How To Tuesday #25 - Part 2 of Anatomy of a Commercial Portrait Shoot / by Zack Smith

If you remember in the last installment of How To Tuesday's "Anatomy of a Commercial Portrait Shoot" we talked about what kind of set up and logistics went into our recent shoot with New Orleans based St. Charles Vision.

Let's take a look at what all that hard work gets us, and then i'll fill in the blanks on how we got there...

Tarriona "Tank" Ball of Tank and the Bangas. 

Tarriona "Tank" Ball of Tank and the Bangas. 

Lu Brow, executive bar chef for the Commander's Family of Restaurants. 

Lu Brow, executive bar chef for the Commander's Family of Restaurants. 

Brent Houzenga, Artist. You've seen his art cars EVERYWHERE!

Brent Houzenga, Artist. You've seen his art cars EVERYWHERE!


...because i know you're wondering! f8 for max sharpness from Eye to Ear ya Hear?

...because i know you're wondering! f8 for max sharpness from Eye to Ear ya Hear?


T. Cole Newton, owner 12 Mile Limit

T. Cole Newton, owner 12 Mile Limit

As I said in my last HTT post, alot of time was taken in the planning phase of this shoot to test out multiple light schemes, edit them, and get approval from the client. Here is a quick look at the exact lighting and camera setttings I used for each of these portraits.

LIGHT SCHEME

Here is our exact lighting setup for the St. Charles Vision shoot. See Susan Spaid at work!

Here is our exact lighting setup for the St. Charles Vision shoot. See Susan Spaid at work!

KEY LIGHT - Paul C. Buff White Lightning 1600 + 60" Octabank + 45º angle directly in front.

HAIR LIGHT - PCB - WL - 800 + 8.5" High Output Reflector + 30º Grid

BACK LIGHT - PCB - Alien Bee 800 + 35" Softbox + directly at Background

FILL - 5 in 1 Reflector on Silver as Bounce Back Light + 4'x4' diffusion flag underneath chin

In order to get the background to be perfectly uniform and exactly the same in each shot, I decided not to trust my roll paper and light setup. I had it back there mostly as a guide and not the final background. If you notice here, this is what my portraits looked like straight out of the camera with NO edits:

You will notice that our lighting is pretty much right on where we need to be. With some minor retouching left to do in Lightroom, all there is to fix is the background. For shoots like this where I am photographing more than 1 person and I need consistency in color for my backgrounds, I will photograph a full frame capture of the background and use that as my final background template which I will drop in later. 

A full screen capture of my roll background. I will use this later when placing the final portraits

A full screen capture of my roll background. I will use this later when placing the final portraits

Once I have cut out each portrait I can place that layer on the same background so there is consistency throughout the entire shoot. I will experiment with a filter on the background to try some new things. I am confident at this point that the lighting ratios are good for my portraits and I can try some creative options on my background.

As you see, there are so many layers to producing, shooting, and delivering a high quality commercial portrait that is ready for print or web. Open communication with the client is so important so that you can hear out their goals and vision. They are coming to you with a vision in their hearts and a budget in their head...and it's up to you to make those two meet your vision and creative bottom line.

Believe it or not, over the years I have enjoyed the bidding process and early creative client meetings more than the shoot itself. In the early stages of planning for a commercial portrait shoot there is so much abstract talk and logistics about how the deliverables should feel...how the people should look...what kind of lighting I can use...what new way I can create to help me communicate my clients vision, that when the shoot is finally here - it feels as if the work is already done. But again...it's not.

SHOOT DAY MAGIC

Even though the heavy lifting of pre planning, schedule coordinations, and crew organization have taken place there is always the Day Of Shoot to look forward to. What day will we have?Will we be coaxing raw emotion and feeling out of someone who's had a long day already at 10am? Will our star show up with a black eye? (It's happened) Will there be malfunctioning gear (happens too often) or did we forget Gaffe tape and only bring Gorilla Tape? The more experiences I have  the more ready and comfortable I become with anything life throws at me. Each day and moment is a lesson waiting to be learned...hope I taught you something here...