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On-location portraits with studio lighting

Studio portraits on location for real estate broker in Sweden

Most of my portrait photography is done in my small, but effective, photo studio. This time the client wanted portraits taken in their office, so I packed my lighting gear and camera to visit them for a session.

Studio lighting setup on-location diagram

Studio lighting setup diagram for business portraits on location, Swedish real estate broker company

Click for more studio lighting setup diagrams

Lighting outside the studio for a change

Before the actual portrait session I visited my client to get a look at their office and to plan the shot a little before bringing all my equipment. The office was on the 15th floor, but the windows were quite small and the weather here in Sweden is not something you might want to depend on for a shot.

So we decided to take the portraits in one of the rooms where we could use their newly painted wall with their logotype as a backdrop.

Starting with one light

My contact was very helpful and acted as a model for the test shots I took while setting the light and rigging all the equipment needed to light the room for my portraits.

I placed a 5′ softbox Octa with a Profoto Compact camera left to light the model with a large light source. The office did not have a high ceiling so I pushed the softbox as high as I could to get a little shadow under the nose.

With only one light and a 1/200 shutter speed everything except the model’s right side was in more or less complete darkness. The distance between the model and the wall behind was enough to swallow the little light that came from the softbox, partly because I used a low effect setting and partly because of the angle.

Corporate portrait taken in on-location photo studio for real estate broker firm

Lighting the room with fill

I usually don’t use umbrellas much, but for the purpose of fill light without the need to control its direction, it worked just fine. The shoot-through umbrella was placed far as far away camera right as the room would allow, to let the light spread and just create some ambient light.

The fill light from the umbrella lightened the shadow side of the model as well as it put some light on the background. Now, all that I needed was to separate the model from the background a bit. Apart from the depth of field that blurred the background some.

Portrait photography. Real estate broker in Stockholm, Sweden

Separate the subject from the background

The last of the three Profoto Compact-flashes I had brought was placed near the wall camera right with just a standard reflector, but behind a diffusion screen on a collapsible frame. This light worked both as background light (creating the gradient from right to left) as well as a rim light for some separation.

Business portraits often comes with dark suits so it always smart to avoid too dark backgrounds, or create a strong and well defined rim light. Otherwise everything will blend in a boring way, especially for people with dark hair.

Adjusting for different height

As the logotype on the background wall was fixed I tried to adjust for the difference in height by letting my subjects stand on copy paper cartons. I thought it was a smart idea, but it didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped, so some of the portraits have the logo a bit higher up than others.

If I try this method another time, I will have to be more exact in my calculations and bring better, and more adjustable, things to let them stand on. Or let them sit in a chair I can adjust, maybe?

Equpiment used in this shot

One camera bag with my Nikon D700 together with my favorite portrait lens, the 85mm/1,4 and a ND-filter that allowed me to use aperture 4 instead of 11.

Two lighting bags with a total of four stands, three Profoto Compact monoblocs, two standard reflectors, one shoot-through umbrella, one 150 cm softbox Octa and one diffusion screen on a frame.

For this shot, I don’t think I could have done this with less amount of equipment, without the fill light from the umbrella, it would have been to dark and too much contrast. No amount of reflectors could have helped, I think.

Please leave a comment if you were helped by this post or if you have any questions. It is always appreciated.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • John Carruthers June 9, 2013, 15:02

    Clever. And candid: like differential subject heights. And particularly the ending calculus as to what gear was really needed. Another very impressive blog.

  • Stefan Tell June 11, 2013, 00:00

    Thanks, glad you liked it.
    Looking back at this, I might not have tried to get the background logo in the photos this way. It should have been better to make them more different so you never thought that the logo had to be in the same spot everywhere.

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