location

Jake Friel at the Canton Palace Theater – Commercial Portrait Photography

Shooting Portraits of Blues Artist Jake Friel at the Canton Palace Theater

As an artist you always jump at the unique chances when they come your way – it’s those rare-birds of photography that often give you some much needed inspiration! Such was the case when blues recording artist, Jake Friel, asked if I could take some portraits of him at the historic Canton Palace Theater.

The result was 2 hours of sheer enjoyment that culminated in an epic, panoramic, performance shot. Included are several other promotional photographs we took from the evening previous at an abandoned Bowling Alley, out in the middle of no-where. Check it out and drop us a line if you like it!

Portrait Photography at Ernie’s Bike Shop

Taking commercial portraits at a local summer-time hotspot

Earnie’s Bicycle Shop in Massillon, Ohio is one of the local Summer hotspots for people who want to ride their bike, or pilot a canoe along the Ohio & Erie Canal. As soon as the weather starts to get warm, the population begins to show up – in droves. In addition to the Tuscarawas River and Erie Canal, the area is also home to some beautiful, dense forest. It was for this latter reason that we were out shooting some commercial photographs for an individual who brokers real-estate deals for large tracks of undeveloped land. 

After walking about 600 yards down the path, we found a small secluded track of forest off of a dirt biking path. Luckily for us, the bike traffic was non-existent which meant we could set up our shot without bothering anyone out for a ride.

For this shoot, we went with a single light set up in a massive 51″ umbrella. The huge umbrella gives me a lot of latitude for lighting the subject. We were scheduled to start around 3pm, which in the late Spring, early Summer usually means fairly harsh (aka bad) lighting. However, we knew we would be inside of the shade of the forest, so that removed the direct light from the Sun from the equation – now all we had to do was manage the soft forest ambient light and our single flash.

We used two lenses, my trusted 24-70mm and the equally ubiquitous 70-200mm. The 24-70 is my go to lens for environmental portraits since it can capture a lot of the surroundings in addition to the subject. The 70-200mm is a more standard “portrait” lens as it really puts a majority of the focus on the subject, relegating the surroundings to background duty. 

In t he pictures below you can see the final product. All-in-all I think I had the camera dialed into approx -1 exposure compensation to darken the forest a tad and then I was riding the flash on manual at around 1/16 to 1/8 power. Since all flashes have different power-ratings, that equates to a compensation of roughly 0 to -1 stops on the flash unit. Again, I would just dial it up or down depending on the feeling of the individual picture. 

The big take away here is: Don’t be afraid to visit a popular location in order to get the photo you’re looking for! With some creative positioning and planning, you can make it look like you’re all alone in a massive forest!

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

Band Portraits in the Black Key’s Rehearsal Space

How to Take Portraits in a new, untested environment.

I had a really amazing opportunity to take some band photos in a space that, surpise, turned out to be the Black Keys’ rehearsal space! How cool!

I wanted to quickly run down how this photo is taken since it’s really illustrates a few basic, but important aspects of location scouting a planning.

Scouting

When you’re in a new location, you’ve got to make time to just look around. This being the Black Keys’ space, you know it’s going to be filled with character, but you still have to find the spot that’s going to work with your needs. Our needs were we needed a location that would work for both group and individual photos. We were moving fast since some of the band members had limited time — a specific factor like that is going to influence your choice heavily, so be ready!

Lighting

Once I settled on a location (a cool hallway filled with touring gear) I send the band off to their rehearsal and started to set up my lights. I knew I was going to to use 3 lights and my plan was to gel two of those lights with complimentary colors. 

Main Light

The mainlight was a 51 inch reverse-bounce umbrella known as a soft-lighter. I set that up at the beginning of the hallway, facing down towards the band. I am using this light to both fill in shadows (so it’s acting as a fill, to some degree) but also make sure the main features of our subjects aren’t overly washed with color from our other two lights.

Fill Light

Our fill light is an orange gelled Alinebees 800 with a reflector dish pointed at the wall. I am using the wall as a bounce so I can effectively turn it into a massive softbox. The light is just about 1 full stop of power less than our main light. 

