is sitting ready for images so you need to know your gear really well
Tip 3
Know how to use your equipment and I mean really know, know where the buttons or on your speed lights so you can change them quickly, know how much light they give you at the setting you choose and at the distance you have light from your subject. If you want to see a master of this type of lighting at work hope over to Dave Hobbies strobist blog. Have a ready then buy his lighting tutorials on DVD because its brilliant to watch and learn how he works. He is a true genius.
Know that if you move you light the light power drops off and by how much and where the edge fall off with be, so that when you move it you don’t get surprises you get results.
Ok it’s taken me some time to get write but each time I get better and better and it becomes easier.
Tip 4. Learn to light with your your light quickly, you don’t want to be fussing in front of the camera, when you see something you like and your almost there show the client a shot from the camera and gauge the reaction, and don’t listen to them look at there reaction as that is the real impression. Trust me they will nearly always say “oh that’s nice” but if you check out there expression as you show them you will see them, cringe , screw up their face, laugh or just give you the ” yeah no bad look” and that’s the one you want to see to gauge if they like the direction your going.
Tip 5
Your now wondering what about all the classic text boom setup don’t you need to set them up to make a good shot. Well frankly nope. Yes you need to know them and what they are and what light they provide but you can through the book away on the day. Why because 9-10 times your at a clients place of work or home you won’t have the space to set up classics. So you just place shoot and chimp for a few shots and if you do know you gear and how your lights are working you should be close to the ” that’s not bad ” images stage within 5-10shots. You need to be on your game.
This will make you giggle. I have spend lots of hours practicing using a motorcycle crash helmet on a tripod. Setting up light and looking at the results to learn how to do this and do it quickly. I use a helmet because it has a reflective visor to see the catch light in the head easily. So it works for me as a great tool to test with.
So you will find with in 15-20 mins of arriving you should be up and running taking test shots and nearly getting there. All the time your chatting away and making you client feel comfortable and good about themselves. Now the rest is easy.
Last tip
Try a number of lighting set ups hard and soft light, different angles, change of wardrobe may be for the subject. Produce as many different looks as you can to provide the client a good range to choose from. 9-10 times if you have done a good job you will be rewarded with more images being selected by your customers.
Oh and very last one check you background. I have recently had a portrait session I had to return and do it again due to my incompetence and not paying attention to the details in the background. So take care and concentrate on all aspects of the image.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog roll and gained a little more inside into becoming a photography. I will leave you with a few more shots of some of the great people I am meeting.

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