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On-Location Portrait Photography at Adobe

On-location portrait photography

Most of my portrait photography I do in my studio, but quite often the client wants me to pack up my equipment and set up a small studio at their office for a quick portrait session.

This time it was software company Adobe in Sweden that needed new portraits, I think they mostly will use them on blogs, intranet and in their image bank. Just ordinary half-length portraits that can be cropped to headshots if needed.

I brought some lights and set up a studio in their conference room.

Conference room photo studio setup

Studio on-location lighting setup diagram - conference room portraits

In my bags I had packed three lights, all Profoto Compacts, but ended up only using a 2-light setup. It was enough to get simple portraits that can be shoot again at a later time using the diagram above as a guide.

Sitting portraits is not my standard procedure, but sometimes it adds to the image (especially if you include the table and some of the backgrund) and works very well.

The image to the right is taken with a similar setup when a shoot portraits of jury members for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA).

In that session I used the almost white table as a reflector, but in the conference room at Adobe, their table was made of some sort of light wood and had a strong yellow colour that would have given the reflected light a tint that would be hard to compensate for in Photoshop. Almost like using a golden reflector I would guess, not at all what I wanted.


Reducing colour tint and adding light

So, I started with putting some sheets of large white paper on top of the conference table, between the model and the main light, to cover the brown/yellow surface. But, as I wanted a little more fill reflected I added a round silver reflector to get more fill light from below.


This is the portrait studio seen from camera right. To the left, I set up my Nikon D700 with a 85mm/1.4 lens just next to the table, and the models sat on a chair on the other side to the right in this picture.

The main light was a Profoto Compact 600R in a large 5 foot Profoto Softbox Octa (150 cm) angled down without the outer diffusion fabric.


Behind the model was a yellow (maybe closer to mustard) wall that I wanted to light separately, so I mounted a reflector on a frame to act as a flag for the main light, avoiding most of that light to hit the background behind the model.

light-test-flare-studio-lightsI only brought a white/golden fabric for the reflector frame, so I turned the gold side towards the main light, not risking that the light from behind (background/rim) to reflect gold coloured light back at the wall.

Usually, I have a large black fabric folded in my equipment bag, but for some reason I forgot to include that this time. It’s very handy if you need to cover a window or quickly make a black flag using a light stand and a reflector holder, just don’t forget to pack it.

When I took a few test shots with my first model, the background light that would also serve as a rim light was placed a bit too close and created some flare (see image right).

That could have been easily fixed with just a black flag camera right, but as I just had one large frame with me, I moved the light a little bit and the flare was gone.


The background light (also rim light)

Instead of using two different lights for background light and rim light, I placed a Profoto Compact 300 near the corner of the room, using only a white shoot-through umbrella as light modifier.

on-location-behind-the-scenes-rim-lightPointing away from the model, the falloff from the light hitting the background created a soft gradient on the wall, and the light reflected inside the umbrella bounced back and acted as a rim light on the model’s head.

As always, the effect of this type of rim light is a lot more visible when the model don’t have long (or big) hair getting in the way of the light aimed at the sides of the face.

But, it lights up the hair a bit and separates the model a little from the background, and that’s the point of it mostly.

It is of course easier to use two different lights for background and rim lighting, but working outside the studio I try to find ways to make my equipment bag less heavy, and reducing the numbers of lights and light stands is one way of doing just that. And you never know how much space you can use, this time the room was quite large, but sometimes you just don’t have room for more than two lights.

Switching to full length


When we were done shooting the portraits, the client also wanted some full-length shots, so I just moved the lights around for a simple 2-light setup with almost flat lighting. Nothing special, but hadn’t it been for the yellow wall, this photo would have been very boring I think.

The post-processing was easy, just some minor development in Lightroom and later fixing contrast and skin in Photoshop. I was a bit surprised that they, being Adobe and all, talked so little about fixing things later (making them prettier) in Photoshop.

I guess they take it for granted.

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