Ambient Light

There’s a technique I don’t see used EVER in photography, or at least it’s never mentioned, and that is the use of a strobe as an ambient light source. Just to define what I mean by Ambient — it is a source of light that lives everywhere through the photo. That may not initially make much sense, but in a practical sense your ambient light is the light that you control using your shutter speed. We all know that even when you’re using a lot of strobes to light your photo, you can turn your shutter speed down far enough so that more light bleeds in from the environment – that light is the ambient light. 

The cool thing is, you can actually use strobes to control that as well. The only two rules to creating ambient light is:

  1. That your ambient light strobe washes evenly throughout the photo
  2. That your ambient light strobe’s power is higher than the natural light but weaker than your main flashes.

To tackle rule #1, making sure the light reaches everywhere, I had the flash pointed at the ceiling. This meant the light bounced up and then cascaded down throughout the photo evenly. 

Rule #2 is easy, you just dial it up or down until you only see it’s influence in the shadows of your subjects. In our photo you can see the ambient light (gelled as a deep teal) on the walls and on the shadow side of our subject — Perfect!

Taking Photos

The next step is the easy part! And working with a group a guys like the Yankee Bravo crew just makes the process of taking photos easy and fun! Over the course of about 30 minutes we worked through several different set ups and then we were outta there! I’ve attached the lighting diagram so you can get a rough idea of where I had everything placed and the final photos are here to show you what we were able to create!

It was an amazing experience, and the band (Yankee Bravo – go check em out!) were just the best group of guys you could ask to work with. The space was amazing to work with as well. Just everything about this shoot was so amazing!

Benjamin Lehman is a Commercial, Advertising and Portrait Photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, and North East Area of Ohio. 

Charity: Second Chance Pets Easter Portraits

We were asked by a wonderful charity organization, Second Chance For Animals, to come and take pictures for their Easter event. We had an amazing time with both pets and parents; nothing makes us smile more than seeing pets being loved by their forever families!

 

Portraits with Shawn Cartel

Newborn Photos with Benjamin Lehman Photography

Baby/Infant Photos with Benjamin Lehman Photography

This is only the second time in my professional career that I’ve taken newborn photos. I believe there are lot of other photographers out there who are much more passionate about this form of portraiture than I am so, so I usually refer one of those photographers to people who come to me asking. This one, however, was special as it was my 2nd cousin’s first born child. So, obviously, I am going to say yes, and boy oh boy, it was actually a lot of fun!

 

How-To Photography: Anatomy of an Environmental Portrait – Warrior Beat

How-To Photography: Anatomy of an Environmental Portrait – Warrior Beat

Environmental Portraiture

Also known as, “A face in a place”, is by far my favorite type of picture I am asked to take. The reasons are varied; I like dealing with interesting people, I enjoy traveling to new and different locations, and most importantly I like the opportunity to tell a story with my photos. 

As photographers, we usually go into a new project with a mental check-list, or to-do list, of what we want to accomplish. With environmental portraiture, the most important ‘to-do’ is the part regarding the story telling aspect of the photo I am about to take. The idea here is simple: Take a photo that tells the viewer something important about the subject. Nat Geo photographers are gods at doing this. Annie Leibovitz, someone I deeply admire, is another artist who just knocks her photos out of the story-telling-park every time. 

I used to think the story telling aspect would be hard part of the process, and it can be in some very special circumstances. However, with just a little practical self-control (i.e., just keepin’ it simple) you can turn the story telling phase into something that can happen quickly, easily, and enjoyably.

For my example here, I am going to use the guys over at Warrior Beat as my example. Warrior Beat is a non-profit organization that provides professionally facilitated drum circles to US Military Veterans who are suffering from either mental or physical disabilities. They do a lot of great work and are one of the few for-veteran organizations who use art in healing. (Disclaimer: I not only help and work with the boys and girls at Warrior Beat, but I also designed their logo and act as a co-founder.)

Most of the members of Warrior Beat are veterans themselves, having served over seas, fought in battles, and returned home with scars of their own. They are also an organization who’s public profile is rocketing faster than they expected due to the good, and unique, work that they do. 

When the time came that they needed some updated member photos, the challenge was set; how do we take portraits that will give viewers, (who may also be potential donors to their charity), an at-a-glance idea of who they are and what their message is?

