Not a whole lot of snow has fallen around here this time of year, but when it did finally reach the ground I was reach with camera in hand!
Creating a bad-ass portrait for a bad-ass personality.
The old adage is, a photo is worth a thousand words. This is why many of the industry’s top photography professionals are so adept with story telling through the pictures they take.
When you’re taking a picture of a personality, it’s a good idea to give the viewer some insight into that person’s life – you can do this by including a visual story in your photo. This can be done using a lot of simple production tricks like location, lighting, wardrobe, props, etc… Here I used a lot of negative space, dramatic lighting and some smoke to help tell a story and create a mood.
I ENJOY environmental portraiture…
… a face in a place. It gives me a chance to get out of the office and it gives the client an opportunity to tie their persona to the work they do.
Because of that, I almost never shoot on a flat backdrop unless there is a very specific reason for doing so. In this case, the factors were time, budget and style. And, I should mention the style sort of arose out of the time and budget.
So now what? You’re stuck in a situation that could lead to some fairly brand photos. The problem is how are we going to keep things looking elegant and modern while shooting on a flat, white background?
Well, I love shadows. Shadows instantly add depth. I was going to give the entire portrait a slightly under-exposed look, so I started by globally lowering my exposure by minus 1 ev to help bring the shadows to life. To do this, I expose properly, then dial down the exposure one stop. Then I tweak the back drop lights so I am getting pure white on the seamless, taking care so that no flare or wash is creeping in around the edges of our subject. This is backwards from most photographers who will expose for the background first (because it can be tricky) and then expose for their subject once they are on set. In my situation, however, I exposed subject and then background and went from there.
Lighting this turned out to be one of the most fun photographic exercises I have done in a long while. I had lights dedicated to the subject and some for the background, but I also had some lights that were both flagged for the background and diffused for the subject at the same time. By the end of this endeavor, I had 4 lights total lighting the scene.
The star of the show was the Einstein 640 studio light which continues to really impress me with all of its little tricks. I bought a small cyber commander which allows me to meter, adjust and shoot – all without ever touching the light. I know this isn’t new technology, but the Einsteins do it much better than even the much more expensive profoto and broncolor lights. Impressive indeed.
Here you can see an iPhone production shot of the set up we’re using. The camera is our older 5D Mark II, with the very cheap 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, which actually works great as a portrait lens. The large octobox houses our Einstein 640, the rest of the lights are AlienBees. We’re also using one canon 600ex-rt speedlite in a gridded strip box as a hair light. That light is triggered through a second wireless remote that runs out of the cameras sync cord connector. Yeah, it’s a bit of a Frankenstein, but it’s important to know that you can mix nearly any type of light on set to achieve the conditions you need.
Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Canton, Northeast Ohio area.
I was graciously asked again this year to help with Akron Canton Regional Foodbank’s annual report. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.
There are few jobs that, once they are done and over, leave you with a sense of true purpose — a sense that a difference has been made. It’s not me who is making the difference, I am just a guy with some lights and a camera. Rather, it’s the people in front of, and behind the lens who leave a real and lasting impact on the fight against hunger.
High ranking corporate executives, reverends, chefs, and volunteers are just some of the people you’ll find on the front-lines , laboring to keep food on dinner tables. The people who benefit from their efforts are neighbors, friends, and family.
In an era where thousands of commercials are constantly asking for, “just pennies a day”, you can become desensitized to the problem. It can be hard to realize that the issue of hunger isn’t a problem that only exists in countries half a world away. It’s a dilemma you can find within walking distance of your front door. It’s the job of the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank, and all such organizes around the US, to create new and innovative ways to combat the many problems associated with hunger.
For this years Annual Report, the design moved away from the environmental portraits of last year, and into a much brighter studio portrait style. The very first page of the Annual Report features the word, “HOPE”, and the photos needed to convey this optimistic message.
After you’ve had a chance to look at some of the pictures below, please visit the Foodbank’s website and support them any way you can. You’re helping more than you can imagine by either making a donation in money, or time as a volunteer.
We just recently picked up the new Analog Film pack from Rocket Rooster…
…and I was really anxious to try it out. I’ve been using the VSCO film packs (mostly #4) for a long time now and I was very interested in seeing how Rocket’s film pack would stand up.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there is a huge difference in price between the RR and VSCO packs. At the time of writing this review VSCO has 7 packs available for purchase, each one costing $120. By contrast RR has only one pack costing $35. If that seems like a bargain, then consider that you can by RR’s pack even cheaper for $26, as long as you send out a tweet about it before check out.
I love VSCO, and I use their presets often, mainly as a starting point, to give my photos the looks I want, but I’ve always thought they were woefully over priced. There is no way a pack of presets are worth $120. RR’s solution at $35 is much more in line with my sensibilities. At such a low price, that leaves a very important question hanging in the air – can Rocket Rooster deliver the goods?
I spent a few hours in lightroom yesterday, clicking between presets from both companies. I tried to find a few common film emulations between the two, but found that it was actually hard to do. First off, VSCO’s library is so huge that you’ll often find that each film type has many different variations. And with names like, “C – Polaroid 690 Warm ++”, it can be kind of hard to tell exactly what condition of film you are actually emulating.
I did finally find two presets that were named exactly the same between the two packs. What we’ve settled for is Color Fuji Film Provia 400x. Let’s look at them side by side.
Fuji 400x - Rocket Rooster
Fuji 400x - VSCO
The good news is, you can tell they are trying to emulate the same brand of film, but which one looks better? Rockets? VSCO? I certainly have a feeling which way I am leaning. Argh, can’t it be true? Can my love affair with VSCO be over? Maybe so, because I certainly like the treatment on Rocket’s version over VCSO’s.
RR’s shadows are smoother, the low end shadow detail is preserved better, the color and contrast looks better, the skin’s coloration is more even throughout the photo. RR’s version pretty much wins in every category here.
There is a caveat, however — we’re talking film emulation here. Small variations in color, contrast, shadows and highlights can all be tweaked after the fact to achieve the exact effect you’re looking for. Like I said before, presets are starting points, not finish lines.
Having said that, I felt like all of RR’s film presets gave me a better starting point for editing across the board. VSCO’s system is way too bloated, both in price and content. More doesn’t mean better, it just means more. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be getting rid of my VSCO collection any time soon, but I’ll be using Rocket Rooster’s presets first.
You can buy Rocket Rooster’s Analog Film Pack here.