This photo was one of around 50 I shot for a client in Sweden last year. They needed good business portraits of their employees for their web site and printed marketing material, and they needed it to be done in their office.
Simple portraits on white background
I brought three Profoto Compact flashes, some stands and reflectors to set up a small studio on-location in their cafeteria. All portraits were shot on white background and the fake background you can see above was added later in Photoshop. We had an image bank with around 20 different background that we used.
Studio lighting setup for business portraits
This shot was planned beforehand and the setup we chose was one that was trying to look a bit like sun coming in from a window into a large office area from the side and from behind.
Early on, the client said that we needed to take similar pictures with similar lighting later on at different locations, so I documented this shot with distances between the different objects on the set for reference.
Click here for more Business Portrait setups and tutorials on my blog.
Profoto Octa 5′ as main light
To have a large light source as my main light, I chose the Profoto Octa 150 cm. And to create a warm light with soft shadows I placed a large Lastolite reflector (Sunfire) near the model as fill light. The effect of the gold-silver striped surface of the Sunfire screen is a bit warmer than the usual white or silver, which sometimes works fine with portraits.
Simulate window light from behind
As the portraits were to be copied onto a blurred background with large windows we tried to make it look like the rim light on the models came from outside the room. The idea was to have the background images with a window visible that we could place the subjects in front of, and to have the rim light to separate them a bit from it.
Another reason for this was to make the post processing a bit easier, as the portraits we shot on a white background, it would have been a lot more work in Photoshop if we had used less blurred background with darker areas.
Rim lights and reflectors
The rim light from behind came from another Profoto Compact placed right behind and on the side of the background paper we hang from the ceiling. On that flash, we used the standard reflector but I wanted to spread the light out a bit so I placed a reflector to make the light hit from the side as well as from behind. If that made any difference, I don’t really know, but it might have added some more light on the model’s left side of the face.
To make the photos easier to mask, I used the last of the three flashes to light the background to completely white, almost blowing out the highlights.
Post processing and montage
For this photo session we had a great make-up artist at our disposal, so the retouching in Photoshop was easy. But masking is always time consuming. The plan was to make that part quick with backgrounds that were easy to use, but it always takes time. Especially when you have to make the same work on 50 different photos. Nothing you can make an action for in Photoshop really.
It might have been easier to use a green/blue screen, but it would have required more work lighting it correctly, and more equipment to transport.
After doing this for two days in a row the first time, I did it again a couple of month later at a different location. The setup was almost the same, but this time I used only one reflector. The results looked the same, so I guess that one was not really necessary.
But, having the lighting setup diagram with all the distances was a great help. Another thing that helped me a lot was to start the second project by copying one of the .NEF-files (Nikon’s raw-format) to one of my Compact Flash cards and rename it so the camera would be able to show it.
That way I could see, in-camera, exactly if the histogram from the last shoot would match the lighting in the new setup. And it did, after a few adjustments. A time saver in Lightroom as I could use the same settings before doing the final work and masking in Photoshop.
You learn something everyday, almost.