The first step in environmental portraiture is the story.

Ok, so putting that to use here’s what we know about Warrior Beat’s story:

  • US military veteran based service
  • Many Warrior Beat members also have a military background
  • They use drums in a therapeutic setting

With these three simple, but important facts we can start to paint a picture for our photos. We want our story to hit as many of these bullet-points as possible. 

Next Step: Location

The next most important part of an environmental portrait? The environment, of course! So, what better place than a military museum? The MAPS Air Museum to be precise. 

A quick note on securing locations

A lot of locations will be happy to donate their time to worthy causes. A military-based museum will more than likely donate their space to you for photos when your subjects are also military vets. This applies to a lot of locations and situations. To repay the favor, offer to send them copies of the photos for use in their own social media, or print publication usage. Be sure to give them a social media thanks (with a link!). Those types of gestures go a long way into building a rapport with groups who may seek out your services later once they see how awesome your photos are!

We walked around the museum for about 20 minutes, trying to find a good location, and quickly realized our best bet was a Cobra helicopter sitting in front of a 2 story US flag. The Cobra helicopter was used in multiple branches of US military services, and the flag itself was just too good to pass up. It totally reads as military, as patriotic, as veteran; right off the bat we can check off two items on our story telling list.

The last item on our check list, tying our subjects in with their facilitated  drumming service to veterans, would be as simple as just having the Warrior Beat CEO hold up a drum for his portrait. 

Photography Gear and Setup

For my gear I used the following:

The good news was, I didn’t have to light the ginormous flag. There was a bank of windows behind it that would take care of that issue for me. But, what that does mean is that, I now have to light my subjects to work with what’s coming through the windows. 

Luckily, with just 3 flashes and some basic know-how on lighting ratios, I was able to dial it in. Specifically, I used the Einstein and beauty dish as my main light for my subjects. I was shooting slight up at my subjects to give them a little more gravitas and presence within the photo frame. This meant I was able to bring the light down a little more than usual to help keep shadows to a minimum. I didn’t want to remove all the shadows, however, since I felt a little sharpness in the photos would help translate the perception that these guys have seen some sh*t, which they have, and have been changed by it, which they also have.

The second light, an alien bees b800, inside of a 4 foot strip light, acted both as a slight fill light as well as kicker light for the helicopter. I needed to brighten up the details of the Cobra, so I just turned the light little by little until I was able to get just the right ratio of light spilling between the copter and my subject.

The last light was a small Vivitar 285HV on the ground near me that just barely threw a little extra oomph at my subjects. Again, I wasn’t trying to eradicate the shadow, but I did want to fill in a little detail in the darker spots, like under their chins, to help define their faces a little better. 

I used my 70-200mm lens so I could compress the distances between subject and background. The idea here is to give my subject a greater sense of scale so he can compete better between the larger helicopter and flag in the background. 

Once the lighting is all dialed, (remember, we’re exposing for the natural light that’s coming in and hitting the flag), it’s time to take some photos and, hopefully, capture a story!

In conclusion

Crafting a story doesn’t have to be the hard part of environmental portraiture. Instead, use some very basic ques from your subject to help guide the narrative. Sometimes you need to go over board and spend a good deal of man-hours and money to handcraft the perfect story telling photo, but other times you can rely on more modest techniques to conquer the same problem.

Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer who works in the San Francisco, California, Canton, and North East Ohio areas. 

 

Me, on the floor. Here you can see how I’ve set up my lights, and my subject, in relation to the background. 

The final frame of our story telling, environmental portraiture. 

Memorial Day, 2017

A Day in Rememberance

A lot of my time and efforts are spent in support of a non-profit I helped co-found called Warrior Beat. Warrior Beat’s mission is to provide therapeutic drumming to military veterans who suffer from PTSD, Anxiety, or other mental and physical ailments. 

It’s given me a chance to meet some really wonderful people and has allowed me to bring the arts (something that is dear to me) into the lives of people who can benefit from it.

Here are a few photos from a few of the events I attended in observance of Memorial Day, 2017. 

 

Salt Fork

Salt Fork State Park

untitled (30 of 40)-Pano

untitled (5 of 40)

Sippo Lake in Winter