Quick and Fast Portraits

You can take portraits with impact in minutes.

I am going to keep this blog post short and sweet, but the gist of it is as follows: You don’t need to spend hours, or even days, planning for a portrait that will have visual impact.

My last portrait gig happened like this – friend called and said, “Hey, there’s a cool building being demo’d across the street. Bring your camera, I think you could get some cool pictures.”

So that’s what I did. I grabbed my camera, two speed lights, a small 24″ softbox and drove over. Once I got there my friend, Trevor, and I walked over to the build which had been partially demolished over the last week. Just looking around you could see that Trevor was right, this was a great place for portraits. So I found a few angles I liked, got Trevor into position and started taking some pictures. And… that was it. Total time, not including driving time, was like 15 minutes. 

What makes this so easy is the small size of my kit, my Canon speed-lights and their ability to transmit TTL data. 

In picture 1, I am on the street, about 5 feet below Trevor, so when he kneels down I am able to be below him, which gives him a sense of presence in the frame, but I am also about to compose my photo so that I can still see the remains of the demolished building in the background. I exposed -2 ev to reign in the background and then push +1 ev of light through the TTL system to make Trevor pop out.

In picture 2 I’ve cheated and covered my speed-light with a full cut of CTO. I then lied to my camera manually balanced the camera to 3200k to convince it that it’s actually shooting a tungsten colored scene. In essence, I’ve told the camera the photo I am taking has too much orange in it, when in reality only my speed-light is emitting orange light. Thanks to this trickery, the camera sees my subject lit by the speed-light as correctly color balanced. However, the sky and the background, which is not emitting any extra orange light, is rendered in shades of blue. Cool, right!?

Benjamin Lehman is a professional commercial photographer in the Canton, Akron, Cleveland and Northeast Ohio Area.